iRacing seems to be one of the final destinations for pasionate simracers and there are many reasons for this. There are also a few that keep some people away but generally speaking, iRacing is pretty much where you want to be, if you want to practice, get better and race seriously. There are a few things that you’ll need to get used to, if you’re coming from sims/games like Project Cars, Forza, Assetto Corsa etc.
With iRacing, you don’t buy a game, you subscribe to a simulator. What this means, is that you pay a montly fee, to use the sim. When you stop your subscription, you no longer have access to the simulator. This is fair as such, but the tricky part is that you eventually will need to buy certain content to progress in your carreer. Cars and Tracks are bought seperately, and as most of your online carrer will be based on series that are being run on some of those tracks, you really can’t avoid having to buy at least some of the tracks. You will lose access to that content too, once you stop your subscription.
That said though, it it not much more expensive than what i came from. On xBox i originally started racing on Forza. Paying a montly fee to play online (xBox Gold), paying for a base game, and on top of that DLC was slightly cheaper. The issue is, that you’d do that every second year, and still never use the previous version or even the DLC for that. With iRacing, the developers will keep developing the cars, tracks and base simulator, so it always keeps getting better, and is updated frequently. Yes you don’t get the most beautiful game on the market, or even the most options, but the ones you do get work and are trustworthy.
Compared to racing games, iRacing might seem boring. Their series and leagues run for 12 weeks, and move to new tracks once a week. This calls for nerdy practice, trying to shave fractions of seconds with each try. There is a lot of racing with the same car, on the same track and often against the same drivers.
Even though you are free to join any league or race you are eligible for, there is a lot less jumping between classes, tracks and events. After getting used to not being able to simply pick from a random race, and jump into the action, it realy is refreshing to be asked to focus and get better instead of just skipping from car to car, track to track and blame your poor performance on anything else than yourself.
One of the things i was most frustrated on my first few races, was that i was forced to stay in cockpit view, i you not look behind and there was not minimap.
The point is that racers don’t have access to these features in real life so why should they be in iRacing. I really missed the minimap, not so much to see what way the track goes, but more to see trafic around me, and to visualise the corners.
I never though i’d get used to it, but here i am, running iRacing races daily. I still like the roof view on other games, but the immersion of racing in the cockpit is pretty awesome once you get used to it. I am pretty sure it would hel pwith tripple screens or VR gogles, but at the moment they need to wait.
Rules, limits and penalties
When you’re racing in iRacing, you are being looked at and checked at all times. Maybe more than in real life actually! You’ll get warning for corssing the track limits, and although they are not perfect they are a lot closer to it than any other game/sim i have tried. You’ll get warnings for crossing the lines, and a hefty 4xCombo for contact, unless it was clearly not your fault. At a total of 17 accumulated warnings in a race, you’ll get instantly disqualified. Thats not much in a race that mayeb runs for 30 to 60 minutes! 3 slight contacts, and 5 track extensions and you’re out! On top of that, your license, and rating take a beating. This is the value that defines what races are available to you, so you’ll need to keep that as high as possible at all times.
This forces drivers to be clean, cautious and at times even aftraid of attacking. They will attack though, and they will also find your weeknesses, but they will do so safely (exceptions must be expected though). I have had some very clean racing on iRacing, but i have also had some messy ones but never any crazy stuff and especially never drivers who join to intentionally crash people out.
In race limitations
Keeping to the realistic aproach of racing, if you get into an accident, and you can’t drive your car to the pits, it will need to be towed. Depending on the track, this can take some time (my last tow lasted 1,40 sec and that was not much at all!). No fast travel, fast restore, wind back feature here.
Repairs are not straight forward either. For some races, you are allowed 1 quick repair, that is almost instant. If you use that, or if series does not allow one, a repair can easily last 10-15 minutes (these are real life minutes!). That is a really long time to stay and wait in the pits, especially in shorter races that maybe last an hour or so.
While you’re driving, you don’t get a damage report, or have access to telemetry and detailed car overview. If you do get damage, you sometimes you can feel it, or you maybe can see it through the windscreen. Sometimes you get slower, other times, you get flagged, because you’re dropping fluids. With the damage model getting more and more detailed, i expect this to get even more complicated. You are generaly pretty isolated inside the car, and need to do the best of what you’ve got, but it is the same for all other racers, and it is great fun once you get used to it.