Ariff & Troy: The 14- and 17-year-old drivers of Scuderia Stratos
Troy Eimann and Raja Ariff Bin Raja Azmi may not have their own driving license yet, but as Scuderia Stratos’ representatives in the Asia Pacific premier sim racing tournament of the E1 Championship, the racing duo would most certainly pass the driving exam on their first try.
Never too early to start
Those unfamiliar with the sim racing scene may think these teenagers are far too young to be racing virtually against other older drivers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth - it's a sport for people of all ages to enjoy. In fact, it's not surprising to meet other drivers as young as 11-years-old on the digital circuit! “It doesn't how old they are, what matters is their play style,” said Ariff, the younger of the pair.
Even though Troy and Ariff are sim racers for Scuderia Stratos (Stratos Esports’ second team to compete in E1), they weren’t always virtual drivers. The duo actually started out as kart racers, so they know a thing or two about real-life motorsports. Ariff dived headfirst into the professional side of driving in early 2018, while Troy slowly dipped his toes into the driving scene before going pro a year later. “I wanted to know what I’m capable of,” the 17-year-old said. “I felt the need to challenge and improve myself.”
The two developed a passion for motorsports at a young age, prompting them to join Stratos Motorsports - founded by team manager James Russell ten years ago - to pursue a career in professional driving, regardless of whether it was sim racing or real-life. As a car enthusiast and motorsports fan, Troy “wanted to get the feel of driving, which is why I started with karting to build my passion”, a stepping stone for aspiring racers. Ariff echoed his partner’s sentiments, having spent time with his father watching races on TV and even caught the Formula One (F1) World Championship at Sepang International Circuit twice. Plus, both the Kedah-born prodigy and Troy were playing sim racing games before they started karting.
“I wanted to try something new,” the half-German explained his intentions to transition into sim racing more frequently, saying that he gets more track time and better improve his driving skills. It’s also less physically demanding than karting, to which Ariff agreed as well. “It’s way more relaxed, and you can just turn on the air conditioner when it gets too hot,” he said with a hint of a smile.
Nevertheless, sim racing has its own challenges for the boys. The first obstacle they’ve already overcome was the improper driving rig they started out with, placing the racing wheel on a table and sitting on common household chairs; it didn’t make Troy’s adaptation to the digital experience any easier either. “It’s gotten a lot easier once I had a proper set-up, especially when I can adjust my seat positioning properly,” said Troy.
But, arguably the biggest issue both of them face, is the lack of sensation that comes with real-life driving. “You can’t feel the car as much in sim racing, whereas you can feel the drag and what not in motorsports,” Ariff revealed, saying that it’s harder to anticipate and gauge the car, especially when it’s raining in-game. Troy added, “There’s a feeling of rawness when it comes to karting, with the track and everything. But, you don’t get the same sensation in sim racing.”
Racing to the finish line
Even so, the Scuderia Stratos racers believe that it’s possible for sim racers to become motorsports drivers. “The same concept applies to both, it’s mostly about being fit to race in real-life,” said Troy. Plus, sim racing is much more affordable and accessible than real-life motorsports, where an overwhelming number of factors have to be taken into account just to get a team going, including car repairs and engineering, manpower, safety and so on. Fortunately, they don’t have to think about such worries at the moment, not when they have their own teenage daily schedules to adhere to.
“We don’t really have a fixed routine. It’s mainly just balancing online schooling and practising when we have free time,” Troy disclosed. Ariff added that they’re “prioritising school over racing” for now, and when it comes to karting, it wasn’t a problem for them to juggle that and their education since they kart on weekends. Though their training is done individually, they actually work out at the gym together. “Exercise contributes to developing the fitness components needed for driving, it’s what makes us fitter physically to better prepare ourselves,” Troy said. “We also have a group chat with the rest of Stratos Motorsports where we discuss strategies, recommendations and so on from time to time,” which they also do with the Stratos Motorsports team, their supposed opponents in E1. “At the end of the day, we’re all still in the same team.”
To anyone who aspires to be a professional racer, the racing pair advised to have your own personal goals, stick to it like super glue, and work hard towards it. “If someone disagrees with your dreams, don’t listen to them and don’t give up,” Troy said. We wish them nothing but to be successful enough to drive their dream cars in the near future: the Porsche 911 GT3 RS for Troy, and the Aston Martin DB11 for Ariff.
Be sure to catch Scuderia Stratos in action this and every other Thursday (19 November) at the E1 Championship!