How Total Immersion Racing Got Me into Racing

Let me set the scene:

It’s the mid-2000’s. Cereal magnate Nestlé is looking for their newest marketing ploy. “Let’s do something we’ve already done many times before, get some video games and pack ’em with our cereals!”, some higher up at the company said. And so they did. Following this, an impressionable youth named Julian got three racing games. Those games were:

  • Ford Racing 2
  • Crazy Taxi 2
  • Total Immersion Racing

Now all of those three racing classics deserve a piece on their own, but today we will be looking at the one that means the most to me:

Total Immersion Racing

Quoting the great GPLaps:

At the hand of Razorworks, World Sportscars eventually saw the light of day and was published as Total Immersion Racing in 2002. It enjoyed mediocre reviews.

GPLaps – Sim Racing’s Most Infamous Vaporware – Racing Legends

To give you the story if you haven’t watched that video (yet, I highly recommend it):

The West Brothers were 2 British game developers. Having first developed titles like action game “James Bond: License to Kill” and arcade racer “Street Racing”, brothers Tony and Chris wanted to create a car racing simulator. What happened though was, they had a contract with publisher Empire Interactive to release their game called “World Sportscars”. It was supposed to be a hardcore simulator to challenge the likes of Grand Prix Legends. However, as contracts with publishers go, there were strict deadlines. And when it dawned upon everyone, that the West Brothers perfectionism stood in the way of a timely release, the game was given to Razorworks, seemingly overnight. The software then became Total Immersion Racing.

Later on, the West Brothers would go on to develop “Racing Legends”, which never saw the light of day. But the story is expertly told in the afore-linked video of GPLaps.

I’ll be honest, I was quite surprised to hear my favourite childhood racing game mentioned in this way. Would this mean that my childhood was just a footnote of a footnote of the simracing history?

A footnote, just a footnote

Apparently so. Still, this piece of software remains a piece of my childhood. Without it I would’ve never experienced Need for Speed Carbon, my favourite NFS title which warrants its own article. Neither would I have gotten Project Cars. And least of all would I have ever thought to start simracing during the start of the pandemic. And of course, TRACC would not exist.

So what about this “mediocre” racing game entangled me so in younger years?

Was it the cars? From the bright-yellow Noble M12 GTOs, the huge-nosed Panoz Esperante GTR-1 to the ever-elusive Bentley EXP Speed 8.

Or was it the tracks? From the very real classic Hockenheimring and Monza to very convincing fictional tracks Talheimring (Austrian track!) and Springfield.

Or was it the progression system, being able to show your skill as a driver and rising across the leagues to finally become a factory prototype driver.

It must have been a combination of those. One that definitely reached the impressionable mind of an elementary school Julian. But how does Total Immersion Racing hold up today?

Chunks in a Shining Armour

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, Total Immersion Racing is a game released in 2002. It does not look up to date when compared to more modern titles like Assetto Corsa Competizione, Gran Turismo 7 or even rFactor 2. Hyperrealism has really picked up since the early 2000s. Also the track selection is . . . not the biggest. But back in those days it was harder to 3d model worlds. And it was definitely much harder to fit large games on a CD.

However, here comes the surprisingly good news. I can control Total Immersion Racing with my Fanatec rig and DC Simracing pedals. The setup for the hardware is actually easier than installing the game on Windows 10, at least it was for me.

Add to that that Total Immersion Racing apparently counts as abandonware nowadays, I’ve heard you could find it easily. Of course, I have only installed it using the official CD I received in my Nestlé box all these years back.

But well, what can I say. If you want to race realistic GT cars and LMPs, this is not it. But don’t expect it to be. It is time travelling to years past. Almost 20 years back in fact. It is a great reminder of how things were, and how far we’ve come. You can jump in, drive your laps around Silverstone without the arena section (yes, the 2000-2002 bridge layout) and just have fun. And it is fun! I don’t know if that is because of the rose-coloured glasses on my nose, but just try it! It is abandonware after all.

So if you give Total Immersion Racing a try, I would like to know your experience. Also give me a comment if you remembers the game from your past as well. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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