The New Breed of Internet Racing Sims
It wasn’t so long ago that the only way to hone your racing skills was to get behind the wheel and log some seat time. Well, it still is the ultimate way of perfecting your racing lines but not all too cost effective with race gas at a premium. The money and time (and headaches) associated with getting track time on circuits across North America is often impossible for many teams. Unless they are high-dollar operations, they have to resort to a day prior to an event to get a feel for the track, the imperfections, the camber and that groove needed to slip past the car in front of you. There won’t be any real traffic to deal with, or a feel for where the passing zones are, or any fights for the racing line if you are all alone.
What if you could do it from your desktop?
Well, put away your Playstations and XBOX’es, there is a new ‘game’ in town. The difference being this is no arcade-based game at all but a real racing simulator that is so realistic, they are sanctioned by actual racing organizations. Online racing affords the weekend warrior, semi-pro or full-blown sponsored professional the opportunity to go racing in real-time, versus real competitors with a real rule book. Best of all, it can be done at home, on the road or just hours before an actual race. All you need is a capable computer with a feedback wheel, a high-speed internet connection and you are ready to race.
The iRacing physics engine was actually based on a title Kaemmer developed earlier in the decade called NASCAR Racing: 2003 Season. The title was still popular with diehard enthusiasts until iRacing was born, which removed any traces of game and went hardcore Sim with advanced online play. The market was there and iRacing was a viable business where both serious racers and aspiring ones would pay a subscription fee to participate year round.
The advantage of iRacing in the marketplace is the attention to detail on tracks around the globe. They reportedly spend six figures to model a track with the utmost realism. Engineers and surveyors collaborate to model each set point on the track and digitize it. Then they are merged with track photos and satellite maps to ensure what you are racing on is near perfect with the tightest of tolerances available.
As for the car lineup this is where iRacing continues to improve. At present they have nine cars available and have an explanation behind their modest fleet. According to Marketing Director Steve Potter “We don’t offer a car that we do not have complete involvement with the manufacturer on. If we proceed without their partnership, then it isn’t realistic and the car will not behave like the actual vehicle.” The iRacing test drivers will also have to log several hours in the real car before they can gather enough data to ensure that the handling and braking characteristics are accurate in their simulator. So, new vehicles are being added all the time but they wanted to stress that achieving the most realism, takes the most time.
As for the online competition, it is conducted with professionalism and void of any unsportsmanlike conduct that plagues online play. You won’t find the kind of degraded experience and name-calling you might find in the gaming world. Users are mandated to use their real given names and adhere to the FIRST Sporting Code. By following this real world rule book, racers will face consequences if they start pulling stunts that no one would attempt on a real race track.
Another plus to matching the skill levels and keeping the racing tight is the Safety Rating point system. All competitors start out as rookies and the more incident-free laps that you accomplish, the better your rating. The more green groups are broken up into smaller fields to circumvent too many incidents. They don’t populate the field with drone computer opponents just to enlarge a field either. The developers maintain you will learn a lot more from the intelligent and often risky movements made by humans. As a racer moves up in licence status, they will be able to participate in field of over 70 cars after they understand the psychology of the drivers they are up against. Best of all, you can gather all of the data from each car during the race to find out what different skill and strategies parlay into performance on track.
Online racers will be able to experience the thrill of global motorsport competition without ever leaving their home. A total of four seasonal championships means that there will have to be a level of dedication that dictates when a scheduled rate is on you better show up with your A-game to claim those points. With low subscription fees and sub-$1000 computer rigs, money is never an obstacle, you just have to make the time and be mentally ready to do battle. The motivation and the adrenaline will certainly be at full throttle if there is a real pro entering one of your schedule races. Sure it may take some time and commitment to be remotely near their level but how would you like to be trading paint with legendary names like Earnhart, Allmendinger or Andretti? They all have to use their real names and imagine the bragging rights if yours topped theirs on the podium.
- Co-owned by John W. Henry of Roush Fenway Racing
- Hyper realistic cars and tracks
- Pro Racers found on iRacing
Races Per Month: 10+
Races Per Year: over 100
Race Cars: 9
Total Events: 1,300
“We have, on average, more than 30 races a week and 1,400 a year now. The spectrum rivals what is going on during any given week in the real world” says Weiss. Weiss has been racing on the PC for around 8-9 years and has seen the evolution from fringe hobby to structured racing leagues. The graphics cards in computers today simulate ultra smooth graphics and the high-speed connections eliminate any hiccups. The technology of today keeps the competition very tight and more and more racers are eager to get involved.
The car models also have a huge impact on the realism. There are 290+ separate vehicles in the Sim ranging from club racers, rally and open wheel. Manufacturers and race teams are more than willing to provide data from their race programs to the simulations, enhancing the realism. The teams promote their brands and engineering capabilities in the real world and it doesn’t cost them a marketing dime. SimBin Studios, which developed several of the racing simulations utilized by Race2Play, is led by Henrik Roos, himself a multiple FIA GT champion.
Remember, these cars are not immune to mechanical problems either. The Race2Play philosophy of ultra realism means that if you run too much camber, a tire may blow or if you push an engine too hard, the motor will grenade just like at the track.
“Our goal is for everyone to experience the thrill of motorsport firsthand. If you also race in the real world, you can go to the track that much better prepared. But if you race only in the virtual, you can have much the same experience or it” says Weiss. “There really is no off-season anymore and no reason why teams can’t be 110% prepared for events. NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin in the Fed Ex car won at Pocono twice in his rookie year but never raced there before. However, Hamlin had logged 1000s of laps in the virtual world at Pocono.” If that isn’t a testimonial, we don’t know what is.
- Sanctioned by: National Auto Sport Assoc.
- Most Tracks and Cars on the market
- Variable weather and track conditions Live race stewards
Races Per Month: 120+
Races Per Year: 1400+
Race Cars: 294
Total Events: 3,000+