The greatest April Fool’s Day joke of 2016 ended up not being much of a joke at all. Teaming up with Clint Bowyer Racing and the University of Northwestern Ohio, iRacing used a date typically reserved for bullshit news stories to announce that the highly popular online-only racing simulator is aiming to introduce dirt oval racing by the end of the calendar year. The five minute video includes a few oddities intended to throw people off due to the video’s upload date – such as an iRacing staff member literally tasting the dirt – but near the end displays a very real render of Darrell Lanigan’s #15 Chevrolet SS.
Thanks to the University of Northwestern Ohio’s involvement with the project, to me it seems obvious that Limaland will be the first dirt track created for the iRacing software. The University recently purchased the track, and when not being used for traditional weekend events, is actually used as a classroom for part of the school’s High Performance Motorsports Degree. This is Formula SAE taken to an entirely new level, and in some aspects may surpass programs provided by rival entities such as Universal Technical Institute.
Unfortunately, the initial excitement of the announcement and resulting mass hysteria may be more enjoyable to partake in than the actual finished product. After covering the state of iRacing for slightly over a year here at PRC.net, it’s highly plausible that this technology will do little more than frustrate hardcore sim racers looking for an authentic experience. While the relatively newer iRacing members praise the title for the online community and overall organization of the service, virtually anyone with experience driving real race cars, or those involved with the prestigious iRacing World Championships, pull no punches when discussing the disastrous physics model.
Behind the scenes, many iRacing “Pro” drivers actually wanted this news to be an April Fools joke, explaining that iRacing needs to “fix their fucking game” before taking on an entirely new challenge – which will undoubtedly bring on an entirely new set of issues specific to loose surface physics. When half of the field angrily blasts the game on a weekly basis, and the occasional talk of a boycott pops up due to how the software’s physics are making each race a total shitshow, it’s probably not the best time to say you’re now focusing your efforts on something entirely different.
PRC.net staff member Maple has echoed these complaints given his work in the iRacing.com Peak Anti-Freeze Series. His most recent review of the software left some relatively scathing remarks, indicating iRacing still has a long way to go before trying to bite off more than they can chew with dirt oval racing.
The Generation 6 Sprint Cup car received a full overhaul, featuring the new low downforce aerodynamic package, as well as some adjustments to the tires. However, iRacing has seemed to have gone overboard, to the point we have what seems to be no grip whatsoever – as if the only grip we’ve ever had to begin with was from the aero itself. After PEAK Series testing at Phoenix, we soon learned that the cars in iRacing were over two seconds slower than the lap times being run in real life, and this is at a track where aerodynamics don’t play an integral role in the car behavior. iRacing’s physics guy Eric Hudec believes rectifying this is too time consuming.
It is difficult to get excited about the announcement of Dirt Oval Racing coming to iRacing, when this is the reception the game’s asphalt oval racing is currently receiving. If they can’t get normal oval racing right, how badly will they fuck things up on dirt? Again, those with a 1500 iRating and a cheap three month subscription probably won’t mind, as they simply can’t drive fast enough to expose certain physics flaws, but for a developer who claims to strive for the utmost of accuracy, this is a harsh slap to the face of each hardcore user.
And wasn’t the goal of iRacing to appeal to those hardcore users?