When it comes to sim racing, we see people going crazy about wheels and pedals and rigs but no one talks much about the actual simulator you’re going to spend hours playing.
Picking the right sim can really make or break your sim racing experience. If you’re into road racing and end up playing a lot of Dirt Rally, you’re clearly not going to enjoy yourself as much.
Nearly all sims provide some degree of gameplay into all possible venues of motorsport. There are many good options to choose from; however, the one that stands out is iRacing and for good reason.
iRacing isn’t your standard run of the mill game that you buy once and play the rest of your life. It’s a service for which you pay a monthly fee.
There are car and tracks that you have to buy, leagues that you participate in, licence classes and a lot more to indulge you.
Also read: Sim racing on a budget: Viable or not?
What is iRacing?
iRacing is a pure racing sim at heart, and I mean pure. There is so much attention to detail about every little thing that in the beginning, you’ll struggle to keep some cars in a straight line.
However, don’t let that discourage you. The learning curve is steep, but it’s satisfying. You can control just about every aspect of your driving in terms of setups and the real-world physics is amazing.
The community is also good, for the most part. It makes for some thrilling races that’ll have your heart racing,
There are a number of external programs you can use to enhance your experience even further. CrewChief, Trading Paints and a bunch of overlay applications make playing the game and streaming it a breeze. Besides, it’ll work with pretty much any wheel on the market and yes, it’ll work with gamepads too.
You see, iRacing is a service. Instead of buying the game, you pay a monthly fee and on top of it, you have to buy additional cars and tracks. This increases the cost of playing significantly.
A monthly subscription generally costs about $13 and then you can get one for three months, one year or two years for $33, $110 and $199 respectively. However, discounts for as high as 50% are easily available for new members. In fact, the website has a 50% discount for all new members at the time of writing.
From there on, you can purchase cars for $11.95 and tracks for $14.95. There are discounts on bulk purchases as well.
Now, this is a double-edged sword. While this keeps away casual players who are bound to ruin races for more serious players, it also is the biggest entry barrier to the sim, If you don’t know what you’re doing, the whole thing can get real expensive real quick.
The grind in iRacing is real, very real. Having just one bad race can set you back weeks or even months of progress.
Every player is ranked according to an iRating and Safety Rating. Your licence class is decided based on your Safety Rating.
You run a clean race, you get safety rating. You crash, or someone else crashes into you, you lose your Safety Rating, and you lose it big. That’s why casual players are such a threat in the game. You can be running the race of your life, but a careless backmarker will take you out and suddenly you’ll lose a bunch of safety rating through no fault of your own.
As annoying as this can be, this also is the biggest incentive for players to take the races seriously and not cause chaos. In most races, people race properly and adhere to the rules and that’s what makes iRacing great.
What about the costs then?
The whole experience might seem expensive at first, but it doesn’t really have to be that way.
For one, you could just buy a monthly subscription and not renew it if you’re not planning to race for some time. There are also frequent discounts for newcomers on subscriptions, cars and tracks.
Moving on to cars and tracks, you don’t really need to buy them all at once. I reached license class D without having to buy anything apart from my subscription, which is, by the way, a lot of racing — 90 hours to be precise.
Most races run according to schedules and the tracks keep on changing. Chances are, most probably you’ll already have the car needed. All you need to do is wait until a track you already owns show up in the schedule.
As you progress further in the sim, upgrading your license class you’ll eventually build up a collection of cars and tracks that suit your preferences. And that is the right way to go about the sim.
Why should you prefer iRacing over other sims?
Simply because iRacing gets you as close to track action and real-world driving as a sim can.
The competition is cut-throat and everyone from beginners to professional F1 drivers like Lando Norris, Max Verstappen, Alex Albon and others use the sim.
Sure other sims like Assetto Corsa, Project Cars and DiRT also have some pros using them, but the sheer competition and variety of racing you get on iRacing is unmatched.
iRacing is all about the purest sim-racing experience you’ll get anywhere. It’ll take a lot of hard work, grind and patience to reach the top but you’ll have a lot of fun along the way and that’s what sim racing is all about.
Oh and if you’re good enough, you might just run into an F1 driver in a lobby so there’s that.
Also read: 7 ways to get faster in Sim racing
Someone who writes/edits/shoots/hosts all things tech and when he’s not, streams himself racing virtual cars. You can reach out to Yadullah at [email protected], or follow him on Instagram or Twitter.