For a couple of weeks now, iRacing has hinted at an extremely secretive September 13th, 2016 surprise – one which many longtime iRacing members believed would be the early introduction of dirt oval racing to the world’s most popular racing simulator. Unfortunately, the dirt guys may have to wait just a bit longer for their favorite discipline of auto racing to arrive in their racing sim of choice, as the surprise iRacing had in store for its members is instead a classic touring car from the glory days of IMSA GTO competition – the four wheel drive Audi 90 Quattro.
Audi burst onto the scene of the Trans-Am Series in 1988 with the Audi 200 Quattro, netting eight wins in thirteen starts and capturing the series championship before officials stepped in and banned four wheel drive race cars for the following season. In response, the German manufacturer simply migrated to another series that hadn’t banned their revolutionary four wheel drive technology, and developed the Audi 90 Quattro for use in the 1989 IMSA GTO championship. Despite the car’s utter dominance once the early technical issues were ironed out, capturing seven victories throughout the 1989 season, the consistency displayed on-track by Pete Halsmer allowed Mercury’s XR7 to grab the title. Yes, for as awesome of a car the 90 Quattro is on paper compared to the competition, it never actually won the championship, and Audi pulled out of IMSA for the 1990 season to focus their resources on a series we now know as DTM over in Germany.
The addition of this car to the iRacing service comes at a very peculiar time. There have been no major physics updates since Eric Hudec left the development team during the spring of 2016 – replaced by a fellow named Steve Reis, and while veteran iRacers are generally reacting positively to surface model changes, Facebook is still ripe with discussion regarding the shortcomings of the simulator. For the diehards who were initially encouraged to try iRacing thanks to the alleged realism described in advertising campaigns, karting champions such as Dan Roeper and Legends Car drivers like Josh Indig are left dumbfounded by how the specialized software fails to faithfully reproduce a realistic auto racing environment. And that was sort of the point of iRacing.
It will be interesting to see how iRacing members react to the Audi 90 Quattro, as it has already been featured in other racing simulators such as Project CARS and RaceRoom Racing Experience to rather limited fanfare. On a more positive note, a release like this displays iRacing’s commitment to continuing to add more content to the simulator, though additions like these could potential saturate what’s already a very niche userbase. Sure, iRacing’s car roster features unique entities such as the beastly Holden Commodore V8 Supercar, as well as the insane Lotus 79, but very rarely do these cars draw any sort of following outside of very specific hours.
Realistically, the Audi 90 Quattro could turn into one of those cars where it’s popular for the first week, but is completely ignored after the initial surprise dies down.