I’ve been dabbling in iRacing for a while (I think since July last year, actually) – the really quite serious and generally thought of as the “go to” racing sim. My dirty, dark secret up until now though is that I’ve never been in an actual race. Sure, I’ve spend hours and hours on the track – often with other people – but it’s all been test and practice sessions. Sessions that don’t count towards my “iRating” or “Safety rating” – both of which combine to dictate whhich cars I’m allowed to drive competitively.
The reason for not actually racing has been a mix of fear and consistency. Fear of the seriousness of it all – the pressure of being in an “official” race, of really not wanting to screw up and have a massive crash, ruining my safety rating and pissing everyone off. Consistency is a much more complicated beast – I can drive a car, and I can drive it pretty quick, but stringing a large amount of tidy, consecutive laps together has been a bit of an issue. Or was, something’s clicked.
I’ve done a fair chunk of reading and watching videos of driving theory lately and it seams that something’s sunk in. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been breaking best lap times all over the place and having a much easier time staying on track every time I head out – be it in iRacing, Project CARS, or F1. And, to be honest, I think it’s mostly down to this:
Sir Jackie Stewart talking about driving Monaco and driving smoothly in general, then by extension I saw this:
Which really hammers some points home. Drive smooth, let the car settle, don’t accelerate until the car is ready. Fast is smooth, smooth is slow is what I think Jenson Button said, and it’s very very true – plus it’ll stop you dumping the car in the gravel.
Anyway, my first race. I was out on track for a practice session and I was lapping quicker and much more consistently than the others, so I thought it was about time to actually race. iRacing works with sessions – so a race session will start at 9.00, then another one at 9.30 and so on. There are also qualifying sessions which let you set a time for a circuit and then that is then your qualifying time for that circuit for any race session you care to join for a week. I chose not to set a qualifying time for now, which would set me at the back of the grid meaning I couldn’t drastically fuck up on turn one.
I join a race, there are 12 people on the grid and it’s put me in the middle of the pack. “Oh god.”. Seems only half have elected to set a qualifying time, and it must have placed the rest of us in the order of either warmup times (you get a couple of minutes practice before everyone lines up on the grid) or order that we joined, placing me in 7th. Whatever, let’s get on with it.
This is what we’re looking at for Okayama Short. The guy laps slightly faster than I can, but you get the idea.
Turn 1 is a fast U-turn leading to a short downhill straight. Turn 2 is a tight right-hander which you carry a lot of speed into, and it leads immediately into a chicane that if you mess up will lose you a large amount of time because it leads onto another straight. I think about how I’m going to take these tidily while surrounded by traffic. Ok, I’m seventh on the grid. I rev my engine, wait for the lights. Green. I miss it. Bad start. Someone passes on my right hand side but the car in front of him messes up turn one leaving me to cruise around wide on the left. I pick up to sixth and hammer down the straight and fly into the hairpin. It’s going well.
Not well enough. Someone’s on top of me in the chicane but I hold my line. We jostle for position and then something goes wrong. I’m not sure what happened but I slip out, he slips out and we’re both in the gravel. Luckily I’m facing the right way and there’s no damage so I get back on track and look at getting my position back.
Hunting down the car in front isn’t much of an issue – I get onto him in a couple of laps and start looking for somewhere to overtake. We’re around the back of the circuit when, for whatever reason, his car slips with me right behind it. I don’t handle the situation well and fly into the back of him, spinning him completely and throwing myself into a wall. My wheels are broken, the car won’t turn. I have to get a tow back to the pits and wait for repairs (you are teleported to the pit lane as a counter times down). It takes over 2 minutes to get back going. My race is shot, but I carry on.
The rest of the race is a clean run to the finish. I overtake a car that had lapped me in my extended pit time and the leaders engine blew up on his penultimate lap, but I finish in seventh with a couple of retirements below me and a faster average lap time of the guy above me by over a second. And that was my first race – and I come away having learned several things:
1: It’s not as scary as I thought it would be. 2: people aren’t assholes if you fuck up. 3: I can drive iRacing competitively. 4: I can’t wait for my next race. I shouldn’t have left it this long, but I’m sort of glad I did. To come in and be able to drive cleanly (relatively) has boosted my confidence no end, and I’m really looking forward to this new venture of actual, competitive racing online.