Getting Started in iRacing
iRacing is one of the best-known competitive racing simulators on the market, given its focus on competitive matchmaking, making sure you are placed in a field of similarly skilled and passionate racers. All of the racing takes place on real–life tracks with real-life racecars, providing an accurate and authentic racing experience.
This article will provide a more detailed, in-depth focus on how to get started in iRacing, rather than on the equipment needed to use the racing simulator. For iRacing, you need to have at least a set of pedals, a wheelbase, and a steering wheel to make the simulator function.
What Racing Disciplines Are There In iRacing?
iRacing has four distinct branches of racing: Road, Oval, Dirt Road, and Dirt Oval.
The Road category covers everything related to ‘road courses’, meaning a traditional racetrack with left and right-hand turns, e.g., a classic circuit such as Monza. The Road category features racing series with racecars which you would expect to see racing on road courses around the world, e.g., GT3, Formulas, GTE, and Prototypes.
The Oval category, as opposed to the Road category, covers everything related to racing on paved oval racetracks. You start small and slowly progress up the NASCAR ladder until you reach the pinnacle of oval racing with the same cars as in the NASCAR Cup Series. The involvement with NASCAR runs deep as iRacing is the official simulation partner of NASCAR.
The Dirt Road category is currently comprised of Rally Cross and off-road trucks. Here you will experience the thrilling and close action of RX, taking the wheel of a Rally Cross Supercar with races staged as a proper rallycross event with heats and finals. Off-road trucks help you experience extreme jumps and banked turns in big powerful Pro 2 and Pro 4 trucks, all on a circuit along with competitors.
The Dirt Oval category is a celebration of the American love for racing cars on oval racetracks with a dirt surface. For this, iRacing has included not only dirt variations of the lower-level oval race cars, but also included dirt-specific racecars.
How Does The iRacing License System Work?
iRacing has a unique system to promote a feeling of progression within the racing simulator: the license system. The iRacing license system is put in place to promote clean and fair racing, while at the same time, making sure that sim racers do not bite off more than they can chew, thus ruining the overall racing experience of the simulator.
You start with the Rookie license, where you have the least number of options to choose from but all content at this level is included in the initial purchase. From here you work through the D, C, B and A licenses.
In the Road category, you start racing Mazda MX-5s against other rookie-rated drivers. Here you have no freedom to change your car’s setup. Everything is made equal for all racers, so no one can have the advantage of having a setup explicitly made to the one track they race at.
What is Safety Rating?
Safety rating is a measurement for drivers to evaluate how clean and fair other drivers around them are. Safety rating ranges from 0.01 to 4.99 with the highest number being indicative of the fairest driver.
To advance from the rookie license you do not need to focus on winning races, but rather on clean racing to improve your safety rating. Once your safety rating is above 3.00 you are eligible for a license promotion at the end of the season, and a rating of 4.00 or higher will grant you an instant promotion.
Safety rating is gained from avoiding accidents, keeping on the track, and not losing control of your racecar. If you accumulate enough penalty points throughout a race you may end up with a penalty or even a disqualification from the race
Going off the racetrack gives you 1 penalty point (1x), losing control of your racecar gives you 2 (2x), and colliding with other cars may give you 4 (4x). The safety rating gained in a race is determined by the number of penalty points you collect as well as the duration of the race, as clean racing over a longer duration grants a higher safety rating.
What is iRating?
Paired with safety rating is iRating – an indicator of a driver’s overall pace and level. You gain iRating from beating your opponents, with a higher number indicating drivers of greater overall speed. These two ratings are gained independently of each other, meaning that you may be a fair and clean driver while perhaps not being fast and vice versa.
How To Drive Fast In iRacing
iRacing is a racing simulator which rewards the racer for smooth and clean driving. This discourages dramatic inputs into either pedals or racing wheels, which means that turning hard into corners and accelerating before exiting a corner is bad.
One of the most important aspects of this smooth driving style is the precision you put into both the throttle and the brake pedal. This means that although tempting, sliding your car into and out of corners is damaging to your lap time and performance. This also means that drifting around corners, although fun, is not fast.
How do you brake in iRacing?
Optimal Braking is a tricky skill to master in iRacing. Most racing cars have Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS), helping to prevent front or rear tire lockups when braking into a corner. While it still provides that function, it is at the cost of overall braking performance.
Engaging the ABS also generates more heat than if not engaged, meaning the tires on your racecar will gradually overheat in-game, impacting overall cornering performance, and hurting race pace and consistency. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid triggering the ABS when braking.
A vital technique to master when braking in iRacing is trail braking. Trail braking is done by braking normally into a corner, but then slowly releasing the brake going into the corner, carrying a small percent of brake pressure to rotate the car. It’s a matter of precision.
When hitting the corner’s apex (the point in the process of cornering, when you are closest to the inside curb), you should release the brake entirely and focus on your throttle application out of the corner. This is an advanced technique and takes practice to perfect.
When exiting corners, it is also important to avoid triggering traction control (TC) as it hinders the acceleration, causing you to lose momentum in the following acceleration zone. Accelerating hard while still going through corners may also cause slower lap times and more tire wear. Therefore, it is also important to adjust your throttle application to avoid these pitfalls. However, traction control is still important to catch the car from spinning out, so it can be good to race with traction on
Having uncovered the essential driving tips for iRacing, it is time to find the proper setup for when you graduate from the rookie license.
The Importance of a Proper Setup in iRacing
The iRacing service functions as if you are taking part in a championship consisting of twelve weeks of racing with one racetrack for each week, meaning that a season consists of twelve different racetracks. Given that you spend a long time with one racetrack it is important to have the right setup to provide yourself with the best chance of success.
When you graduate from the rookie license, more and more racing series are unlocked, providing more variety. These do not have fixed setups like the ones you are accustomed to in the rookie license.
Creating setups for cars in iRacing can range from simple to very complex. iRacing provides basic setups for all cars, making sure that you don’t need to spend a lot of time testing.
How Expensive is iRacing?
Unlike other simulators, iRacing is a subscription service, meaning you have to pay a monthly fee to use the service. Different subscription plans are available, ranging from 1-month all the way to 2-year subscriptions. The longer the subscription plan you select, the more you save per month.
In addition, you will also have to buy most tracks and cars within iRacing. Some are included as a part of the base content. However, iRacing has a tradition of putting their subscription options on discount on Black Friday, so there is an opportunity to save some money there and maybe use them for something even better 😉
What do iRacing setups cost and where to buy them
Besides the above, several setup shops are available to purchase from. Some of these are in the form of a subscription service, meaning you will be updated for each week of the iRacing schedule, while others are a single purchase of a single setup, or a bundle consisting of several setups for the same car. Prices can vary from $2 for a single setup to $10/month for access to an entire catalogue of setups.
While these are more expensive than iRacing’s own setups, they are often much better as they are frequently created by professional esports racers
Downloading these setups is a breeze. All you need to do is to enter the following folders: documents (C:) > iracing > setups. Here you will find each car in the form of a folder. Simply drop the files into the correct car folder, and you will be able to load them next time you check your setups while on track.
These are the iRacing basics! We hope this article provided you with an overview of how to start your iRacing career. Getting a sense of the seasons and disciplines is one thing. Ripping up the asphalt and practicing your driving techniques to set record lap times is something else entirely
Furthermore, you can read our beginner’s guide to sim racing, where we also dive into other aspects of sim racing including other sims.
See you on the track!