What’s a racer with an itchy accelerator foot to do when they can’t be at the track? Do what thousands of your fellow competitors do and go iRacing. iRacing is not a game–it’s an online racing simulation where you can virtually compete in many types of racing including NASCAR, Formula 1, World of Outlaws, Australian SuperCar, and Rallycross. The tracks and cars are modeled after their real-world counterparts, and many racers use iRacing to improve their driving skills when they can’t get to a real-world track.
Ian Giebeler, who works in Summit Racing’s IT department, is a longtime autocrosser who has been an iRacer since 2011. He got into iRacing when he worked for a Grand-Am race team out of North Canton, OH. We tapped his brain to get some pointers for drivers new to the iRacing thing.
iRacing lets you compete against other online racers on over 80 tracks modeled after actual facilities from around the world. There are over 80 cars to choose from, ranging from NASCAR stockers and dirt track cars to road racers, Rallycross, and open wheel cars. There are even Legends cars and off-road desert trucks.
iRacing memberships are affordable, especially if you catch one of the special offers for new members iRacing offers from time to time. As a new racer, you’ll have access to a limited offering of tracks and cars, but you can add tracks and cars to your racing stable for nominal one-time fees. The membership also includes things like endurance, mixed class, and private racing; time trialing; open practice; and special racing events.
Official Racing is the hub of iRacing. There are four online racing seasons each year, offering drivers the opportunity to participate in thousands of weekly races. The program is based on a progressive license structure with seven classes, which you earn based on skill and good driving habits. The iRacing software measures and aggregates the skill levels of each driver, which allows everyone to compete and win on an even playing field.
You can also join one of over 1,000 private racing leagues or even start your own. It’s a great way to go racing with your friends or fellow competitors from your dirt-world track or race series.
“A group of friends from our local autocross and karting community run a hosted league on Monday nights where we pick a car/track and race each other with baseline setups,” Giebeler said. “We have low horsepower cars like the Miata, open wheel SCCA Spec Racers, and more powerful cars like the Cadillac CTS-V or Radical SR8. It is competitive and a great way to keep in touch and racing with friends during these times of social distancing.”
You don’t need a lot of fancy gear to get into iRacing—just a good computer with one or more USB ports, a digital wheel/pedal or gamepad, and a high-speed Internet connection.
“Don’t get scared away by the gear requirements and suggestions you’ll find in the iRacing community. Get something within your budget, get on the track, and start racing,” Giebeler explained. “Right now I race with a 10 year old iMac running Windows and an eight-year old Logitech G27 wheel and pedal, and I’m competitive with people that have thousands of dollars in their rigs.”
Summit Racing carries iRacing gear like Logitech’s G29 and G920 Driving Force steering wheel and pedal sets. If you decide to get serious about iRacing (and you will), you’ll want a race chair setup like the ones we have from GTR Simulator. Better known as rigs or racing sim cockpits, they feature a solid steel frame and a genuine racing seat that provide stable, vibration-free steering and pedal control that takes virtual racing to a whole new level. We’ll be adding more iRacing-compatible gear over the coming months.
Tips from an iRacing Veteran
We asked Ian for a few tips for new iRacers:
• Seat time, seat time, seat time! You will get faster the more you race—you just have to put in the time. Also remember that this is a simulator, not an arcade game. You may need to ‘retrain’ your brain a bit if you’re used to playing arcade-style racing games.
• Before joining any race leagues, spend some time on the track and learn about racecraft. iRacing is designed to reward proper driving techniques. You will be given marks against your driving license if you perform improper racing moves, off track excursions, etc. Just remember that you’re not going to win it all the first time out, either iRacing or real-life racing.
• I strongly suggest joining and engaging with the iRacing community. There are many Facebook groups that share tips and tricks, and members will be happy to help with any questions you may have.
• As you gain more iRacing experience, you should check out the GridLife iRacing Series. It’s a lot of fun. A few professional racers join in and ‘broadcast’ races with announcers, playback, driver interviews, the whole deal. It feels like you’re watching a live race.
• Go fast and have fun!
There is a wealth of information on the iRacing website. We suggest starting with these sections:
Want to learn from the virtual racing pros? Here are two online schools Ian says are worth looking into if you are really serious about winning—and you are, right?