The new VW Jetta TDI and Mazda MX-5 mixed class series (officially known as the iRacing Grand Touring Cup) really does have that new car smell right now.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive to the announcement that the MX-5 will be paired with the VW Jetta TDI in a mixed class series starting with Season One of 2011.  The release of the MX-5 may have been slightly overshadowed by the release of the Williams-Toyota FW31, but the participation numbers in the rookie series clearly showed the MX-5 was popular amongst drivers and it left many wanting a full series with open setups.

In typical iRacing fashion Steve Myers and the iRacing administration did something not enough companies do in today’s economy: they listened to the feedback from the community.  A discussion on the mixed class forum resulted in nearly 90% of the people who voted supporting the idea of a mixed class event featuring this combination of cars.  Now that the iRacing Grand Touring Cup has been announced, this article will try to answer a few of your questions and, I hope, get you pumped up for the current season.  The MX-5 gets a much more diverse series and the VW Jetta TDI will benefit from the boost in participation.

It's Mazda MX-5 v Volkswagen Jetta TDI in the Grand Touring Cup.

The most pressing question seems to be regarding the setups for the MX-5.  The MX-5 Cup and Roadster will both be open setups.  Drivers will be able to fine tune and tweak their virtual MX-5s to their likings and take full advantage of one of iRacing’s most popular new cars.  Your next question may have just been answered.  Yes the series will feature both the Cup car and the Roadster.  The two MX-5s will run in a single class just like the rookie series and the Jetta will be in a class by itself.

Races will run every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday on the even Quarter hour.  That means the first race of the week will be at 00:15 GMT and 7:15 EST.  All of the races will run based on a length of time rather than the number of laps.  Since the Jetta community decided that 30 minutes every week became a bit boring some flavor was added to the schedule and some of the shorter tracks feature shorter races, but the championship may well be decided in a special event at Spa.  The final week of the season will feature 45 minute races at the famous Circuit de Spa Francorchamps.  The schedule features some of the most popular tracks on the iRacing service there is certain to be a little bit of something for everyone.

All official races will feature a minimum of 10 drivers and all fields will split at 30, unless of course there aren’t enough pit stalls for 30 drivers, where the field will be split based on the number of available pit stalls.  Summit Point and Mid Ohio will definitely be affected by the number of pit stalls.  There are no specific class requirements for a class to have an official race only the 10 driver minimum.  All races will attempt to split up the field evenly by class, but will further sort the field by iRating.

Like the original VW Jetta TDI series and the current rookie series the new mixed class series will feature standing starts.  If you’re new to the Jetta or MX-5 you may be interested in some helpful hints on how to get off the line.  In the Jetta you’ll only make this mistake once, but there is no operable clutch.  If you try to rev the engine and put it in gear you will start moving.  If you put it in first gear and floor it when the lights go green you will do the closest thing to stalling an engine in iRacing and become a stationary chicane.  In order to properly launch the VW Jetta TDI rev the engine to approximately 3,500 RPMs in neutral and shift to first gear as the lights go green.  The MX-5 features an operable clutch and it is best to use it at the start even if it is a button on your wheel.  Once the lights come up use the clutch and shift into first gear.  Rev the engine to approximately 6,000 rpms and dump the clutch when the lights go green.

For Jetta drivers it is highly recommended you make sure you choose 1st gear instead of reverse gear so you don’t end up looking like this:

If you’re curious which car is faster, it figures to be a close race for almost all of the competitors involved.  The fastest Jetta drivers will be slightly faster than the fastest MX-5 drivers on most tracks, but any mid-pack Jetta driver will be pounding away door-to-door with the MX-5.  The Jetta is faster in a straight line, but the MX-5 is faster in the corners.  On a very technical track like Laguna Seca, the MX-5 holds a faster world record time than the Jetta.  In various hosted sessions the Jetta has proven on tracks with any decent straight that the fastest Jetta drivers will be faster than any MX-5 driver can hope to run.  However, the tires on the Jetta fall off very quickly and will bring even the fastest Jetta drivers back towards the pack for some exciting racing.

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