August 28th, 2009 by DavidP
iRacing’s newest oval is Chicagoland Speedway, a 1.5-miler with 18 degrees of banking in the turns. I took the Impala SS Class B for a spin there and was struck by how big and open the track felt. The unusual curved backstretch means there is no definite exit point from Turn 2, just a gradually increasing corner radius. In the Impala B running the basic setup, the turns involve a short lift and then quickly but cautiously re-applying the power. This should make for interesting racing, with drivers who have the skill to get back on the power sooner able to pull away from the pack. The size of the track suggests comparisons with Lowes, Texas or Atlanta, but the lower banking and the fact that you’re turning all the time almost makes the track feel like a bigger version of Richmond. Currently Chicagoland is only run by the iRacing Pro Series Oval but hopefully that will change soon as it has great potential for races that are governed by car control rather than the draft.
Another recent release is the New Hampshire Motor Speedway (NHMS). This track offers a great sense of “being there,” perhaps more so than any other iRacing venue, due to a thousand small details such as a worn and rubbered racing surface, different types of concrete and asphalt, well-worn curbs, and many trackside objects including spectators and their vehicles parked on the hill to the east. Overall it just feels lived-in. The oval is a paperclip shape, with long straights and flat turns. Think USA Speedway but longer (1 mile compared to 0.75 miles). The wide, flat turns are reminiscent of Milwaukee and perfect for practicing your throttle-steering in a car like the SK Modified. The straights feel very long: this will mean a moment to relax between corners but it should also promote clean racing as there’s plenty of time to get fully alongside the car in front when you get a better run out of the turn. This season many iRacers will be getting to grips with the track as all the oval series except the Legends and the Late Models will race at NHMS.
“Rovals” can be unpopular with road track racers, but the NHMS road course will challenge your preconceptions. The designers literally thought outside the box and took the road course out of the infield and into the surrounding countryside.
The result is a series of elevation changes as you leave the oval. The very tricky tightening-radius, variable-camber, uphill “bowl turn” is central to a quick lap-time as there’s a fast sweeping section afterwards that means a good exit will pay dividends all the way around to the start-finish line. Where the track leaves and rejoins the oval, there are some great wide-open corners that suggest many alternate line possibilities, similar to some of Sebring’s corners. This should make for good racing as drivers try different lines through the turns. Only the new Volkswagen Jetta TDI Series will race here this season, which is a shame as the track feels great in the Spec Racer Ford and other lower-powered road cars.
Two more new releases involve older content being opened up to new possibilities, with reversed versions of both Summit Point’s Jefferson track and Virginia International Raceway’s Patriot Course now available. I tried out Jefferson reversed in the Skip Barber car and the new layout made Jefferson’s twists and turns feel more open. Some of the trickier corners become a lot easier going the other way: what used to be the awkward tightening-radius final turn becomes the new T1 and feels like a miniature version of Monza’s Parabolica. The test drive also reminded me how pleasant the scenery is around here. Going down the back straight feels like a Sunday drive on a forest road.
VIR Patriot reversed is as tight and twisty as the forward version, although there are definitely some new challenges. Corners that were previously sighted are now blind and vice versa. This is an excellent place to practice if you think you’re losing time in the low speed corners of iRacing’s bigger, faster road courses, but it will probably feel exhausting in anything faster than the Skip Barber car. While Summit Point is part of the basic subscription package, so anyone can try out Jefferson reversed, Patriot reversed requires the purchase of VIR, but it does make that track an even better deal with a total of seven layouts.