iDecide My Next Step – iRacing Blog, Day 27

Posted by Trace (3577 posts) -

Day 27: June 20th, 2013

My short rookie season is coming to an end. It’s time for some thought.

Here’s a video recapping my time at Lime Rock for week 3 of the Mazda Cup:

I won’t reiterate much this time around, other than to say I was a complete wimp. Blame the safety rating, I suppose.

Don’t blame it too much, though. That safe driving did get me my first license upgrade.


23 days into this experiment, and I am no longer a rookie on road courses. This D license is the lowest road license I can hold from now on, no matter how unsafe I am from this point forward. More importantly, it unlocks a bunch of new racing series for me to participate in.

Moving upwards comes with a significant cost, though. Let’s go through all of my choices for D class, in order of preference at a first glance:

(Note: Estimated costs based on this season’s schedule, which is subject to change next season.)

Grand Touring Cup

The Grand Touring Cup’s a multi-class series involving the Mazda MX-5, Pontiac Solstice, and Volkswagen Jetta TDI. The Jetta doesn’t have its own series in iRacing anymore, presumably due to a lack of interest, so this series lumps it in with a few more popular cars.

It’s a comfortable series to jump into, since I can use the MX-5 I’m already familiar with, and I’ll only be competing against other Miatas in the field. The multi-class aspect also creates the potential for larger fields. Races begin with rolling starts, which I’m much better at handling than standing starts.

…unfortunately, other drivers might not handle those starts as well, since it involves slowly driving in position for a lap behind a pace car. Still, for 25 minute races, it’s not a bad next step into the world of multi-class racing.

  • Cost of car: $0.00 ($11.95 for the Jetta)
  • Cost of tracks: $101.65
  • Total cost with bulk purchase discount: $81.32

Spec Racer Ford Challenge

The Spec Racer Ford is a staple of the SCCA, which runs and supports a bunch of the road racing in America. It’s built solely for racing, and since they’re reasonably affordable for someone with a bit of extra money looking for a weekend hobby, there’s decent groups that can be found racing around the country throughout the year.

At least, that’s what I read on the Internet. The Spec Racer Ford comes free with iRacing, and it might be a good way to familiarize myself with lighter and faster cars, but it doesn’t seem to attract large fields for racing. I’d still have to buy a bunch of tracks, too.

  • Cost of car: $0.00
  • Cost of tracks: $104.65
  • Total cost w/discount: $83.72

Skip Barber Race Series

If you’ve ever thought about learning how to race, you’ve heard about Skip Barber. Named after the man at its helm, it’s the premiere driving school for newbies looking to learn the basics. Over the years, Skip’s created a few racing series for rookie drivers willing to invest in leasing or buying cars from him, and this series features a Formula 2000 equivalent car.

The great part about a Skip Barber series is that, even in the virtual world, it attracts a lot of interest. Skip Barber races run more frequently than other D series options, and they’re better attended, too. That means more competition and more opportunities to hone my skills. It also means more highly skilled drivers are in the fray, though, and for someone inexperienced like me, especially with a beginner Formula car, I could easily be eaten alive on the track.

Provided I don’t take anyone out, that is. That would be awkward. Still, I have some interest in moving to IndyCar later on in my career, so this could be a decent first step.

  • Cost of car: $11.95
  • Cost of tracks: $119.60
  • Total cost w/discount: $105.24

iRacing Global Challenge

The Global Challenge is the closest current equivalent in iRacing to the Pirelli World Challenge, which is basically the SCCA touring car series that I used to watch hour-long summaries of on Speedvision. In this case, it only features race-ready versions of the Cadillac CTS-V and the KIA Optima. Not quite as varied a field, but that’s the norm for iRacing.

The CTS-V comes free with iRacing, which is good since I’m not buying a KIA, but Cadillac’s sports car strikes me as heavy and powerful, two things I’m not keen on jumping into given my alternatives. The iRacing community seems to agree, as well, as it’s one of the lower-attended championships in D.

It doesn’t feature the sort of cars I think I’d stick with at higher classes, but it’s an option.

  • Cost of car: $0.00
  • Cost of tracks: $119.60
  • Total cost w/discount: $95.68

iRacing Mustang Cup

It’s a bunch of race-ready Ford Mustangs. Slowbird would be thrilled to see me in this series, but it has terribly low attendance and a car I have absolutely no interest in which I currently can’t use in any other series.

Kind of a dead end, really.

  • Cost of car: $11.95
  • Cost of tracks: $128.55
  • Total cost w/discount: $112.40

....yeesh, there's a lot of money flying around here.

Let’s just summarize those potential costs, to drive a point home:

  • Grand Touring Cup: $81.32
  • Spec Racer Ford Challenge: $83.72
  • Skip Barber Race Series: $105.24
  • Global Challenge: $95.68
  • Mustang Cup: $112.40

Have I ever mentioned that iRacing can be fucking costly? Granted, track costs will go down somewhat once I’ve purchased the popular ones, but damn, it’s one heck of a steep initial investment, especially given I’m going in blind.

There is one more option, however.

inRacingNews Challenge

The inRacingNews Challenge is reasonably well attended, full of drivers a step up from new rookies, and features tracks and cars I already have! It’s Pontiac Solstices and Mazda MX-5, to be more specific. I guess it used to feature Spec Racer Fords, as well, but I guess that stopped working out, because they are gone from everything except the imagery.

The biggest problem here: It’s a rookie series. I can participate in this, free of additional charges, but I can never move up into C class through this series. I have to participate in at least four D-class races to earn a C license.

After the Mazda Cup finale this week, we’ll be over four weeks away from the D championships starting new seasons. I think I’ll dabble in the inRacingNews Challenge at the point, and maybe dabble in D races at tracks I already own, should the opportunity arise.

Diversify the skill set. That seems like a good enough idea. Don’t know what it’ll do to my safety rating, though.

#1 Posted by slowbird (1757 posts) -
  • Grand Touring Cup: Good choice, cars relatively easy to drive
  • Spec Racer Ford Challenge: challenging, but fun when you get used to the car's tendencies
  • Skip Barber Race Series: haven't tried this one but supposedly the car is twitchy
  • Global Challenge: The Cadillac has decent downforce but is tricky at low speeds; the Kia comes with racing gloves (not really)
  • Mustang Cup: a bit tough to drive sometimes but whatever it's a Ford so you have to buy it according to the new law I just enacted after becoming President Of The World (hey a man can dream)
#2 Posted by j3ffro919 (244 posts) -

I'm 10 minutes in and that makes me want to play iracing, and simultaneously NEVER play iracing. Just based on how I've fared against you in Forza I'm sure I'm the asshole that's going to screw everything up. I get nervous enough on Race Night that I'm going to screw it up, can't imagine how nervous I'd be at the start.

But damn it looks intense and fun at the same time.

Side note - you don't look anything like I thought you would. Not that I ever pictured you in any way, I think its more like when you see a picture of the disk jockey you've been listening to for years.

#3 Posted by slowbird (1757 posts) -

@Starburns: Even though I've met him in person I still think of him as the weird geometric shape in his avatar.

#4 Posted by j3ffro919 (244 posts) -

@slowbird: Maybe that's what it is. I've never pictured him as an actual person. Good call.

#5 Posted by wrathofconn (1453 posts) -

I think if this game were priced like an MMO (or at least like many free-to-play games, I guess) I'd be interested enough to buy some sort of wheel and try it out. As it stands, not quite there for me. I will continue to follow your exploits though.


#6 Edited by Razorlution (186 posts) -

I remember racing with you in Forza, absolute class act. I always thought of getting into this but the cost has scared me off with the initial start-up. Good to see you haven't dropped off the face of the earth in the racing world :)

#7 Edited by robgray (3 posts) -

Good review but it's probably worth mentioning that while each series may cost > $100, that's only if you choose that series and no others. The various series share tracks, so you'll find that the cost of racing in two series may be ~$30 more, the price of a car and maybe two tracks.

My personal route saw me go from the MX5 into the Skip Barber (pre NTM days), as I wanted to get into the open-wheelers. The Skippy is a special beast. It's underpowered and it's twitchy. What it does teach you is to drive smoothly. In my opinion it's the best car of the available D cars to learn to handle a race car, and to become familiar with being smooth and progressive, a skill that'll be very useful as you progress to higher powered vehicles.

I also really enjoy the SCCA and Mustang. Both because of the H-Shifter. The SCCA is like a giant kart, albiet underpowered compared to the cars I'm used to driving. The Mustang is a great lumbering, rolling beast and hoot to drive with one hand one the stick and one on the wheel, rolling it through corners. It's my go to fun car.

The Cadillac has never appealed to me. I tried it on release, but for the type of car it is, I'd rather drive the Ford V8Supercar. The KIA is nice and easy, albiet understeery. I tried it when I bought it on debut in a week 13. Haven't touched it since.

Of all those cars, I return to the SCCA the most but the Skip Barber was by far the most important car to drive. Perhaps the most imporant car to get experience with if you're going to be a road racer.

Of the price in general: It's a great barrier of entry. Keeps away the people that aren't serious, the griefers and like. Greifers and generally trolling drivers are the reason I avoid other racing games.

#8 Edited by Trace (3577 posts) -

@robgray said:

Good review but it's probably worth mentioning that while each series may cost > $100, that's only if you choose that series and no others. The various series share tracks, so you'll find that the cost of racing in two series may be ~$30 more, the price of a car and maybe two tracks.

Absolutely true, and it's something I should have emphasized more. The quality of my iRacing time should go up quite a bit when I begin to test at tracks I enjoy more as well, like Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.

Definitely good to read endorsements for the Skippy and the SRF. I'm unable to mount a decent H-shifter anywhere given my current space restraints, but given that I'm angling towards IndyCar and Daytona Prototypes for the future, both sound like important vehicles to try. Tinkering around with new cars on week 13 seems like a wise idea, in this regard.

#9 Edited by marcmann2 (27 posts) -

Have you tried out ovals? Because the competition that I've seen you facing is a whole lot safer than the knuckleheads in rookie street stock.

#10 Posted by Trace (3577 posts) -

Have you tried out ovals? Because the competition that I've seen you facing is a whole lot safer than the knuckleheads in rookie street stock.

I have watched enough of the street stock races you've been involved in to know that the rookie oval racing is frightening. I plan to cover that sometime, but it's a nightmarish world.

At one point, I was tempted to record some of the angry driver chatter I was hearing and combine it with a video of kittens frolicking and playing about.

#11 Edited by Dethfish (3697 posts) -

I don't know much about iRacing, but I say go with Skip Barber 'cause it looks coolest.

#12 Edited by TheDew (121 posts) -

Damn if iRacing and a decent wheel setup wasn't so damn expensive, I would be convinced to get into this.. Looks like a lot of fun

#13 Edited by Khann (2914 posts) -

Good stuff man.

Not sure if trail braking is a technique you're used to at all, but it's more or less essential to driving the Spec Racer. Left foot braking can be quite useful as well.

Good fun to drive, though.

#14 Edited by zudthespud (3284 posts) -

I recommend Skip Barber, that's a really fun series that a lot of people compete in. I am at A class now and I still dabble from time to time. Also remember, you don't need to buy all of the tracks. The schedule changes every season so if you buy all 12 tracks for this season, they won't be there next season. When I was getting into it I bought the absolute minimum to meet the 8 race a season requirement to earn some credits.

If you would like someone to race with I'm always down, I'm usually racing at least once a week. I've sent you a message on the membersite.

#15 Edited by Bollard (5851 posts) -

Clever kitten.

Also ouch, didn't realise you had to pay for tracks as well as the subscription. That's crazy yo.

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