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.