By Trace 2 Comments
Day 23: June 16th, 2013
Before every race, as I’m sitting on the grid, I start to panic. My heart feels like it’s attempting to push its way out of my chest, and my stomach churns like I’m cresting a never-ending hill. Standard signs of nervousness, I suppose, but it’s a bit much for online racing, where I’m usually fine. It’s all surrounding a recurring fear I have with iRacing: I could be the guy who ruins somebody’s race.
I could be the driver that doesn’t brake in time, or brakes too early, or turns into another car, or loses control in the middle of a huge pack, and what follows is all my fault. All the incident points, all the potential protests, all the possible suspensions. All my fault.
The start of a race, and lap one for that matter, is the absolute worst for these nerves. No matter how accurately everyone is placed on the grid in regards to their lap times, the beginning of a race is a gigantic sorting process, where the hasty and reckless are eliminated, and of those that remain, the fast and slow generally shift into place. Sure, there’s plenty of battle left in the laps that follow, especially if a driver picks up speed and begins working their way through a pack, but it’s almost always cessation from grand scale warfare to focused battles with one or two cars.
Occasionally, the sorting process favors an unlikely competitor. Sometimes, that unlikely competitor is me.
Yeah, it happened last week. Twice in a row, I won. I was hardly the fastest in either race, but general bursts of calamity tilted in my favor, and I ended up at the front.
The first victory felt rather surreal in how quickly it unfolded. I started second, thanks to some luck in qualifying, and as the leader and I ran cautiously through the first two turns, I saw most of the cars behind me crash and collect each other. Being mostly secure in second now, I figured I’d focus on running cleanly behind the leader, and should I be in a position to challenge for position at the end, do so then. Of course, I didn’t expect the leader to lose control and spin out at the end of the first lap, completely clearing the track for me to assume the lead.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like for the world to part like clouds and leave you alone, I assure you it’s an intensely calming sensation.
Deep breath. Quick shake of the head at my sudden luck. Just put down safe laps, I thought, and so I did. Ten laps of safe, slow, secure driving, and my first victory was secured. It wasn’t exactly an exciting race, but I pumped my fist and punched the air to an audience of zero regardless. A win’s a win. At least a little celebration is merited.
The second victory is just a great lesson for racing. For the majority of the race, I ran fourth, which is where I settled after dodging an early wreck and several cars spinning in front of me on the first lap. The top three cars ran away from me in their own battle pack, so with no challenge behind me, I was once again alone on the track. I could have tried to race harder to catch up to the leaders, but instead, I focused on running a safe race.
By the final lap, the leaders were getting antsy in fighting for position. I could see it ahead of me down the front straightaway, and I could hear it in uneasiness over the voice chat. Finally, at a hairpin, one bad attempt at a pass led to all of the leaders wrecking.
Once again, a victory had fallen into my lap, but a win’s a win. A primary lesson to keep in mind for racing, especially with human opponents: Never give up. Never stop fighting. Until the checkered flag is thrown, there’s always something that could happen.
So with two wins in the last week of racing, I move forward to a track that’s proving quite problematic for me: Lime Rock. Whereas I was incredibly slow with a controller, now I’m crashing all the time with a wheel. It’s frustrating as hell, and also why I haven’t practiced laps since Wednesday. That has to change, because today’s the last chance for me to get a race in.
Never give up. Never stop fighting. I’ll let you know how that goes, and afterwards, as I head into the final week of the season, we’ll talk more about where I go from here.