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iRacing is regarded as the gold standard for competitive sim racing. No other simulation features a comparable, dedicated multiplayer system that treats the races like real events. RaceDepartment writer Yannik Haustein is taking his first, long-overdue steps in the sim now and takes you along with him – this time, focus is on the D-class license.

It took not even a week in rookies my first promotion in iRacing happened: The safety rating was high enough to earn my way into the D license class, which opened up new opportunities – quicker Formula cars like the USF2000, for example. As an IndyCar fan, this car was especially intriguing to me as it marks the entry point of the “Road to Indy” ladder, which made me pull the trigger and buy the car plus the Hickory Motor Speedway where the next race was to take place, rather quickly.

However, I did not have much company when I ran there: The few competitors that found their way onto the grid of the mini oval had already disconnected a short time after the race had started. Even following this, finding a good grid for the USF2000 was almost impossible on both ovals and road courses. This experience made me look for an alternative, which I found in the Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo. The idea: GT3 races are as popular as ever, and the car should be usable for later series, too.

This was no wrong assumption: In the Ferrari exclusive series, grids were always well filled no matter the time of day. Most of the time, these races were free from the chaos that multiple Reddit threads had warned about – moments of catastrophic mistakes were not completely off the table, of course.

Those moments are the reason my C license most likely will have to wait until the new season begins: I did reach the necessary safety rating of 3.00 to earn a promotion for the upcoming season, but to make the jump immediately, a rating of 4.00 would be required – and I am stuck at 3.70 since something out of my control seems to happen every other race. A perfect example: I got taken out by someone that went too far to the outside of a left turn at Tsukuba in lap one in the USF2000. While trying to get back in position for the following right, he completely missed that I was there and drove right into me. Wheel damage, three minutes of repairs – the race was over before it had started. He did apologize, which I appreciated, but a certain amount of awareness should be expected, you would think.

Hopefully, this is a problem that will mostly take care of itself when moving up to a higher license due to the higher safety rating that is necessary. Which car I am going to drive then is still up in the air – I will definitely look at the season schedule this time, however, to have a good overview about what is set to happen in iRacing. Plus, it will help spending less, as iRacing offers discounts when buying content in bulk.

What I learned
  • Similarly to Assetto Corsa Competizione, it is advisable to choose one car and learn the ins and outs of it to become consistent and fast instead of switching it up too often
  • Setups are barely of any importance in the D license class as most series use a fixed setup
  • iRacing performs great. During my journey through the D license, I made the switch from 16:9 HD TV to a 4k ultrawide monitor and was not sure if my GPU would handle this step up in resolution all that well – which turned out not to be a problem at all. The only bottleneck was the Hungaroring, as FPS dropped to about 30 after turn three. Luckily, this was easily fixed by switching on low-quality trees.
  • Practice makes perfect – or at least faster: Even on tracks I already knew, practice sessions had a noticeable effect, despite sometimes being as short as 30 minutes.
  • Planning ahead will save you cash: Look at what you want to drive in an upcoming season and buy the necessary content in bulk to take advantage of iRacing’s discounts, starting at 10 percent for three to five pieces of content already. Should you get 40 pieces of content at once, you will get a 20 percent discount on that and all future orders.
  • Trading Paints makes your iRacing life more colorful. Even if you do not intend to race a custom livery, the ones of your competitors that do will show up in game after you install the program. Finding a cool paint scheme for you to use is very simple, too.
About author
Yannik Haustein
Life-long motorsports and racing game fan as well as racing history enthusiast. I write stuff here and on www.simracing-unlimited.com and try to be not too mediocre when sim racing with varying degrees of success :confused:

Comments

Simply amazed to see a RD high-up venture into iRacing and brave enough to write about it here :)

I've been an on/off member for the past 10 yrs but it wasn't till this past yr it started making big strides and became my go to sim.
Tho not perfect it does alot of things right and works well with my schedule and mid range system in VR.

What I enjoy the most about it is all the different racing categories with official content under one roof with hourly races.
No more seeking out leagues or Installing mods, just jump in and race whenever I have time.

It sucks that you've had a few bad luck races... Been there myself but in all fairness I've yet to race online in any sim where a few bad races doesn't happen. Hell I stopped racing here in Raceroom a few yrs back due to the amount of instances.

Anyways, looking forward to following your iRacing career. Do you plan on live streaming any of your races for us to watch?
 
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iRacing feels great in the beginning, because you are racing against people that are easy to dominate and who doesn't like to win? Once iRacing puts you into top-splits quite above 2k SoF, better be prepared well, because most of your opponents are and usually they don't kick themself out anymore. They also fight for every position since iRating works like that. For me it's too much like league racing and without 2 hours practice before I probably loose iRating, just iRacing is IMO not fun enough to keep me driving one car that long and I don't have ambitions in this regard. Also setups are getting too important. That's why many spending money for another subscription to get the best ones.
 
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iRacing feels great in the beginning, because you are racing against people that are easy to dominate and who doesn't like to win? Once iRacing puts you into top-splits quite above 2k SoF, better be prepared well, because most of your opponents are and usually they don't kick themself out anymore. They also fight for every position since iRating works like that. For me it's too much like league racing and without 2 hours practice before I probably loose iRating, just iRacing is IMO not fun enough to keep me driving one car that long and I don't have ambitions in this regard. Also setups are getting too important. That's why many spending money for another subscription to get the best ones.
I agree, it feels great clobbering rookies in lower classes than as you move up to higher rating you quickly realize your not that fast when the big boys show up and your 1-2secs off a lap.

In regards to setups I'm finding this to be a big issue in all the Sims.
Seems paid tune shops are popping up in every form.
Due to my lack of experience in tuning and time in general to practice, I just do fixed setup racing in iRacing.
Another thing I enjoy about the service.
 
Having suffered at the hands of Raceroom's ranking system, paying loads of money for similar treatment in iracing seems like self flagellation.

I had a race in Raceroom in which people spun in front of me and I couldn't avoid collecting them and it took about 5 races worth of work to get back to where I was with reputation. I'll stick to the adaptive AI, it's pretty good for what it is and I can rage quit if I get put into the wall.
 
ranking system works like a charm for me in iRacing. like @Korrupt CDN, I have been a member for 10 years and have levelled out pretty much at entry level (around 1.500 iR) because that's my natural speed. Never have time to practice but enjoy racing people at the same level once or twice a week with no hassle (read: fixed sets), so gaining iR is not important to me but having the iR put me in the right bracket sure is. Setups were a popular talking point on the forums before the paid sets destroyed that (plus it seems to have killed a lot of the forums, too, traffic there is minimal compared to five years ago).
A small feature I totally like about iRacing is how each player is ranked by number on the race servers, so one glance at the player's number in front / behind tells you whether he/she is very close to you in speed or someone potentially faster / slower.
 
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Simply amazed to see a RD high-up venture into iRacing and brave enough to write about it here :)

I've been an on/off member for the past 10 yrs but it wasn't till this past yr it started making big strides and became my go to sim.
Tho not perfect it does alot of things right and works well with my schedule and mid range system in VR.

What I enjoy the most about it is all the different racing categories with official content under one roof with hourly races.
No more seeking out leagues or Installing mods, just jump in and race whenever I have time.

It sucks that you've had a few bad luck races... Been there myself but in all fairness I've yet to race online in any sim where a few bad races doesn't happen. Hell I stopped racing here in Raceroom a few yrs back due to the amount of instances.

Anyways, looking forward to following your iRacing career. Do you plan on live streaming any of your races for us to watch?
Thanks for the kind words, I'm glad you like the series :)
I'm sure I'll stream some of those races in the future - keep an eye on the RD Twitter and my Twitch channel. With the new season starting next week, there should be plenty of opportunities.
 
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I tried iRacing many years ago (10+) and I was put off less by the cost than by the rather weird handling (like the car spinning uncatchably when it shouldn't have). I know this was recognised as a thing at the time. I have heard it said that it had (has?) a bad tyre model, which was playing a big role in the handling (mis)behaviour, but I've not paid a lot of attention in recent years - perhaps it has since been fixed.
(Also, while I love the idea of being able to find clean races with people of similar talent levels, that wasn't quite how it worked in practice for me.)

I would keep an open mind about giving it another try, if the handling issues have indeed been fixed...
 
Having suffered at the hands of Raceroom's ranking system, paying loads of money for similar treatment in iracing seems like self flagellation.

I had a race in Raceroom in which people spun in front of me and I couldn't avoid collecting them and it took about 5 races worth of work to get back to where I was with reputation. I'll stick to the adaptive AI, it's pretty good for what it is and I can rage quit if I get put into the wall.
If you can't avoid wrecks it's almost always your own fault.

If you want to get into multiplayer again one day, watch "surviving rookies" to learn how to avoid being taken out.
 
I tried iRacing many years ago (10+) and I was put off less by the cost than by the rather weird handling (like the car spinning uncatchably when it shouldn't have). I know this was recognised as a thing at the time. I have heard it said that it had (has?) a bad tyre model, which was playing a big role in the handling (mis)behaviour, but I've not paid a lot of attention in recent years - perhaps it has since been fixed.
(Also, while I love the idea of being able to find clean races with people of similar talent levels, that wasn't quite how it worked in practice for me.)

I would keep an open mind about giving it another try, if the handling issues have indeed been fixed...
Yes most of the cars handle great now especially open wheelers getting a big boost by the mercedez F1 team helping iRacing sort out the quirks with the open wheel tire model. Its not just the F1 car that saw these massive improvements, this helped all other open wheelers on the service also.

iRacing recently hired one of the top community setup guys to make custom track specific setups for all the major series in the sim so setup shops really are no longer neccesity.
 
Yes most of the cars handle great now especially open wheelers getting a big boost by the mercedez F1 team helping iRacing sort out the quirks with the open wheel tire model.
Source?

It's not like there aren't still massive issues. Either slipcurves or heat sensitivity remains very off even in that very F1 car and it's a bit puzzling how they're not fixed yet.

Although I suppose if they don't ever correlate cars and just look at theoretical test data, it's very well possible the outputs they have right now are considered realistic and they're scratching their heads. I kinda don't believe the model is so limited that they can't adjust those things enough.
 
Check out the most recent iRacing podcast where they talk to James Vowles from Merc F1 team, they discuss in detail the development of the F1 car and how it's development has helped the open wheel tire model.



The Indycar is great now where before it was insta spin if you messed with up. Definitely still issues with the tire model but it's improving with each update.
 
I find it a bit amusing that professional sim developers with effectively unlimited budget and support aren't able to produce cars which drive even half reasonably without getting help from team staff directly, but oh well. I would like to believe they are tire model limited but if some advice can fix the cars then it seems more like a knowledge thing which is depressing to think about.

I will say that with cars like this you need your dynamic roll stiffnesses to match up, otherwise you will get generally oversteery behavior out of exits, which can be catastrophic in a car like this. If they're missing a flex model or if it's bad then they'll always be pretty bad, and without getting hands-on with the car and doing correlation it might be impossible to determine the dynamic roll stiffnesses. It's not like teams just give out that stuff, or even know them to begin with. Manufacturers sure as hell will not give anyone any data like that.

Properly making an accurate tire will also take months per-tire (Unreasonable to expect them to do it for how many cars they have, seeing as the car also has to be highly accurate) and it might also just be plain impossible on iR's tire model depending on how strict the interactive portion of it is. Although if the tire model allows it then a reasonable enough tire should be doable very easily which is why I don't know why they haven't made one yet if they can.

Then again iR didn't have an actual thermal model for a very significant portion of its lifespan so I'm not sure what their priorities exactly are.
 
Yes most of the cars handle great now especially open wheelers getting a big boost by the mercedez F1 team helping iRacing sort out the quirks with the open wheel tire model. Its not just the F1 car that saw these massive improvements, this helped all other open wheelers on the service also.

iRacing recently hired one of the top community setup guys to make custom track specific setups for all the major series in the sim so setup shops really are no longer neccesity.
Even though iR has several top drivers building setups for the various series now, the good setup shop setups are still quicker out of the gate and over the long run. No one wins top splits with iR setups.
 
I find it a bit amusing that professional sim developers with effectively unlimited budget and support aren't able to produce cars which drive even half reasonably without getting help from team staff directly, but oh well. I would like to believe they are tire model limited but if some advice can fix the cars then it seems more like a knowledge thing which is depressing to think about.

I will say that with cars like this you need your dynamic roll stiffnesses to match up, otherwise you will get generally oversteery behavior out of exits, which can be catastrophic in a car like this. If they're missing a flex model or if it's bad then they'll always be pretty bad, and without getting hands-on with the car and doing correlation it might be impossible to determine the dynamic roll stiffnesses. It's not like teams just give out that stuff, or even know them to begin with. Manufacturers sure as hell will not give anyone any data like that.

Properly making an accurate tire will also take months per-tire (Unreasonable to expect them to do it for how many cars they have, seeing as the car also has to be highly accurate) and it might also just be plain impossible on iR's tire model depending on how strict the interactive portion of it is. Although if the tire model allows it then a reasonable enough tire should be doable very easily which is why I don't know why they haven't made one yet if they can.

Then again iR didn't have an actual thermal model for a very significant portion of its lifespan so I'm not sure what their priorities exactly are.
Who, in your opinion, does a better job? I've tried them all and I can't find a better sim than iRacing...
 
Who, in your opinion, does a better job? I've tried them all and I can't find a better sim than iRacing...
I admit the level is and has always been a bit "ehhh" for public consumer sims if we assume that "100% accurate" is the achievable top end (it is not) and desired result (it doesn't have to be). I'll be damned when a sim comes out that just doesn't have serious issues and the models are alright.

I wish they were all open to strenuous use, but they're not, so it is difficult to separate the models from the engine. For all we know iR is the best and the devs just don't make good models; same could be said for AMS2's Madness as well. Although some understanding of how sim dev works and how physical models work can give some insight.

ACC's individual models are okay enough and the engine itself is just a mildly upgraded AC1 (Which was already the best consumer sim even in vanilla form with its issues) so it should be alright. Not as good as Cphys, though, although their flex model is a benefit. Tire, thermal and misc. stuff just isn't as good and that kind of seals the deal. In the future ACC won't have any advantages, but we are not there yet.

Admittedly I don't know what the state of ACC is right now after the latest update although they did remove some dumb stuff and seem to have read my physics document judging by the tire parameter changes. /s

I would not trust KS to have as good of a handle on real racecar parameters as iR's staff, though, but the results are what they are. iR on a surface level below limit seems okay nowadays and you might even correlate a car pretty well through telemetry, but dynamically it seems like a mess. Slipcurves are (allegedly still) too punishing for one and although surface temps allegedly appear correct now, it is an unknown if the thermal sensitivity and other interactions are even a bit correct. They aren't even trying in terms of FFB so that doesn't help.

This is ignoring factors like sound, visuals, UI, multiplayer etc.
 
Thank you Yannik, interesting reading, how about AI, any comments?
Still in development, but very good.
Equally if not better than Raceroom on track which I feel was the best of the current titles.

They will race hard and clean, defend the inside entering corners, make mistakes and they seem to have a quali trim that is roughly 1-2secs faster than race trim.

Far more AI customization than Raceroom and you can create/build your own ai fields and customize each drivers skill/paints.

Very impressed with the AI this far and looking forward to continue development on them.
 
I have tried iRacing a couple of times from 2012 to today. Last time in the beginning of 2021, when I actually liked it but decided not to go through with it.

Now, not even a whole year later, I am kind of... unsatisfied with almost everything on the sim market. With the release of the new content I resubbed to iRacing yesterday and planning for the first time to actually buy content - to race TCR in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series (I am C-class in road racing). I kind of like the FFB a lot with my T300.

Let's talk graphics. Not the best, I really don't like the clouds to be honest. But, as the geometries are simpler than say ACC, there is no shimmering, there is no TAA blur. Like ACC looks great, but the image clarity... And I am trying to increase resolution scaling, using FSR sharpening which also helps, etc. So I really like the clarity, the art style in iRacing. In AC let's say, even on well regarded mod tracks like Road America, Watkins Glen, in the lighting engine you see how 2D the trees are, sometimes they are just rotated that way. In iRacing, the same method of placing trees just isn't that obvious.

Another reason I decided to go iRacing, again, is that I miss racing. All sims on the market have pretty dumb AI and pretty empty lobbies. rF2 with its great endurance content has AI that can only be considered good in single class, AMS2 AI is lively but still does that strange pack racing, R3E is just... no, it used to be much better, and the new FFB (and very old graphics) make it a no go, AC AI sucks, ACC is consistent-ish with AI but got boring for me.

I was like, let's play ACC online... since when are the servers so empty? I saw maybe 5 populated ones (racing of course so I cannot join), while others being like 5/10 players.

Not sure why I am writing this, I still think iRacing is very expensive and I haven't bought the content for the series I want to race. Maybe trying to find some acknowledgement that I am not doing anything stupid spending so much money.
 

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