Boy, this new iRacing 2.0 is something isn’t it? Personally, I really don’t have any complaints, but I do enjoy the depth that iRacing goes to in order to give us an accurate racing simulation. Entering various sessions soon after the build was released all I heard was complaints . . . which, to be honest, was somewhat expected. Thanks to the new tire model, those super-loose or “alien” setups as referred to in the forums no longer worked effectively. If they did work at all, it was only a few laps before the tires were virtually melted-off the car. Human beings in general seem to resist change and having to redo testing and research to achieve a fast lap didn’t make anyone happy. However, if you take a moment to think about what iRacing was trying to accomplish it’s pretty spectacular.
Think for just a second about going down a mountain road in your passenger car, a road with plenty of twist and turns. You feel the weight of the car shift, the grip of the tires change, and it’s all dynamic based too many factors to be listed here. Driving your car in iRacing really isn’t much different than driving your passenger car. Hold on, before you call me crazy. Think of it in turns of the oval cars: you slow down, enter a corner, let the car settle and accelerate off the corner. Isn’t that the same thing we do in our passenger car? Yes, a race car is traveling faster, but the dynamics are virtually the same.
We could go as far in depth as an automotive engineering degree could take us, but for the sake of this article we are going to keep it simple. In oval racing there are three common terms to describe a car’s handling: tight, loose and neutral. ‘Tight’ refers to a car that when turned left wants to push the front end right, towards the outside wall. ‘Loose’ refers to a car that when turned left wants to push the back-end right, towards the outside wall. When a car is loose it often gives the feeling of lost grip in the rear end and tends to want to spin out. ‘Neutral?’ That’s what most drivers wish for. When a car is neutral it’s neither tight nor loose. When a car is neutral the driver can usually turn fast laps and pass cars at will.
Another thing to bear in mind is the fact that a race car’s handling isn’t like a lifetime pass to the arcade; it doesn’t stay the same forever. In most cases, you start the run in one condition and end the run in another condition based on how you drive. Drive the car aggressively, hard into the corners, and your car will change conditions more rapidly due to tire heat and wear. Drive the car more gently into the corners, accelerate late and, in most cases, your car will maintain the original condition longer. I do realize in the heat of battle, when it’s door-to-door, most of these concepts go straight out the window and it’s all about racing.
“A race car’s handling isn’t like a lifetime pass to the arcade; it doesn’t stay the same forever.”
A race car is like hairstyles: We all like different things. Personally, I like a race car to be loose in the beginning of a run and tighten up as the run progresses. In simple terms a car is determined to be loose or tight based on the shift of weight. When it comes to managing shifting weight (and changing handling) , trackbar adjustments (aka wedge) are often the easiest to make and offer the best results. In the iRacing simulation the top three oval classes have trackbar adjustments on the left and right sides. Each side of the car works opposite of the other. For example, if you add right side wedge by going up on the right side trackbar the car tends to loosen up in the rear; go down on the right side trackbar and the car tends to tighten up in the rear. The opposite tends to be true for the left side. Down on the left side trackbar tends to loosen the car, while up tends to tighten the car. It’s up to you as a driver to walk the fine line with what you feel comfortable with.
Of course, wedge isn’t the only way to adjust the handling of a race car. Several other adjustments are available that we will touch upon more in depth in future articles. However, wedge is what most drivers reach for first in oval racing.
Part of what keeps me coming back to iRacing and racing in general is the science involved; the science of all these hundreds of adjustments all put together in one winning race car. The thousands of possible adjustments and combinations keep us on edge. Bottom line is this: in racing you have two choices, comfortable and outside-of-the-box thinking. A winning race car is a combination of the two. Have you got what it takes?