If you’ve been following the virtual rally championships being held since we went into the COVID-19 lockdown, you’ll have heard of Luca Giacomin. The Victorian rally driver has been carving up the virtual stages around the world, and is making quite a name for himself as one of the best eRally drivers in the world. We went online for 5 Minutes with Luca Giacomin …..

Luca Giacomin is one of the world's best eRally drivers. Photo: John Doutch

RSM: Congratulations on your recent success. How did you get into sim racing? Luca: When I was 8-years old, I got Gran Turismo 2 for my birthday – from there I just couldn't put the racing games away. RSM: Your results prove you're damn good at it. What gear do you use and how much do you estimate it's cost you in hardware? LG: I use a direct drive Simucube wheel, Fanatec v3 pedals and an aluminium chassis. It can cost between AUD$5000-9000 for a set-up like mine, but costs about 50 cents an hour. RSM: What about the time factor? How often are you practicing, and how many hours a day would you spend on the sim? LG: If you structure your practice correctly you don't need more than 45-90minutes per day. I would say similar to any other sport. The days of events will go into the hours when you've got to finish a lot of rally stages in one day, however. RSM: Can you give other racers any tips about setting up their cars? Do you play around with things like traction control, for example? LG: To be good at car set-up you need to commit to testing every variable on the car in isolation. It has to be approached with an engineer's mind-set. In Dirt Rally 2.0, luckily, the baseline setup is already good. RSM: Going back to 2014, you won a trip to the UK courtesy of Nissan and PlayStation. Tell us about that. LG: Nissan held a Gran Turismo based simulation competition that gathered all the top qualifiers from thousands of drivers around the world, and essentially filtered them down to a handful every year to race in their factory GT3 car programme. I gained a great insight into the motorsport industry. It was a serious eye opener to me and motivated me to push even further into my passion of motorsport – hence why I ended up rallying.

Luca Giacomin driving his Subaru in a round of the Victorian Rally Championship. Luca Giacomin

RSM: Did the PlayStation stuff kick on to anything? LG: Despite being unsuccessful at the last hurdle, I experienced a trip to Silverstone in the UK to drive race cars in the assessment programme. Cars such as Nissan 370X, Caterham, Formula cars and Nissan GTR. And it gave me an opportunity to network with a wide range of people. RSM: What about between then and now? Have you been competing in "real" rallies at all? LG: I competed in the Victorian Rally Championship between 2016 and 2018 in a Hyundai Excel and Subaru WRX. I'm missing my real rallies a lot. The Hyundai is the best, low stress car to rally in! RSM: What do you do work-wise, and how has the lockdown enabled you to focus on sim racing? LG: As an automotive engineer I am now working in product design engineering in the Civil Industry – and loving it. The lockdown has really just allowed the hard work I've put in to show a little bit, as I take the virtual rallying just as seriously as anything else. A lot of businesses are realising that marketing their cars in games might be even more effective than running a real race team. RSM: Of the championships you're involved in, what prizes are on offer that may well be within reach? LG: There are cash prizes and some opportunities to go overseas to drive a real rally car! Hayden Paddon is running a competition like that now. I hope that I can push the rally industry in the direction of integrating the simulation and real racing as has happened with Formula 1. I'm working on some projects in the background with that in mind right now.

Photo: John Doutch

RSM: And finally, what's your favourite car, and your favourite stage/rally on Dirt 2.0? LG: Subaru WRX STi - NR4 car, because it reminds me of my old Subaru. The Scottish stages are scary to drive, with the roads being so narrow in the game – much like a real Victorian rally! Luca Giacomin’s current virtual rally standings:
  • Currently 1st in Hyundai NZ Global Rally Series
  • 1st, Inaugural Virtual Australian Rally Championship 2020
  • Currently 1st in championship, Virtual FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship 2020
  • 1st, Round 2 Virtual FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship Rally 2020
  • 1st, Canadian Virtual Rally Championship 2020
  • 5th, Solberg Virtual World Rally Championship 2020, from 17,000 drivers
  • 5th place, 5th place and 2nd place, Skoda Virtual Motorsport Challenge 1&2, April 2020, from 3000 drivers
  • Semi-Finalist (top 18) - Dirt Rally 2 World Series 2019
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