Friday, 20 February 2015

iRacing: More gear and more of an idea

It's been a while since the last iRacing update, but that's not because I've given up. In fact it's the opposite, I tend to spend most of my spare time playing the game. When I think about writing a post I decide it would be more fun to turn a few laps instead! I'm also not really sure who I'm writing this for, or why. I'm not convinced anyone really reads these posts, it feels like blogs died out a few years ago.

In the last post I said I wasn't going to concentrate on getting a promotion. Well I didn't, but I got one anyway! I guess I've progressed fairly quickly, I've become a lot better at keeping the car on the track and therefore not picking up silly penalties for off-tracks and loss of control. It was rare for me to hit people before anyway, so with my driving improving, my Safety Rating (SR) started to rise quite quickly. Normally you need to get above a SR of 3.5 at which point you will get a promotion at the end of the season. That's not for another 2 weeks yet, but there is a way to get promoted instantly, and that's to get you SR above a 4.0. So, about a week ago, that's exactly what happened. After a run of very low incident points I got my Class C license in road racing!

This of course means I've now got even more cars and series available to race in. So that opens up the Radical Racing Challenge, Grand Prix Legends in a Lotus 49, the Corvette Challenge, the Advanced Mazda Cup, the Star Mazda Championship, the iRacing V8 Supercars Series and finally the Ruf Cup.

The thing is, I honestly haven't touched any of that stuff yet. I'm perfectly happy honing my skills in the little Mazda MX-5 Roadster. When the season ends in a couple of weeks I think I might include the Spec Racer Ford Challenge in the next season.

Just to show how much I have improved, my record on the track is starting to speak for itself. I've now clocked up a total of 6 wins and I've got 41 top 5 finishes. This translates to a win percentage of 6.9% and a top 5 finish percentage of 47.13%. I'm really happy with that, I think I can improve on my top 5 percentage, but having 6 wins so early makes me very happy.

Click to enlarge
On top of that, I've been working harder on my iRating. When you sign up, you start with an iRating of 1300, you gain or lose points based on your results. Generally speaking, if you finish in the top half you gain points and if you finish in the bottom half you lose points. How may points depends on the iRatings of those you are racing against. In simple terms you take points off drivers you beat and lose them to drivers who beat you... but I think that only happens if the drivers you are beaten by have a lower iRating than you do. As the points are always shared out, it means the average iRating will always be 1300. So, for the first time since I signed up for the iRacing service I have an iRating above my starting point of 1300! I'm now sitting on 1350.... I'm officially above average (just).... YAY!

Click to enlarge
As you can see from the graph above, I started on 1300 and lost a lot of points quite quickly when I started playing. Not really a surprise, most people go through this phase as they learn the ropes in the Rookie series. After that I just sort of bobbed along for a couple of months, I hit my low point around the middle of January. I had a run of bad luck and results. I decided to buck my ideas up and really concentrate on finishing the races, I started a steady rise and then had a slight setback for a week on a course that I just didn't do well on. But this week is a really strong course for me and I've managed to really shoot up. The question is, when we move to a new track next week, will I be able to hold on to those points?

The title of this blog is "more gear and more of an idea", well I've covered the latter part of it, but what about the more gear bit. Well, I've installed an upgrade to my pedals, the brake pedal to be exact. The Thrustmaster T500RS comes with a fairly nice set of pedals, they are well constructed. The problem is that the brake pedal is a potentiometer-based sensor, so the further you push the pedal, the harder you brake. This sounds okay, but it's not very realistic. What I've installed is a load-cell sensor, this means that the harder you push the pedal, the harder you brake. It's a subtle difference, but it makes everything so much more realistic. The brake pedal actually feels like a brake pedal now, you can really stand on it. Before it was just a spring and the force required was the same throughout its travel. With a load-cell sensor it's much easier to be consistent with the brake because it's easier to feel how much pressure you apply compared to how far your foot travels. As a result, lap times come down and my consistency has improved. I took a lot of photos when I installed it, so I might make a separate post on this at some point. But here's just one photo to show what it looks like.

Installing the load-cell sensor with pedals stripped down.
If you want to know more about this mod it's called the Ricmotech Load-Cell Upgragde Kit, click on the link to find out more.

Having installed the mod I found that driving full races was pretty hard on my feet. The metal pedals and the added pressure needed to brake left my feet feeling sore. I started to wear slippers when racing, and that helped a lot, but my slippers are quite big and are the slip-on style. This meant it was far from ideal for driving in! So I started to think about buying another pair of slippers, but then I saw a pair of racing boots, with a nice rubber sole. So they would protect my feet, but still give a good feel for the pedals, something normal shoes with thick soles don't allow.

As the price of the racing boots was more or less the same as a new pair of slippers, I went with that option.... and here they are:

My racing boots with the upgraded brake pedal (it looks the same)
So yes, I'm now one of those sad sim-racers who wears the gear. I've not gone so far as to buy gloves and a helmet... yet. The thing is though, I can actually see the advantage of wearing gloves in longer races. I'm not competing in those yet, but if I ever do I would have no problems getting some. As for the helmet, well I'll draw the line at that one!

Think that's all for this update, I'm sure I'll be back with more soon.