We left off discussing the equipment you will need to run the iRacing simulation software and the type of input device you need in part 1. Now we’ll move on to the simulation itself, and I’ll tell you some things you will need to know to get started as well as some more advanced ideas that some people still don’t know after years on iRacing.
What’s this going to cost me?
If you want to race on the best simulation available, you are going to have to pay. Fortunately, you can do it a little at a time. I suggest you start out with a 3 month membership. That will give you enough time to get to know a little bit about how the service works, the website, and you can begin to learn how to drive the cars. iRacing doesn’t play like a game. It’s somewhere between a game and the real thing. It isn’t likely that you will jump in and be competitive right away, even at the rookie level. It will take months to get up to speed in some cars, and years to become competitive at the higher levels.
iRacing is normally $33 for 3 months. As I’m writing this, you can simply go to iRacing.com and get a 3 month membership for $19.80. If you beware the pennies on your eye, you might have to pay additional tax on that. Where I live, there is no tax on it, at least not yet.
For your first month at least, that’s all you really need to spend. You’re in under $20. You get several oval and road cars and tracks to get you started. I’m an oval guy, so I can tell you a little about that. If you’re into road racing, you’re on your own, but I know iRacing does a great job on the road side.
For asphalt or dirt ovals, you can start off with the Street Stock cars which are included with your monthly subscription. These are stock appearing Camaros and they simulate a Super Street type of race car. There are two of these: one for dirt and one for asphalt and they are quite a bit different, especially when it comes to the tires. After you get your safety rating up from 2.5 to 3.0, you can also run the Advanced Legends Cup Series in the Legends Car. That also comes free with your service. You also get a Dirt Legends Car but there is currently no “official” series for it.
I would suggest running the free rookie cars and tracks for at least a few days before you try to move on to a more advanced series. For one thing, you will have to buy content for more advanced series. For another thing, you should try to learn all you can before you move up the ladder.
Getting Started – Your First Day on iRacing
Whether you’re racing dirt, asphalt, oval, or road, your first goal as an iRacing Rookie is to get promoted out of the Rookie class. Your goal is to get to Class D, or get your Class D License, as it’s called. The only way to get promoted is by driving safely. That’s where the iRacing Safety Rating comes in. You can win every single race and stay in the Rookie class the rest of your life. It isn’t likely but it is possible.
Safety rating is basically a measurement of your Corners Per Incident, or CPI. There are computer algorithms involved, but let me try to explain it simply. If you run into something, run off course, or spin out, that’s called and incident and you lose a little bit of safety rating for each incident. Running into another car will make you lose a little more safety rating than running into a wall. If you avoid those incidents, you gain safety rating. You gain some small fraction of safety rating for every corner you turn without incident. The only way to get promoted on iRacing is by increasing your safety rating.
In the Rookie Series, there are basically three types of drivers:
- New drivers who are trying to get out of the Rookie Series. Some of them are good drivers, many of them are not.
- Drivers who are not any good and have no hope of ever getting out of the Rookie Series.
- Drivers who don’t care and are content to remain in the Rookie Series, wrecking and being wrecked.
I believe that anyone who is mature and serious about driving in a good racing simulation can advance out of the Rookie Series and do well. Unfortunately, there are always a few who are not serious and don’t care about it enough to respect those who are. Again, your goal is to get out of the Rookie Series and get away from all of that.
The first thing to do is find out how long the races are in the series you want to run. Then you should open a test session from the iRacing member website and run some laps. I would strongly advise you not to enter a race until you can complete a race distance in a test session without any incidents. If you do, you’re just going to spend more time in the Rookie Series because you’re going to get wrecked. Faster rookies will run into you, and you will run into a lot of stuff. You will spin out and run off course. You will lose safety rating and that will only prolong your stay in the Rookie Series.
When you do enter a race, somebody will crash into you. You shouldn’t get angry. Just take your car to the pit area, keep your speed down on pit road, get your repairs, and return to finish the race. You will gain more safety rating and iRating if you go on back out and finish the best you can and avoid more incidents.
Also, don’t be discouraged if there are people who are much faster than you are. It really does take some time to get faster. When you learn the line, the brake points, and the throttle points, you will begin to get faster. The only way to get there is practice, practice some more, then practice some more.
Safety Rating, iRating, and Splits
If you drive like a moron, or if you are abusive in voice or text chat, or generally do trolly stupid internet stuff on iRacing, you won’t be around for long. You can be protested by other members and iRacing takes these things very seriously. Depending on the infraction, you might get anything from a warning to a permanent ban from the service.
I saw a fellow who joined iRacing, smarted off a couple of times in the official forums, and apparently drove like a complete idiot in practice and/or race sessions. The iRacing stewards banned him. He was on the service for less than 24 hours. Treat your fellow iRacers with respect. If you act like an idiot, other racers who witness your idiocy may not protest you, but they will probably never forget it. Racers have long memories, and iRacing drama is similar to local short track drama in some ways. The big difference is, if you get out of hand, iRacing will step in and nip you in the bud. If you’re a serious, clean racer, I strongly advise you to use the protest system when needed. Don’t overdo it. Frivolous protests can also get you in hot water.
Safety Rating – I’ve already discussed safety rating a little bit. One thing you should know is that it is a “no-fault” system. In other words, if somebody runs into you, you will lose safety rating. It seems unfair but they system actually works fairly well. If there was some way for the software to accurately detect who is at fault for the incident, it would most likely be included. The software is not capable at this point. That would be something akin to artificial intelligence, and it’s just not going to happen in the near term. Even if there were live steward reviewing incidents in official races, it would be difficult to assign blame to one driver for most incidents.
You will start out with a safety rating of 2.50. When you make it to 3.0, you will be instantly promoted (fast tracked) to a D License. From then on, you will be fast track promoted any time you get your safety rating up to 4.0 and you have met your participation requirements. The participation requirements vary from series to series.
Over the long haul, safety rating usually works out pretty well. If you look at it in the short term, it seems to be awful. Here’s how safety rating breaks down, in a nutshell:
- Off course – 1x
- Spin – 2x
- Collide with objects – 2x
- Collide with another car – 4x for both drivers
Exception: For oval dirt racing, collisions are half value because it’s a much closer form of racing with a lot of sliding and the cars are harder to control. You also have to get your car completely spun around on dirt to get the 2x for a spin because dirt cars sometimes get very sideways while cornering.
You should always finish your races if you can. Get repairs if necessary and get back out there and finish. Every clean corner increases your safety rating.
iRating – You start your career with 1350 iRating points. You gain iRating by finishing well. When you join an official race, your car number is assigned to you by iRacing. If you are car number one, you have the highest iRating in that race. If you are car number 16, well, your iRating might be pretty low. As a rule of thumb, if you’re finishing position is equal to or lower than your car number, you will probably gain at least a little iRating. That is not always true as it also depends on the strength of field. The strength of field is an average of the iRatings of all of the drivers in the race. If you’re in a race with a bunch of guys with high iRatings, that race will have a high strength of field. If you can get anything resembling a decent finish you will probably gain some iRating.
Splits – If 100 people want to run the Rookie Street Stock race, iRacing won’t put them all on the track together. That would be one big wreck and it would probably also be very laggy. Instead, the iRacing system will split the drivers up. Each separate race in that series for that time slot is called a split. Splits are divided by iRating. Split one gets the drivers with the highest iRatings, and so on. The number of cars in each split varies by License Class. I believe the Oval Rookie Series has a maximum of 12 cars per split.
Licenses and Promotions
As mentioned, you start out with a Rookie License. On your first promotion you will get your D License. From there you move up through the alphabet to C, B, and A.
Rookies are fast tracked to a D License if their safety rating reaches 3.0 and they have participated in at least four official Time Trial sessions or two official Race sessions. You don’t have to participate in a single race session to get promoted.
Non-rookies can get fast tracked to the next license by getting their safety rating to 4.0 and participating in at least four official Time Trial Sessions or four official Race sessions. You don’t have to participate in a single race session to get promoted.
This tutorial should help you get started in iRacing. Other things you will want to do is set up your FOV (Field of View). Open the simulation and go to Graphics | Options and use the FOV tool there to set it up correctly. It may seem odd at first, but trust me, you will be much more consistent with the correct FOV setting.
Some other pointers:
- Make sure your wheel is calibrated properly. More information on that here.
- Watch replays of faster drivers. Watch them in cockpit view.
- Go faster by setting up for corner exit. The only thing you need to be concerned with about corner entry is that you enter the corner with the goal of a faster, smoother exit in mind. Exits are really all that matter. Brake a little sooner and set up for that exit.
- Don’t worry about setups until you get competitive in a D Series. If you’re laps are consistent and you understand what your car is doing, then work with iRacing car setups.
If you have any questions or comments, I can almost always be found in the OSR Discord Server. If I’m not available, there is a good chance someone else can help you.