The recent discovery this week that Windows 12 may become a subscription made us think of alternatives to using Windows as the operating system of choice for sim racing.
The first thing we did was head on over to ProtonDB and have a look at the level of playability that can be achieved when other users tried running our favourite racing sims on Linux.
This was an immediate bust. iRacing installs but does not launch due to issues with the ant-cheat software they use. The developer, EasyAntiCheat chose to implement the Linux version of their software in a fundamentally different and inherently less secure than their Windows version and this is probably the reason iRacing won't have support for Linux.
Sadly, iRacing did have support for Linux and even macOS back in the day but that died by the wayside when they switched from running Windows for the servers to Linux. You would assume that this switch would improve Linux support but to our knowledge, DirectX 11 support in Linux was one of the main reasons for pulling the plug. That combined combined with the very small user base didn't help.
Here's a video we made nine years ago showing iRacing running perfectly fine in Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. The video shows iRacing in a window to indicate to viewers that it is indeed running on Ubuntu. The driving itself was horrendous but it served its purpose in showing that, back in 2014, Linux gaming had potential.
Assetto Corsa Competizione
Our favourite GT3 sim, unlike iRacing, runs very well on Linux. It runs out of the box and supports both single and online multiplayer modes. This may change depending on what distro you run but generally, you shouldn't have a problem running ACC on any of the popular distros. You may also need to enable some launch options but ProtonDB should help you sort that out.
Amazingly, despite its age, RF2 also runs out of the box without any issues. Everything works including single and online multiplayer modes. Depending on your distro, you could get performance rivalling that of Windows.
Not quite a racing sim that meets the levels of realism that can be found in the titles mentioned above, F1 23 nevertheless has amazing support for Linux and runs without issue. This is not something we would normally expect from EA but we'll take what we can get.
This sim, arguably the best single-player experience in sim racing has native support for Linux and runs out of the box. As usual, your mileage may vary depending on what distro you use and what version of Steam and Proton you're running but, if you run the latest version of a popular distro, you should be good to go. Online multiplayer works fine when you want to tear yourself away from the amazing wealth of single-player content.
One other racing sim that's worthy of mention is F1 Manager 23. It's not a racing sim in the sense that you don't get to actually drive the car but it's a sim in just about every other way.
The good news is that F1 Manager 23 has excellent Linux compatibility and should work without any issues. It's a highly detailed simulation of what it's like to manage an F1 team with a growing fan base. Some could argue that it may be better than F1 23 itself but either way, it's an excellent game that sells for a relatively good price.
On the surface, Linux support for sim racing seems good and should, based on the sims we listed, cater for a large number of users. However, one of the biggest issues with sim racing on Linux isn't support for the actual racing sim you want to play but hardware support. More specifically support for direct drive wheelbases, wheels and pedals.
If you're a Logitech user, generally you'll be fine but if you use the Moza series of hardware or certain Fanatec products, you'll have a problem. Support is patchy at best with workarounds being the only way to find some level of playability. This is of course not ideal and having a system that could break at any time with the need for constant tweaking and troubleshooting is not our idea of a good sim racing experience.
Over a million people are playing Counter-Strike 2 on a daily basis while only a few thousand are playing ACC. iRacing isn't much better. First Person Shooters, Survival and Role Playing Games are huge with players enjoying these types of games on a variety of platforms.
Sim racing is not a huge genre within gaming and as such, commands a much smaller audience and therefore isn't a priority for hardware developers to support both Windows and Linux. The Steam Deck has made inroads in improving this situation but we think that support for modern direct-drive hardware and higher-end pedals isn't coming soon.
Sim racing is definitely doable on Linux but for now, the best experience overall is still on Windows.