Before I became an iRacing employee, I worked for a small company as an advanced driver training instructor. We would perform our in-car, behind the wheel, driving school program on a closed runway on our local airport. Our clients were mainly municipalities who would bring their fire departments, police departments, and ambulance drivers to our driving school to learn advanced techniques like emergency lane changes, threshold braking and, of course, the venerable “J” turn… which we perfected by burning up our fair share of used tires. In between our in-car driving maneuvers, we would gather the class together and talk about driving behavior. One of my favorite questions to ask went something like this:
“How many of you have ever been cut off by another driver before?” Inevitably, the entire class would raise their hands in acknowledgement. My next question: “How did that make you feel?” The group would usually express their anger, surprise and general resentment of the offending driver.
The next question was my favorite… “How many of you have accidently cut someone off while driving?” Earnestly, the hands would slowly rise around the group until a majority of the drivers were showing their hands indicating that they too had committed that common driving mistake. (Author’s note: my hand would be raised as well, not only to encourage honest responses, but because I had, in fact, cut off a cement truck one time and I was lucky there was no “4x”, just a raised middle finger salute from the driver). Then, I would ask the group if anyone had purposefully meant to cut the other driver off. There were a few wise cracks, but for years, the majority of drivers I worked with of all ages, abilities and backgrounds would agree that they didn’t mean to purposely cut off the other driver.
“We had something to learn
Now it’s time for the wheel to turn”
Since I have been racing on the iRacing service, I have witnessed many an overly optimistic racing move. Whether it is a low percentage pass that didn’t pay off or being part of a wreck that takes out the entire field, if you race long enough on iRacing, you have probably know what I mean, it can get a little crazy out there. This will come as no surprise to my colleagues here, but, on occasion… I have been the driver making that mistake and ruining another member’s race. I try not to, but it happens.
My assumption is that the majority of us who race here all want to race competitively, have fun, and generally not be the guy who causes another’s demise… especially if the racing has been close and clean. Unfortunately though, this is not always the case. Within my first few weeks at iRacing, I already knew the best part about the service: The emotions that one experiences during a close race with other members are very real. Even though we can’t get injured, we all have iRating, Safety Rating and our reputation at stake, which is generally enough to keep order. (Us staffers have the “iLetYouWin” awards that we give out. A few are more rare than others… which is to say that if you get one from me, the value of that award is not transferable to iRacing credits!) If not, we always can resort to the protest process, which is going through a revision at the moment. But, the emotion of running in a close race, the thrill of making a pass — especially if it moves you into a position to win — is extremely powerful. In fact, it’s intoxicating. It must be one reason why we all enjoy this sport.
One of the great things that I have noticed about getting into a 2x or a 4x with another driver on iRacing is that, just like the drivers I used to instruct, the driver and I didn’t mean to hit each other, or ruin the other’s race. It happens though, and plenty of replay watching and debating usually takes place. The unpleasant side of this situation is when someone gets on their mic and curses at another member or tells the whole field how bad the other driver is. In some races, sometimes the tirade lasts for the entire yellow flag situation… which we all know is long enough as it is. And it is worse if the cursing and complaining continues when there are no yellow flags as the rest of us are trying concentrate even harder to keep our own race clean and competitive.
In the “few” times that I have been either clearly at-fault or the victim, I have had some very positive experiences that far too often don’t go unnoticed. At first, like many of us, I either hit the mic button or type something that I probably shouldn’t… if you race here, you know the feeling. Yet, as a staff member, I know I really shouldn’t do it. The best part of this community is represented when I resist the urge to assign blame. Here is what happens…
I or the other driver will initiate conversation either on the mic or by typing… Depending on what happened, I will either offer a fairly lame apology or I’ll go and watch the replay while my car is being towed in, or I will wait in silence, groveling about what happened while lamenting the early end of my race. Lately, though, I have been having really positive interactions with other members and I truly believe that the other members don’t know I work for iRacing. What usually happens is that we both review the incident, maybe after the race is over, have a brief conversation, possibly apologize to each other (but not always) and then the incident is over. It is the equivalent of “better luck next time.” No paperwork, no bodily harm, no damage bill, no hard feelings.
And this is the best part! (Thanks for reading this far!!) The best part is that when I see that driver again in a race, we typically say hello, provide each other a little bit more racing room, and have a generally more positive experience. After taking the opportunity to make amends with the other driver, I have noticed that my frustration and anger immediately evaporate. Why? Simple. Most of the time, after taking a moment to send a private message (PM) or chatting after the race, I found out that the other guy didn’t mean to ruin my race, and of course, I certainly didn’t mean to ruin his.
“Let’s admit we made a mistake
But can we still be friends?”
This situation, which plays out in almost every race on our service, can end in one of two ways: In frustration and anger over an unfortunate end to the race, or as a community we could all take a deep breath, keep our finger off the mic, review what happened and try to settle things off line. I have sent and received a fair number of private messages to other members after a race didn’t go my way. Sometimes it was to seek an explanation, sometimes it was to offer my apology for a low percentage move. The best part always happens afterwards though, when I see that driver in another race, we’ve had a chance to come to an understanding and the result is some mutual respect.
My story isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t use our protest system, or that your conversation with another member will always end amicably, but when I see the guys who I’ve “bumped into” on our service, things are usually quite pleasant. Our service is a fairly large place, but just like the real-world racing community, our world is actually pretty small and it is very possible you will race with guys repeatedly. As you move up through the license levels, I bet you start to recognize the guys in your public race sessions. I know I do. I make mental notes to remind myself who I can work with on track, who races hard and who will let me move through if I have the corner or if I am a little faster (yes, that is rare).
The situation recalls the group of drivers I used to instruct back on that closed runway a number of years ago. It reminded me that when I get cut off, or spun-out or wrecked out of a race, the majority of the time, the guy who did it, probably didn’t mean to. I encourage you all, if you find yourself in that situation, to take it offline or wait until the end of the race to discuss the incident. It doesn’t always work, as sometimes the other member will leave the session before you get that opportunity. If you are both in the pits together, you can chat with each other using the whisper function or you can resort to the text chatting over the race server (which is far less distracting than tying up the airwaves with complaints or disparaging remarks about each other’s racing skills). Maybe by talking to that member you will find that, like me, you now have some new acquaintances. Maybe you will find that next time the same guy gives you a little extra room if you have a run on him at the end of a long race. Maybe you will receive a private message in your inbox with a quality explanation as to why you were dumped into the wall by mistake.
Then again, maybe I am naïve, but I know that we all have a chance to make this community even better. We’re all human and mistakes happen, especially if you’re like me. This service can be so much fun because the emotions we experience while sim racing are 100% real. We can all take a moment to improve the community by showing a little understanding when we are the victim of a racing incident, or at the very least not keying the mic when you shout your disappointment to the walls around where you sim race. Of course, you can always use our protest system, but you may find out that the guy you shared incident points with didn’t mean to ruin your day either.
Isn’t that what sets us apart from all of those console titles anyway? iRacing is that corner of the sim racing world where we have done our best to bring order to chaos and where someone will answer your call to our customer support team or email. All of us here at the office take pride in that.
I look forward to bumping into you, I mean, racing with you on track.