Ever wanted to be a real race car driver? Can’t stand the fact that there’s little to no racing to see during quarantine and have the itch? Well, thanks to iRacing.com, you can fix that problem right now!
2019 Snowball Derby winner Travis Braden has offered up this guest post on Speed51 that details how to begin iRacing.
Why iRacing is Gaining Popularity
The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent self-quarantine measures most of us are now taking have inadvertently helped shine a huge spotlight on this very realistic racing simulator. With fans and drivers alike all missing out on racing for the foreseeable future, many of us have fulfilled our void with virtual races on iRacing. From short tracks to NASCAR racing, drivers have come together to host some incredible races and share them to the world with live-streamed broadcasts.
A week ago (Sunday, March 22), NASCAR and Fox Sports even aired a race live on FS1 in place of the postponed Homestead-Miami Speedway NASCAR Cup Series event. Over 30 past and present NASCAR drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Bobby Labonte and Denny Hamlin all competed in the history-making first-ever eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series event. Familiar broadcasters Mike Joy, Jeff Gordon, and Larry McReynolds made the show that much more fulfilling. Denny Hamlin inched past Dale Earnhardt, Jr. for the win in a thrilling last-lap battle that also involved Timmy Hill and Garrett Smithley.
Now, thanks to a huge amount of support and engagement from fans, NASCAR and Fox Sports have decided to air more races in the Pro Invitational Series until real racing can resume. This week’s race took place at Texas Motor Speedway and saw Timmy Hill steal the win in a bold late-race move to take the lead from William Byron. Next weekend, Sunday, April 5, FS1 will be broadcasting the third round from Bristol Motor Speedway.
Oh, wait, did I mention that this isn’t just a NASCAR racing simulator? It’s actually not even just a pavement racing simulator. From Street Stocks, to Modifieds, Late models, and even Midgets and Sprint Cars, iRacing has it all – both on asphalt and dirt tracks. You can also find road racing with everything from sports cars to Formula One and IndyCar, or you can go for a more “off-road” style and get into a Rallycross or Pro Truck race.
Though this simulator has been around for over a decade, iRacing is really just at the beginning of what will likely be a huge growth period for the simulator. PC technology and hardware has become much cheaper and more readily available, and virtual racing is growing a huge audience via live-streaming services and now TV broadcasts.
Why iRacing is For You
The service is not a video game and thus has never really catered its branding to the casual gamer, but all of this buzz is boosting the sim’s brand awareness and new “iRacers” are being spawned by the minute. The company’s focus has always been primarily on realistic physics models and precision scans of the tracks and cars it renders, rather than any “arcade-like” features. That means you aren’t going to just jump on and turn a bunch of settings up to help you go fast. You really have to learn how to drive a race car. But don’t worry – the system is set up to pair you with other racers of the same caliber when you start out so that you can learn and progress with time. You won’t be on the track with Dale Jr. on day one, but work hard and you’ll eventually find yourself racing against some of the world’s best drivers!
So. what’s the coolest part about all this for you – the avid racing fanatic? Anyone, that means YOU, can get in on the fun! iRacing.com is open to the public. And right now, you’ll be likely to be on-track with some real-life drivers in their natural habitat (kinda) as they’re stranded in a seemingly alternate universe where real racing no longer exists.
To get started, all you need is a decent PC (laptops can even work) with a stable internet connection and Windows 8.1 or newer, a gaming steering wheel and pedals, and a subscription on iRacing.com. As a perk, iRacing.com is currently offering 50% off pricing for new memberships. That means just $6.50 for a one-month trial, or just $55.00 for a 1-YEAR membership! Find this great deal below: https://www.iracing.com/membership/
Please note that while iRacing.com includes many cars and tracks in your initial membership purchase, there are hundreds more that require individual purchases, which typically range between $10-15 each. I’d anticipate buying around 10 additional items within your first year as you progress and will want to race more.
If you want to get started iRacing today but want more detailed info about the hardware you’ll need (computer, wheels, monitors, VR), continue reading below for my personal guide to deciding what gear to buy and how to make your first laps!
iRacing Beginner’s Guide: The Hardware You’ll Need
As I touched on, all you will need to get started are these three basic pieces of hardware:
A computer – PC or Laptop
A gaming steering wheel and pedals assembly
A stand to mount your wheel and pedals (I used a desk or table for 10 years)
Now, like anything else, keep in mind that there can be a ton of options and variations for these items – thus you’ll have to decide how serious you want to take this to get started and, basically, how much money you want to spend. When I started iRacing in high school, I used my laptop that I already owned for schoolwork and mounted my wheel to a desk in my parents’ house while the pedals sat on the floor. My initial investment was around $150 for a wheel and pedals, and around $50 for a six-month subscription. I used this setup for almost 10 years (though there were a few laptop replacements of course), and I was able to compete at a very high level with it. It’s all about getting used to your “rig,” whatever that may look like.
To start the process, let’s make sure your PC or laptop is capable of running iRacing. Most modern computers will be. Go to iRacing.com’s automatic system checker to see.
If your computer doesn’t meet these requirements, you’ll most likely need to invest in a new one. Even if your system does meet the requirements, you might eventually decide that you’d like to upgrade to get a smoother feel or better graphics overall. Below are my desktop PC recommendations from Amazon, starting with the cheapest option and going up to some that will run this sim “wide-open!” There are currently some awesome deals! Keep in mind when browsing that the most important component for a gaming computer is the graphics card, AKA the “GPU.”
Now here are what I have found as the best options if you’d like to stay versatile with a laptop:
A sub-component of your desktop PC that you need to pay attention to is the monitor, or monitors. You can even enhance your laptop gaming experience by using a monitor. Some people like to use a triple-monitor setup, which is great, but understand that you will definitely need a higher-end PC (GPU specifically) to run such a demanding setup without issues. You’re asking it to do triple the work so you’ll need triple the graphics processing power. When looking for a monitor, I consider these factors:
Response time – This is really what makes the difference in a gaming monitor and a TV, which some users try to use instead. You want the lowest possible response time, as this reduces the “lag” between when you make an input on your wheel and when it shows happens on your screen. Most good monitors are 1 millisecond or less, and there are plenty reasonably-priced monitors in this range, so I recommend spending the few extra bucks. You’ll be glad you did.
Refresh rate – The frequency at which your monitor is “displaying” the graphics. A 60 Hz monitor renders 60 “frames per second” basically. This goes hand-in-hand with response time – you don’t want to get a low frequency monitor because you may feel disoriented while driving. I use a 60 Hz monitor and I’m very pleased. Just be mindful, though, that the higher you go, the more powerful graphics card you will need. It does you no good to have a 144 Hz monitor when your graphics card is topping out at 70-80 frames per second.
Resolution – Resolution is obviously a “the more the better” deal too, but just be mindful that the higher resolution you buy, the more powerful graphics card you’ll need. So just don’t go buy an entry-level computer and try to pair it with a 4K monitor. It will work, but you’ll be getting much lower quality graphics than what the monitor is capable of. A safe bet if you’re starting out is a 1080p monitor.
Size – Simply the size of your monitor. Obviously, bigger is better, and there is really no additional graphics power requirement if you do get a larger monitor. I have a 28-inch monitor and it is a great upgrade over my old 21-incher. Below are my recommendations, starting with the most basic and low-cost option that a lower-tier PC will power just fine. My favorite for starters are the Acer bmiix monitors, at well below $200.
Wheels and Pedals
When it comes to this, I think you shouldn’t worry too much if you’re a first-timer. I have had low-end wheels that are “sloppy” and I’ve had newer, high end wheels. In all honesty, it’s more about what you’re used to and what force feedback settings you like. That being said, I’d recommend a mid-range wheel like the Logitech G29 (or the very similar G920). Below are some of the solid options on Amazon.
This category is totally personal preference and there are countless options. I raced for 10 years with my pedals on the floor and wheel mounted to a table or desk. In a lot of ways, I would almost still prefer that because I like being able to sit in a certain position that a lot of stands don’t adjust for that. I wouldn’t be afraid to start out with no cockpit stand, but here are a few good options on Amazon.
If you get really into sim racing, you might want to take things to the next level with a virtual reality headset. I won’t get too into this, but it’s a really cool new technology that you could consider trying out if you have a high-end PC. A VR headset gives you a much larger field of vision (FOV), to add to “immersion” and give you a sense of peripheral vision that you don’t have with a single monitor at all, and is still hard to achieve with a triple monitor setup. Below are the most popular models to-date.
I hope this post has provided useful information for those of you who may be interested in purchasing your first iRacing simulator subscription. I understand how hard it may be to navigate all the vastly varying products available to purchase.
-Guest post by Travis Braden