So iRacing’s New Surface Model Hasn’t Worked Properly for Two Years…

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 good news, for the iRacers among us, is that they’ve 100% identified the problem and fixed it, and it’ll be in the forthcoming update that’s set to launch very soon for Season Four of 2017.

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.

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Asymmetrical Handling Still Plagues iRacing After Eight Years

There used to be a pretty hilarious meme floating around within the darker corners of the iRacing community, one which claimed that most of the simulator’s road racing content is inherently broken due to the underlying engine being more or less unchanged from the team’s last release – a commercial NASCAR simulator in February of 2003 in which the cars only turned left – and building upon this base generated highly unrealistic behavior when creating cars to attack traditional racing circuits. It’s definitely one of the more elaborate conspiracies surrounding the title, as any game that asks its users to fork over an arm and a leg for only a fraction of the content will undoubtedly generate some level of hostility towards it – and this is more or less the “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams” of iRacing, but in this case, curious sim racers have actually proven this to be correct with basic tests, and the problem is supposedly yet to be fixed after almost eight years in operation.

Yes, you read that right. The fifteen dollars iRacing members are forking over on a per-car basis to drive the plethora of European road racing content on the service, allegedly created with the utmost of accuracy and a pristine attention to detail far beyond what’s seen in other simulators… This money is instead going towards cars that are – to put it into simplistic terms – haphazardly placed over a generic NASCAR shell that’s hard-coded into the game’s underlying software, and the team are still yet to rectify this easily demonstrable vehicle behavior; brought up several times over the years by those unwilling to abide by the country club atmosphere and pretend the rather questionable driving physics are realistic, merely because the marketing department said so.

Several talented sim racers over the years have noticed that cars which are traditionally symmetrical in real life have an absurd tendency to oversteer in sweeping left-hand corners, while understeering in sweeping right-handers, which is a pretty fundamental characteristic of what happens when you take an asymmetrical American stock car to a road course. Some may note that the talent pool on iRacing is all over the place, and maybe these guys just haven’t gotten their shit together on the setup aspect – or outright suck at driving – but Finnish sim racer Mikko Nassi has gone through the effort of showcasing these tendencies on video at the game’s centripetal circuit, a concrete test pad where driving skill basically doesn’t apply.

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And as you can see in his several unlisted videos on the subject matter, the various cars he tries out indeed spin violently during left turns, while understeering towards the concrete wall turning right.

The original iRacing forum thread on this subject started in 2011, when the service was still in its growing phase, though physics guru and longtime public figure David Kaemmer has responded multiple times (1, 2) on the matter admitting it’s a problem, ending by saying it hasn’t been fully fixed yet, but “soon” – a sim racing code word for “sometime in the next three years.”  This was roughly fourteen months ago, and nothing has been mentioned about it since. Needless to say, it points to the fact that it’s a much bigger problem than iRacing originally thought it was; maybe it’s not even able to be fixed, as you’d think over eight years, they’d find a solution for it.

It’s quite sad to think that for every corner of every track that anyone has ever driven on iRacing, they’ve suffered from a car balance that is either too tight or too loose, primarily due to their car’s hidden asymmetrical characteristics that shouldn’t actually be there. However, at the same time this also explains why a higher concentration of iRacers refuse to spend time learning how car setups work compared to those who prefer to invest many hours in the products of a competitor; if you can never quite refine the car’s behavior because the setup balance will always be ruined due to the game’s underlying coding, what’s the point in open setup sessions to begin with? Why not just run the numerous fixed setup championships to at least somewhat avoid what is obviously a broken element of the game?

Apart from the fanboys, who come up with the most ridiculous theories as to why it’s not a problem or why it’s accurate for cars to handle asymmetrically – something even Kaemmer himself can be seen disputing in one reply, so at least he understands it’s a problem – everyone with half a brain, a pair of hands and a steering wheel can go out and recreate the same test results in the game’s free centripetal circuit to see something is fundamentally wrong. The only way around it for the time being is to build setups with a cross weight above 50%. As such, this problem doesn’t really affect oval cars because they hardly ever run 50% cross weight, but for the entire other half of the service, they are unknowingly fighting a losing battle in the garage area.

And for a service that promotes itself as the most accurate piece of software on the market today, alongside the extremely high financial entry fee, you’d think this wouldn’t be an issue – or at the very least it would have been ironed out in the service’s infancy.

But it’s still around. And anonymous iRacers, such as the one who sent in this information, are getting tired of it.

He Actually Did Okay

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard that a group by the name of Virtual2Reality would be taking a top-level iRacer from down east, and throwing him sight unseen into a sportsman sprint car for Alberta’s biggest sprint car event. After numerous attempts at similar endeavors had resulted in situations where race cars were destroyed and the entire outing covered up, or publications had been forced to greatly emphasize the little victories while a sim racer struggles to be more than a rolling safety hazard, on paper, throwing seventeen year old Quebec native Alex Bergeron into a literal dream scenario was a disaster waiting to happen. Yet thanks to careful planning and proper preparation on the part of Joel Hamilton and the entire V2R group, Bergeron’s debut on the real life dirt oval circuit has finally given the sim racing community something to celebrate after years of PR stunt disasters. The kid exceeded expectations, and actually looked competent among his competitors, even if the results don’t necessarily show it.

Dubbing themselves as a group that supposedly “provides online racers the opportunity to earn seat time in a real car”, Virtual2Reality unveiled in late July of this year that they were indeed going to pick up the slack of iRacing’s marketing department, and place a totally green sim racer into a full-blown event upon acquiring a sportsman sprint car to see if the virtual skills learned on simulators such as iRacing would actually translate into real world driving prowess. As the weeks went by, it was eventually revealed that double iRacing pro driver Alex Bergeron – so not just any pleb, but someone that was in the top 0.2% of drivers on the service and competed in both major iRacing championships – had been selected as the recipient of this opportunity, and he’d be competing at Edmonton’s own Castrol Raceway, which is right in my own backyard. For better or worse, I’d be able to watch this as it all went down.

Now obviously, this story sounds pretty far-fetched on the outset, as taking a random guy from the internet and throwing his ass in a proper race car is an enormous liability to not just himself and the competitors directly around him, but the community as well – it’ll only encourage the manchildren among us to abandon all common sense in dedicating their life to iRacing in the hopes that “NASCAR scouts” discover them in mommy’s basement – yet in the guys at V2R doing exactly that, we get the privilege of seeing what happens when someone indeed does explore this path, whether it be something to celebrate, or yet another marketing stunt to quickly forget about.

And already out of the box, there was an extra level of preparation beyond “I’m good at iRacing”, meaning the V2R guys at least sort of had their shit together when it came to training the kid, or at the very least surrounding him with the correct people. Bergeron did not appear to land this ride on skills or iRating alone, as in doing some quick detective work by crawling through Facebook, it seems as if he’s related in some aspect to Alain Bergeron, a sprint car driver from Alex’s hometown in Quebec, while also regularly attending events at Autodrome Granby. So while I’m not one hundred percent certain on this, my educated guess is that Alex is the son or a relative of a sprint car driver, meaning he had the best possible coaches in the world to help make the transition from iRacing to reality, and was not a true random delivering pizza’s a month earlier. So before the manchildren start quitting their jobs in pursuit of using iRacing to land their big break in the world of sprint cars, it’s probably smart to consider maybe there were external factors at play that led to this opportunity in the first place.

This, of course may turn out to be bullshit and maybe it’s just a coincidence, but regardless, V2R actually did extensive homework on the kid beforehand to ensure there weren’t any skeletons in the closet or $15,000 ARCA show cars on his front lawn, and that he’d be the absolute perfect candidate to get this program off the ground.

Castrol Raceway had this promo deal where they were giving out free tickets for the two-day event in conjunction with V2R, but I ended up just sort of showing up at the track on the Wednesday prior for his first test session. I have to stress this aspect; they absolutely did not just throw him in the car and let him figure things out for himself. From the grandstands, there was a pretty substantial debrief period with the entire team that took the better part of an hour, and I counted no less than ten or twelve people as part of the primary crew who’d tagged along to help out. This was a serious effort to prepare a rookie driver for the big day, and while I wasn’t privy to what was discussed, we can only speculate how much of that was “iRacing teaches you X, but in reality you have to do Y behind the wheel.” So I can’t really comment and say what iRacing’s dirt content gets right, versus what it gets wrong.

The first testing stint, the kid was obviously scared shitless, and his lap times & throttle input reflected that. I cannot blame him one bit; in our late model it was definitely an enlightening experience to jam the throttle to the floor at twenty four years old and be pinned to the back of the seat, seemingly falling into the steering wheel under braking, so I can only imagine how it must have felt to do the same on dirt at seventeen. Any sort of race prepared Chevrolet engine is sensory overload on throttle application, so that’s to be expected. However, after pulling in for a chat and then heading out for a second & third stint, V2R’s crazy science project actually warranted some pretty stellar results. Alex genuinely didn’t look too bad out there, and when they threw another sportsman car out on the track, Alex was no better or worse than the driver he was sharing the racing surface with. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – the only hiccup in testing being a cloud of smoke pouring off the engine during the third stint, with Alex promptly shutting down the car and the team pushing it off the circuit shortly thereafter.

Despite the coverage from local outlet Global News about the ordeal, and the one thousand free tickets Castrol Raceway had up on their website, audience turnout was average at best, the Friday night bill split between about ten dirt late models of varying talent levels, and upwards of twenty sportsman sprint cars – not a bad way for Alex to begin his career. It was a modest sized event, with drivers that wouldn’t outright try to kill him.

He wasn’t particularly fast in qualifying – I think he posted a time somewhere in the middle of the pack, 13th of 24 cars and half a second behind the leader – and Castrol’s rules, as with a lot of tracks, place rookies at the back of the field for every heat, transfer race, and feature, meaning there was only so much the kid could do with what had been presented to him. So while a lot of sim racers will go out and shit on him for less than stellar results, as you can easily find them on myLaps, it’s the intangibles the people who were in attendance could spot that at least in my opinion, made this a successful venture for V2R.

My buddy and I watched Alex drive in person, and he honestly did okay.

I think what I respected the most about Alex’s time in the car, was that he was actually much more aggressive and strategic than the rest of his opponents, some of which had been driving for several years, and this is undoubtedly thanks to the try-hards of iRacing over-preparing him for much more reserved drivers out in the real world. The kid immediately took to jumping restarts and anticipating the leader’s acceleration point as you’d do in any top split iRacing event, in some heats launching past two or three cars at the drop of the green, which was pretty awesome to witness in person because you knew where he learned that from.

The kid also wasn’t a safety hazard to himself or others by any means, never once tangling with another car or making boneheaded moves that put a bunch of people in jeopardy. Take away the promotional posts on Facebook, the iRacing decals, as well as the local news coverage, and you flat-out wouldn’t know this dude was in his first sanctioned auto race ever by means of a marketing gimmick. This is coming from a guy who is essentially doing the same thing as Alex, and sponsored by a rival video game company; Alex looked to both myself and my buddy, the two of us technically sanctioned multi-time NASCAR event winners, to be much more composed and aware of how to navigate through the pack than a lot of his competitors. We ended up cheering for the kid because he was an exciting mid-pack driver.

Unfortunately, I do have to be the bearer of bad news and say that Alex’s rather stout Friday performance ended prematurely when he knocked the car off the inside wall and severely damaged the left front during the B-Main, falling back from fourth place to sixth and out of the last transfer spot into the A-Main, but this isn’t something that should be held against the kid. The fact that a talented sim racer held his own against a bunch of sportsman sprint car veterans for a few heats is impressive in its own right compared to the lackluster performances we’ve seen from other big names in the sim racing community, and Castrol Raceway officials agreed as much by removing Alex’s rookie status for the Saturday show, which granted him an authentic starting position in all sessions, rather than placed at the back like a pleb.

Sadly, I’m unable to find results from the Saturday sessions on myLaps, so this informal Facebook recap – omitting the damaged left front on Friday, as well as his Saturday performance, which I’d like to see – will have to suffice for now.

While I don’t openly advocate for teams to start plucking kids and man-children from simulators en mass due to the absurdly large can of worms it can open up when the realities of auto racing hit, Alex Bergeron’s weekend at Castrol Raceway is proof that if teams do extensive homework and background checks on a highly talented sim racer, as well as surround him with the right talent that can take his simulator knowledge and help him understand how it applies it to the real thing, the end result will indeed turn heads and provide definitive proof that high-fidelity, modern racing simulators can absolutely prepare someone for stepping into local auto racing and holding their own against multi-year veterans of the scene. Bergeron may not have won any heats, set any fastest laps, or come home with a clean car at the end of the night, but he certainly impressed a lot of folk who were otherwise skeptical of the endeavor, and held up his end of the bargain by being a pretty solid ambassador for sim racing as a whole.

He also didn’t junk the field or send someone upside-down, either. So there’s that.

For 13.8 Seconds, Question What You’re Paying For

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You’d think for a piece of software that prides itself on being the most authentic & accurate simulation consumers can buy, massive discrepancies between real world car performance and the virtual counterpart wouldn’t exist to begin with, and simulation enthusiasts wouldn’t actively work to brigade someone drawing attention to what’s a completely reasonable talking point.

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series is set to visit Bristol Motor Speedway this upcoming weekend, one of the oldest circuits on the schedule despite it’s modern coliseum atmosphere, for the second of its two 2017 dates: one in the spring, taking place during the day, with this weekend’s being a night race that’s known for chaos and destruction akin to a local short track event. Despite being just a half mile in length, Bristol’s 25+ degrees in banking generate a very unique vibe; insanely high speeds and close quarter combat is the auto racing equivalent to flying fighter jets within the confines of a high school gymnasium. The Monaco Grand Prix may send Formula One entries blazing past elaborate casinos, and V8 Supercars can get a little hairy in the resort town of Surfer’s Paradise, but there’s nothing in the motorsports kingdom quite like Bristol Motor Speedway – a track that actively encourages mangled heaps of automotive wreckage..

In keeping with the standard formula of how iRacing operates, all major stock car series within the popular online racing simulator will mirror the real world NASCAR Cup series schedule and also visit the concrete jungle throughout the week. The top simulator drivers on the service have spent the past few days preparing for a multitude of high-profile events, whether it be the standard top Class A open run-offs that dictate the drivers eligible to compete for $10,000 USD next year, or the significantly longer NASCAR iRacing Series contests, which are more in line with the simulator’s origins. However, in testing for these events, one YouTube user flying under the name of GeneticJD has made a pretty startling discovery – and it’s one that all iRacers should be taking a close look at, if only to understand where their money is actually going.

In a single car qualifying run under realistic weather and track conditions – which he actually addresses directly to dispel the fanboys’ claims before they can arise – GeneticJD, who isn’t a prominent face in the Peak Anti-Freeze Series, but just another somewhat talented sim racer on the service, has clocked in with a time of 13.8 seconds in his virtual #31 Kraft Velveeta Chevrolet SS. To provide some context as to why this might be an issue, qualifying for the 2016 night race at Bristol saw now-retired ace Car Edwards snatch the pole with an elapsed time of 14.6. Drop down the results list to see how other talented drivers performed, and racers such as the inevitable 2016 champion Jimmie Johnson registered a 14.91, while three time series winner & short track veteran Tony Stewart clocked in with a 15.02.

GeneticJD’s lap by comparison is so absurdly beyond what these cars are capable of in real life, it actually matches the World of Outlaws Sprint Car track record set by Sammy Swindell back in the early 2000’s, when the series used to temporarily convert the half mile oval into a dirt track. Those cars have a power-to-weight ratio more ridiculous than a modern Formula One car, and aided by a giant wing that essentially allows them to turn an entire lap at full power while sideways – yet iRacing says a 3200 pound stock car is just as fast. Drawing natural conclusions from the car’s performance, GeneticJD comments that iRacing absolutely need to slow the cup cars down. How iRacing’s stock cars are going upwards of a full second faster than their real life counterpart in a track this short, is absolutely inexcusable.

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Of course, the iRacing defense force have already appeared to downvote the post into oblivion on the simulator’s official subreddit, with comments conveniently dancing around how bizarre this performance is is – instead wanting to see pedal inputs, the setup used, or claiming that the video was “less interesting than I expected.” And sure, to them, maybe it really isn’t a big deal that some guy with infinitely more driving talent than they have somehow cracked a barrier that’s virtually impossible.

But to myself, and others as well, it’s pretty hilarious. iRacing isn’t just a boxed game you buy from Wal-Mart for anywhere from $60 to $80, and put up with the bad in exchange for the positive things the software accomplishes. This is a game that demands you fork out several times more than you’d traditionally find yourself paying for virtual race cars, and then thrives on a concept called post-purchase rationalization plus an admittedly exceptional marketing campaign, one which makes deluded motor racing enthusiasts believe they’ve acquired the very best in consumer-grade race car simulators. Usually this would be the part of the article where I would take aim at hardcore sim racers roped in by the cult-like mentality of iRacing’s finest to perpetuate such bullshit, but instead I will take a different approach.

When I browse YouTube videos of either NASCAR: The Game, or the current iteration of NASCAR Heat – two console offerings that admittedly aren’t up to par with what we should expect from video games in 2017 – I always see the same comments from miscellaneous users: “Why are you playing this trash when iRacing exists; it’s the best and most realistic racing simulator money can buy.” Sometimes it’s worded a lot nicer than that, but the overall theme remains the same.

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I have to ask, what weight does this argument hold now? It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a genuinely good oval racing game, but acting like iRacing is this be-all, end-all solution for dedicated NASCAR fans, only for the most popular cars on the service to generate performance figures that are significantly less accurate than these supposed “arcade games” everyone has no problems shitting on, is pretty comical.  In no way am I defending the horrid dumpster fire that was NASCAR Heat – not by a long shot – but seeing the average person parrot claims of iRacing’s alleged realism, when this is demonstrably false just by comparing virtual lap times to the real thing, definitely raises the question as to what sort of brainwashing has been taking place.

It also makes me wonder how more people aren’t genuinely questioning where their money is going when renting the content on iRacing, and how there’s not a more widespread level of criticism surrounding the biggest name on the market today. Sure, I got screwed over by DiRT 4’s decline in quality – as did many others – but at the end of the day it was a one-time, $60 purchase, not a long-term investment that continuously asked for my money just to explore a fraction of the content available on top of annual subscription fees. And though Codemasters did parade around a couple of real world drivers to vouch for the authenticity of some of the vehicles available in DiRT 4, their promotional efforts were nowhere near as extensive as those carried out by iRacing, who for years upon years upon years have touted close working relationships with a multitude of real world teams and engineers to ensure the utmost of accuracy out on the virtual race track.

Let me ask a simple question: Where is this accuracy customers have been promised?  Because there seems to be a pretty major disconnect between what the marketing team would have you believe, and what actually occurs within the game world. For a development team to supposedly be in touch with Monster Energy Cup teams on a regular basis and actively employing individuals within the Cup series garage area, how in the fuck do we reach a scenario where Cup cars are blasting around Bristol at World of Outlaws speeds? No, it’s not a case for false advertisement, but I’m genuinely surprised that so many people have no problem parting with their hard-earned cash primarily due to the game’s self-proclaimed status as the most accurate and thoroughly researched simulator on the market, with some members even being blissfully unaware that other racing simulators exist altogether because they’ve bought into the iRacing or bust mentality themselves, yet are suddenly silent or apathetic when this authenticity is objectively proven to be false?

I’m also a bit surprised in regards to how on top of the demonstrable lapses in authenticity, sim racers are unable to read between the lines and notice something is amiss when it comes to how iRacing advertise themselves as the pinnacle of realism, when real teams aren’t actually using it.

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I’m not a Dale Earnhardt Jr. fan, I’m actually in the Kevin Harvick camp that believes his lack of on-track success has kind of hurt the sport – usually the most popular athlete is also the most successful, and in this case he’s not – but one thing Dale has done a good job at is being an ambassador for sim racing on a global platform, and he’s been doing this basically since the start of his career, which we all very much appreciate. However, in his weekly podcast, #186 at the 42 minute mark if you’re looking for something to get you through your workout routine, Dale mentions that the Chevrolet simulator uses “old gaming technology”, and though iRacing as a company don’t currently provide simulators for any of the teams (which in itself should be a red flag), it’s something they have an interest in – and he’d prefer for them to enter the realm of professional simulators as well.

Yet this “old” gaming technology, which Dale refuses to name – though we all know from pictures it’s clearly a variant of rFactor – helped his own Hendrick teammate tie his father’s NASCAR record by notching his seventh championship last season. In the meantime, average Joe’s on the iRacing service are blowing the doors off real world qualification charts, running times that would put them in an entirely different vehicle class. With this tidbit alone, you’d think people would figure out that maybe they’re not getting the experience that they’re paying for.

Another tidbit worth noting, would be Dale’s own career statistics. Earnhardt Jr. advocates for iRacing to enter the professional simulator realm, as he was a very active driver during the service’s early years, believes the software has the potential to go above and beyond what rFactor Pro provides, and obviously has a great relationship with the people in Massachussetts, but these years spent diving deep into sim racing – moreso than his Windows XP years – also happen to ironically coincide with a disastrous four-year slump that has defined the final half of his career.  From June of 2008 to July of 2012, NASCAR’s most popular driver failed to win a single race – a slump so crippling, his own teammate posting similar statistics lost his job. As you can see from the video above, Earnhardt Jr. was most active on iRacing starting from it’s beta period, until about late 2011 or early 2012, during the initial stages of the new tire model when a lot of people thought it was quite good.

Look, if there’s this top level NASCAR driver going around telling people about how helpful this one piece of software is compared to all the others, but while doing so he’s actually putting up results that would be job-threatening to anyone not named Earnhardt, how is anyone not asking questions about the accuracy of the software, but instead just sort of going along with it and using it as a reason to spend even more money on the game? The North Carolina rumor mill has obviously lit a fire under claims that Dale was asked to stop iRacing until his on-track results improved, because supposedly people figured out it was messing with his driving style, but that’s not really something we can confirm as 100% fact.

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For 13.8 seconds, you should question what you’re paying for. A team supposedly this in-tune with the current motorsports climate, hiring engineers directly from the industry, and working closely with individuals to ensure their software is the absolute pinnacle of sim racing, should not be producing virtual vehicles this far off the mark from their real world counterparts. Yes, maybe DriveClub’s version of a Ferrari Enzo will drive as more of a ballpark guess than anything else, and sure DiRT 4’s R5 rally cars are pretty fucked up, but that’s almost to be expected with those pieces of software. But with such a heavy marketing campaign surrounding it, one which swears up and down that iRacing is the last simulator you’ll ever need, these claims shouldn’t be getting blown the fuck out by a random YouTube personality who somehow figured out how to break the sim in such a way, Cup cars are as fast as World of Outlaws 410 deathtraps. No, just stop, that’s fucked up. You’ve failed at your goal. Go back to the drawing board.

You should also question why real drivers, the same that can be seen on iRacing’s testimonial pages bragging about how great the software is, are accidentally admitting in their podcasts that iRacing to their knowledge isn’t actually used by any professional race teams whatsoever, yet they’re still advocating for the use of iRacing despite this “old” software winning their teammate his record-tying seventh championship.

I don’t think there is a simulator out there that uses iRacing software. – Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jr. Download Podcast #186

Lastly, you should question why this professional driver coincidentally suffered from a career-defining slump during the exact time frame he was actively helping out with the development of the game.

But, of course, the country club members won’t want to ask these questions, because bringing iRacing into disrepute is against the sporting code, and can therefore warrant a suspension or outright ban for those who dare to rock the boat.

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Reader Submission #144 – The Entitlement of Sim Racers

Are sim racers acting entitled? That’s the theme of today’s Reader Submission from Damien, who explores his time spent mentoring budding sim racers, as well as recent events that have transpired in the iRacing community, which have given him the impression that many sim racers appear to be too lazy to do anything themselves – except drive, that is. From refusing to learn even the most fundamental basics of car setups, to asking for handouts on crowdfunding platforms, Damien notes that this behavior is not a new thing, and is instead rather insulting for those who race in real life – like himself.Hey James, you can call me Damien. After reading through some of your recent articles regarding some of the… stranger happenings in the iRacing community involving jumping from the sim to reality, I want to build a little more on some of the things you’ve mentioned. With you being a short track racer yourself, you’ll probably get where I am coming from as someone who has done and is doing work in the industry. A lot of this may seem obvious to you, but to some I feel it goes straight over their heads. Right now, I want to explore the main offender of these incidents: mentality. With Will Byron basically being showboated by iRacing, I only expect it to get even worse from here.

True racing drivers are a strange breed. No normal person would think of strapping themselves into what very well could end up a twisted metal coffin for fun, let alone a living. Racing drivers are the most dedicated of hobbyists and/or athletes, refusing to even let nearly career-ending injuries get in the way sometimes. That being said, most sim racers can hardly be considered one of the breed, which is a statement you’ll probably agree with judging by some of your posts on the blog. 

I’m an avid iRacing user who is racing for real, thanks to someone I met through the game (yes, game) who I have been working with for a while. I’m a respectable driver with a well-above average iRating, but I digress. As I’ve climbed the ladder, I’ve had people reach out to me for help, with my involvement varying from sending hotlaps to tutoring in practice sessions. Some guys are swell, some are not, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that the overarching problem is that many sim racers just want to drive and have work done for them. My experience has given me familiarity with behind-the-scenes work, and I can attest that motorsport does not work this way. A good majority of real drivers, including me, see racing as the reward for their efforts off the track.

Many a sim racer I’ve helped has expressed interest in making it to the Peak Antifreeze Series, yet most of these people have not only never messed with an open setup before, but also refuse to learn, wanting to rely on their teammates to set their cars up. It’s also worth noting that a few of them want to make the same jump from the sim to the real thing, which is an idea I balk at, bearing in mind their lack of mechanical know-how on the sim. Granted, I haven’t taken very many under my wing, only a handful at most, but I know this mentality of driving first, work second is widespread. I see and hear it on the forums, in the voice chat, and sometimes on my Facebook as well. My rebuttal will always be the same: “How can you expect to race for wins if you don’t understand the car?” It’s just like in that one shitty Tom Cruise movie, you know, the one with the NASCAR’s, where Cruise’s character fails miserably due to lack of mechanical understanding. I don’t care if you don’t want to learn to prevent yourself from getting “distracted” from driving (yes, that was a real excuse I heard): if you don’t know how to work in tandem with your engineers to figure out how to go faster, you don’t stand a chance. Period.

Obviously the mechanical side of things is just one facet of a successful operation, but as you definitely know, you can’t race without monetary backing. Sponsorships are the obvious solution to the problem, but sponsorships are horrifically misunderstood by the average Joe. Sponsorship is more than putting a fancy sticker on a fast car, it’s a full-fledged business partnership that benefits both parties, creating ROI through an elaborate relationship that goes past just a paint scheme and decals. In other words, sponsorship takes serious effort. Any other “sponsor” who agrees to put a sticker on a car and gives away free money has no clue what they are doing, and trust me, I’ve seen it before. Countless times, it never ends well.

In your post about Jason’s GoFundMe campaign, you mentioned how sponsors need a full report on where the money is going, right down to the last penny. This is the most crucial part of the operation in my opinion, and it is imperative a team takes care of companies or benefactors they intend to have a long-standing relationship with for years to come. Going online and begging for money to race is NOT a sponsorship. It is not sustainable, it is not reliable, and above all, it perpetrates this “race first, work second” mentality. It’s every sim racer’s dream to race, a fact that will be drilled into your cranium every now and then with the familiar “come help me race” posts in the forums.

One could make the argument that I’m a hypocrite for supporting Jordan Anderson’s crowdfunding campaign after his unfortunate accident this year, but here’s the deal: would you rather put your personal money towards a driver who busts his ass in real NASCAR trucks, full with outlined perks and structure, or towards someone who has no other explanation that a childhood dream? If you choose the latter, stop lying.

Not to mention, how often do sim racers take time to develop a tangible plan that isn’t just a bunch of series logos organized in a flowchart? Yes, having a visualization of the path to where one wants to go can help, I guess. But planning a real career is FAR more involved and complicated than what PS2 NASCAR games will have you believe. You can’t just jump into a Dodge Viper, beat Ryan Newman in an eerily deserted stretch of NYC road, and start tearing shit up in a modified to try to land a truck seat. I know many drivers in the area who could kick serious ass in something like ARCA or K&N, but opportunity comes in “if’s”, not “whens” like the games. I’m not saying to lower expectations and standards; I’m saying be realistic in goals because very few get to race for a living in the big leagues.

Also, in a more relevant tone, set priorities. I’ve been trying to go this whole piece without singling anyone out too much, but how can you say that you need money to race when you’ve already bought a $23,000 simulator, with a $16,000 ARCA showcar for another rig? How can you say you wish you could race like the pros when you spent your cash on a sports car instead of a street stock program? I know you’ve already touched on this specific bit, but it bears repeating. It should sound like common knowledge by now, but it goes in one ear and out the other for some.

In regards to people encouraging behavior as seen from, for example, Jason Jacoby, like him or not, he found a way to resonate with quite a few (probably easily impressed) folks who also dream big and don’t want to do the work. However, when the dream comes under threat, it seems as if there’s some kind of a shared ego or identity between him and his enablers, and they rush to his defense. This phenomenon happens often, especially in the last US election, and some of these rebuttals are nonsensical because of threatened face. Plus, I feel like Jason kind of represents that part of them that wants to partake in these outlandish hijinks, but either can’t or won’t, and that’s some of his appeal too. It’s almost like George Costanza in a way, I suppose.

What I’m trying to say is you can’t say anything unless you’ve made the effort, done the work, and shown passion for it. I’m man enough to admit that I once had this naive outlook, until I understood the value of hard work through my own desire to get ahead. True racers are passionate, don’t let much get in the way of their goals, and don’t give up until they’re forced to with no other options. Spending money on needlessly large rigs and promptly asking for money towards a real car is quite the opposite of passion in my opinion, as is refusal to learn or work, only wanting the thrill of the fight.

As a stock car racer yourself, what do you think about my take on the whole “racer first, worker second” epidemic? I certainly hope I haven’t been beating a dead horse with you, but with so many people looking for the easy way into a sport that punishes half-assed efforts, I just needed to get all of this off my chest. As a driver also working his ass off towards a dream that might not even come true, I feel insulted by people basically trying to turn the sport into some kind of video game. But for everyone who’s stuck in this dangerous mentality, takes some advice from my dad: “Do the work. Get it done. Get it fucking done.”

Lots to cover in this response, so I apologize if this all seems a bit dis-jointed at times.

Many years ago, I too had the “racer first” mentality, unwilling to sit down and learn car setups, and this is something iRacing kind of encouraged with their abundance of fixed setup series. What a lot of the new guys to sim racing probably don’t know, is that iRacing at launch was significantly more hardcore than it currently is, races being double or triple the length they are now, and every series was open setup. To reel in new members and retain interest in the title, they then began offering shorter, fixed setup races as a throwback to the pick-up servers of NASCAR Racing 2003 Season. I joined in late 2011, so by this time fixed setup series were all the rage, boasting much higher participation numbers than open sessions, so as a new guy, take a guess where I went.

The rise of fixed setup racing gave me the impression that uniform car setups were the “great equalizer” between sim racers, but that was until I actually sat down and attempted to understand what was going on under the hood, rather than assume it was just black magic. In all honesty, iRacing’s underlying physics engine perpetuated my refusal to learn car setup theory, because for many years setups on the service were brutally unrealistic, and stuff you’d learn on tutorial websites – whether it be for other simulators, or real life – simply did not apply to iRacing. So I was in this weird spot where yeah, I could take the time and learn all I could about car setups, but none of it would actually apply to the simulator I was spending the most time on. There’s a famous comment on PRC from a few years ago that kind of confirms this, where a dude from Travis Kvapil’s truck team mentions how their real world setup was a complete and utter fail when applied to the sim.

Playing a game as broken as this, it’s sort of understandable as to why so many are refusing to sit down and do the hard work themselves. Everything they could learn, can’t be applied anyway, so of course they’d rather delegate it to the turbonerds who have memorized all the exploits. I’m sure things have improved in 2017, but iRacing was in this state for years, and that means entire waves of sim racers hold this same delegation mentality. In short, I’m blaming iRacing for this. If setups are so broken in your game that literally no real world theories work, of course there are going to be entitled sim racers passing off setup duties to those in the know, rather than figuring it out for themselves.

In my situation, it took being banned from iRacing and exploring other simulators – usually powered by the isiMotor engine – to understand how integral car setups are to your on-track success, and that what I first thought to be “black magic” was actually quite simple. You drop the ride height as low as you can go without scraping, and then stiffen the springs until it doesn’t scrape, with softer springs at the back so the car isn’t overly-loose on corner exit. I have been running the same camber and toe values across all sims for about four years now (-3.5/-2.8 and -0.2/+0.1, respectively), and for tire pressures I usually run 21 PSI cold. These numbers have won races, championships, and set countless fast laps across a multitude of different simulators, but of course with iRacing making waves of sim racers believe car setups are literal rocket science and introducing new exploits with each build, most have no incentive to even try and figure it out. Can’t say I blame them, but that’s probably not the answer you wanted to hear.

As for sim racers thinking they can get into racing without lifting a finger, unfortunately I’m going to give you another answer you don’t want to hear, but I’ll at least explain how I got to that point so we don’t have a bunch of entitled kids on the iRacing forums thinking they can just show up at the track with money and follow in my footsteps.

The extent of my mechanical abilities is that I can change a tire and install my transponder; regardless of what car I’m campaigning over the weekend, other people are doing the dirty work for me. This isn’t actually uncommon at my local complex, I’ve talked with other drivers my age who are in the exact same boat, but in my case it’s to the point where calling me a “useless millennial” is pretty much a meme in our section of the pit area.

But it remains a meme, because despite lacking any sort of mechanical skills, I can still offer something else in exchange for repairs to my race car. In my situation, I’m essentially the go-to PR/marketing guy for about three or four different drivers at the race track. I run one driver’s Facebook page, have created sponsorship pitches for at least three people other than myself – all of which were successful and landed said drivers a sponsor for the 2017 season – some days I’m helping people put together invoices, others I’m editing their on-board YouTube videos so they’re not thirty eight minutes long, or getting shit like car numbers designed for them. To the sim racing community, a lot of this stuff seems like brainless work – because for us, it certainly is – but you have to remember the average person is still downright terrified of PC’s and their browser of choice is loaded with those shitty third-party toolbars, and there’s no way in hell they can sit down and whip up a one-page sponsorship pitch in fifteen minutes.I’ve had offers to film promo videos for ex-Pinty’s Series drivers, even to become the full-time social media guy at the local track, but had to turn them down because I just didn’t have the time – though I certainly would if my personal schedule allowed it. So while I can’t turn a wrench, there’s something extra I can at least bring to an operation, and that gives people an incentive to turn the wrenches when I’m unable to. In addition, though I’m probably the dirtiest driver on the property (and this is something I take a lot of pride in), being involved in severe wrecks has been a rarity since I’ve started racing, so a lot of guys have peace of mind that if they spend the time to fix something on my cars, statistically they can expect at the very worst to replace bolt-on parts at the conclusion of the event, not panicking that the car is destroyed because I got mad and punted somebody.

It is indeed possible to primarily be a driver first, but you have to contribute something to make the partnership worthwhile for everybody involved. If you’re landing sponsorships for not just yourself, but others as well, drafting up invoices, editing their YouTube videos, running their Facebook pages, designing their logos, towing their cars to the track, paying for shit in a timely manner when asked, they’ll have no problem helping you.

On to the next topic, Jason’s GoFundMe campaign. Personally I disagree with your assertions as to how sponsorships should always be approached in a very formal fashion, because at least in Alberta, some guys just have more money than they know what to do with, and think it’s cool to have their name or business they own on the side of a race car. There’s really nothing wrong with this; whatever floats their boat.

But as a driver, regardless of a potential sponsor’s mentality, you should be going the extra mile to inform these people what their money is going towards, because it’s just the right thing to do. I’m not talking specifically about Microsoft Excel spreadsheets that map out where the funding will go, I’m talking about the most entry-level, basic shit that gives them confidence they’re not being scammed. For example, I was confused as to why Jason could not provide a single picture of him racing in the past, nor could he provide a link to results of the races he supposedly ran. Unless you’re racing in a complete backwoods facility, most circuits require a transponder to be installed on your vehicle, and of course these results then get uploaded to a website, which you can link people to as proof as your driving prowess. Jacoby basically ignored all of this and resorted to “my Grandpa said I’m good.” Oh please, my mom thought I sang well in Kindergarten for our spring concert, but I ain’t no country music star.

I think his crowdfunding pitch would have actually been reasonable  yes, I’m defending the guy here – if he had pictures of his old street stock, lap times from the events he did attempt, and a description that was less of a life story, and more of a “I’m looking to get back into racing after a few years honing my skills on sims, would anyone with a small business like to contribute” angle. With that kind of pitch, it’s more along the lines of a local racer using his sim racing connections as an additional avenue to secure funding – again, very reasonable – rather than a deluded manchild embarrassing himself on a public platform.

Or I guess he could just sell his rather useless toys and ignore the whole crowdfunding thing altogether, but I guess that’s too much to ask.