Just three more sleeps remain until a large portion of the iRacing fanbase is sent into mass hysteria; after an April Fools’ joke turned into reality, dirt oval racing – a discipline long rumored to appear in the popular online racing service for several years – will finally be launched for sim racers to purchase. The new variant of racing will feature an abundance of dirt oval-oriented vehicles, some of which will be flying the World of Outlaws banner, and four locations in which to drive them – though you’ll have to pay for three. Europeans obviously won’t be too excited about these cars, but given how big this kind of racing is in both the United States and Australia, as well as the sheer number of iRacers who are also amateur dirt oval racers away from the keyboard, it’s seen as a mostly positive addition to the simulator.
Currently, your options to drive these cars in a modern simulator environment will see you busting out your most likely pirated copy of the original rFactor, or hooking up your PlayStation 2 for a rip in Ratbag’s excellent officially licensed World of Outlaws title from 2002, so it’s hard to knock iRacing for at least venturing in this direction to begin with. However, a recent preview video depicting the 410 Sprint Cars in action has raised a few red flags within the iRacing community itself – a very uncommon occurrence, as iRacing members typically brush aside any glaring oddities thanks to a severe case post-purchase rationalization.
Regardless of the sanctioning body in charge of the event, or the particular engine size class on display, sprint cars exhibit a very distinct driving style that doesn’t change when you cross state lines or international waters; there’s often varying degrees of holy shit sideways assisted by the giant wing on the roof, coupled with the appropriate dose of counter-steer depending on each individual driver’s angle of attack in the corner. Yet in iRacing’s dedicated World of Outlaws trailer, which comes in at just under two minutes in length, there are several instances where large packs of cars are all understeering simultaneously. If you’re new to sprint car racing, here’s a tip: turning left means you’re doing it wrong.
It’s probably not a good thing if there’s a drastic difference between the on-track product versus your virtual depiction, and several iRacing Subreddit members seem to echo that sentiment. Yes, sim racers are often blasted for their armchair physics criticism when they haven’t even driven the car in-game themselves, but in this situation the differences are so blatantly noticeable to the average sprint car fan, it’s hard not to speak up. This simply isn’t even close to how real sprint car racing looks, and that’s not good if you’re three days from release and asking people to spend close to $100 for all the content at launch.
First, we’ve heard from our inside connections – including some sim racers who also race dirt cars in real life and have been lucky enough to privately try out an advanced build of the upcoming content – is that the dirt oval package is extremely well done and people should be genuinely excited for it. I can’t elaborate much more on that without giving people’s identities away, but supposedly it’s pretty good in the hands of people who happen to know what they’re doing. How much of that is “new game euphoria” and how much of that is genuine praise, we’ll find out in three days.
However, in relation to the baffling trailer, which showcases a very poor sprint car driving model, the general consensus from people in the know is that those actually tasked with testing the game, creating promotional material, and giving upcoming content a proper shakedown to sort out issues and oddities before it’s released to the public, have absolutely no idea how to drive. In one anonymous contributor’s words, “it’s a bunch of 1500 iRating fanboys” – sim racers whose message board post numbers exponentially eclipse their on-track skill level.
While this will at least give Sprint Car fans looking to shell out a lot of disposable income for the full dirt package some peace of mind after video footage showcased a very unrealistic style of racing for what iRacing is striving to be as a simulator, it points to a much bigger problem behind closed doors; some of the people tasked with testing upcoming releases for iRacing are brutal sim racers, and can’t even run the proper line or push the car in the desired fashion. Usually this could be covered up with artsy camera angles or visual effects in Sony Vegas, but Sprint Car racing is so unique and requires such a very specific attitude for the car to sit at in corners, any drastic deviation will immediately raise gigantic red flags among those with even a passing interest in Sprint Car racing.
Now that they’ve been exposed, could iRacing’s long-standing issues be the result of inept testers unable to turn competitive lap times, simply signing off on any new update to appease their overlords?
We’ll find out Wednesday.