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RaceRoom is the best racing game you've never heard of

From the ashes of Simbin has risen a simulator that's never been better.

That noise, if ever you hear it, is enough to send you running. The thunderous thrum that accompanies the SLS AMG GT sounds like it's been pulled from the hellish skies of the second world war, though if you ignore the instinct to flee it's enough to tease out a pretty wide grin. Seeing motorsport in the flesh - and in all that metal and rubber and glass that rushes past you - is about the sight, about the smell and, perhaps above all else, it's about the sound.

The emulation of the guttural throb of the 6.2 litre V8 that sits under the elongated bonnet of the SLS AMG GT in RaceRoom, the PC project started by Simbin a couple of years back, reminds you that the Swedish studio always got that - from GTR and GTR 2 through to the excellent Race Pro, the pounding of pistons, of transmissions whining and of the sheer violence of the cockpit has been central to Simbin's simulations.

In RaceRoom, which has overcome its slightly banal name and a troubled launch to become one of the better sims on the PC, there are glimpses of Simbin at its peak. There's the accessibility, and the way it's just as satisfying to play on a cheap pad as it is on an expensive wheel set-up; how the handling is translated sublimely through both. And what handling it is, spread out across a delicious range of thoroughbred racing cars: there are the DTM cars, with their downforce and low-slung lines, that only seem one step removed from the hi-tech of F1, or their WTCC cousins that bounce over kerbs with the kiddish enthusiasm of a go-kart.

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Then there are the GT cars - the real stars of the party - that are just as much fun to drive now as their counterparts in GTR were back in their day. The ADAC GT Masters licence that was just bolted on helps that greatly - the full field's present, minus the Lamborghinis and Porsches which are tied up by licensing restrictions - with each car having its own distinct character. There's the weight and rumble of the SLS AMG GT, the more slippery Audi R8 with its whining V10 and the pure savagery of the Ford GT.

It's the much longed for GTR 3 in all but name, really, a return to what Simbin did best and a reminder of why GTR and its sequels are, after all these years, still revered by fans of the genre. There's a slight catch, though. Simbin is no more, the studio going out of business earlier this summer. What exactly happened to one of the greatest names in racing game development?

"Well, it went bankrupt," says Christopher Speed, a Liverpudlian veteran of Bizarre Creations who found himself at the Swedish studio, with blunt honesty. "It's the only black and white thing I can say."

There's more to it than that, obviously. Following the release of Race Pro in 2009, Simbin lost its direction somewhat, tinkering with free-to-play projects without much in the way of success. RaceRoom was the studio's biggest play, a grand central hub for different disciplines of motorsport tied together with community services. The only problem was, at launch and over its opening months, it wasn't very good.

"It failed because, mainly, of its feature set," says Speed. "We probably launched it 12 months too early, and that was a mistake, of course. As a development studio, we were then always playing catch-up with ourselves. And that's tough when you've got a product already on the market. When you go live with something, the standard features are there - you've got single player and you've got multiplayer - which we lacked from day one. You can really point the finger at that, the delivery of the title at the time."

The RaceRoom is where the people from the DriveClub go to meet.

12 months ago, RaceRoom was a strange game. The front-end was a mess, obfuscating what content was there, and when you got on to the track it was stranger still. Colossal, colourful corner markers floated above the track, while cars suffered from a lack of tangible force feedback. Beneath it all there was still a fine simulation, but in a quest for accessibility, Simbin had vandalised its own work - it was like strapping on stabilisers to a MotoGP bike.

"We wanted to appeal mass market, but miserably failed," says Speed. "We forgot about what was important to Simbin, which is that community of core sim racers."

Things have improved, though at a cost. Simbin closed and from the ashes rose Sector3, a team of 13 headed up by Speed to take RaceRoom forward, and who are currently in the process of relocating from the provincial Lidköping to the more populous Skövde. The progress made on RaceRoom has, so far, been fantastic - the corner markers have been nuked, the force feedback has been revived and the game is at last living up to its potential.

"What you're seeing at Sector3 right now is what we were expecting to see at Simbin," says Speed. "The game, at this present moment in time at Sector3, is performing really well, the sales are really good and now the partners are willing to spend money. A lot of that's down to the hard work that was done at Simbin. We at Sector3 have just been passed the baton and have reorganised ourselves and restructured things."

There's plenty more on the way, too. The DTM experience that debuted last year is being updated with 2014's cars and calendar, and now that so much else in RaceRoom has been fixed we could well be about to get the proper, officially licensed tin-top game so many have been craving since the demise of Codemasters' TOCA series. The ADAC cars and tracks that arrived recently, meanwhile, are a preface for the GT Masters Experience that's due imminently where they'll all be bound together by a single-player championship.

The multiplayer alpha is robust enough for some decent online racing at present.

Which brings to mind, of course, GTR 3, a project teased by Simbin back in 2011 before all fell silent. What chance a return of the game that helped forge the old studio's reputation? "Legally, I can't say much," says a disappointed Speed. "All I will say is we wanted GTR 3 - just like you guys. We took a decision to take it multi-platform, and we took a decision to partner with another studio in the UK to deliver that, and they didn't deliver."

The details behind what happened with GTR 3 remain under lock and key, and it's a shame the project is seemingly dead, just as it's a shame that Simbin is no more, but there's at least a positive outcome to it all. In RaceRoom's robust driving, its meticulous authenticity and attention to detail, the spirit of GTR and Simbin lives on, and in Sector3 it looks set to flourish in ways it never had the chance to in recent years.

"This company, it's brought a lot of the ethos and belief that Simbin had," says Speed. "We're people who sit in simulators for eight hours a day, sitting in our helmets or with our gloves. It's awe-inspiring - these people are 110 per cent committed to this genre. I've never seen anything else like it, and with a team like that I think we're going places. Sector3 is building on the Simbin legacy, and we're going to take it one step further, no doubt."