With E3 2014 basically over, it's time to focus on what really matters in life: Driving the ever-loving hell out of some fun cars in an intense racing sim.
OK, that's more my thing, but if it sounds like something you might be interested in and want to join fellow Giant Bomb community members in a bunch of races open to all levels of experience and skill, then we might have the league for you in iRacing.
Season 3 will be slightly shorter than season 2, but we've concentrated it down to the three series everybody enjoyed, running one for each day of the weekend. Here's the line-up, with the changes this season:
Friday Nights are for BOMBCAR
BOMBCAR continues to be our NASCAR oval racing series, full of bullshit rules, caution flags, and intense bumper-to-bumper racing. This season, we've retired the Late Model, and with it threw away most of the short tracks. Now we rally forward with the Class B NASCAR cars, used in the Nationwide support series in real life.
With this upgrade comes a whole lot of new tracks. Unlike last season, every track in BOMBCAR this season is used in the NASCAR Sprint Cup. We'll start with the Daytona 125 presented by VinnCo, and through one road course, five more ovals, and four playoff races, decide our BOMBCAR champion at the Dover Championship Weekend powered by Patrick "Scoops" Klepek.
The full schedule is below:
Cautions and "Lucky Dog" free passes will be on, and to prevent abuse of said cautions, fast repairs will be limited to two during a race. Scoring is similar to NASCAR's system, save for being altered for a field of around 15, and after the Moonface, Silky the Fairy and Saucepan Man 105K at Phoenix, the top four drivers in wins will be joined by the top non-winner in points to form the Fast Five. While everyone can still participate in the races, only the Fast Five can win the BOMBCAR title.
Get ready for oval warfare.
Saturday Night is Formula Duder
Our longest-running series gets a major facelift, as we move from the Skip Barber Formula 2000 up to the Star Mazda. It's way crazier to control, but it has more grip and more power. I hear you're into that sort of thing.
The Star Mazda's also really fun at certain ovals, so we'll be giving it two ovals to tackle this season. You're welcome.
Also, there will be team warfare. If you can find a teammate, and you and said teammate run similar paint schemes like those F1 fellas tend to, we'll score you as a team and determine the best pairing at the end of the season.
Formula Duder's schedule is as follows:
6/14: Summit Point Short
6/21: Watkins Glen w/boot
6/28: Bristol (oval)
7/5: Circuit of the Americas West
8/2: Lime Rock
8/9: Sebring Club
8/16: Richmond (oval)
8/23: Mid-Ohio Short
9/6: Road Atlanta Short
This is going to be the craziest open-wheel racing we've done since the GB Indy 125. Speaking of that, expect to see it return with a DW12 exhibition during at least one of the off-weeks this season.
Finally, it's the series everybody loves.
Sunday is Giant Bomb GT
RUFs that handle an awful lot like Porsches, McLaren MP4-12Cs, and BMW Z4s. It's a trio of GT3 cars that are insanely fun to drive without being overly difficult, and that's why we love them. The challenge, as always, is in the distance and fuel strategy. Races for GBGT this season are 45 or 75 minutes in length, with the final race at Road Atlanta being a 90-minute test of your driving ability, and we've limited the cars to the point they'll require one or two well-timed pit stops along the way.
It seems like a long time, but you'll be having so much fun those hours will melt away. Just don't let your fuel and tire strategy consume your soul.
Giant Bomb GT's schedule is as follows:
6/15: Summit Point
6/22: Daytona Road Course
6/29: Lime Rock
7/6: Circuit of the Americas West
7/13: Watkins Glen Classic
7/20: Suzuka West
8/3: Laguna Seca
8/17: Phillip Island
9/7: Road Atlanta
I hope you're ready to join us for a great season of racing. This? This is it. This is what you've asked for, and I've turned the scheduling and series coordination over to @slowbird and @khann to ensure it remains spectacular from season to season. I'll be tossing out additional participation bonuses in the form of iRacing credits, but I'll announce any initiatives of that sort after the first week.
Let's find out who our next great champions will be, shall we?
I have a request I'd like to ask of any or all the artistically gifted people on this site who might be willing to paint up a virtual car. Allow me to fill in the situation with a little background.
For the last two weeks, I've been waking up at 6 AM on Saturdays to watch NASCAR races in iRacing.
Ordinarily this is the sort of behavior best reserved for Formula 1 viewing, but I'm finding iRacing to be a rather entertaining way to wake up far too early on a weekend. The official series I'm watching uses the same schedule as NASCAR's Sprint Cup does, save for fixed setups and most of the races being half distance, both of which actually make it far more interesting. It's nice to have races where I can choose whatever camera angle I'd like, rewind if necessary, and generally get a better narrative of the unfolding race than I'm able to from the four-hour epics most real NASCAR broadcasts pump out. I also have the benefit of having a few drivers that I can cheer on, since they run in our Giant Bomb Racing League.
It's weird knowing that two of our best oval drivers are a Kiwi and a German.
Here's @khann, from New Zealand. He's incredibly fast, but prone to misfortune. Give him an incident-free race, though, and you'll see him battle for the win in just about any type of car anywhere. Seriously, he's that good.
This is @iron1c, from Germany. I'd compare him to Kyle Busch: He's extremely aggressive, and it either pays off nicely or sends him to the pits early. He's pulling off a sick drift here and not about to spin, I swear.
I have one major problem with both of these guys in their pictures: They're not repping Giant Bomb at all. Khann's sticking to his usual pink-and-black attack with a generic Trading Paints sponsor (that's the program that allows us to see custom liveries), and IroN1c races with some sort of Mountain Dew green label art camouflage. Given that there's the chance that more of us could be stepping up to race soon, this absent brand loyalty is a disappointing problem.
It would be nice to show all these iRacing users who we are and just how hard we can run in an official series, wouldn't it?
We could probably design bare-bones paint schemes on our own with some Giant Bomb logos slapped on every panel, but I'd like to enlist the community's help in making Giant Bomb racers look truly awesome on the track.
These cars are the same ones used in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, so there are three different manufacturers. I've linked .zip files with copies of templates below:
Any design can probably be transferred between these cars with little issue. There's only a few minor variations between the models, as far as I can tell.
The templates are 2048x2048 .psds with layer groups. They're generally pretty descriptive and will tell you what layers to turn off before saving a finished paint, most of which help show what the finished car will look like in-game and provide other assists like wireframes and number placement.
Numbers are separate from the livery. They're assigned automatically when joining a race and are layered on top of the design alongside NASCAR-required contingency sponsors. One of the layers in the .psds will indicate where they'll go. Colors and font styles can be recommended for numbers on designs, but that's about it.
Designs can't have any offensive language or imagery. That's iRacing's thing, since they have to be PG-friendly or so. Other than that, I'd say go for whatever Giant Bomb images/memes/shirt-based/friend-of-the-site stylings you want. B0nd07 already indicated to me that he'd be OK with users putting his winged bombwheel onto cars, and I'm sure other users who have made awesome work for the site wouldn't mind, either, be it a site logo, the VinnCo emblem, police sketch Jeff, or some other great logo/design.
Finished designs have to be saved as 24-bit compressed .tga files to work in iRacing.
Since not everyone has access to iRacing and this car due to its insane cost, I will gladly model any paint scheme and help point out any seam issues that may arise for anyone who wants to try their hand at creating art. Just let me know.
Help us spread the word of Giant Bomb to the masses of iRacing, won't you? You'll have our eternal gratitude. Thanks!
The Giant Bomb Racing League's inaugural season in iRacing concluded at the end of 2013, and with consistent fields of 6-15 drivers, I'd call it a success. We now have over 75 members in the league, so the potential growth in the league's races is huge. I'd love to see a day where Giant Bomb users of widely varying experience are able to race against each other in fields rivaling those of real-life racing events.
With that in mind, I've taken member feedback into account and planned over sixty races to run over the next four months. Season two of the Giant Bomb iRacing League is rather large and somewhat complex, so this blog will be covering all of the rules and series changes to help prepare anyone interested for a season full of (hopefully) exciting racing.
Our main races will run from Friday through Sunday, so I'll start with Friday's big series.
9:00 PM EST, Friday nights
Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS and Street Stock
13 races, 10 ovals, 3 road courses, no drops
Final three races are playoffs
Full-course cautions with a wave-by on ovals
Only two fast repairs on ovals
Maximum fuel is halved
Friday Night Thunder was a not-all-that-serious series from season one, featuring ovals and figure-eight races galore, but its attendance was never great. The post-season survey basically revealed that people were sick of all the figure-eight silliness and wanted more ovals. They also agreed with my inadvertent realization that a NASCAR-esque series I pitched sounded more like what Friday Night Thunder should have been all along.
BOMBCAR takes Friday Night Thunder's spot on most weeks, and it features the Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS late model. There's also a Street Stock option for users that don't want to buy a car, but I must warn that it's not nearly as fun as the late model. The Monte Carlo has more grip and power overall, though it also wears out tires much faster.
BOMBCAR's key element is that it shamelessly rips off of a lot of NASCAR's bullshit rules. There are 13 races – ten ovals and three road courses – and after the tenth race, the top four in points will be joined by a wild card, the next-best remaining driver with the most wins, to form the Fast Five. They'll be the only ones who can win the BOMBCAR Cup, as their points are equalized for the final three races.
Full-course cautions are in effect for all oval races, including a "Lucky Dog" wave-by to the first car not on the lead lap during any caution period. To prevent repeatedly-damaged cars from contending for the win too easily, only two fast repairs are permitted during oval races. After that, all repairs will take much longer. This is a departure from our usual standard of unlimited fast repairs, but with the wave-by rule in effect, I'd like to avoid a scenario where a user that causes several accidents can continue to contend for the win without consequences.
Oh, and the maximum fuel load's been halved for both the late model and street stock. That means you'll probably have to pit during most races.
BOMBCAR Points System
1 bonus point for leading a lap
1 bonus point for pole
Playoff "Fast Five" boosted to 500 points at playoff time, plus one point per win
Formula Duder was easily our most successful and popular series last season. To make its racing even better and more accessible, it has taken over Saturdays with three separate races.
The Formula Duder EuroCup
3:00 PM EST (8:00 PM GMT), Saturdays
Miatas and Skip Barber Formula 2000s, multi-class
Best 10 of 12 races, grand prix scoring
The starting times for almost all of our league races are really terrible for European residents. I feel bad about that, and want to make sure everyone around the world has a chance to participate. This race should be friendly to Europeans (and any interested North Americans), so it's a test to see if my guilt is well-placed.
The EuroCup is set up to run like Formula Duder season one, only with a more consistent schedule. If it has a good turnout throughout the season, we'll expand the Euro-friendly offerings for season three. Otherwise, I'll assume they can stay up late to join us.
VinnCo Miata Challenge
7:00 PM EST, Saturday nights
Shorter races, less premium tracks
Best 10 of 12 races, grand prix scoring
So here's the biggest problem we had during Formula Duder's first season: The Miata class was lonely. Newcomers would join us with Miatas, unsure about buying the Skip Barber Formula 2000, and they'd be lucky to have one opponent on the track. Racing alone with a bunch of faster cars lapping you constantly isn't all that fun, as you might imagine.
Given that there's no good reason to encourage people to race Miatas in a multi-class Formula Duder race, we're splitting the Formula Duder classes into two separate races. While this does mean users without the Skippy won't be able to spectate the main Formula Duder race, it also means Formula 2000 drivers will be able to join the Miata fray and bolster the field numbers.
Also, Miatas pushing it to the limit seems like a Vinny Caravella thing, so I tacked VinnCo onto the name.
As a bonus, and since I expect the top Formula Duder drivers will participate in this series as well, anyone who wins a Miata Challenge race and doesn't own the Formula 2000 will earn themselves credit towards purchasing one. Prove yourself against our finest, and you will be rewarded with the opportunity to compete at the next level.
This will also be the one race I stream only as a spectator, in the hopes its coverage will be more awesome with me outside of a car.
Formula Duder (The Main Event)
9:00 PM EST, Saturday nights
Skip Barber Formula 2000s only
Best 10 of 12 races, grand prix scoring
Formula Duder is currently the top series in the Giant Bomb Racing League. The Skip Barber Formula 2000 is a car that's rather easy to tune, daunting to master, and is capable of very competitive racing with ease. This season will feature slightly longer races, more premium tracks, and shorter qualifying periods. I'm hoping the larger fields will also make it more exciting for everyone.
Speaking of participation, I have a challenge to throw down. Our best race last season featured fifteen drivers at Road Atlanta. Every time we beat that total, I will give a random participant credit towards a car or track of their choice.
Giant Bomb GT
7:00 PM EST, Sunday nights
RUF RT 12R Track and Cadillac CTS-Vs
11 longer races, mostly premium tracks
Time-limited races more than laps
Slightly-limited fuel loads to force conservation or pit stops
Using the name of our most serious Forza Race Night series, Giant Bomb GT is the most taxing series thus far for our iRacing league. Many of the races are 45 or 60 minute mini-endurance races, featuring two GT cars that are both aggressively fast and reasonably controllable. This series is just as much about being consistent as it is about being fast, as long races will make errors far more prevalent.
If GBGT gains traction this season, it will begin to work towards a proper endurance race schedule. iRacing is supposedly working on allowing for driver swaps and longer-distance races, so I'd love to have full-blown endurance races on a quarterly basis mixed in with a series like Giant Bomb GT, including, perhaps, a 24-hour race for the next Extra Life charity event.
While BOMBCAR, Formula Duder, and Giant Bomb GT will dominate the weekends this season, there will be occasional appearances from the following series, which will both run throughout 2014.
Friday Night Thunder
Thunder's not dead! It's just taking over the Fridays BOMBCAR is off. This will continue to be a grab-bag series, featuring special cars (one free car, two free cars, or one free and one premium car) at various tracks we otherwise wouldn't race. RUF RWDs and CTS-Vs around Daytona? Legend cars and sprint cars around a tiny oval? Those dreaded figure-eight races? Nothing is off-limits. So long as it sticks to the car criteria, we can race it.
Points will be loose, and the racing will be looser. Don't expect anything too serious here. Also feel free to jump into the main league thread with suggestions, because that's where I'm taking ideas for most of the races.
On the other side of the seriousness spectrum, expect a toned-down version of the GBF1 series we tested once a month on Sunday mornings. We'll be using Star Mazdas each month at a track that F1 has visited at some point in its history, usually something we're already running in other series. I currently use 25% of the race distance of the last F1 race to run at the track, but that's subject to change based on timing and feedback.
I'll also avoid interfering with the F1 calendar, but this is a series that runs at a time just after some F1 races. That may mean waking up early or staying up late for some of us. Such is the life of Formula 1 fandom.
This will also probably be the only year we run this series, as the IndyCar DW12 should be available for races sometime this year, and once that's out, we'll have a proper Ricker Cup.
Most of these races will be streamed live from my perspective at twitch.tv/pseg. Unlike last season, my upstream speeds are much faster (6-10 times faster), so you might be able to make out a car or two while I'm racing.
No, seriously, it's so much better. I tested it earlier this year with the GB100 Endurance Race, and it's far easier to watch.
I'll also be tweeting out at @PsEG right before any streams, so I apologize to those of you who follow me and don't care about iRacing.
Finally, for a better perspective of how all the races will be stacked up, here's a calendar from Mouse. Times are subject to change, so always check the league page on iRacing.com beforehand if you plan to participate.
Finally, thanks to aurahack and B0nd07 for all the badass logos above. They're amazing dudes.
I certainly haven’t abandoned iRacing, but in a sense, I fell off the wagon for a while there.
Between vacations I had already scheduled and devoting free time to the Giant Bomb Racing League, I let my first full-length official season in fall apart. It doesn’t even matter when I finished in the Skip Barber Race Series points, since I ran a fraction of the races I should have for a proper season.
Anyways, that needs some correcting. Before then, though, I feel it’s necessary to discuss what went right and wrong before renewing my battle with iRacing:
What Went Right
I’m a C license now
Thanks to an extraordinarily safe time in the Miatas at the start of my career, followed by a handful of slow-yet-adequate races in the Skip Barber last season, I've earned a C license with relatively little effort. This gives me access to a couple of new series that are rather interesting, including the Star Mazda championship, V8 Supercars, and what was once my end goal, the Grand-Am Series.
There’s also Grand Prix Legends with the deadly Lotus 49, but that’s a level of insanity well beyond my tolerance.
The logical next step beyond the Formula 2000 is the Star Mazda, since it’s a modern open-wheel car with more power and grip than its little Skippy brother-from-another-mother. It doesn't have iRacing’s newest tire model, though, and frankly, I didn't complete a full season in a D license series. That eats away at me somewhat.
Still, I’m beginning to think my goals in iRacing are changing.
This Giant Bomb League thing’s actually kind of working out
The most significant sign that iRacing is no longer just about me on this site can be seen pretty easily in our League roster. We have 63 site members signed up.
Seriously. I know the Forza clubs have had hundreds, and there’s thousands in the Steam groups, but this is iRacing. It’s like racing DotA 2, except you have to buy the stupid hats and swords to progress. I expected we might have about 20 people join our ranks, and we've tripled that number.
Not only do we have a bunch of people, they’re incredibly talented. Not counting the wonderful logos B0nd07 and aurahack have donated, our members put together great videos and guides. I’m still floored every time I watch DavyC412’s Formula Duder promo video:
I’m getting hooked on this streaming thing
A nice side effect of both this blog and the flourishing league is that I’m becoming more experienced with using XSplit, streaming to Twitch, and talking into a camera pointed at my skull. While I don’t ever expect it to take off on any grand level – my highest viewer count was 22 after an unexpected Rorie TweetZone plug – I do hope I can build my streams and videos into a nice resource for people who don’t care to spend the crazy money on iRacing but still want to see what it’s all about. Plus, XSplit allows me to throw together a bunch of graphics and video to improve my production quality, and that’s a thrill for me in itself.
Hell, I’m listening to music these days and thinking, “Hell, I bet I could use this as a theme for a series without getting in copyright trouble.” It’s dangerous thinking.
One unfortunate limitation of my current situation: My “turbo” Internet is awfully slow. My upstream bandwidth is 1.15 Mbps, which severely limits the quality of what I can stream, most especially when I have to ease off the limit so that my car doesn't warp around the track for my fellow competitors. I’ll hopefully be able to fix this in the next month or so, but I’m not looking forward to visiting my cable company and reminding them that I already own a cable modem that can handle your fastest bonded speed just set it up already I have the money geez
I have an awesome livery for my Formula 2000
Oh, and DavyC412 didn't just make an awesome video for the Formula Duder series, he made this really cool livery for my Skip Barber Formula 2000.
It’s just the bee’s knees, you know? I’m definitely fond of it, and I’ll be using it for all of my Skip Barber races from now on. A full season’s worth, even. Seriously.
What Went Terribly, Terribly Wrong
Somebody forgot to practice
Practice leads to confidence, and confidence leads to results. Unsurprisingly, my lack of gusto in putting forth the necessary laps each week killed me. It’s not fun arriving at a Saturday, Sunday, or even a last-chance Monday race and not knowing the track well enough to run a decent lap. That leads to panic about safety rating, since the easiest way to destroy my new C license is to spin or crash several times in a race.
Partway through last season, after dropping a few weeks, I realized just how problematic this was going to be. I jumped into a late-week practice session at Mosport, having never driven the track in any game before. I figured I could pick it up well enough and run reasonable enough lines to run mid-pack in a split somewhere in the middle of the skill range.
Then you crest a hill like this not knowing what’s beyond it, and realize you have absolutely no clue what you’re doing.
Yeah. It’s a fast turn, but learning to take this quickly and safely in the span of an hour before a race? It wasn't going to happen, and my inability to jump into practice in a timely manner gutted my chances of having an opportunity to race. I’m not going to put myself out there and screw over my safety rating because I don’t know what I’m doing, after all.
With that in mind, I’m going to have to keep reminding myself to practice as many days as possible. Devoting full nights to practice isn’t necessary, either, so it’s not like I’ll have to take away time from other games I have to play. Instinct for tracks and breeding familiarity with braking points, racing lines, and car control nuances tends to solidify somewhat over nights of sleep, anyways.
Just don’t make it too many nights of sleep like I did last season. That’s a great way to solidify an excuse about being rusty.
The league could still be more active
I’m being picky, but despite 63 members, our biggest race so far has only featured around a dozen participants. I know that there’s no way we’ll get everyone together for one gigantic and amazing race, and I may be starting slow in the number of races we’re offering, but I certainly feel that I owe everyone in the league a chance to enjoy themselves among fellow duders. I’m going to keep working on increasing participation, regardless of the cost.
Hosting five races a week is still cheaper than most fast food meals, anyways.
I spent way too much money on cars and tracks I don’t need to use…yet
I’ll leave this discussion for another time, and the specifics of what iRacing has cost me thus far.
What Lies Ahead
For now, my mission is intentionally simple:
Repeat the Skip Barber Race Series, run a full 12-week season this time, and keep the Giant Bomb Racing League rolling.
Once I’m back to using the Skip Barber regularly and have my safety rating over 4.00, I think it’s best for my purposes to jump into a C-level vehicle like the Star Mazda and run time trials. These aren’t great fun, but successfully completing four trials while above 4.00 would boost me up to a B license and open up just about every official road event available. If time and luck are willing, I could repeat this process to reach an A license, which is just about the best I can possibly hope for at this or any other point.
That’s not to say I’m going to rush up the pseudo-career ladder in iRacing. Rather, I intend to take my time working up through the various series, and I’m hoping to record various practice and race sessions live, even if I don’t stream them. I think showing off what I’m going though in the moment of action is far more interesting than attempting to narrate a race afterwards.
I’m ready. I’m back on the wagon. My battle with iRacing is nowhere close to over.
The only thing separating me from Seattle and PAX Prime is a short night of sleep and an early trip to the airport.
My schedule’s been somewhat busy as of late, filled with trips and sequence breaks from the usual Monday to Friday work week. While it’s no excuse, and it certainly hasn't kept me away from iRacing entirely, it has forced me into some rather hasty, last-minute races.
Somehow, I’m still emerging from these events without absolutely ruining my safety rating or even iRating. It’s a bit surprising.
I had no right to run an incident-free race at Watkins Glen, much less a race where I almost finished in the top five. I had run about six laps earlier in the week, fraught with spins and crashes. They were messy and overly aggressive, attacking turns I had yet to witness anybody run properly and paying dearly for foolhardy mistakes.
Somehow, I convinced myself not to give up the week, but rather take on the last time slot for the weekly race. A quick video of a fast lap was my retraining for the race, along with a recommended setup. Two sketchy test laps later, I entered the race and expected the worst.
I’m not sure how I managed to piece together what I had seen into twelve clean laps, but it happened.
Despite my limited experience, when the Skip Barber Formula 2000 is tuned reasonably well, it’s responsive. Once it’s there, the handling profile remains roughly the same: Smooth inputs, careful steering, and quick corrections in both the wheel and pedals for any slides in the event a corner is over-driven. It’s a case of patience with the car, and while it’s tempting to want to push for faster lap times, often this aggression leads to the sort of spins and wrecks I found myself dodging early on in my race.
Somehow, I’d found a happy balance between cautious driving and attacking the turns. It might not have been a winning effort, but it felt good.
In the meantime, another effort’s been brewing in the world of iRacing.
Spreading the Sim Infection
I mentioned it in my last log, but the Giant Bomb Racing League now has 46 members. That’s way larger than I ever expected, and it creates an interesting situation where we have the potential to go beyond small league races into large fields of drivers not usually seen in official races.
The lack of an official designation helps ease any tension in these races, too. Safety rating and iRating aren't on the line in league races, so there’s less fear of penalties for going off-track or losing control. While this occasionally leads to more aggressive battles on track, it also allows a pleasant amount of experimentation outside of the usual boundaries. Less popular cars can be brought into events and paired with beginner-friendly cars, and oddball weather conditions, including more realistic weather, can be implemented.
My favorite part of these events is how condensed they are from start to finish. For official races, you have a week to practice, qualify, and pick a race that runs every one to two hours. It’s a lot of time to panic and fret about whether you’re good enough to compete or not. In league and hosted events, there’s a few hours to utilize for practice, qualifying, and a single race. Typically, unless you’re the type to enjoy endurance events or long practice sessions, you stick to the minimum two hours. Having just 40 minutes to practice, 20 to 25 minutes to qualify, and a 30 to 40 minute race all in one stint really grinds out the practice and the laps for a track. If you’re not used to a car, it’s an intense way to become familiar. Not used to a track? It’ll help, at least. iRacing may not be as malleable as games like Forza when it comes to customization and options online, but it’s a damn fine way to devote a few hours to a track and car.
For someone who’s falling way too deep into the sim racing hole (again), this is a grand experience. It will be explored further…and perhaps with a little chaos thrown in. Can’t be too serious about our racing, after all.
Here’s a few recaps of our test races in the Giant Bomb Racing League, if you’re interested.
Week 1 of the Skip Barber Race Series is complete, and it’s official: I’m not complete garbage with the Formula 2000.
It didn't hurt that the first track was an ungodly familiar course in Summit Point, of course. It certainly helped me become familiar with the car, if nothing else. Here’s the video recap for those of you who’d rather watch a 30-minute recap than read about last week:
One of the key issues that I’m running into, especially with a car as willing to lose control as the Skip Barber, is that I need plenty of time to practice. Three nights were spent last week in open practices alone, as I worked on my line and driving habits. By the end of the first night, I had reached a point where my lap times were consistent 1:23s, and I could run about 8-10 laps without spinning out or visiting nearby woods.
I think we talked about this last week. At least one second had to drop consistently off of my lap time if I wanted to compete for decent positions. I found that second in the setup.
Those of you that play a lot of general racing games know how unwieldy car setups can become when you’re diving into the intricacies. At some point, they go from being easy improvements on time and speed to being preferences on how we want to drive and handle our cars. It’s a completely normal and natural ordeal, if perhaps a little frustrating to work through.
iRacing, at least at the lower levels of cars, limits this by restricting what can be changed on a setup to only the more realistic details. I can change the Skip Barber’s tire pressure, brake bias, fuel load, rear anti-roll bar, and essentially where the suspension’s mounted, but that’s it. There’s no gear ratios, toe-in and toe-out, or camber settings, though these adjustments can affect some of that on the car. It feels a little more realistic for a car of this caliber, where I wouldn't be able to change anything amazingly drastic to outperform my opponents.
As it turns out, dropping tire pressure significantly helps the little Formula immensely. After a few laps of practice and adjusting the brake bias from a pro recommendation to a level where normal people like me can brake without spinning out in half a second, I had my 1:22s.
It’s at this point that I took two days off due to being tired. Whoops.
I re-emerged Saturday, having to knock off some light rust and regain my consistency on the track. Thankfully, I managed to pull myself together long enough to drop a decent mid-1:22 lap time in qualifying, despite running into a mouthy child who spun out in front of me, ran less than a second behind me in qualifying, and then flipped out when my line varied from his and he had to dive off-track to avoid a collision.
This leaves just Sunday for racing, since I don’t have time to compete before 8 PM on Monday. Oh boy.
In all honesty, while I love to rip on my lack of skill in racing, I’m pleasantly surprised by how I performed. Sure, my first race was a middling finish with two spins, but my second race was a solid second place finish, and neither race involved any contact whatsoever.
Furthermore, and here’s where I’m really ecstatic, my pace was good enough to where I felt confident enough to fight for positions. If you watch my videos, you see me give up a lot of positions just because I know I’m not faster than the car behind me. While I still wasn't in a position to get scrappy at the end of a race, there was a lot of confidence that my line was good enough to hold. Cars could drive close behind me, sure, and they did, but I challenged them to make the pass stick. It’s one thing to drive a lap time slightly faster than the car ahead, and another entirely to be fast enough to complete a successful pass. I was not going to give up positions as easily as usual.
Again, this didn't really factor in to either race, since by the end of each I was only chasing a car in front of me, but it’s a nice feeling. I should work at having this confidence more often.
Oh, and I had a quick meeting with an old friend. God damn it all.
With week 1 done, I begin a trek into somewhat unfamiliar territory, as week 2’s race takes place at Road America. It’s one of my favorite tracks that I've visited in person, but I've only raced it in Forza. I’m a little apprehensive on how I’ll handle it in iRacing.
Also, it’s Thursday, and I still haven’t tested or practiced on the track. Fuck.
I’m beginning to run into a problem with iRacing, in that it’s not a great game if you want to spend nights doing other things. I've spent the last few nights either resting or playing Borderlands 2, and I guarantee this is going to hurt my ability to perform well when I race this weekend. iRacing doesn't welcome other games so openly, and if I’m going to compete in each week for my division title, it’s going to take a grand portion of this free time. Games like Borderlands 2, Papers, Please, and #GRID2 have to take a backseat. I’m not used to the uneasy feeling this imbalance of game time creates, but hopefully that will change.
I promise to have an entire championship devoted to races filled with dangerous levels of fog. We’ll call it the Inaba Super Cup. If you have great race ideas, I’ll be glad to help bring those to reality, too!
Sure, I’ve driven a Miata for a while now, but that was a simple four-week season with mostly inexperienced drivers. Now I’m in a series full of competitors who have proven they can survive a simple Miata and each other, driving a car that demands calm driving under pressure, and it’s a twelve-week season. By the time I’m finished with my first Skip Barber season, I will be 30 years old and in the middle of an early-onset mid-life crisis/emotional breakdown.
Never mind that last part. Allow me to set aside this build-up for a moment and break into a tangent.
I want to take a moment to thank all of you, most notably those that have commented on my blogs and YouTube videos with advice and praise. It’s been helpful, even the times where you seem aghast over my driving skills. I rarely reply, just because it feels somewhat awkward to do so (especially on YouTube), but I read every comment, and it’s uplifting as hell.
Last week, I mentioned that I wasn’t lifting while shifting up with auto clutch, leading to an ugly-sounding shift as I banged against the rev limiter. This was discussed by Drew during his iRacing quick look, but more importantly, a single comment opened my eyes with a basic statement: Shifting up without a clutch is possible, so long as you remove load from the transmission.
Basically, lift off the gas when upshifting, and blip the throttle on downshift. It’s almost the same as shifting in real life, only in a reality where transmission damage doesn’t exist to deter a potential gearbox-shredding technique through shunning a clutch. Naturally, I had to try this out myself.
With auto clutch ticked off, I calibrated my clutch pedal, and then prepared to swiftly ignore it for anything outside of launches. At this point, I’m feeling nervous. Ticking off an assist for the first time feels a whole lot like selecting a difficulty level above your normal comfort zone in just about any other video game, except instead of enemies that soak up more damage or less ammo, a part of the world that was previously ignored is unveiled. Troubles and terrors that were previously unknown rear their heads, and it brings about a realization that, no matter how much of the simulation you had under control, you were being helped more than you realized. Your hand was held, and now it’s gone, and you’re on your own.
I pulled out of pit lane slowly in first, proceeded to accelerate, and at the top of my torque curve, I lifted off the gas, clicked the flappy paddle up, and got back on the gas. Second gear. No rev limiter, no grinding, no engine exploding into a crowd of locals.
Well, shit. This seems doable.
It only took about ten laps of driving before lifting off the gas for a clutch-free shift felt normal. I’m amazed how little it differs from what I’m already used to in sim racers, so even if transmission damage is eventually modeled, I’ll be able to retrain myself without much hassle. I’m not really blipping the throttle much when downshifting, though. It’s kind of reminiscent of how little I touch the throttle when decelerating in real life.
Haven’t blown an engine yet. We’ll see if that lasts.
Now that auto clutch is a thing of the past, it’s time for me to start practicing for this week’s race. My Skip Barber debut is at Summit Point, a track I’m extremely familiar with now. I know its nuances, so I can start off attacking the track in all but a few turns.
…then I remember I’m driving an entirely different car, one that doesn’t care for being forced back on line harshly. Smooth input pays off, and when I’m rolling through turns in an almost care-free fashion, I end up gaining time. This isn’t to say I’m being slow, just smooth when I take the proper driving line.
Practicing online in open session isn’t a necessity, but I’ve found it’s a good indicator of how my current lap times are stacking up against my potential opponents. Anybody can throw down one good lap, but to repeatedly run a fast time takes a bit more focus and skill. In this case, I’m running consistent 1:23s in my laps, and while that’s about middle of the pack for best times, only one or two drivers were catching me at a frightening pace. I consider this a minor victory for my first major practice.
When drivers pull out of the pits right in front of a group of cars, though, open practices can be a little annoying. There’s no risk to safety rating, thankfully, and I do need the practice running alongside other cars, so I tolerate the repetition of cars pulling out, spinning in front of me, and resetting to the pits to do it all over again. It’s a little bit of object avoidance, if you will.
Speaking of object avoidance, this seems like a familiar position for me at Summit Point. Damn it all.
With my first night of practice complete, my best lap time of 1:23.304 is about two seconds off of the lead pack, and one second behind what I would be comfortable running during a race. We’ll see if I get there as I keep working on my racing line and tuning my car.
…and by tuning my car, I mean ripping off the setups of faster drivers.
I’m saving my usual video plugs for the end here, since they don’t really relate to my current practices. If you watched the iRacing quick look and wondered what my perspective looked like as I pulled away from Drew, I’ll give you a hint: It was cars pulling away from me.
With the new season, tech tracks were introduced to iRacing. These are cheaper, unfinished tracks, and don’t currently merit much beyond a passing mention. Long Beach is the only offering thus far, and I ran a few laps around it for fun. This won’t surprise any of my Forza rivals, but I think more obvious braking markers would have helped immensely.
Consider this the calm before the storm, if you will.
I've taken a bit of a break from iRacing after feeling a bit of burnout handling the Miata. It’s not a tough car, but it’s not fun trying to squeak the seconds of time I need out of it. The Skip Barber Formula 2000’s rather fun to drive, but without friends to compete against like I have in Forza and other console racing games, I need something to be on the line before I get the urge to jump in and race. In this case, that would be a championship for 2013 season 3.
Yeah, I’m aiming high. It’s not going to happen, but it’ll be fun to try.
I should be practicing more with the Formula 2000, but I don’t feel so bad about my laziness, as an update next week will change the tire model for the car. It might not have thrown me off any, but it’s comforting to know I wasn't comfortable with an outdated tire model.
I did some practice, though. Here’s the video I shot of my second Skippy test session at the easiest Watkins Glen configuration:
Practice and laziness talk aside, here’s how the next Skip Barber season will break down:
July 30th: Summit Point, 18 laps
August 6th: Road America, 10 laps
August 13th: Suzuka, 10 laps
August 20th: Watkins Glen, 12 laps
August 27th: Okayama, 14 laps
September 3rd: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 15 laps
September 10th: Laguna Seca, 15 laps
September 17th: Mosport, 16 laps
September 24th: Road Atlanta, 15 laps
October 1st: Lime Rock, 26 laps
October 8th: Sebring, 10 laps
October 15th: Interlagos, 15 laps
I've italicized Suzuka and Okayama because these fall on weeks where I’ll be taking vacations in order to travel to GenCon and PAX Prime, respectively. Those weeks might be without blogs or much in the way of coverage, as a result, but I’m determined to run races on both weeks nevertheless.
If you enjoy watching the videos I post, I will have race recaps for each week, and I plan to have a test session or practice video for each track as well, time and focus permitting. In addition, I’m looking into the possibility of following another driver around as their spotter for a race each week. My intention is to showcase a higher level of racing or something uniquely different than the struggles I’m going through, since there’s a crapload of variety in iRacing.
Finally, one more point I wanted to address that has been a recurring comment:
“Why aren't you letting off the gas when you shift up?”
It’s a completely fair quirk to note, since in reality, this is a terrible practice. In sim racing, however, there’s not a tremendous detriment to keeping the throttle buried, especially since I’m using an automatic clutch. I've practiced with lifting during the shift and staying on the gas, and it makes no noticeable difference in my lap times. With that in mind, the choice is between awful-sounding shifts and putting my throttle pedal through what feels like uncomfortable wear. For now, I prefer the awful sound.
I said very early on that I wasn't comfortable using a clutch pedal with flappy paddle shifters, but maybe that should change. Perhaps I’m not jumping into the rough bits of sim racing hard enough right now. Perhaps more of this battle and experiment should involve learning through suffering.
Musing aside, business picks up next week, as I look to begin my campaign for a divisional title in the Skip Barber Race Series. It should be interesting, if not a little bit humiliating.
It's a question that’s been echoing through my head as I'm trying to digest today's horrible news. I don't think I have any clear thoughts on the matter, nor do I think I'll ever have anything insightful to contribute over the loss of Ryan Davis. It just feels necessary to say something, lest these feelings continue to leave me staring bewildered at a monitor in a state of inaction, attempting to have deep thoughts over a situation lacking any satisfying answers.
I barely knew Ryan. Yes, moderators have received special treatment at the last few PAX Easts, but most of my time has been spent talking to guys like Drew, Jeff, Alex, and Patrick. I thanked Ryan once for a great panel, maybe I've thrown a remark his direction here and there, and maybe my hands formed uprights in the middle rows at a PAX Prime panel, dogging him on to throw a paper airplane my direction. It missed terribly, and the natural reaction was a shrug and shake of the head, as if to say, "C'mon, you knew that wasn't going to work." To attempt to stake a claim in some personal connection that was any less than distant would be to lie. This does not diminish his loss.
Yes, his work had a huge impact on me. You can't practically live on this site like I did in the time after quests and before I got a full-time job and not be affected by what Ryan contributed. If anything, it made me want what the staff had even more. Shame the sort of personality that anchors videostreams, guides podcasts, and builds the voice of a website isn't something that can be gained through a little training and hard work. When that voice goes away, no matter the reason, a vacuum is forever created, and in its wake, hard questions about a future appear.
Where do we go from here?
I barely knew him, but Ryan's passing strikes into reality, chipping away at uncomfortable topics I try to avoid. The few that know me on a rather personal level know that I consider the first 25 years of my life an aimless waste of time, thanks to misdirected life ambitions and crippling social anxieties that still affect my decisions and mistakes today. I'm on a better path now, one where I will eventually gain the ability to take full control of my life and future. I may never reach my dreams, but I'm finally at a point where the opportunities could potentially exist in some semblance of reality. Shame it's with ten years of flailing, but that's self-loathing and bygones that should never have a place in words, much less a blog.
Death is a great reminder of the fragility in waiting, the risk in patience, and how it can tear us away from our lives just as quickly as a mistake in impatience.
I’m only five years younger than Ryan. That hits me at an awkward level, but mainly in terms of how much he accomplished and how little I have. The narrow age differential isn't as harrowing as I thought, since I've seen how quickly death can strike any of us before.
I used to work bookkeeping at a race shop. We'll leave the specifics at that, since everything else is a little personal. One of the owners had a beautiful little girl, and she was an absolutely intelligent and highly creative gem. A shooting star of energy, since she always had some major project or goal to work on.
She died in the span of a morning from a sudden viral infection that closed off her airways. Nothing could have prevented this or saved her life, either beforehand or when she was dying, as I would later learn. It was just a sudden death, random, frightening, and unsettling. I barely knew her, but I knew her family, and to see that much potential ripped away from the world brought me to tears during a funeral I had barely any right to attend.
Ryan had his glory, and there’s no doubt that he affected the world greatly with his tremendous personality. It was still too soon. A common thread in numerous writings, be it self-motivation or Tuesdays with a dying man, is the notion of how we’d act if we knew our last days were upon us, how we’d treat those we love and care about, and how we’d focus our lives on what truly matters to us. It doesn’t make the sudden tear, the sudden removal of life from whence it once abounded any easier to take.
I’m not even sure how PAX Prime is going to feel this year, much less PAX East next year, or even GenCon in a few scant weeks. These are the few chances I get to see actual friends in person, and I imagine the next few meetings will have their moments of legitimate sorrow and coping from feelings still bottled up over this loss. No amount of drinking, Top Gear, Uniracers, or motherfuckin' Pooyan can change that.
Determination in life can change, though, and if anything comes from this, maybe it should be a reminder, at least for myself if not others, to strike out and reach out for what’s truly enjoyable. There’s plenty of time for video games, sure, but there's a renewed interest in making sure that the remainder of my life is not spent in regret as I work in areas incapable of fostering passion. Never forget those fucking dreams.
I thought I’d try something different for the video this time. It’s a little more spontaneous this time around.
The audio’s a bit spotty in a few sections, likely because I was actually taxing my computer for once with all the packets and frames flying about. I’ll look into resolving that for future recordings.
That was one race at Summit Point, and it had a lousy result. Given my first races took place here, it’s a little embarrassing. I ran two other races in the Grand Touring Cup this last weekend, and for the sake of staying on-topic, I’ll cover the other lousy result.
In all fairness, it started pretty well. Grand Touring races are rolling starts, so they involve driving slowly behind a pace car for a lap, and then being let loose once the pace car pulls into pit lane and the leader decides it’s time to go. Ideally, they’d wait until the green flag is out, but that never seemed to happen from my experience.
The scene’s awesome, regardless, especially in a big race. This is one of the main reasons I was looking forward to iRacing. It’s rare to have such huge packs at the start of a sim race and not have some ungodly awful pile-up at the very first turn, and for the most part, iRacing’s drivers do a decent job avoiding such a fiasco.
My biggest gripe, looking back at my driving, is that I continue to be too timid, both in the space I allot the driver in front of me, and how easily I give up positions when a faster driver is behind me.
There weren’t any exceptions here, but damn if I wasn’t in the middle of a fabulous pack of Miatas. The battles in front were making it very tempting to try a pass, but I knew better. Drivers of my skill who try a three-wide pass often create a three-wide blockade on the track when they inevitably cause an accident. I relented as much as I could, looking for an opportunity while the competitors behind me were salivating for the chance to dive-bomb past me in a corner.
I’d like to think impatience works its own nefarious brand of karma, but too often in racing, it ends up rewarding the bold or crazy. Maybe I don’t have the daredevil genetics and instincts for these sorts of battles.
Then again, I was hanging with this pack rather well. My strategy remained just about the same: Wait for the cars in front to spread out or take each other out, then pick off whatever remained, one by one.
I thought I had conquered a certain turn, and my comfort with the Miata’s handling was reaching reasonable levels. Such feelings tend to go away real quickly when you forget to stabilize the car properly before a hard braking section.
See? God damn it.
God. Damn. It.
...God damn it all.
At least I now know the driver that said “fucking idiot” in the chat was likely referring to the guy that hit me.
A hard hit after a solitary spin means I finished second to last, a disheartening result for what could have been my most interesting race yet. That killed my weekend motivation for racing really quickly, despite likely being one race away from a C license upgrade.
Wait, a C license? Already? First, though, I needed to think about what happened, and how I could prevent myself from getting into race-killing accidents. That’s not to say they happen all the time, but it’s certainly more frequent than I’d like. Maybe I just needed to move away from the Miata permanently. It’s a dead end at this point, anyways, since I can’t go any further than D class races using it.
A much simpler answer faded into my head at work on Monday: Didn’t you start near the front of the pack when you won those two races?
…well, shit. I did, and in the other unmentioned Grand Touring race this weekend, I started 4th and finished 4th, which is a decent result, given my apparent driving issues.
In iRacing, grids are set by qualifying time, but qualifying is completely optional. Bypassing it means you fall behind everyone that did qualify, and are then sorted amongst the skippers by your driver rating. In an attempt to be gracious to more talented drivers, I had willingly avoided qualifying in the hopes I’d be placed at the back, but instead I kept finding myself right in the thick of the pack, surrounded by said skilled drivers.
Perhaps the easiest way to put myself in a less stressful position is to bloody qualify every week. It’s worth a shot from now on, at least. Worst I can do is get taken out by faster drivers, right?
Back to that license situation. Provided I don’t royally screw up my next D class race, I am one race away from qualifying for a C license. I’ve only driven the Miata so far, and I lack experience, but C class contains all the cars I want to drive, including Daytona Prototypes and IndyCars. To say it’s awfully tempting is a rather large understatement. Conversely, I need to become a better driver, and the path to learning smooth, safe driving goes straight through a Skip Barber Formula 2000. It’s unwieldy and perhaps annoying, but I will either learn or suffer grave consequences.
The decision is tough: Go right for my dream cars, or gut it out properly in a Skip Barber season. With only one more race that I need to run in the next three weeks for my C license, I think it’s time for a little experimentation and testing.
Naturally, that involves some screaming from my wallet. Business is going to pick up very soon.