iRacing Finally Living Up to Expectations with Dirt Content

Dear God, they’ve pulled it off. A year after the original April Fools’ announcement, which most saw as a cruel joke until the staff at iRacing uploaded a collection of genuine teaser trailers indicating that yes, dirt oval racing would indeed be coming to the online racing simulator, iRacing have now released their monumental project out into the wild. Many were skeptical, as preview videos showcased weird steering inputs and drivers struggling to keep the cars under them, but I can now safely say this was mostly a combination of visual errors thanks to netcode, and poor driving by some of the internal testers. iRacing haven’t been known to listen to its members in the past, which also lead to some skepticism if they could pull this off correctly, but for now, you can allow your fears to subside: it’s really good.

Before we get into what the dirt update has to offer, I’d like to start with the new update of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series car, as there was a lot more than just new content that came with the build update a few days ago. The Generation 6 stock car had a major geometry update along with a significant aerodynamic revision to match up with the 2017 rule packages, and there are also some changes to what we’re now able to do in the garage.  As with any radical adjustment, people have already been making several complaints on the forums that these cars are too easy to drive now, yet ironically some of these drivers are more than three tenths off pace, so I’m under the impression a lot of guys haven’t been able to bring the car to 100% both on-track and in the garage area just yet. The car actually requires you to turn the car with the front end now, as before it just slid the nose and almost every fast setup required just setting the nose where it got the most aero and turning the car with the rear end. Following complaints from Tony Stewart, when he tried the car in the Mobil 1 event last year, the car seems to be much more in line with real driver feedback, even if it seems a bit too gripped up in its current state.

This car is going to be a long-term project, but former Penske engineer Steve Reis has been very active in the public forums about working on this car as much as possible to get it in the most realistic state they possibly can. This build is a big move in the right direction, but it will be a multi-step process to get this car where it should be, though overall I’m happy with the initial impressions Steve has made in comparison to other developers tasked with working on the NASCAR cup car. One major part of this update is the removal of some unrealistic setup options that many Peak teams were abusing as early as 2015, such as pre-binding the left front spring with massive swaybar preload, and anywhere from 300-400lb spring to keep the splitter sealed at all time around the track, as well as Max rake on the track bar to promote skew in the rear end. Steve Reis has given us something we haven’t had in a long time, maybe ever on iRacing, and that’s someone who is willing to work with the community and keep us in the loop of what exactly is wrong with the current cars and what they will need to improve, even helping people who have questions about the new dirt setups. It definitely seems like iRacing is starting to head in the right direction in terms of just who they bring on board, and the kind of relationship they’re willing to have with the community moving forward.

Now onto the big deal, dirt oval racing. This is what you’re here for, right?

We had a few insiders from the beginning with real life experience who were brought into the alpha environment. and were giving us a few nuggets here and there as to how development was going and that iRacing was actually listening and getting major feedback with professional drivers such as Christopher Bell and Rico Abreu, as well as many drivers all the way from World of Outlaws to your average local short tracker. This was a full community coming together to make the best product they could, a drastic departure from iRacing’s close-minded approach to certain pieces of content in the past.

We are still very early in the honeymoon phase, of course, but so far nothing broken has been found on setups. They aren’t completely realistic, nothing ever is, but they are very close currently. You can seen this if you go into any test server. All of the guys with real life dirt experience have been slaughtering people in test rooms with very good lap times that imply iRacing is very close to the driving style of reality in these things. All of the feedback I’ve received from real life drivers on our team, as well as various friends on Facebook, have also backed this up.

Everything form the 410 Sprint Car to the Legends car require some very finesse driving to get the most out of the car; you need to be aggressive, but you really need to balance the angle you have for speed through the corner, and getting to the power to get the fastest laps out of them. What is really amazing is when the track starts wearing in. On a complete clean track, everyone is pretty much hugging the bottom to get the most speed until the top layer gets worn off, then everyone starts moving around up the track as the track dries, and they start looking for moisture in the track. At this point you can run pretty much everywhere and guys start going to the bottom or top looking for the last bit of moisture in the track. Eventually the track starts getting that notorious black groove dirt oval fans are familiar with; it gets really slick, and you need to start running the wall where the cushion has now hopefully built up enough from people running up there, or get right on the wall on the bottom and try to hook whatever little bit of moisture is left there. Really, at this point in the race its just a free for all (as it should be), and in stuff like the 410 you just hold on and hope you don’t die.

Now to the cars themselves, I have been nothing short of amazed. All the cars react very well to your inputs, and for once in iRacing the cars feel like they actually want to turn; you no longer have to fight them to do something as long as your car is setup decently. Every car has very unique characteristics and requires very different driving styles, some guys might be amazing in the Late Model and terrible in the Sprint, or vice versa.

The Camping World series Truck , considering it was built for asphalt, is the worst of the vehicles by far to drive, although thanks to the feedback from Bell and Abreu seems very close to how it looks watching the trucks fight around there the last few years. A buddy in Teamspeak described it as “Yacht Racing,” these tanks do not want to slide whatsoever let alone turn around a tight dirt corner, and the power they put out with the extreme lack of grip means good luck getting anywhere near full throttle on anything but a perfect tacky track.

The Legend Cars are surprisingly fun for such a small under-powered car. You are pretty much full throttle around every currently available track, but it really forces you to perfect your steering as you try to keep your momentum up as much as possible at all times. They also make for some amazing brawling as the field is relatively close and the dynamic tracks provide many lines as it wears in.

The Street Stock is very much like the Truck, in that you feel like you are driving an oil tanker, but with much less power it ends up being way easier to drive off the corner; making it a much better rookie car as it forces you to be smooth and learn throttle control but not to an extreme that you can’t drive it around the track. This car also requires a ton of brake just to slow the car down for corners and get it angled properly on corner entry, so you can get on throttle and drive it off the corner.

Now we get to the purpose-built beasts, the Late Models and Winged Sprint Cars. The late model gives you a very good starting point in the Limited variant, which looks to be modeled after a crate engine car with no spoiler. These things are very forgiving and much easier for the asphalt driver transitioning to learn what these are about, they have very little power so you can pretty much floor it throughout a whole race, but without that rear spoiler it can still get hairy at times if you aren’t completely dialed into the track. As you step up in power through the Pro and eventually Super Late variants, the power gradually increases; in the super you are definitely not in a full throttle and hang on mode if you want to be fast. You have to manage throttle as this thing can spin the rear tires at any time, and setup becomes very important as you look for the right combination of sliding to turn, but being able to get bite and throttle up off the corner. This car is my favorite by far even though I hated it at first on the default setup.

The Winged Sprint is just a beast, the 410 especially; this car actually feels like the fire breathing monster its described as in reality. Anything other than a perfect tacky track requires some insane amount of wheeling just to keep it wide open, the car wants to be thrown in sideways to get the air on the big ass wing on top, and then you just try to balance it throughout the corner as you try to minimize the amount of angle you need to hold your line but still maintain as much speed as you can, especially in the 305 which is a major momentum car. The 360 seemed to provide the best racing so far, as it allows most people to stay somewhat competitive and close enough to throw a lot of moves on each other without just trying to hold on and not die, while also being fast enough that people make mistakes and you get passing opportunities.

Anything but a perfect track, all these cars become insane to drive, with massively distinct characteristics from one another. I haven’t spent ten hours straight on any racing simulator for a very long time, but this certainly brought iRacing back to life for me, as all I was doing over the last two years was signing on for Peak Anti-Freeze Series testing, or the odd race here and there when I was in the mood. The dirt content is such leaps and bounds ahead of everything else on the service, it was very hard to pull myself away from running just one more lap – which hasn’t happened in a long, long time.

Hopefully, iRacing will be able to bring the rest of the cars on the service up to this level of quality, as dirt oval racing is just a portion of what the simulator offers, and the reason my participation on the service has been spotty is that this profound attention to detail showcased in the brand new dirt content does not always carry over to other cars. It also remains to be seen how long the popularity of the dirt oval content will last, as previous iRacing releases, such as the Lotus 49, were marketed to the moon and back thanks to the legacy of Grand Prix Legends, only for it to currently be one of the least popular cars on iRacing in the long run. Not that I think this will be the case with dirt as the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.

I’d also like to make a point about what iRacing has done with the NASCAR iRacing Peak series broadcasts as of late. I watched my first complete race this year after what was an amazing event at Auto Club Speedway on Tuesday, as I usually am in server during the race and don’t get to partake in the end user broadcast experience.

In my opinion, the quality of the broadcast has gone up drastically this year; the camera angles they have come up with, as well as the amazing broadcast team consisting of Evan Posocco, Andy Kessler, Cam Walsh, and Tim Terry, along with what is probably the most skilled and cleanest set of Peak series drivers we’ve had yet, all combined to create a very professional looking and enjoyable viewing experience. I feel this is what we need to actually push sim racing further. While the first two rounds of the season experienced some difficulties on the officiating and event management end, the broadcast itself is top-notch; it’s something you can sit down with a bag of chips and watch on a Tuesday evening.

In conclusion, its seems iRacing has finally started listening to what us, the racers on the service, actually want. They got a ton of real drivers involved in the alpha testing process – everyone from full-on pro drivers to average local track guys – and the results speak for themselves. This was an entire community coming together to strive for the absolute best in sim racing, and it’s to the point where many rFactor dirt racers I’ve kept in touch with over the years are now abandoning their dedicated dirt oval installs for an iRacing membership.

The rFactor dirt community now has a new home, the current crop of active iRacers have an abundance of brand new, extremely high quality content to immerse themselves in, and the way the project came together showcased the full potential of what iRacing has been striving to be as a piece of premium software for almost a decade, but never quite managed to get right until now. It’s very, very good, and I hope the passion in which the dirt content was created with translates to the other pieces of content on the service.

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43 thoughts on “iRacing Finally Living Up to Expectations with Dirt Content

  1. Lol, talk about a backtrack. You all got incredibly carried away with it allegedly being terrible (before release as well) and to appease your following after the SMS sponsorship have praised it. This site is a joke.

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        1. There was a guy in 4Chan’s rFactor GT3 league that blamed his failing university grades on a secret “shadow government” that organized the league and claimed they were “stealing his ideas.”

          Yeah.

          In reality he hosted a server once, his PC/internet connection couldn’t handle more than 16 cars, and then a bunch of different people all paid for a dedicated server and the league took off. While everyone else was off racing and having fun, he was screaming and calling people Hitler and Stalin and writing massive rants on the forums about how the rFactor shadow government was plotting to overthrow him or some shit.

          When people made fun of him for it and kind of rolled with the whole shadow government name as a joke, he went off his rocker for a few months. Once he started publicly alluding to suicide and mentioning he was on the verge of getting kicked out of Uni for poor grades/attendance/behavior/whatever I fired an email to Buffalo University, because anyone who gets this distraught over a private rFactor league to the point where their studies are suffering is clearly not mentally stable and should receive assistance.

          Basically, imagine if you signed on to the iRacing forums and there was a guy with 1103 iRating who had written eight paragraphs about Tony Gardner being a young Joseph Stalin, and that iRacing staff had been conspiring against him since 2012 because they didn’t laser-scan a car he requested. And it wasn’t a one time thing, it was like, every third day or so for 3-5 months. That’s what we had to deal with.

          Then it turned out the guy had a history of being like this in other communities; there’s a 50 page thread on him at Facepunch dating back to 2009 where he had done the exact same thing to the mod team there. You know, the hitler/stalin accusations, propaganda, “muh shadow government”, conspiracies… Yeah… Most dealt with it by simply recording & uploading his Ventrillo meltdowns.

          https://facepunch.com/showthread.php?t=858674

          So yeah, I reported an obvious mental health crisis. I know, I’m a horrible person, I should be ashamed.

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          1. Lol ever the hypocrite. Remember when you told us about that iRacer trying to get someone fired. Of course when you do it it is fully justified.

            Who is this EgoRebel though and why would SMS care about him?

            Liked by 1 person

            1. If you cant see the difference between getting wrecked in a race vs. a schizophrenic guy blaming your rFactor league for his suicidial thoughts, maybe you need to get some perspective.

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              1. I’m pretty sure you are not qualified to diagnose him as a schizophrenic.

                You would have done it out of spite not because you were concerned. My perspective is fine.

                Liked by 1 person

                  1. As a psychiatrist, I completely support exactly what Austin did here. People actually *doing* something can save a life. How else do you think mental health professionals are made aware of people who exhibit signs of mental illness? It’s usually a concerned family member, so the fact that Austin cared enough to, in effect, treat this person like a member of his own family says a lot about his character.

                    I can tell you – Most people do nothing. Because it’s always easier to do nothing.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. “concerned family member”

                      Ahaha fuck off. He tried to dox him and acted as an asshole around him. You’ll believe anything PRC put out as you’re on of the most prominent commenting fanboys.

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                    2. Right. I guess you didn’t notice that I was highly critical of the SMS sponsorship deal? No one is perfect or makes the right decision every time (myself included), but when you see someone behaving in a manner that indicates mental instability, you should speak out. In the ER where I work, it’s usually a family member or a cop who tips us off. It can literally save a life.

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  2. Yeah, I was gonna say, I was hearing really good things about it from people who didn’t enjoy – or even pay any attention to – the entire rest of iRacing. I gotta say, I’m always happy to hear people are getting their money’s worth; if the rest can somehow shape up to this watermark, then it bodes very, very well. And if not, hey, more love for dirt racing as it is, so that’s a plus!

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    1. The 305 is prob the easiest to drive as you just full throttle at all times until the track roughs up, but as far as learning to drive dirt the street stock will teach you the most.

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    2. As a road racer, the SS feels the most like a normal car, so you can concentrate on getting the basics down easier, instead of getting used to the weird quirks of the Sprint Cars or LMs.

      With that said, IMO the Super Late Model is by far the most challenging car to drive, at least on the tracks we have here. The 410 was surprisingly “easy”, although I imagine it might be different in an actual race. It feels too weird for me anyhow.

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  3. I wonder if Maple will also be announcing he’s being sponsored by iRacing to race in a real life series in 5 months time? PRC is compromised.

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  4. After spending a hole day on dirt. I thought I’d go back to my gt3 stuff. Well, my new understanding of grip and balancing slip angle better gave me the drive of my life. I think the like in real life if you start on dirt car control become easier to deal with on pavement. And then move to slicks. Maybe that should be the rookie path for beginners. It all just made sense. As I’ve realized I’m no Senna in rl only in my head. So why should I expect to be on a server. Feeling the abundance of slip angle with dirt to the point of exhaustion I’m much more intune and appreciative of the trem “smooth control”.

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  5. “I haven’t spent ten hours straight on any racing simulator for a very long time”

    This x 1000

    Im a road guy, and I cant stop turning laps on dirt, Is so much fun, Staying up way to late.

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    1. Dedicate yourself to console simcades, James. You never really liked sims anyway, the only positive articles we’ve seen have been about simcade racing games and some mods no one cares.

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        1. Yeah what has happened with the real Scawen?
          Maybe some mental breakdown when someone twisted his laughtable LFS praise:-)

          Good article by the way James. :thumbs up:

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  6. This dirt shit is just too redneck for me. I’m sorry. My impression is that when dirt racers plus meth cookers are included in a Venn diagram, you get two perfectly overlapping circles 😉

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  7. Is there an outbreak of pod peopleitis in Canada? If James and Maple can become pod people in one day it can happen to anyone, God knows nothing ever happens in Canada so yea this seems pretty big.

    Way bigger than iRacing actually listening to beta testing feedback and delivering a seemingly finished and competent product, who knew that listening to product experts and beta testers could improve a product? I mean weird shit right?

    As far as that whole SMS Ian Bell doing the same kind of thing with actual sim nerds in exchange for a sponsor deal, I mean that’s just crazy, work with one of your softwares most vocal critics? Maybe the sms people are all pod people too? Hey it could happen, I saw it in a movie.

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  8. iRacing’s latest Dirt car is messed up. Billy Strange told them about it, but iRacing released it anyway.

    See more @ 24:02 “This Week Inside Sim Racing Live! – April 26, 2017”

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