What if I told you there’s a way to unfuck some of iRacing’s most blatant shortcomings? That’s the theme of today’s Reader Submission here at PRC.net, as an anonymous member of the service’s private Winstel Cup Series – a championship created to re-live the glory years of NASCAR’s fourth generation body style – has written to us explaining how the group of drivers were once under the spell of iRacing’s disastrous driving model, only to successfully experiment with key variables in the garage menu to produce an on-track product superior to the vanilla iRacing experience.
The result has been nothing short of spectacular; to this cluster of sim racers attempting to re-create Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s fantastic string of seasons flying under the Budweiser banner, iRacing has finally lived up to the enormous subscription and content costs the brand asks its users to continuously fork over each year. But it wasn’t without some work that really shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place, and today, we get to learn how they pulled it off.
Hey PRC, I’ve decided to write this article for you guys because I feel like the community should know about what we’ve found within the iRacing software that makes it significantly better than the default game most of the users play.
I’m involved in a league called the Winstel Cup Series, which runs the K&N Pro Series car at large speedways to sort of emulate early 2000’s top level NASCAR events. On paper, this probably sounds like a surefire disaster, as iRacing tries this same kind of combination in the official mock K&N series every user can access by default provided they have the appropriate license level, but there’s a reason behind why these events are so brutal. Most of the fixed setups iRacing uses for this low-level series are above 53% cross weight, which makes the car handle like a dump truck. Usually, you have no front tires after about ten laps, and the car plows into the wall. This creates a nightmarish situation for anyone looking to have a good time from the car, and it gives drivers who have no clue what they’re doing, far too much confidence.
After our first season in the league, we switched to much looser setups that rewarded raw driving talent, and to our surprise, the average number of cautions each event dropped from a hefty six, to just three. The trickier setups also created much better racing, with the average amount of leaders and lead changes seeing a tangible increase as well.
We also discovered that tire wear within the iRacing software accelerates dramatically with hotter weather. In some cases, it’s downright unrealistic, completely contradicting the service’s goal of a highly accurate simulation. At the season 2 finale in Atlanta, in which we ran weather conditions of 90 degrees and clear sky, we saw lap times drop off by three whole seconds in just ten laps. This is incredibly unrealistic, especially because iRacing’s scan of Atlanta Motor Speedway is from 2006, due to what the track logos are.
However, with this tire wear, we actually generated proper multi-groove racing. Atlanta, Charlotte, and Rockingham all lent themselves to a racing environment where every lane worked at both ends of the track, and during the closing laps at Atlanta, we had seven cars battling for the lead; everybody being able to use their own groove. However, four out of the seven cars still chose the bottom line, proving iRacing’s new surface model works, but not as well as they would like it to.
The next thing I’d like to address is the iRacing draft model. It’s broken to no end, and there are several problems that we could not fix to what we’d like, as it’s a problem with the sim itself. Some of these include side-drafting speeding the host car up instead of slowing it, and the last car in line falling out of the pack no matter how much draft there is. These problems can be reduced with the changes we’ve made, but they’re absolutely ridiculous in the context of a simulator. First, we put a 2.90 final drive gear in the car, which helped the racing tremendously. It seemed to be more like the 2001 NASCAR restrictor plate package than anything else, and we were able to have a good race, rather than the single file events iRacing usually puts on at Daytona and Talladega. Secondly, we added 250 kilos of weight penalty, which helped the last car in line not lose the draft as easily. We also kept the weather at 90 degrees and clear, which wore out the tires to about a second of fall-off, making the outside the dominant line during these races, and thus more realistic.
What we have done proves iRacing can be what iRacing promotes itself as, but it’s an oddity and takes a lot of work to make it right. You’re much better off picking up a sim like ARCA Sim Racing if you want something out of the box that works as intended, and makes it easy to find a league. However, I didn’t write this just to bash iRacing, it’s still the best sim racing service in the world, it just needs a lot of fine tuning.
This sort of falls in line with what I’ve heard about iRacing’s atrocious default setups. Because of how many updates each car goes through, and how many cars there are on the service in total, plus all the different tracks which sometimes require alternative configurations, there’s simply not enough time for the staff members to create solid baseline setups for every single car to ship with every new build. The setups iRacing do churn out are often rudimentary configurations just to get new drivers around the track without spinning, occasionally carrying over from a previous build even if certain cars have received fundamental changes under the hood.
It’s very frustrating to deal with as an end user, as you’d think there would be some effort made to point people in the right direction – especially with how complex the garage area can be regardless of any mechanical experience you may have under your belt. And as a large majority of the popular oval racing series on iRacing rely on fixed setups rather than the ability to adjust your car in the garage area, only a fraction of iRacing members get to see the true power of the software.
I’m unsure why iRacing would intentionally cripple themselves in this department, and instead ship out god-awful baseline setups that are borderline retarded in a competitive setting ,when even their own users are figuring out how to work with the software, not against it. Their entire marketing gimmick is aimed at a hardcore audience who want something more demanding than literally every other racing game every made in the history of home computers, and people are paying top dollar (plus VAT) to say “I’m an elite sim racer.” So with such an influx of so-called hardcore sim racers who in theory should know their way around a pretend race car enough already to wheel a proper setup, why are they instead bundling the cars with configurations that are legitimately detrimental to the racing experience?
This is too stupid to be intentional; you seriously can’t tell me a bunch of guys in a private league somehow figured out how to make the on-track experience infinitely better, but then again, we’ve seen time and time again with iRacing staff that some of them don’t know what they’re doing, and are merely there as a reward for their time spent with NASCAR Racing 2003 Season.