My iRacing Journey: Turning Left A Lot

My iRacing Journey Turning Left A Lot.jpg
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 shifts to oval racing.

Left turn after left turn – on first glance, oval racing seems simple. What is often overlooked is the fact that it is not just full throttle and turning left. As a big IndyCar fan, I have been familiar with this discipline of racing for quite a while, but have not seriously raced them myself – and since the idea came up to compete in the iRacing Indy 500 in May with a friend, it was time to take closer look at this type of racing. After all, an Oval C-License is required to be allowed to start the special event.

At the very beginning of my time in iRacing, I had tried one or two oval races in the USF2000 car, but that series had counted towards the road course license. Apart from this, I had done offline races with IndyCars against the AI in rFactor and Automobilista at Superspeedways multiple times, but online, it would be a completely fresh start. This start happened in the Street Stock cars at small ovals, so-called short tracks. Memorizing the track layout, as with any oval circuit, was no problem, but finding the quickest line through the corners and consistently hitting it is an entirely different story.

Short tracks can be described as very short “normal” road courses with very few turns, as using the brakes is essential on them, too. Also, finding a rhythm is arguably even more important than on road courses – just like mutual respect and cooperation with your fellow competitors. This was obvious in the Street Stock series already – if you do not leave enough space or go for a gap that is barely there, quickly ends in the wall and likely takes out a few uninvolved drivers as well.

Great successes were not on the cards, but focusing on having clean races quickly paid off: Getting promoted from rookies to a D-license only took a few races, a NASCAR truck race at Charlotte among them. At the 1,5 mile oval, things were moving much faster than before, incidents were bigger as a result – getting taken out right after the start and running behind in no man’s land is not very motivating, as I got to learn. However, the unpredictability of this kind of race makes it worth to keep going until the end.

In the next class up, the free content iRacing provides did not cover the possible series anyomore like it did in rookies. The next step was buying an ARCA car, and the series it ran in was racing at Phoenix International Raceway – while the car had to be purchased, the track was the legacy version of PIR, and thus free. While the track is longer than the short tracks, it is still one of the smaller ovals and also has very little banking in the turns. This makes the track very technical in stock cars, and keeping up in the ARCA car was not easy. Still, I usually found my way to the upper midfield if I could manage to steer clear of incidents.

Making progress in D class worked relatively quick as well, although a bit slower than in rookies. The iRacing season was in week 12 by this point though – to net the promotion to C class, I needed to gain more Safety Rating before the season rolled over and I would have needed a lot more SR to advance. As it turns out, entire Saturday afternoons just fly by when you do oval race after oval race – as a result, I managed to fulfill all the criteria to get a promotion as soon as season 2 gets started.

In C class, proper oval rules including full-course yellows come into effect, which makes the discipline even more intriguing – you can expect more entries of this series that focus on oval racing. The next event on the calendar, however, is the Nürburgring 24 Hours from April 8th to 10th – for now, the main focus is likely going to be the Nordschleife. After that, all concentration is on the Indy 500 – a highlight on the special events calendar.

What I Learned
  • All ovals are not the same – anyone who takes a serious look at them quickly notices this. Knowing this before starting my oval journey was immensely helpful, as it prevented me from underestimating practice sessions. Even ovals with the same layout differ in where bumps are, which can lead to trouble on corner exits especially.
  • Spotters are absolutely essential, and the one in Crew Chief does the job really well. Nowhere is it more important to know what is happening around your car than on ovals at potentially ludicrous speeds in higher classes.
  • Stock Cars are more fun to drive than I first thought: The cliché that these cars are easy to drive needs to go away quickly. Due to their high weight and little aerodynamic downforce, Stock Cars are rather special and do not necessarily require the precision of IndyCars, but you do need to know how to steer them around a corner using the throttle and brake pedals.
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

I had a one year subscription for iRacing about two years ago and had a lot of fun with Ovals!
In fact i enjoyed them more than i had expected... the start and first corners are very exciting, the field is close and anything can happen... and **** happened of course, because C-Class i guess. :D

I miss it sometimes... good luck for the Indy 500! :)
 
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I'm not a huge RL oval watcher but I must admit that once you reach C class (trucks) with full rules, it becomes intense and hella fun...actually some the best pack racing you'll find anywhere.

I plan to run the trucks again this season and the Brazilian stock car.
 
i'm disapointed after 5-6 ovals, they feel boring. You can go for 20-60 laps or 200 it's the same, survive on the leading group untill you can try your luck on the line. It really feels like dice roll at this point, first to avoid someone else crash, then to get your nose first at the end. It seems that skill does't matter that much. Feels better with low grip cars
 
RCHeliguy
Premium
I'd rather have nails being hammered in my eyes instead of driving in circles...
Actually, watching paint dry might be more exciting than watching oval racing.
I can't watch any racing. I'll zip through a recap, and maybe highlights, but otherwise, if I'm not participating, I'm not watching.

That said I played with oval racing just enough to have respect for the guys who like to race them. It's not easy. Road racing actually feels a bit less intense because you are not always in the middle of a pack.
 
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I've got a 1 month subscription for the first time to try it. Good physics, good sounds, good sim, but bad safety rating system.

Found it completely awful. Was starting some of my races from the pit lane just to get a finish without any incidents because that's the only way to climb the license. My friend said to me "at the start, it's better to finish last, 2 laps behind without incidents than 1st with x8 incidents", honestly what's the point?!

Sometimes people crash onto you and you get x4 incidents, then your safety rating gets bad for things that wasn't your fault at all. In one of my races, was 1st on the straight and got bumped by the 2nd car because of the draft, got x4 for nothing, gained 0,03 of SA. Ridiculous...

ACC's SA system much better IMO.
 
It still amazes me how much I enjoy oval racing, when it should be my mortal enemy because I'm a rallyer/hill climber at heart. Like, I'm to the point where I've done so many freakin laps at Nordschleife that even that circuit bores me to death. :p

The combination of always being in heavy traffic and the strategy of oval racing is always a blast for me. Except for when it's frustrating AF.

Over the course of about 6 months I did around 120 oval races, mostly in B and A ranked.
I got podium a handful of times. Those will always stick in my head as major achievements, given my limited driving skill.

I then ran one of the full-length "A" races at Dover. Focused, saved my tires, calculated fuel/etc with/without caution laps and ran top 5 for about 3 hours. Got past a few guys and found myself in 2nd, about 20 seconds behind first, with about 10 laps remaining.
5 laps to go I cross the start/finish and the spotter tells me I'm the lead car.
SEEMS 1st place ran out of fuel and handed me the win. My first in iRacing outside rookie class.
4.5 hour race. Brutal and as exciting as hell.

Yeah, it's definitely the strategic aspect that keeps me interested in oval racing. And the overpowered, heavy pig-cars.
 
I'd rather have nails being hammered in my eyes instead of driving in circles...
Actually, watching paint dry might be more exciting than watching oval racing.
Yeah who likes to watch all that passing, drafting and the strategy?

I like my racing where Q is what really counts and there are no more than 20 passes per race! /s
 
Yannik Haustein
Staff
Premium
I had a one year subscription for iRacing about two years ago and had a lot of fun with Ovals!
In fact i enjoyed them more than i had expected... the start and first corners are very exciting, the field is close and anything can happen... and **** happened of course, because C-Class i guess. :D

I miss it sometimes... good luck for the Indy 500! :)
Thank you! I knew superspeedways were exciting, but the shorter ovals have their own allure, that's for sure. Definitely enjoyed it so far, but I can't wait for the balls-to-the-wall racing the Indy 500 usually has to offer.
in preparing for the Indy 500 figure in a couple dozen yellows, so lots and lots of iPacing. I did it once and had to constantly call out to the rest of the family "Coming to dinner in 15 minutes ... make that 30 .. maybe in an hour ... maybe I'll make it in time for breakfast ..."
Oh yeah, that's gonna be an entire afternoon blocked for sim racing at least. I've watched the real thing for years now and it's amazing how fast it can fly by one year but drag on the next :D
Nice article!
Thank you, I appreciate that :)
 
I've got a 1 month subscription for the first time to try it. Good physics, good sounds, good sim, but bad safety rating system.

Found it completely awful. Was starting some of my races from the pit lane just to get a finish without any incidents because that's the only way to climb the license. My friend said to me "at the start, it's better to finish last, 2 laps behind without incidents than 1st with x8 incidents", honestly what's the point?!

Sometimes people crash onto you and you get x4 incidents, then your safety rating gets bad for things that wasn't your fault at all. In one of my races, was 1st on the straight and got bumped by the 2nd car because of the draft, got x4 for nothing, gained 0,03 of SA. Ridiculous...

ACC's SA system much better IMO.
Unfortunately your friend gave you very bad advices... You start in rookies, surrounded by people that are just starting like you: they don't know what they are doing, so they are prone to make mistakes... like you. You will learn nothing by starting from the pits, and running 2 laps down doesn't mean you'll be safe: you will still have cars around you, probably even more impatient to pass you because you're laps down! Starting on the grid and trying to let people pass leads to mistakes also: people expect you to go as fast as you can, it's a race! If you slow down too much, they rear end you: normal, you're not behaving like intended... So it's tough but the commun denominator in all those incidents seems you unfortunately; sorry to say you then deserve those incident points, SR system is working fine. Finishing last means also tanking your iRating: you don't see it in rookie but it is still counting! It drops with each bad finish: you will end up in low split with the worst people on the service, making it even more difficult to find enjoyment; that's why the advice you got is really bad...

Learning what people do around you, when to push and when to let go is what you learn in rookie. Oval racing is all about give and take. You cannot trick the system and move to higher class faster. What would be the point anyway? You'll end up in higher class with a more difficult car to drive, and you would still need to learn basic race craft. It won't work.

In oval you mainly race others cars, versus mainly racing the track in road. On a road course, past the first couple laps it is pretty common to be rather lonely, with a car a few seconds in front, and a small gap to the car behind as well. In ovals, you fight wheel to wheel a lot more! But types, track position, strategy comes into play as you climb up; it is more like a chess game sometimes. Shall I push at the start to be up front? Will I kill my tires doing this? Should I go easy to keep fresher tires at the end? But what if I start pushing too late and run out of time? Of course it is not for everyone. But that's what makes it more interesting than just running in circles, like it looks like at first.

You need to learn while you're in rookie, with a slow car and short races. If it doesn't work, no big deal; the next race will go better. Or the following one. When you do full length race like Shannon is talking above, putting all the knowledge you earned into play for 4.5 h, you better did your homework right in lower classes: no way to trick anyone or any system there! :)
 
Might I suggest UK short oval racing

Plenty of turning right there ;)
LOL ;), ok I like turning right then left (then right again!) or vice versa ;) My favourite section are esses. Maggots/Becketts, Craner Curves, Suzuka s curves, Watkins Glen Esses, Corkscrew, Ascari etc. The faster the better!
 
Bought/built a sim set-up last Christmas. Joined I-Racing when it was finished. I did Gran Turismo, and Nascar a long time ago on PS-3. I've moved to D-class in Oval and Dirt Oval, and presently am working on C-class. I dabble in Road and haven't found a liking for Dirt Road yet. I also acquired AC, and ACC just to practice driving without affecting my SR or ratings in I-Racing.

I raced go-karts on dirt ovals, Baby Bomber on dirt ovals (short timer - family before toys) and even done the Walter Mitty at Road Atl in my '65 AH Sprite. I go at AC like a game, getting into the Terramax and 20's cars mostly (Love it) and go at I-Racing as if I'm going to make a living racing. It has been been an experience and very educational and on that I'd say very rewarding. I read everything I could find, watched YouTube vids, and PRACTICED a Lot before entering my first Rookie race in I-Racing.
All the comments above are correct one way or another, with my worst experience being nailed before the Green flag dropped. The rest fell under stuff happens, no need to get mad. I have noticed that just one class jump out of Rookie and things are improving when I'm in a D class race even tho sometimes I think I've just gotten better at avoiding trouble and it's not always better drivers in the cars around me. All in all I think I'm running with a good bunch whatever I'm doing and when I think I can be a benefit I'd like to join a leaque or team and run more with people I get to know.

Thanks!
 
went to see what it costs on steam so I can do the inevetable refund.. appears iRobbing has some work to do on their subscription mathematics ;)
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I just googled iracing vouchers or codes of something, Got 3 months for $3.50. More then got my monies worth in the month that I played it, and no need to bother with a refund if I didn't like it as it was just a token sum.

edit-My bad, Just logged in to turn off auto-renew and it turns out I paid $33 for 3 months. Kind of wished I hadn't....
 
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