Archive for August, 2008

My next 12 weeks of iRacing (or my first full season…)

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

My Helmet Design

This season I am planning on concentrating on the Advanced Solstice series as my primary series. I really enjoyed driving the rookie car over the last four weeks and the prospect of a full 12 week schedule with more variation of tracks and basic setup options is really appealing to me.

This means that each week whatever iRacing time I have spare will be spent with the Advanced Solstice, learning the tracks and setting up the car. Sunday – Wednesday will typically be spent in the practice and time trial sessions, so that I can become competitive and consistent. Then, from Thursday – Saturday I will typically go in for the qualifying and race sessions.

During weeks when I can go through this process quickly (such as if its a track I already know, or a setup I have already made) I might have some time to dabble in some of the other series. When this happens I will look to compete in the Skip Barber and Mazdas (but only on tracks I already own and know well). I’ll also like to have a few races in the rookie legends car as I miss the oval racing I used to do a few years back.

I think the first chance of racing the Skippy is going to be next week (week 3) when the series moves to Summit Point. The Advanced Solstice series is at Laguna so I should be competitive from the get-go, and I know Summit Point fairly well too, so hopefully next week will see a few races from me in both categories. It’ll also be the first time I can see the division I’ve been allocated too as well which should be interesting.

Rookie Season Review – Summer C

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

My Helmet Design

I joined iRacing at the ideal time, week 8 of the 12 week season, but more importantly week 1 of the 4 week rookie season. This meant I could participate in a full 4 week rookie season, the end of which would coincide with the main end of season and I could get the D licence. All I needed was two races or four time trials.

From the outset I decided to put the oval racing on the back burner for now. I do enjoy oval racing and even raced in a few races of ESCORS league (which was brilliant fun) but I’ve always preferred the challenge of track racing (specifically open wheeled racing) and so my rookie season was going to be spent driving the rookie Solstice.

I spent the first few days firmly living in the practice and time trial sessions, slowly getting used to a new car, new track, and the safety rating system in place. I have to admit my first laps in time trial with a ‘live’ incident system were quite tense! In hindsight it was stupid to even worry about it.

After a few sessions I jumped into my first iRacing race. It was…….. interesting!

I was car #7 in a field of 11 and I started 4th. First mistake was that I didn’t really know the start procedure so when I found myself on the grid I didn’t know if we would do a pace lap or anything. With the general confusion I dropped to 8th on lap 1. I got into my groove after this and my lap times were coming down nicely….until lap 5. On the final turn, closing into car #6 I shifted gear and my car lost all drive completely… the revs dropped away. I pulled over to the pit wall and frantically attempted to get the car moving again (to no avail) while the world passed me by. The car was having none of it and so I reset to the pit. After a bit more meddling I discovered my pedal cable had become slightly loose and was unplugged!! I thought it was some mechanical failure that was built into the sim! At the end of all this I soldiered on to a last place finish (11th) and a best lap of 1:51:064.

Quite a memorable first race! I had another attempt later in the day (to get my weekly points average up) and finished 3rd with 0 incidents.

I carried onto week two, Lime Rock Park, a track I had never raced before. It took me some time to get used to it but by the end of the week I was ready for a race. I took second and 89 points.

Week 3 took us back to Laguna Seca and I managed to fit in one race during the week, a second place netting me 94 points. The average strength of field of my races was slowly increasing (and presumably my iRating too, although unknown to me as a rookie driver).

Finally the series got to week 4 and so I was looking for a strong finish to bolster my series challenge (a good result in week 4 would cause the week 1 disaster to be my ‘drop’ week). I had a good qualifying lap in and found myself starting on pole for the first time!

But it was not to be…. I made an excellent getaway and as I navigated turn one my PC locked up! I had to do a car reset and I was one lap down. It was another nightmare race (I also managed to spin my car due to overdriving) and I ended up 8th and a lap down. I was the second highest rated driver on the grid. I took 18 points and so I finished my rookie season thus :

Rookie Solstice 62nd / 1926 (247 points)
Rookie Solstice Time Trial 38th / 1563 (266 points)

I was still pretty happy with the results as I knew I was never going to be top ten. The PC lockup in my final race prompted me to upgrade my PC (every cloud has a silver lining and all that).

Prior to the end of the season I also completed the four time trials needed to get my oval D licence as well – I might as well get it as it was easy to achieve.

I really enjoyed the rookie series and I decided that I liked the car enough to stick with it into the next season, where I will be concentrating on the Advanced Solstice series (full 12 week series).

Initial thoughts on iRacing

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

My Helmet Design

I start this iRacing blog several weeks after I began racing in the service, and so I’ve already had several weeks to become acclimatised to the good and bad points of the sim. Following my invite I signed up for a one month trial (the only option available) on June 26th with the general idea of trying it out and seeing if I felt it came good on all the promise and hype.

I was immediately impressed – I feel it sets new standards in many areas that other sims have not been able to get close to. The physics and detail (both in vehicle and laser scanned tracks) contribute to an incredibly immersive experience, and this is complemented by an excellently integrated website (the entire sim runs from the website) which really cements the feeling that every lap you do is charted and contributes to your ‘career’. Along with this is excellent network code – in races the majority of cars appear to be ‘rock solid’ and every race I’ve had could have been a LAN race for all I could tell. A certain element of this is going to be the clever masking of latency and warping (i.e. the cars are still ‘wobbling’ but we don’t see it), but even so I’ve had many close races where lag has not been an issue at all.

I don’t intend on writing an exhaustive opinion here and now (my general thoughts will ebb out over the next few weeks) but in interests of balance there are also some areas that I feel are lacking currently. These features are well known already so I’m not achieving any great service re-iterating them here but here they are nonetheless…

1. For a sim that is four years in development, and considering they didn’t start with a blank canvass (instead drawing on elements of the Nascar Racing 2003 Season codebase) it is still heavily feature incomplete. Pit stops, flags, mechanical damage are all missing to name a few, and some of these things are pretty fundamental. I’d rather see these areas delivered on sooner rather than later (and certainly before a deluge of new cars and tracks appears).

2. It is clearly early days yet. A lot of the back end functionality is missing, such as being able to see when your friends are racing, or comparing stats with them etc. At the moment, participation in a series is a bit weird when there are over 2000 drivers in the tables! The counter argument to this is “would I have preferred it if they held the release for another six to twelve months?” – NO. I’m sure all these areas are being worked on, bit by bit.

I think that’ll do it for now as a quick summary of how I feel the service stands today. I’ll post shortly on my experiences in the first four weeks of my rookie season and my first races.