Despite advertisements like the one above boasting about iRacing’s mammoth community size, you’ll often find yourself discovering a handful of disgruntled sim racers across many different online forums complaining that they’ve purchased a brand new car on iRacing, only to discover nobody is actually driving it, and their new acquisition is almost entirely useless. While it’s true that iRacing indeed features the largest active user base out of any modern racing simulator, there are certain cars available on the simulator which are outright ignored by the community, and it’s entirely possible to spend upwards of $80 on additional vehicles for iRacing that you will never actually use.
With the current price of a single machine in iRacing sitting at a whopping $15, some sim racers simply can’t afford to make mistakes when exploring what iRacing has to offer. Yet the team from Bedford do not convey in an easy-to-digest fashion which cars you’re best to stay away from, forcing users to use pen and paper to compare complicated statistical results screens in an effort to discover where they should spend their disposable income. What happens is that people are more or less shit out of luck when purchasing a handful of new cars on iRacing; praying their own unique tastes in auto racing mirror the general community consensus just to be able to make it into a race. There’s nothing wrong or misleading about this from a business perspective, but it’s a pain in the ass for the consumer.
iRacing features a diverse variety of both modern and historical auto racing machinery to purchase for use in their online competitive environment, but current trends in the world of motorsports, as well as how iRacing has chosen to model a few select cars on their roster, lead to situations where only the high level American Stock Cars and European Sports Cars receive any sort of robust following that matches what the advertisement campaigns promise – a huge community to race against at all hours of the day. Away from the carefully crafted spectacle of promotional material, the disgruntled forum users aren’t kidding – you can certainly find yourself purchasing a new piece of content for iRacing, only to discover you’re the only one who cares about it.
A small website by the name of iRacer Info has lovingly documented the individual number of participants seen in each series on the iRacing.com service, which accidentally displays quite shocking trends if you’re willing to dig through the extremely boring charts and interpret the information that has been recorded. Yes, if you love NASCAR and have been looking for an alternative to the dreadful NASCAR Heat Evolution, you will always find an oval race to drop into after signing up for iRacing.com. Across the pond, if you’ve been looking for an online-only successor to GTR 2, and your cocaine binges have kept you up until three in the morning, you’ll easily find an entire pack of sim racers to compete against in your GT3 entry of choice.
But this isn’t the case for every car on the service. Analyzing the raw data that iRacer Info has presented to us, even cars which have seen mammoth promotional material campaigns simply aren’t being used by the 60,000 members iRacing claims to frequent the service. To assist in helping new or inexperienced iRacing users understand what specific pieces of content to avoid in order to prevent ending up in a situation where they’ve purchased a car barely anybody else races, I have compiled a list of the six most prominent cars within the iRacing simulator with pathetically low participation levels.
Now to ensure I’m not accused of cherry-picking certain cars to further what some would call an “irrational vendetta” against iRacing, I have left out several cars that are a part of iRacing’s base subscription, a few out-dated cars that have been replaced by newer models, as well as unique cars which really only appeal to a specific audience. The NASCAR Modified package, bundling the SK variant of the classic roadster with the Tour version, have traditionally never been popular. Both the Pontiac Solstice, as well as the Volkswagen Jetta, have also been ignored. The Sprint Car and Silver Crown entries have been shunned by iRacing for years, and you should as well.
We start things off with the Dallara DW 12, a car designed and tested in real life with the help of the late Dan Wheldon. This car is incredibly popular when it comes to the oval side of things on iRacing.com, as placing open wheel race cars powered by turbo-charged engines on large oval tracks is the sim racing equivalent to flying fighter jets in a gymnasium. They are extremely easy to drive thanks to all of the aero bits helping to suck the car to the ground, and very few tracks require any sort of driving skill whatsoever – shift to sixth gear, and don’t lift off the throttle. When half of the field isn’t being sent into the bleachers, these races, regardless of what time of day it happens to be, are heavily populated and totally fucking insane.
Yet it’s funny how this certainly isn’t the case on the other side of the service. Halfway through the fourth season of 2016, only 308 sim racers have started a road race in the Dallara DW12. For what’s supposedly a racing game aimed at the most hardcore of virtual auto racing enthusiasts, it’s hilarious how there’s a massive discrepancy between the mammoth participation seen in babby-tier oval races, and relatively niche following of the Dallara DW12 on road courses. It’s as if the iRacing userbase isn’t as hardcore as they’re made out to be, consisting primarily of kids who can’t do anything other than shift to sixth gear and hold the throttle to the floor. This is further supported by the numerous times the iRacing service – who claim to be striving for realism – have held championship round events for the IndyCar series at both Daytona and Talladega.
If you’re planning on purchasing the DW12 primarily road racing, here’s a tip – don’t. As a group, the IndyCar sub community will plan which nights of the week they’ll all sign up for the same session and treat it as their “big race” – which you’ll see described in the forums as SoF night. If you happen to work during that time, sucks to be you.
The 1978 and 1979 Grand Prix seasons marked the beginnings of the Formula One grid coming to the track with race cars that attempted to capitalize on recent aerodynamic revolutions. To give credit where credit is due, the Lotus 79 still looks like a killer race car almost forty-five years later, establishing itself as the dominant car during the 1978 Formula One campaign by winning both the constructors championship, as well as the drivers championship with Mario Andretti behind the wheel. Most sim racers were introduced to these cars thanks to a huge mod for the original rFactor, and obviously there was quite a bit of hype surrounding the iRacing release considering the service’s highly-competitive format.
Just under three hundred people have driven this car in the past month, with each circuit reeling in a little more than a hundred entrants spread out over the course of the week. Like the Dallara DW12 mentioned above, if you can’t make yourself available for one of the few select SoF races, this car will be permanently relegated to your garage, only taken out for spontaneous test sessions while waiting for another event to begin.
iRacing once paraded the 2015 McLaren Honda Formula One entry around as an example of how dedicated they are to replicating modern computer systems found in top-level race cars, though barely any of their customers have actually driven the damn thing in a race setting. This isn’t really anyone’s fault in particular; iRacing does not allow you to enter a race in the MP4/30 unless you’ve progressed your license level to the highest possible class on the road racing side of the service, meaning that even if you buy the car out of curiosity, you’re forced to prove your worth on the service before receiving the ability to merely enter a race.
Despite Bernie’s embarassing efforts to control Formula One over the past number of years, there are still an incredible amount of Grand Prix fans who are looking to move on from the mass-market approach of the officially licensed Codemasters games. Unless you establish yourself as one of the better drivers on the iRacing service, and fork over the $100 required to strategically progress through the licensing system – purchasing a host of other cars and tracks in the process – you will never be able to drive the McLaren Honda MP4/30 in a competitive setting. Sure, those trying to look at the world through rose-colored glasses will claim test sessions with the 2015 F1 entry are more than enough to satisfy their own personal needs, but let’s be real here: you signed up for iRacing primarily for the online competition. Don’t kid yourself.
The Radical SR8 is a car that has proved to be extremely popular across a multitude of boxed racing sims, appearing in every title from Project Gotham Racing to Project CARS. It’s got the overall look of a late 1990’s Le Mans prototype, yet it’s been built to be a bit smaller and slightly more nervous under power; the end result being one of the most satisfying cars to drive when you need something that challenges you behind the wheel yet doesn’t try to kill you. I personally love this car in both Race 07 and Project CARS; performance-wise it’s everything people want out of a track day warrior, and then some.
You’re basically not going to get in a ranked race with this car on the iRacing platform unless you forcefully insert yourself into the Radical SR8 community and learn when the scheduled SoF races are set to go off. Only sixty people signed up for a race at Mosport over a seven day period, indicating the car has a following comparable with private leagues seen in other racing simulators. With iRacing’s heavily work-in-progress set of physics, and how you’re basically forced to join a private league to get any use out of this car within the iRacing platform, financially it’s wiser to play an entirely different game that features the SR8 on the vehicle roster – just so you can race on your terms and not plan your week around a league that you could have joined for free in another simulator.
iRacing isn’t just this random company that spawned out of thin air; a large portion of the team were once known as Papyrus, the developer who struck gold not once, but three times, with Indianapolis 500: The Simulation, NASCAR Racing, and Grand Prix Legends. If you were alive, coherent, and invested into the PC gaming scene at any point during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Papyrus were basically the guys that could do no wrong when it came to simulated race cars. Grand Prix Legends, a simulator which Papyrus released during the fall of 1998, featured at the time what was an unprecedented physics engine which rather than aiming to emulate a modern racing championship, focused on the 1967 Formula One season in all of its terrifying glory. Incredibly frustrating, yet oh-so-satisfying to get right, the difficulty and complexity of Grand Prix Legends established Papyrus as eternal kings of the genre.
The release of the Lotus 49 was seen as iRacing’s homecoming celebration, culminating years of technological advancements by returning to their roots and reproducing the flagship car of Grand Prix legends with the skills they had acquired since their landmark release in the fall of 1998. Unfortunately, iRacing’s controversial tire model revisions – some of which objectively made the game more difficult to drive than a real world race car- turned the Lotus 49 into a complete and utter deathtrap that basically none of the 60,000 users could ever figure out. At the moment there are only one hundred and nineteen registered Lotus 49 drivers on the iRacing service, a mere forty-four entering a race at Monza within a seven day span.
iRacing members spent years begging for the staff to build the Lotus 49 for the simulator as a tribute to the legacy of Grand Prix Legends, yet now that iRacing has the car on the market, barely anybody touches it. Crunching some extremely basic numbers, one tenth of one percent of iRacing members have raced this car in the past month. Do not buy this car. You won’t get to drive it. If you just want to hotlap the Lotus 49 on laser-scanned tracks, I question what you’re doing playing iRacing to begin with, and I suggest checking out Assetto Corsa for the PC
On the outset, you may question why anyone would touch iRacing’s Kia to begin with. First of all, it’s a goddamn Kia, and second, all front-wheel drive cars exhibit prominent understeer that is utterly frustrating to deal at competition speeds. Neither aspect sounds all that appealing.
Well, here’s why other sim racers would think about buying it. Touring car racing is extremely popular in many parts of the world that don’t bombard public televisions with live NASCAR events during Sunday afternoons, as huge grids of lightly-modified race cars all suffering from the same obvious handling problems create incredibly exciting races which don’t require much driving skill to succeed at – the car’s not going to listen to you anyway. The Kia Optima serves as iRacing’s only touring car, and given the success of titles such as Race 07 – which are based primarily around touring car events – it’s fair to say that a whole bunch of people love this style of racing. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in the iRacing servers, as the Kia Optima has the worst participation levels out of any car available for purchase on iRacing.com. Quite simply, if you love front wheel drive cars, you should look into other sim racing options, as even the WTCC themed public lobbies in RaceRoom Racing Experience reel in more users on a nightly basis than iRacing’s Kia.
Had the Kia Optima been included with the default bundle of content, I’d understand the embarrassing numbers – people would have already tried it and decided whether they enjoyed the driving experience or not. However, just like the other five vehicles on this list, you can legitimately pay $15 to discover nobody cares about the Kia Optima on iRacing.com. Eighteen drivers registered for the Suzuka round within a seven day span, a number that simply does not reflect the 60,000 strong crowd of active iRacing members.
In conclusion, there are several vehicles on the iRacing service that are a complete waste of money, as next to nobody is racing them. This wouldn’t be an issue if the software had some sort of offline single event mode that allowed you to race against AI, but the entire premise of iRacing as a simulator is to provide users with other human opponents to compete against. In the case of the cars listed above, this scenario is extremely unlikely to happen. If you go out of your way to purchase the Dallara DW12, McLaren Honda MP4/30, Radical SR8, Lotus 79, Kia Optima, and Lotus 49, you will have spent $84 on six cars that you will almost never use. Don’t get burned.
Yes, you can still go out and take the cars for shakedown laps within the confines of the private testing feature. However, given the overall purpose of iRacing, I must question why anybody willing to spend this much money on a subscription to an online racing platform would be content with not actually playing the game as intended.
As to why certain cars may see a drastic drop in popularity? It comes down to both iRacing’s tire model, and the overall difficulty of sim racing in general. Thanks to an update schedule which sees routine adjustments throughout the year to any number of cars that allegedly require them, entire setup collections and driving lines for unique cars such as the pair of historic Lotus Grand Prix offerings are essentially thrown out at the drop of the hat by scheduled updates. Combined with how few sim racers are anywhere near competent behind the wheel, it’s hard to get any iRacing member away from the easiest cars to drive in the service. Sure, iRacing may offer the most diverse list of content in sim racing, but dissecting the raw data that’s available, everyone basically flocks to the short NASCAR sprint races and entry level road racing events – where setup building isn’t even allowed, and the cars are idiot proof.
So much for hardcore sim racers, eh?