The Track AVL
When you travel to a sports car or road racing event in the United States, there’s a sense of a tight knit community. They’re places where conversations that motorsport enthusiasts can’t really play out day-to-day in many cases — there just may not be the chance that you know someone who can hold such a conversation, or with the same enthusiasm, as they might when breaking down the latest NFL, NBA, or College Sports takes.
Nevertheless, the motorsport fanbase is a passionate and loyal one. There’s a knowing look at an IMSA or GT America event. There’s a lot to be aware of going into a multi-class, 12-24 hour race, and we do our homework going into it. But-for the social aspect of the internet, the motorsport fan might be stuck watching content and filling to the brim with thoughts and topics begging to be discussed.
“Where the world of real and virtual autosport meets” – that’s a tagline for The Into The Apex Podcast, and this weekend we found ourselves positioned in the perfect spot for both to converge in a personal way. Episode 77 was recorded at The Track at Asheville, a brick-and-mortar sim racing center located in Biltmore Village in Asheville, North Carolina. We’d visited Asheville in the years past, as Western North Carolina natives, and with the unique vibe of, particularly, downtown Asheville, it’s easy to execute a trip to the city. It’s difficult to describe Asheville if you haven’t been there – some have called it “The Paris of the South”, and it’s not uncommon to see a “Keep Asheville Weird” bumper sticker. Through most of Asheville, you certainly won’t be surprised to find a novel business or shop or restaurant – and so we were surprised, but then, not surprised, to learn that a sim racing center was located right in this area. Let’s say, very pleasantly surprised.
As soon as you walk into The Track, you feel right at home. Motorsport is everywhere, from Formula 1 banners, to models of GT cars, to a famous cone that appeared to have a little contact by an autocrossing member – you know immediately this is a place created by true racing fans. At the same time, the environment is one that welcomes newcomers – in fact, a consistent take away as we spent the day there, was what a first time visit to The Track, and to the full potential of Sim Racing, then led prospectful motorsport fans and sim racers to do. Hobby turns to passion, and new relationships and life decisions and experiences uniquely follow. For iRacers, limited to chat groups and discords typically, this may come slowly and carefully – at a center such as the track, they might develop after an afternoon of competition and local IPAs. Joel Bergstein, the founder and owner, delivers this exceptionally – with introductory sessions for amateur sim racers, and with the perfect blend of difficulty yet accessibility in how the virtual cars operate on track. The realism of the inputs and the hardware of the sim rigs provide the realism any seasoned sim racer would seek, yet someone fresh to it can begin to learn control over the 20 minutes of initial practice. There are drivers meetings to prepare competitors, voice comms for each rig, and even a race control in your ear through the sessions explaining what is going on. All you need to do? Drive.
The Track AVL has already ventured into hosting team endurance racing, all in person, and featuring a live feed with commentary. This is a particularly fascinating and exciting piece of such a center. One could imagine teams setting up camp throughout the center with tablets and laptops, studying data and strategy, posting up in their paddock to support one another in a friendly competition. A whole other level of immersion that, to the average sim racer, is something that only happens with the major teams such as Team Redline or Coanda Simsport. If centers like The Track begin to develop around the country, imagine building a team and traveling for competition in the way of Champcar or Lemons races? While we hope to see that type of spreading of physical sim racing businesses, there is certainly a balance to be had in that development, as Joel discusses on the show. After spending our first day with everyone at The Track, we can report that they have achieved that balance. We’re already planning our next trip. https://thetrackavl.com