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Driving on the Dark Side

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Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Thu Dec 18, 2014 6:35 pm

Thought it was high time to post an iRacing thread up and try to give console racers an idea of what it is like to race on the most popular PC simulation in the world.  A lot of us console racers have wandered off the reservation as of late and dabbled on the "dark side" to give iRacing a try.  It has a lot of drawbacks in terms of expense and equipment, but as console prices have risen this difference has narrowed.  The fact that peripherals such as wheels can be used for both platforms, makes it all the more tempting to try your hand.

Additionally, today's crop of console sims are not producing the kind of fan support and attraction that was expected or previously experienced.  Which is to say that games like Forza 5 and GT6 haven't hit the bulls eye even among their most dedicated fans.  It's not that the sales haven't been there, it's what has happened after the purchase.  These games have lost a lot of their staying power and have noticeably short play lives.  

As great as Forza and Gran Turismo may be, it appears that they fall prey to the short attention span of gaming culture.  Not surprising when you know as I do, that if you make a game with a certain average gamer in mind the result will be something very eye catching and exciting, but only in the short term. That is, your average gamer has the attention span of a hyperactive Chihuahua, and if that's your target market, then your game will naturally reflect that mindset whether you know it or not.

Meanwhile iRacing continues its long slow march to the top by building on essentially the same simulation they have always had, while the console's try to re-invent themselves with each new version they make.  iRacing continues to grow each year, and still retain their original hardcore fans too. Something the consoles haven't learned to do, or simply don't care to. 

With a long list of real racers using iRacing for training and for fun, it is credited for being the most demandingly real simulation to date.  As such, if you have even a touch of gamer ADHD, you won't get very far with it.  iRacing simulation is significantly different and harder than what is offered on console. It takes time to make the transition, and even more time to become somewhat proficient.  This steep learning curve also means you will not be able to jump quickly from class to class and dominate as you perhaps did in games like Forza.  No, things are much more specialized on iRacing.

I picked up iRacing 3 years ago, and recently returned after not playing it for 2 years.  It has little changed, and my old lap records were still in place for me to compare to.  I'm slower than I was, and I wasn't very fast back then.  But with a different attitude these days I'm getting faster quicker this time around.

For now there really isn't anything like iRacing in terms of cash prize money, or challenge.  Project CARS will probably be more like iRacing than its console competitors as it has many of the same frames for its model.  It won't be as difficult, it will be prettier, it will have the simple console conveniences everyone is used to, and be much more pickup and play than iRacing.  I suspect Project CARS will be the first mature sim on a console and not that appealing to, "Chihuahua's."  lol

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Wed Dec 24, 2014 11:33 pm

Just want to continue informing everyone of my experience currently with iRacing.  I hope you all get the chance to take it on. 

iRacing is very clinical and looks like it was mostly put together by motor sports engineers.  This is to say that it has this sterile look to it that isn't nearly as pleasing as Forza or Gran Turismo, and yet it corners the market with some aspects to how it uniquely looks too.  The visuals on tires from the external view for example is very cool and realistic, and the many view points you can use to watch a replay is great.  The replay system itself is flawless and easy to manipulate rapidly.  

There is a racing line you can use, but unlike the console versions of the racing line it is static and not that useful.  The iRacing line is little more than a braking guide, and doesn't change colors according to your velocity.  It has the same green, yellow, red sequence, but the colors are not animated to let you know if you are going too fast or too slow.

The iRacing cars as a rule are prone to heavy over-steer, and everyone tunes their cars to reduce this exaggeration.  This may be the one area that the engineers at iRacing may have misunderstood by being too dogmatic with their simulation.  On the scale that iRacing is at, there are a great many inputs that a human can not fairly perceive in the same way he would with a real car.  Because of this problem, it would make sense to create some compensation code to reflect a more true feeling even at the expense of the hardcore simulation itself.  In other words, since it is impossible to create reality out of a pure simulation so that a human could perceive both the same way, it would be better to focus more on what a human can realistically perceive in the virtual world.  

Making a simulation feel more life like should always be the greater goal.  Anyone can do everything by the numbers to achieve the correct physics model, but this doesn't translate well through a TV screen even if you are spot on.  Instead real life feelings and experiences need to be taken into account, and modifications should be made to alter the human perception to feel more real, even if it means the simulation is technically less accurate by the numbers.

Although the tracks are exact copies they still have an alone feeling about them.  However, they do have good lighting mostly, and the photo-realistic sky and clouds are amazing. 

The actual racing is better than expected.  Practice rooms are a mixed bag and can get rough but no one gets upset.  And with the rating system no one wants contact anyway.  It's all very free flowing.  You can practice whenever you like with others, and do a qualifying just about whenever you like as they are offered about once every 2 hours, and then you can race about every 2 hours if you want.  

The racing is divided into whatever class of car and is mostly not multi-class racing.  There are 10 Divisions plus a rookie Division within each series.  The fast guys are in Div 1.  Currently I'm running in Div 8 in 2 series, the Spec Racer Ford Challenge, where I was leading the series after the first week and 2 wins, and the Grand Touring Cup where I'm in 2nd after 1 win in a Mustang, because I missed the first week.   The GT Cup is a multi-class series with Jetta's and Pontiac Solstices, and the Ford Mustang GT.  Seasons are 12 weeks long.

Due to the ratings system, everyone is nicely placed within groups that should be about the same skill as you, but there are always sandbaggers.  The higher up you are in rating and license, the better and cleaner the drivers become.  Even at my low level the drivers are very clean and respectful.

It takes awhile to get used to the heavy oversteer and the throttle/brake sensitivity.  The stock setups they offer are mostly worthless.  You will have to learn how to tune.  Best advice is go with very small changes until you figure out what works better.  The tuning is truly endless and almost as deep as tuning a real car.

I'm starting to learn how to tune, and am getting faster.  In any class I'm within 2sec per lap of the fast guys usually.  Problem is, you pretty much have to stay with one or two classes to get good at them.  The cars are so different, and the number of tracks are so many, that you need to just pick a class and stick with it, and accept that when you venture outside your regular class, you are going to suck. lol

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by dc67 on Thu Dec 25, 2014 9:49 am

I never moved up to the Xb1 either, it was because MS cheaped out on the power. A coworker sold me a good video card so i built a PC instead and i already have a steering wheel so i am going in a different direction.I loaded up Star Craft and many racing games. I don't know when i will get back to a league,but i miss it. GTDon how many levels are in iracing? Do you feel like you found a new home? I say, make the physics as realistic as possible and you wil probably get used to them..
Next year i might have more time(not talent) to join iracing...

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Thu Dec 25, 2014 2:55 pm

dc67 wrote:I never moved up to the Xb1 either, it was because MS cheaped out on the power. A coworker sold me a good video card so i built a PC instead and i already have a steering wheel so i am going in a different direction.I loaded up Star Craft and many racing games. I don't know when i will get back to a league,but i miss it.  GTDon how many levels are in iracing? Do you feel like you found a new home?     I say, make the physics as realistic as possible and you wil probably get used to them..
   Next year i might have more time(not talent) to join iracing...
Hi dc! Great to hear from you again! To answer your question, there are no "levels" as a console user might typically think about iRacing.  Instead there are licenses, and this dictates how high you go, along with your iRating which is a real time measure of your skill as a driver, not unlike our own IFCA Rating just with a different range of numbers.  So, you can drive any cars that you can afford, after you get a D-License, and then start to work your way up to an A-license.  The series that are offered by iRacing are many, for both oval and road course, and you'll have a different rating and license for both.

iRacing isn't quite my "new home" yet, have to wait and see how Project CARS goes first, but it will probably always be a nice diversion.  The key for me is to get the wheel that works well for both iRacing and XboxOne which is the Thrustmaster TX wheel I believe.  Then I can bounce back ad forth at will.

As for the iRacing physics, they are in a sense too accurate for the limited medium we interact with. It's just a poor combination to have real physics married to unreal interfaces such as a 2D TV and toy-like wheels and pedals.  

Just imagine taking the fastest real car you have, and replacing the actual wheel and pedals with these little plastic mini-versions and then trying to drive the thing!  Works the same way the other way.  Point being if you aren't going to give me real controls, then don't give me life-like physics to struggle with.  There has to be a more realistic balance between the two worlds.  It shouldn't be that you have to re-learn how to drive a virtual car. It should be nearly the same familiar experience and frames of references as a real car feeling.  But it isn't in iRacing.  And this is its flaw.  Project CARS seems to have possibly smoothed this gap over and brought the two closer together.

In the mean time, learning iRacing physics is a long process that you do eventually get used to and start to gain a feel with just like any driving game, but again, why should it be this way?  I already have a real license and have been driving fast cars most of my adult life.  It shouldn't take this long or be this hard.  I'm not the only one who thinks this.  Several real race car drivers have been very unsatisfied with the feel of iRacing as being unrealistic and too penalizing, most notably IMSA GT Champion Tommy Kendall.

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by dc67 on Sat Dec 27, 2014 8:36 pm

If i installed my Fanatec wheel on my Ford i think i would drive my car just fine.. but the point isn't that but if iracing took there sim physics to an over realistic point where just trying to drive straight down a road is difficult..i had that feeling on Rfactor..it would be as bad as arcading it.IMO. Back when i had a 750 Ninja and my friend had a Katana we cruised down the highway at 120mph for miles(dumb) and when we came down to 90mph it felt like we were going 30 mph.so i think our minds can get used to anything.So keeping physics accurate and letting our minds get used to it is the way they should do it ..IMO..TC ,SC can be offered to enlarge there market and collision reaction is a something they can arcade or at least have that option so cars aren't spinning around the track.

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Sat Dec 27, 2014 9:40 pm

dc67 wrote:If i installed my Fanatec wheel on my Ford i think i would drive my car just fine.. but the point isn't that but if iracing took there sim physics to an over realistic point where just trying to drive straight down a road is difficult..i had that feeling on Rfactor..it would be as bad as arcading it.IMO.  Back when i had a 750 Ninja and my friend had a Katana we cruised down the highway at 120mph for miles(dumb) and when we came down to 90mph it felt like we were going 30 mph.so i think our minds can get used to anything.So keeping physics accurate and letting our minds get used to it is the way they should do it ..IMO..TC ,SC can be offered to enlarge there market and collision reaction is a something they can arcade or at least have that option so cars aren't spinning around the track.


Sure, I can give you that dc, the Fanatec wheel would work, you could control your car with it if you had to, but it wouldn't be as good as any real wheel comparatively is my point.  It's a 1/7th scale flimsy toy-like plastic wheel with (comparatively) zero feel, to the rubber wrapped full size steal wheel in your real car using rack in pinion or electronic power steering. 


Yeah, you could control your real car with the CSR, but would you want to race with it? lol  No!  It's not good enough to race with in a real car, not even close! And neither are the pedals!  I can say this because I too have a Fanatec wheel and elite pedals, and as good as they are, they aren't real-world level peripherals by any stretch of the imagination.  They don't have the control and sensitivity of the real thing, but they are expected to by the iRacing physics, and this isn't fair to them. 


So yeah, for now the physics are much closer to reality in iRacing than the peripherals are, but until that gap is closed by offering better wheels and pedals, and maybe "Oculus" with a full motion rig, there is going to be this very unfamiliar feel between the driver and the virtual world.  


A smarter and I think sharper way to address this issue is to focus on the abstract feelings drivers get from driving rather than the pure physics, so that the experience is immediately familiar to them.  I've been driving for the better part of 4 decades, I think I know what I should feel behind the wheel of a car, even if it is just a simulation. And like I said, this isn't just my opinion, real race car drivers have stated the same about iRacing. 


On the other hand, over at Project CARS, there seems to be some gossip that a major breakthrough has been made in this regard, and this is also coming from actual real-world racers like Top Gears "Stig." 

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Sun Jan 04, 2015 11:19 am

I'm doing pretty good still thanks to Vator setups in Spec Ford.  I still lead the season in all categories i.e., season points, time trial, and qualifying.  But this is still only Div 8.  I seem to be better than most of the drivers in this Div, so the iRacing computer may have miscalculated where to place me.  I'm usually running at a Div 6 pace, and sometimes even at Div 2 for a lap or two.  That's not bad in one of the hardest cars to drive in iRacing.  The Spec Ford is the true "little bastard" of iRacing.  It is the least forgiving, and the most sensitive.  At top speed of around 125mph it hunts around rather than go in a straight line even! lol

The real car (which I have driven) is sort of like this, but more stable, and more bumpy at the same time.  It only let's go at the extreme limit, which tells me that most iRacing drivers are well past the limits, and the reason why the car is always spinning out.  We just can't easily tell where the limits are in the virtual world partly because we have no fear as with the real car, and partly because so many sensations of motion are absent.  You really have to dial things back until you get used to filling in the blanks of the performance envelope in the simulation car.  With the real car, you pretty much know about where you are at with the car right away, and how much you should press your luck vs your skill.  In the real car you can go very fast way before the car gets away from you.  In the virtual car it's almost the exact opposite.  The car gets away from you way before you think you are going fast.

Due to the non-compliant difficulty of the Spec Ford, I highly recommend that you use it first.  It will help your driving iRacing skills a lot when you drive the other cars.

I'm also entered in another series called the Grand Touring Cup, a multiclass series with a Solstice, Jetta, and Ford Mustang GT.  I drive the faster of the 3 Mustang, and though I missed the first race of three so far, I'm in a solid 2nd place in points.  I lead the seasons Time Trial and Qualifying too.  

The Mustang is pretty easy to drive but has a lot of weight to it, and is virtually a stock production machine with 375hp.  Grip is low, and it is easy to throw it away in a corner, not unlike a real production car on a real track.  But it is fun to drive.

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Mon Feb 02, 2015 11:17 am

Well that was fun while it lasted.  We entered the 24 hours of Daytona, with a sound strategy, and about half way through after gaining the lead in the ALMS P2 Honda, one of our drivers had a disconnect, but with the flexibility of the PC platform I was able to take control, tow the driverless car in and resume the race.  We went down 3 laps to the leader, but began to make some time up and that's when it happened.  During a driver change, the iRacing gods decided they didn't like team IFCAracing.com anymore, and spawned a small tornado right on top of our pit box, tossing our car all over and slamming it down on the ground in a crumpled heap!  Race over.

I'm told no one has seen that kind of glitch before, but have only heard of it.

Me, Corwin, Vator, and Posi were the drivers for team IFCAracing.com, and we finished a disappointing 6th in Div 3.  I got the team pole with a 1:36.3, and fastest race lap with a 1:37.4.  Somewhat surprising since I was the least experienced driver.  Oh well, time to move on the Sebring 12 hours in a GT3 car.

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by MTBVator on Mon Feb 02, 2015 2:06 pm

It is less forgiving than the console games I've driven, for sure. Not as bad as the first time you tried "SIM-steering" on a controller, though.

The Spec Ford Racer (SFR) Don mentions is a challenging car. I always tuned in FORZA as if I were tuning a real car, no glitchy zero compression, full rebound crap. iRacing has no such glitches to be taken advantage of. The baseline tunes, in many of the cars come from popular users of the forums. They are usually stable setups, but not always. The Aliens (people from Finland) and such create tunes that are capable of getting around the track the quickest, in their hands. "Loose is fast", but only if you can keep it up for a minimum of thirty minutes. (about the shortest races on the service, beyond the rookie class.).

Work is interrupting this painful phone typed message.

In Iracing, smooth control inputs are key! Here is a link to an introductory offer that is a pretty smoking deal. Fit the cost of two trips to Starbucks, three months of Iracing. Develop your own opinion. If you join the service, my username is ' Brian Bennett5 '. Friend me through their system, I'll meet in a lobby and try to explain the high points and coach driving and using the site as I can. It is not as user friendly for chat sessions and such, but there are ways around that.

https://members.iracing.com/membersite/SubscriptionSelection.do?promotion_code=PR-2015NASCARDAYTONA

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by F4H Diablo on Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:51 am

Hi guys!

Been a while. I've been bit by the iRacing bug as well. I've been on since December before last, but I only do iRacing while I'm home on my rig. I can't bring that stuff to school with me. Another few months and I'll have my Bachelors, so there's that.

The Finns definitely are aliens. Seriously, the learning curve for iRacing is so much steeper than Forza or any console game. I primarily race in GT3 and I've dabbled in the ovals with the SK Modified. Normally I'm normally 1-2 seconds off pole when I'm home in GT3, and would be top 10/15 if I was racing full time GT3 in Division 2.

I experienced a similar fate at Daytona, we (IFCA, F4H, and LMR) were all in the same room racing together. I started the first 3 hours perfectly, but when we swapped drivers, things went awry and the car was destroyed. So we DNFed after about 5 hours. We will be back for Sebring.

If any of y'all wanna catch me on iRacing, add "Tyler Jones". I can't tune, so don't ask me for that, I just download the Finns' setups XD

Other than that, see you on pCars on the XB1!
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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Fri Feb 27, 2015 5:35 pm

Good to see you Diablo!  

Glitches like that are so bad!  We are going to switch to the BMW for Sebring. 

Can't wait for PCARS!

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by dc67 on Fri Mar 06, 2015 8:24 pm

How's the dark side now? Is Darth your master yet? Do you still play Forza 5? Do you have a wheel that does PC/X1 ?

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Fri Mar 06, 2015 8:50 pm

dc67 wrote:How's the dark side now? Is Darth your master yet? Do you still play Forza 5?  Do you have a wheel that does PC/X1 ?

Funny you should ask dc!  I did "pretty good" running in 2 different series at the same time in my first iRacing series events. (not recommended) Should have only done 1 series.  We're talking 1 race per week for 12 weeks, x2, plus doing the Time Trial and separate Qualifying events.  I ended up winning the TT in both series too.

You can only gain about 85 points each round, and in the "Spec Racer Ford Challenge" I ended up winning the season championship in my division (div.8) by 95 points I think?  The season isn't over until Monday technically.

Over in their "Grand Touring Cup" utilizing a Ford Mustang, I won the season by 164 points, even though I missed the first week.

But these are in-div results.  Div 8 is the second slowest of the 10 divisions. In GTCup there were only 97 drivers in my div.  Over all divisions there were 1,360 drivers, and I finished 73rd overall.  

In Spec Ford there are 245 drivers in my div, div 8.  Overall there are 2,743 drivers, and I placed 123rd.    In Time Trials I'm in a higher division, div. 6.  I still won my division, and out of 745 drivers who took part, I was 20th.   I seem to be better at TT's.  A TT is when you must run so many laps in a row, perfectly clean (without penalty) to get an average lap time of the 6 laps.

Back in the GTCup with the Mustang there were far fewer drivers competing in the TT portion too, only 288, and I ended up in the top 10, or 8th place overall in TTs.

It's interesting that I'm vastly better at TT's than at racing now.  I think this is because I have the skill to set good laps if unmolested on the track.  There's a lot more bad luck in racing than in hot lapping certainly.  

Running fast in traffic takes more confidence to do even if you are capable of running fast laps.  It takes a while to build that confidence up.  As a new driver in iRacing, with a lot of experience in other simulations, it makes sense that I can do well at hot lapping, but not so strong at racing.   This can flip though, and you can eventually be better at racing than hot lapping once you are supremely confident at racing hard and close lap after lap.  

I won't be doing any more series events (due to work) but will occasionally compete (as time permits) in special endurance team events.  We have a team to do this between me, Corwin, Vator, and Posimosh.  Our team name?  IFCAracing.com of course! lol

I'm still waiting to buy the right wheel for Project CARS and iRacing.  As for my impression of a full season in two different series, it was good.  Mostly very clean racing and good manners out there in iRacing land.  Going back to Forza 5 now and again, and you start to see the stark differences between the two.  The iRacing feel is that of a sanitized clinical feeling.  Not ugly, but relentlessly obsessed with race craft even to the exclusion of the cars themselves if that makes sense.  What I mean is, there really isn't much passion for the cars, they are simply tools to get the job done.  It's sad in a way, because you'd like a little more passion for what you are driving in.  Forza over corrects for this by placing all the emphasis on the passion for the cars, and none on race craft.  So they are truly opposites.  As for the look, though more sterile, iRacing has a better look to it than Forza 5.  FM5 is nearly cartoonish by comparison and really shows its intent to be the best arcade sim in the world.  Going from iRacing to FM5 really shows Forza to lack any seriousness to what they are doing.  It definetly has a half a s s look and direction to it that shouts, "I'm a car show game, not a racing game!" lol

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12hrs of Sebring

Post by AAR GTDon on Sun Mar 29, 2015 5:49 am

Me, Vator, and Posi ran the 12hrs of Sebring, and did well.  No podium, but nailed a strong top 10 finish in our IFCA BMW GT3 car!


Team IFCAracing.com ended up 6th! Mostly thanks to Vator in that he put in the most laps, (175) and ran the fastest pace and cleanest. (2:05.468) 

I had a real hard time of it, and just wasn't on my game.  Not sure why, just one of those off days you get where every corner seems like a treacherous struggle. Ran 81 laps with an average 2:06.477.  Posi did well with a 2:07.040, and 83 laps.

the field was rated at 2309

Average number of laps per incident:
Vator 1 incident every 11.66laps
GTDon 1 incident every 11.57laps
Posi 1 incident every 5.53laps


Fastest laps
Vator 2:02.218
GTDon 202.664
Posi 2:04.246


Places in our Divisions
Vator Div 2= 47th
GTDon Div 3= 24th
Posi Div 6= 1st!


We all gained safety rating BIG too.  Our performance mirrored our ratings in general. Vator 3105, GTDon 1743, Posi 1296


Really good effort by everyone.  I few less errors, and we could have snatched a 3rd place I think!   Well done!

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Tue Apr 07, 2015 2:06 pm

After winning my division in 2 different series and doing two endurance events with driver swaps, I'm at the point where I'm getting a good feel for iRacing. It's not all rainbows and unicorns however. iRacing is precise to a fault and requires top of the line peripherals such as wheels and pedals and multi-screen monitors for best results. My Fanatec CSR wheel is starting to feel clunky and loose, but my elite pedals are still good as gold. I'm told that the Thrustmaster TX wheel is more precise, but the pedals blow, and early versions were melting down. Fanatec has a new wheel coming out but they want more than twice as much for it.

As for the game play (I know, it's a simulator) for as good as iRacing is, it still falls somewhat short of the consoles in the fun factor department. It is fun, but lacks the free play and free association that the console sims have. What I like to call the "what if" factor is not very strong in iRacing. Like what if we (fill in the blank here) we did this? With Forza and Gran Turismo there are limitless "what if's" in terms of racing format, and car and track combinations for example. iRacing has a limited car selection of race cars and no street cars is why. Add to this no way to setup private races without paying for it, and the crude communications, and the playability starts to suffer a little. Basically what you end up doing is preprogrammed practice rounds, isolated hot lapping, or random hosted sessions, before you race for ratings and series points.

It's not all bad, just constricted is all. There is a huge track selection and great physics, and meaningful racing to compensate for the lack of cars and freedom to do what you like.

Overall, the clinical detail of the iRacing experience can and does reduce the emotional connection you are used to getting from the consoles, and this takes away from the fun factor.

Still, iRacing is a must have because the very best racers in the world use it, and I mean real racers as well as simulation. You want to test your skills? Then this is the real deal.


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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by MTBVator on Mon Jun 01, 2015 11:26 pm

iRacing Roolz!

Nurburgring is going to be great, though I really look forward to the GP course over the Nordschlieffe. I have not been getting in as many quality races in the Advanced MX-5 cup as I did in the Spec Ford.

SPA is coming, 24 hours, I think.

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Re: Driving on the Dark Side

Post by AAR GTDon on Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:21 pm

MTBVator wrote:iRacing Roolz!

Nurburgring is going to be great, though I really look forward to the GP course over the Nordschlieffe. I have not been getting in as many quality races in the Advanced MX-5 cup as I did in the Spec Ford.

SPA is coming, 24 hours, I think.

Nice to hear Vator! iRacing is an altogether different animal from anything else, mostly positives IMO.

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