If you’ve been one of the poor bastards roped into blindly going along with whatever iRacing’s marketing department feeds you with each passing month, this one’s a bit of a doozy – though to their credit, at least they’ve found a fix for it now. Originally released in the fall of 2015, almost two years ago to the day, iRacing introduced what was probably their biggest addition to the simulator in the history of the product: dynamic racing surfaces.
No longer just a static loop of asphalt for sim racers to memorize the absolute fastest line, race tracks were said to be evolving entities that accumulated heat and rubber throughout each individual session based on weather conditions and traffic density, adding an extra level of depth to the driving experience by forcing participants to “read” the asphalt and search for grip as the session progressed. While not a particularly big deal for traditional road racing circuits, as there’s usually one optimal line around each track, the upgrades were seen as game-changing for the enormous array of American oval racers on the service, as alternative line choices based on changing track conditions are an integral part of most, if not all stock car race strategies.
Yet in a rare admission of guilt, iRacing have come out and admitted that this feature has not been fully functional since its inception. A pretty fundamental flaw in the way data was being from transferred from clients back to the server prevented the in-game track surface from accumulating the necessary amount of heat to actually have an effect on the racing experience itself; in some instances the darkened groove of rubber merely being little more than a nice visual cue. The problem itself was rooted in the way iRacing’s servers were coded to handle different types of qualifying sessions; certain session configurations were temporarily freezing the transfer of data from a client’s car onto the track service during qualifying, and I guess from the way I’ve interpreted the forum post, this would “stick” across into the race sessions, meaning that once cars hit the track en mass, they weren’t actually doing anything very meaningful to the track surface as advertised.
Oh, and this may or may not have gone on for two whole years, but that’s an insignificant detail.
However, as the NASCAR Peak Anti-Freeze Series to the best of my knowledge uses a different type of session configuration compared to most public events you can enter with the average iRacing account, the glitch did not affect the premiere series on the service, nor private leagues who stumbled into the workaround by complete accident. Only after several years of customers wondering why dynamic tracks failed to produce anything near what they saw in the Peak Anti-Freeze Series , or even a portion of what was promised at the initial reveal of the technology, did iRacing actually look into the problem and discover something was indeed amiss. And I mean, the topic title of “there’s been a bug in dynamic tracks and they haven’t been working all along” from the official iRacing SubReddit moderator is pretty telling in itself.
The bad news, is that the merciless iRacing fanboys who have been defending or trying to explain the lack of multi-groove oval racing since the implementation of the new surface model as “realistic” in the face of overwhelming reports to the contrary, now look profoundly stupid for doing so. It also calls into question iRacing’s promotional material for the umpteenth time, as how many instances have we heard about the new surface model over the past few years, only to now learn in retrospect it wasn’t actually functional for a pretty substantial portion of the service – most notably the NiS events, which continue to draw enormous crowds of everyday iRacers by offering marathon-like races that closely follow the real world NASCAR Monster Energy Series schedule, and were touted as the best way to experience the role a dynamic racing surface plays in oval racing due to their sheer length.
So as we’ve done in the past, thank you to those individuals who have brought these issues with the new surface model to light and encouraged iRacing to continue investigating why what we saw in the Peak series wasn’t replicated in other sessions the public could enter, as the developers have now isolated the problem and supposedly fixed it. God only knows where we’d be if y’all remained silent like the rest of the drones, and it’s only a matter of time until more interesting quirks are discovered with this same tenacity.