iRacing Development Update- February 3, 2023
February 3rd, 2023 by Tony Gardner
We know members are always curious about enhancements to iRacing. As usual, we have dozens of projects and improvements in the works, ranging in size and complexity. These efforts to improve involve continuous investment in our product and our teams. Over the past year-plus, a significant focus has been placed on increasing the size of our team and hiring talented and experienced new developers. Our teams have been reinforced with new artists, programmers, creative talent, production staff and managers. For example, one high level engineer joined us with years of experience working on both the consumer and pro version of a different sim. One of our top creative hires has experience spanning decades across sims of multiple racing disciplines, ranging from rally to oval. Several of these new hires come from Slightly Mad Studios (a former fellow sim development studio), and they worked on Project Cars and other racing titles. We always have had a lot of respect for these racing studios and teams, and are excited to bring their experience, expertise, and fresh ideas to iRacing.
I wanted to specifically talk briefly about the driving/racing in the sim. After all, that is the main reason you are all here. We know there has been plenty of feedback and some frustration, specifically in regard to dirt and oval racing. We just want to let you know that feedback has not been ignored. We are working on making the driving better and more realistic. To improve, we do know that we have to look critically at ourselves, and I can assure you, we do that.
In regard to dirt oval racing, we have a team with varying skill sets doing a full review and full refresh. The dynamic track surface, tires, physics, dirt, water, etc. is complicated and a time-consuming endeavor to improve the racing, but we are making progress. Among other things, we are making adjustments to the tires. We are making improvements to the dirt track composition and surface itself, which is critical. The engineers have also provided more car tuning tools to the vehicle dynamics engineers, production people and testers. The outcome we are seeing is that the cars feel more connected to the track than in the past, which is something we have struggled with on dirt. We are seeing a bigger separation from a tacky (fresh) race track to a slick (worn out) race track that should lead to more realistic race lines. Overall, the cars are just much more realistic, fun and enjoyable to drive. I’m not trying to hype any of this, I’m just trying to provide an update. We do many things well already, so this is not a complete overhaul. I think you will find it is just a very nice improvement and hopefully you will agree it is more fun and realistic. As far as timing on a release to you, our members, I think there is an outside chance for the March build, but a more realistic target is June.
We are essentially doing the same thing for pavement oval as above; a dedicated team is taking a fresh look, but we are not as far along as we are with dirt oval. We certainly still have the goal to release improvements this year for oval racing. Additionally, we think some of the improvements we are making for dirt oval racing will translate to dirt road racing, and we hope to get to that as well.
As far as road racing and racing in general, as most of you know, a massive project has been underway to add rain and a whole new dynamic weather system to iRacing. We are very excited about how it is all coming together. The plan for that is also to release it this year, and we are really pushing to do that. However, I will get yelled at if I promise anything; it is such a big project. If it was done to our expectations, we would have already released it, so we still have some work to do.
The tires themselves are also being worked on constantly which will improve all forms of racing. Of course, rain created a tremendous amount of new tire and track surface work, or as our engineers call the rain tire work in their technical design document, “Tires on a Film of Fluid”.
We’re going to get a little technical here, and I’m borrowing some details from Dave Kaemmer‘s various technical tire documents/designs. The tire model is a collection of dozens of models, properties, data and recipes (rubber, etc.) that all work together. Our tire model is the most sophisticated and in-depth model in the industry, but back to being self-critical, it can and will be better. Most of the sub-models within the overall model work amazingly well. However, a few of these sub-models could be better and you feel those issues at times when you drive. Improving those last pieces of the model will make a difference in the feel and the behavior of the tires. Just for example, we think we do the following quite well: Modeling of forces and tire deflections from stopped to high speed for car tires; Carcass foundational stiffnesses from construction parameters; Slip curves from tread rubber properties, including dynamically, as temps and speeds change; Transient thermal modeling near and at tire surface and effect of temperature on grip; Relaxation modulus from basic rubber recipe, and given conditioning level; Model for grip, including track thermal properties. Some examples of sub-models within the tire model that we want to improve include: Improvements to the contact patch model; Rolling Drag; Speed of tread conditioning; Heat buildup and temperature gradient through the tread; Camber modeling.
A major project over 2022 in regard to tires was developing a finite element model (FEM) specific to vehicle racing tires. The intention of this separate model was to build a tool to accurately simulate the behavior of tires under different operating conditions, especially to analyze the loads and forces/moments occurring in the contact patch. With this tool available, we should be able to extend and improve iRacing’s current tire model to respond more accurately to these loads, forces and moments.
This gets extremely technical, way beyond what we are touching on here. I’m just trying to give you a rough idea of what we are working on but regardless it has taken too long for our liking.
To reiterate, we just wanted you to know, we are working on the items that are causing some frustration to members and we are not yet satisfied with what we have today either.
Beyond our numerous sim R&D projects and improvements, we are as focused as ever on expanding our racetrack and racecar offerings. The iRacing service and community are global in scale, and cater to a wide variety of racing fans and racing niches. Recent efforts to expand our reach in Europe, Asia, and Australasia have been very successful, with numerous tracks being licensed, scanned, and worked on by our teams. While our list is extensive and development efforts will span many seasons of development, some notable upcoming projects include Algarve, Aragon, Jerez, Misano, Pukekohe, and Lédenon. We have actually signed several other great International tracks beyond these, but that is enough to tease for today. We are also returning to an iRacing favorite that has become outdated: Zandvoort. Zandvoort was scanned last week and it will be going straight into our production process. Locally, our US-based team is on their way to California to capture data on a dirt oval and paved short oval, and our collaborative projects with NASCAR continue to expand and evolve as we are working on additional track-related R&D projects and updates.
We look forward to focusing on other aspects of iRacing that we are improving and providing more information at a later time. I’m sure many of you find it interesting to learn more about what we are working on. Although, we also know that it can be frustrating to learn about development and then have to wait years in some cases for the improvement. Ideally, we are just showing you steady progress with our quarterly releases!
Thanks for being members!