One of the most entertaining aspects of iRacing’s damage control procedures, is their willingness to blame a server farm incapable of handling an excess load on a rogue sim racer intent on ruining people’s fun. Year after year, we see iRacing schedule these massive online automotive festivals based upon marquee real-world motorsports events, only for the userbase to be subjected to widespread outages once the green flag drops – to the point where some no longer bother signing up for them, anticipating yet another round of connection problems. Though iRacing do their best to try and convince unhappy sim racers that the technical issues were due to a direct denial of service attack – supposedly some asshole spending his afternoon trolling sim dads and home schooled kids – the sheer consistency of these outages traditionally pointed to a much more common problem: their servers simply can’t handle the load of anywhere from five hundred to three thousand connections within a period of a few minutes.
It’s a narrative that’s as fun to run with as it is comical given how much some have spent on iRacing in pursuit of the ultimate sim racing experience, but today there’s now anecdotal evidence pointing towards actual direct denial of service attacks taking place as well. In a thread that has now since been deleted on the official iRacing member forums due to a strict set of rules prohibiting these kinds of discussions in the first place, Lars Conrad, formerly of Pure Racing Team, has revealed that the European sim racing outlet have taken part in DDoS attacks towards specific users on the service; some of which have affected the outcome of some $10,000 iRacing World Championship Series events.
With the final line, “an internet disconnect in the warmup lap of a WCS race is not as coincidental as one may think”, Conrad hints at malicious acts by fellow competitors as the reason some top-tier drivers have had their evenings ended prematurely, adding later in the thread that while still anecdotal, he personally has talked with the individuals responsible, and claims that the DDoS attacks towards other users will be linked to the PRT website IP address if investigated properly. Another user, Phil Schallenberg, appears to believe this may be the reason some former team members from PRT have jumping ship to drive for other outlets in recent weeks. While Conrad has provided no hard evidence himself to back up his rather bold claims, the reactions from other sim racers contributing in the thread seem to believe this scenario is highly possible, if not par for the course in what is already a very toxic, confrontational online country club.
If true, direct denial of service attacks against other players could drastically alter the course of iRacing championship events – or postpone them altogether upon widespread usage by the rest of the competitors. iRacing’s anti-cheat software obviously polices those attempting to manipulate the software to their advantage, swinging the ban-hammer almost instantly when a user is caught altering the game via third party programs, but there is currently no possible way to adequately detect when a user is dropped due to natural connection problems, versus malicious DDoS attacks towards another driver’s computer – unless each instance is thoroughly investigated.
It is therefore theoretically possible for all competitors to gather the resources and tools required to DDoS each other prior to the scheduled start time of an event, resulting in a starting grid equivalent to that of the 2005 United States Grand Prix, and iRacing themselves would have trouble differentiating between what appeared to be an ill-timed widespread internet outage, compared to something more sinister. I’m not saying I’m wishing for this scenario to happen, but it just goes to show that these sim racers have effectively found a loophole in the rule book that iRacing will be completely unable to enforce, police, or even keep track of so long as everyone keeps their mouth shut. Conrad obviously blew things wide open with his post today, but considering he’s implied this has taken place several times already without so much as a peep in the past, it’s certainly a form of sabotage that is able to fly completely under the radar for God knows how long.
Of course, this now calls into question any disconnect that has occurred during a world championship event over the past eight years, but you knew that already, so mentioning it is a mere formality now than anything.
If these accusations are proven to be accurate, PRT will soon find themselves in a world of hurt. The European gang offer both a sim racing driving school on their official website, and are said to be supported by a few major sponsors – including a Renault dealership – and I assume those who have given PRT any sort of financial capital for either training or sponsorship will now have some sort of interesting legal case on their hands if this progresses beyond message board talk quickly squashed by the iRacing overlords.
We will have more information on this story as it becomes available.