It didn’t take long for Indy car drivers past, present and future to get their hands on iRacing’s virtual Dallara IndyCar or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at Infineon Raceway last month. Even before the August 22nd announcement of iRacing.com’s partnership with the IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Dallara Automobili, Justin Wilson took a development version of the Dallara out for a few laps around the Brickyard.
Wilson remarked on the authenticity of the experience even before he left the virtual pits.
“Well, the bump’s there,” he exclaimed, as the Dallara bounded over a rough patch exiting pit lane.
Before completing a flying lap, Wilson was working with iRacing engineer Eric Hudec to tune the Dallara’s set-up to his liking. Front camber split? Check. Stiffer rear springs? Check. Less front wing? Check. More stagger? Check?
“The car is just fantastic,” said the winner of this year’s Watkins Glen IndyCar Series race. “I know it’s still in the early stages of development, but straight away it felt right, and it’s a lot of fun to drive.
“I made changes like I would to the real car and it reacted like I expected. The more I did, the better it got. It’s early but it’s not far off at all.”
Wilson was equally enthusiastic about the Brickyard itself.
“The perspective is exactly the same, the sense of driving down that long tunnel into Turn One,” he said. “When you make a small mistake – get down to close to the apron in Turns Three and Four and feel the bumps, turn-in too late or too early – you feel yourself tensing-up just as you do in the real car; that edgy sense of ‘am I gonna make it? I think I am, no I’m not, yes I am . . .’
“It’s going to give fans an opportunity to really feel what it’s like to drive an Indy car at over 200 mph at the Speedway.”
Simon Pagenaud, currently driving for de Ferran Motorsports in the American Le Mans Series but widely expected to move to the IndyCar Series next year, was on hand at Infineon for a look-see and took some laps of Infineon and IMS in the virtual Dallara.
“Driving for Acura the past two seasons I’ve had the opportunity to use the simulator at Wirth Research,” said Pagenaud. “As you know, it’s one of the most sophisticated race simulation machines in the world, with lateral and longitudinal g-forces. This does not simulate the g-forces, but the graphics, the detail of the tracks and the way the car drives and reacts to the changes you make is as good as I’ve seen.”
Current Firestone Indy Lights Championship drivers Daniel Herrington and James Davison were among the other drivers to turn some laps in the iRacing simulators at Infineon. Was it purely coincidence that Herrington and Davison finished 1-2 at the Chicagoland FILC race the following week?
Another visitor to the iRacing trailer has forgotten more about Indy cars than many young guns are ever likely to experience, namely Al Unser, Jr.
“It’s great,” grinned the two-time Indy 500 winner. “I felt like I was back at the Speedway.”
Although he likely will be busy next spring in his role as IndyCar Series driver coach, Unser – like anyone else – can participate in a virtual Indy 500 next May. All they’ll need is a steering wheel and pedals, a computer . . . and an iRacing membership.