iRacing and the simracing hobby is different than other games because it’s a constant challenge to always go faster. Since you’re only racing against other real people from around the world, there will always be someone faster than you. Even Greger Huttu doesn’t win every race. You’re always trying to find that little bit or sometimes large chunks of time on the track. This guide will hopefully help make your time getting up to speed more enjoyable and help you spend less time (in the long run) practicing and more time racing.
There is no way around it, especially if you’re just starting out. It is going to take a lot of practice. The three components that determine the amount of practice are:
- The car
- The track
- Your equipment (wheels, pedals, PC, etc)
If any of these three are a new variable it’s going to take a bit of practice time to get up to speed. There is hope though. When you get to the same track, in the same car and you’re using the same equipment you raced at last season it’s going to get easier. I promise. You will have to put in the time in the beginning and there isn’t a way around that.
Learning the basics
To make best use of your time it can help to have a good foundation to understand what’s happening to the car when you’re out on the track.
iRacing Driving School
On the iRacing members page it is found under Reference>Driving
They are a series of helpful videos on the basics of cornering, etc. Plus when you complete them you get an award.
The book is available on amazon for about $23. It is a very helpful but dry book on vehicle dynamics that a driver needs to know. It is written for the Skip Barber training school. The one caveat is, if you can get through it. I love this stuff and found it a difficult read. Don’t feel the need to read it cover-to-cover as soon as you get it. Use it as a reference to come back to when you need help to understand what is happening to the car.
Also here’s the 90 minute video version that you should watch:
Don’t forget to read the rules. Found under Reference>Sporting Code. The iRacing created getting started guides are also under Reference>Documents and Tools.
This non-iRacing developed tool reads the telemetry data from the car while you’re driving and uploads your best lap to a repository. Then using their lap analyser tool you can compare your lap to others who have also used the tool. Troy Shultz is an iRacing member who has written a wonderful guide on how to use the program to it’s fullest called “One Second at a time.” PDF download link
Troy’s idea with the title of this guide is very helpful whenever you’re comparing yourself to others. Look at who you’re actually racing. You’re not really racing against the guy 3 seconds faster than you. Take a look at who’s just a little bit faster than you and see what they’re doing. You’ll find your goals more attainable and in the process get more satisfaction out of the process rather than be constantly discouraged by how fast the super fast guys are.
iRacing has built-in Motec data analysis tools from McLaren but they’re pro (real racing) level and I find them pretty difficult. iSpeed is a much easier tool to get the data I need.
In addition to looking at data, actually watching the lap is super helpful. It helps you find reference marks on the track for proper braking points and to see how hard they’re actually pushing it to get those faster lap times. There are a lot of videos out there so you only really need to do a search like “iRacing skip barber sebring” to find what you’re looking for. One note is to check the dates uploaded. iRacing has been around since 2008 and there are a lot of changes made since then so some of the times and techniques may not be possible with the current car if the video is very old.
iRacing also uses their YouTube channel as one of the main sources for news and announcements. From their iRacingTV show you’ll often get information upcoming updates.
There is a lot of useful information from other racers in the car sections forum. In each car forum there are several stickied threads that are helpful guides. They may be car setup guides, driving guides (How/when to shift, tricks to driving this car, etc) or just racecraft (How do deal with other classes in multiclass racing). Here is an iRacing forum link of a huge list of helpful threads: http://members.iracing.com/jforum/posts/list/1354827.page#2946101
Note on the forums, it’s pretty huge. I check the announcements, car forums to the cars I’m racing and the hardware forums regularly. Then the real racing forum and general every so often. It’s just like any other forum and can get snippy but otherwise everyone is pretty nice. General can sometimes get like most OT forums.
I don’t make my own setups, so I’m no help there. As someone who never makes setups don’t worry too much about setups. The baseline is usually the best place to start for most cars. Get to where you can drive the track and the look into getting a setup. There is usually more time gained in your driving than in the setup. Once you do want to look at setups go to the car specific forum for the car you’re driving. There will be a forum thread for that week’s track for that series and usually people share setups there. There may also be a setup thread stickied for easy reference to other tracks as well.
Attacking the track
Testing / Practice
This is where everything is subjective and you’ll find something that works for you. If you’ve done the studying in the Learning the Basics section above they teach how to learn a track for the first time. The best advice I can give is don’t attack the track. Take it easy and back up the corners at first. When I say back up the corners I mean take the turn slower and earlier than you think you need to and then try just a little deeper into the corner the next lap. It’s easier to learn the track and where the limit is without spending all your practice time off in the grass.
Start in testing where it’s just you and the track but once you’re able to do a few laps without crashing go ahead and get into the multiplayer practice. Learning car control around other cars going different speeds and wreck avoidance is just as important as speed when in the race. Incident points don’t count in practice so don’t worry about wrecks, especially if people get into to you. It’s practice, that’s what its for.
Do time trials. It’s a good mental practice for the race where incident points do matter. It’s just you and the track so you don’t have to worry about other cars.
Qualify! This one people’s opinion vary on. Some want to try to start at the back of the pack at the beginning to avoid the wrecks. Not qualifying doesn’t guarantee this. You’re just in the back behind the people that did qualify with all the other non-qualifiers and sorted by iRating. Most of the wrecks come from the back of the field. I’d rather qualify and be in front of most of the wrecks. Some people don’t want to qualify as the slowest qualifier and have fast non-qualifiers trying to pass them at the start. That’s going to happen if you qualify or not. Learning how to get passed is a good skill, learn it now. Your finishing position will average higher when you qualify just through attrition. When you finish higher you get a higher iRating you end up in higher splits. When you end up in higher splits the quality of the driving goes up and you can race side-by-side without worrying about getting contact.
It’s race time! After all of that it’s time to race. Race a lot, as much as you can. That’s what it’s all about. You’ll get a lot of experience with the car, improve your racecraft and it’s fun. Even if you’re points racing going for a division or overall championship only the best one of four races count per week. So you can race four times each week and it will never hurt you in the points. It’s only a chance to get a higher points race. The more you race your iRating will normalize and you’ll get in race splits where you’re more competitive against the rest of the field. The more you race the more you will improve as well. Wins are super rare for just about everyone so just focus on finishing in the top half of the field and you’ll do great.
As any sport of skill you’ll have bad days and good days. Don’t get too frustrated with the other guy if you get in a wreck, he could be having a bad day or just drove above his ability. Since it takes two cars to create a wreck and you can only control one of them, evaluate what you could have done to avoid the situation. Do report any intentional wrecking through the protest system. Don’t get discouraged if you’re in a slump and take a break if needed.
Thanks for reading this guide. This guide is just my opinion and your mileage may vary.