Now that we have covered the series career ladder, it is time to address the ladder within each series. Yes, just when you thought you climbed your way all the way into the series you want to race in, you approach the foot of a new ladder. This post will talk about how you rise to the top of your series.
As we discussed earlier, iRacing is separated into different license classes. This determines which cars you can drive. Within each of these classes are structures that help keep people competing with the same groups of people. All of these groups are determined by your iRating. If you are just joining, iRating is essentially your skill rating. It is a measure of how good you are versus your competitors.
We are going to start with the most basic of divisions and that is your split. As you know NASCAR only has 43 cars per race; the Indy 500 only has 33 grid spots. iRacing has over 50,000 members and many of them want to participate in these races, how can they all participate.
Splitting a race is as simple as it sounds. If 66 people sign up for the Indy 500, they will be split into two races of 33, if 67 people sign-up they will be split into races of 23, 22, and 22.
The split you race in is determined by your iRating. This is so that you are placed in races with people of similar skill level as you. All the iRatings of the participants are averaged to determine the strength of field (SOF). This number plays a role in the difficulty of your competition and the number of championship points you gain in a race. Naturally a higher SOF = stiffer competition and more points. You want to get yourself into the top splits of your series.
*Difference in overall stats between Top Split and the bottom split.
Top Split vs. top splits
(Notice the difference) Different series have different determinations of top splits. Some series such as the NASCAR Oval series consider the top 3 splits to be the top splits. Very popular series may consider the top 5 splits as the top splits; however, other lower participation series Split 1 may be the top split. The Top Split is the pinnacle of the series; this is the race people aim to be in. The Top Split is the highest SOF split during the peak in series activity. For example, the top NASCAR drivers in the service get together and decide to race on Thursday nights at 7 and 9 PM; therefore, you must aim to get into the highest SOF split at this time. You may be in the top split at other points during the week, but if you are not in the first split on peak race night, you are not a Top Split driver.
Being a Top Split driver is your ticket to winning an overall championship (more further down). This is the split that everyone wants to be in. Continuous development of your skills is necessary to attain and maintain Top Split status.
Faults of the Splitting System
There are two major faults to the race splitting system. They are non-split races and races where you are the split. Some people look at these as faults, but depending on your situation, they could be opportunities.
Non-split races are exactly as they sound, they are races that don’t split. Everyone is in the same race. It will be possible to have a driver with an iRating of 6000 paired with a driver with an iRating of 800 and all in between. For the 6000 rating driver, this couldn’t be much worse. Unless there are a number of other drivers with similar ratings, you pretty much have to win in order not to lose rating. For the 800 rating driver, this is an opportunity to gain significant amounts of rating and test yourself against more skilled racers.
The second circumstance is when you are the split. You are either the last driver in a more skilled split, or the first driver in a less skilled split. Essentially, your race could go from “nothing to lose” to “everything to lose,” though most of the time this is inconsequential as the competition is so close. If you are placed in the bottom of a higher split, this is an opportunity to establish yourself in that split. If iRacing decides to place you at the top of the next split, you need to prove yourself out of it.
Splits are very important in determining your skill in a series. You will continuously travel in between splits in your career. You will go up, and you will go down. Some will ascend faster than others, it is not a big deal overall. As long as you are happy with who you are racing against, then it doesn’t matter what split you are in.
Divisions are championship battles throughout an entire season. iRacing sets up 10 divisions per series with Division 1 being the highest and 10 the lowest. You are placed in a division at the beginning of a season based on your iRating. You cannot move up and down divisions until the conclusion of a season.
Let’s say you start your season with an iRating (iR) of 1000. iRacing does not give its qualifications for divisions so let’s say you are placed in division 6. You are placed in a division of 46 drivers and at the end of the season you finish 2nd in division and up your iR to 1800. The next season iRacing places you in Division 4, this division has more skilled drivers and a bit closer completion. Let’s say you have a fantastic season of racing, but the competition is really stiff and you finish 12th in your division with an iR of 2750. The next season iRacing bumps you up to Division 2. Etc. etc. until you reach Division 1. It is much easier to move divisions in lower divisions and tougher in upper ones. You will spend most of your time in the Top 3 divisions than in the bottom 7.
So what is the point of divisions? Divisions divide up the competition so that you are not competing in the same points battle as drivers more or less skilled than yourself. It allows for a competitive season long points battle. It gives you the chance to win the championship of your division. Though not officially recognized, it is generally accepted that the leader of all divisions is considered the overall champion. A division championship is a massive accomplishment.
It is worth noting that race splits are only determined by iRating, not division. Therefore, it is possible for you to be racing the 3rd split, but be a Division 7 driver. This can lead to large point disparities in lower divisions where an up-coming driver would run away with the points. However, just like when you move up in splits, the competition at higher divisions increases exponentially.
As you have learned, iRacing is a series of ladders, just like real racing. You will start at the bottom and work your way up. Once you have worked your way up to the next series, you come to the bottom of another ladder. Racing is about proving yourself against your competition, and being placed in more advanced divisions and the recognition that comes with it is your reward.
*image sources: iRacing.com