Racing has many different disciplines and many different forms. Certain people like certain car and track combinations. iRacing features many different racing series as well as leagues. How do you find your calling and/or how do you qualify for the series you want.
Please Note: This post looks at Official racing series. These are the public series hosted by iRacing. Private leagues do not follow this system.
Everytime I mention an iRacing career, I feel silly. I mean that is like writing a biography on your World of Warcraft character. But nonetheless, it is true. iRacing though boasting over 50,000 members, is made up of many small communities of racers split among various series and leagues. You build a reputation that follows you and could set you up with potential teams and meet all kinds of people (more on that in another post).
So this is going to be a large collection of posts as there are many series to introduce, but first I must ask you:
What do you want to race?
It is a simple question with many answers. Some want NASCAR, others want Indycar, many want IMSA or F1. Some people want to remain with the masses, and others want to try for the pros.
There are 3 officially sanctioned premiere series in iRacing. The NASCAR Peak Anitfreeze Series, The Blancpain Endurance Championship, and the iRacing Gran Prix World Championship (F1).
With that I am going to start at the bottom. These are series that you have to compete in and everyone has to race in these at some point. However, let’s cover some basics...
iRacing has a license system to quantify where its drivers should race. Fortunately, the system is quite lax and you could be driving in the series you want relatively quickly. There are 5 basic license tiers (R, D, C, B, A) and 2 professional tiers (Pro, WC). This post will cover the basic tiers. The professional tiers have completely different requirements that will be covered in their respective series.
So how do you move up. Drive safely, that’s it. You could cruise around at 20 mph and you will still move up. That sounds dumb, but we all know that our competitive spirit will take over and we will try to win. However, keeping a high safety rating isn’t that difficult either. Unless you crash multiple times in every race, you should increase your safety rating easily. Then by season’s end, you will be promoted to the next license.
However, seasons are 12 weeks long. For some people that is a very long time. Don’t worry iRacing has you covered. If you get your SR above 4.0 (3.0 for the Rookie level), you are instantly promoted provided you have completed the required minimum number of races. This can help you advance in days. Bear in mind, this may not be the best option.
Before I release you to your career I want to cover 2 important numbers that are attached to your iRacing profile.
As discussed earlier, this is the number that determines if you move up or down in license. This number ranges from 0 to 4.99. It goes down if you routinely crash or drive off track, and it will go up if you race clean. iRacing has an incident penalty system. Each incident is multiplied by a factor depending on the severity of the incident. The factors are broken down as follows:
- Light contact (either with car or wall) - 0x
- Off-track (at least 1/2 car off the racing surface) - 1x
- Medium Contact (either with car or wall, causes damage) - 2x
- Heavy Contact (either with car or wall, significant damage) - 4x
A 0x counts as no incident point whereas a 4x = 4 incident points. For most official series you are allowed 17 incident points in a race, which is pretty significant. However, iRacing’s incident system is a no fault system. So all cars involved in a collision will receive the same penalty. If the big one happens at Daytona and you very slightly bump another car (normally a 0x) and they slide into the crash, you will get a 4x, even though you did not make significant contact.
A lot of people complain about safety rating, but as long as you race like a normal person and cleanly, it will not be an obstacle.
iRating is a crucial number only if you make it so. Some people worship their iRating, others do not care. If you are looking to get into the World Championship series, iRating is crucial for you. To keep it simple iRating is a skill rating. It is used to put you into fields with similar skilled drivers.
As a rookie you start with ~1300-1500 iRating. The actual number is not known because as a Rookie you are not shown your iRating, it isn’t important. iRating is calculated when you are a Rookie, but again it doesn’t matter.
Once you progress up the license ladder iRating becomes important. But it really isn’t that important until you reach the series that you want. Races are formed into splits, series are split into divisions, your goal is to get to the top of each of these. In order to do that, you need to race. In general, if you finish in the top half of a race, your iRating goes up; if you finish in the bottom half it goes down.
What should your iRating be to make an impact? That is highly dependent on the series. You start with ~1500. Drivers in the top couple splits have iRatings above 3500. Top split drivers are above 4500. *Those are very rough estimates.
iRating is hard to build. If you are a better than average racer, 1500 to 2500 will be fairly straightforward. 2500 to 3000 is a bit of a challenge, 3000 to 3500 requires some effort, 3500 to 4000 is quite difficult, and 4000+ is very challenging. I always tell people, the iRating numbers seem to go up linearly, but the competition level increases exponentially.
With those concepts in mind let’s delve into you iRacing career, GO!
Step 1: Rookies
Oh my... The Rookies. Yeah, they have a stigma. Many people hate Rookies, but I am here to tell you that it is not that bad. Truly, it is not the worst thing in the world. Your goal in this series is to survive to the next level. Drivers here range from the inexperienced to the worry-some.
Practice before you race. I cannot stress this enough, actually I can. PRACTICE BEFORE YOU RACE!!!! (I feel better). You cannot just jump into a race and expect it to go well. There are no AI that will speed up or sandbag to make you feel better. They also will not stick to a certain line like the GT5 train. The Rookies series are about learning how to race with humans (well some may be monkeys). You will also crash, a lot. These may or may not be your fault, but rather than complain about how everyone else is terrible, learn how you can avoid these situations. The drivers get better as you increase your skill.
There are 4 main official series to choose from (the others are unofficial)...
Street Stock - (Oval)
This series runs a street stock racer similar to a 1970s Camaro. They are not the most powerful cars in the world and can top out at about 145 - 150 mph. This series alternates between Charlotte Motor Speedway and USA Speedway. Racing at USA is short track racing whereas Charlotte better resembles racing at Daytona. It is where all oval racers start.
Mazda Cup - (Road)
The Mazda Cup (which could probably be named the Jalop Cup) is a road racing series centered around the Mazda MX-5 (Miata). There are two MX-5s to choose from; the Cup a LHD 6sp racer and a Roadster is a RHD 5sp which presents an intersting strategy call. Most people choose the Cup. The series visits non-complex road courses that are fairly easy for Rookies. The Mazda Cup series is incredibly competitive at the top splits. In fact, iRacing has/had a deal with Mazda racing where you could get a chance to race a real SCCA Mazda racecar. As a Rookie, you will not be dealing with these drivers in your endeavors. You will need to build your skill rating in order to deal with these drivers.
Production Car Challenge - (Road)
This series is a great start for multiclass racing (such as IMSA or Blancpain GT3). The MX-5 Roadster is paired with the Pontiac Solstice (remember those). This series goes to similar courses as the Mazda Cup, but adds the challenge of multi-class racing.
Advance Legends Cup - (Oval)
This was the original rookie series before the street stock. This series requires a 3.0 safety rating to enter. Therefore, the skills of the drivers will be a bit better compared to the Street Stock Series. This series uses a scaled down ‘34 Legends car powered by a 1200cc motorcycle engine. This series is very popular among short track enthusiasts. The cars are a blast to drive, but are very fragile.
This is a brief introduction into how you evolve your iRacing career. Below are links to a series of posts describing different potential “career paths” you can take to get to a desired series.
If you want a general overview of the different series click here.