Saturday, 10 January 2015

iRacing: Promotion

Now that I have my new PC gaming rig setup and running (You can read about that in this post: PC Build - It's done), I have been able to get back to the important task of gaming. More importantly, iRacing!

The good news is, I've managed to get promoted out of the Rookie class and I now hold a Class D license. It was achieved through a few more races, just keeping things clean, not worrying too much about my finishing position, but just keeping my incident points low. That seemed to be the key for me, getting the safety rating high and not worrying about trying to go fast. That's not to say I finished every race last, I had a couple of third place finishes, but the goal was to get out of the Rookie class and worry about iRatings later. You see, once you're out of Rookies, you can't get relegated back down. Now I have a D class license I can't get any lower, that's not true of the next tier, C class can be relegated back down to D if your safety rating drops too far.

So now I've progressed I have more options open to me, I can race an open wheel class in the Skip Barber, the SCCA Spec Racer Ford a Pontiac Solstice or Cadillac CTS-V. There's also the Mazda MX 5 too, which I actually really enjoy driving now that I have a grasp on the handling.

The other cars all have their own advantages and disadvantages. The Skip Barber is great fun, but is a nightmare to handle on cold tyres. The Cadillac has lots of power, but is a real handful. Then of course I have a load more courses available to race on, so if I thought I didn't have enough time to get to grips with things before, I'm really swamped now. You need to choose a series to specialise in really, or you'll just be very mediocre in them all.
Skip Barber - iRacing

I would love to get into the open wheel cars, so that would mean driving the Skip Barber. But I don't have the skill yet, so for now I'm sticking with the Mazda. I think I need to get to grips with the tracks in the slower cars before progressing onto the Skippy.

What that means is that I'm racing in races that don't qualify me to get another promotion. The Mazda is below my MPR (Minimum Participation Requirement), but that's not really something I'm concerned with at the moment. Getting into Class C would be a nice achievement, but really if I just concentrated on that I'd be doing myself no favours. I'd be progressing too quickly for my true ability, that wouldn't be fair on other people racing either. I don't want to start becoming a hazard to other drivers on the track!

Very respectable 2nd place (click to enlarge)
But the Mazda can be a lot of fun and it's suprising how much better I am driving it now. I have far less trouble keeping it on the track (thought that's not always true), and my times are more competitive. When people aren't ramming into me or I'm going cross country because I forgot to brake early enough, I can keep pace with the front runners for most of the time. The one thing I do still struggle with a little is my consistency and managing to complete 20 laps without making mistakes.

The good news is that I am quite good at not hitting other people, but the downside to that is I'm probably being a bit too conservative when it comes to overtaking. If I'm faster than the car in front, I generally just drive slower rather than risk a contact by trying to overtake them.

What's more annoying is being hit by other people, I had a race last night where I started 3rd on the grid with a field of about 19 cars. Into the first corner I was hit from behind and pushed off the track, I re-entered in about 10th. Then at the end of the lap going back onto the start/finish straight, the car ahead of me just spun in front of me, I had nowhere to go so ended up hitting his out of control vehicle. Very frustrating, but no real damage as I had managed to brake enough to make it a relatively light contact. But this meant that other cars behind me carrying speed on the straight cruised right by me. By now I was back to about 15th, so a huge number of places lost on the first lap, and all through no fault of my own.

From here though, things only got worse. I had already picked up 8 incident points thanks to the two contacts that I really had no fault in. But on the next lap coming up to a tight left turn, I started to brake at my normal braking point, but the car behind me had carried too much speed through the previous turn, he lost control and spun his car right into the back of mine. Another 4 incident points bringing my total up to 12, and enough damage that I had to get towed back to the pits. After this I was very disappointed, I didn't want to continue. I retired from the race and lost about .22 points off my safety rating, that's a huge hit for barely completing two laps and not actually having any fault!

There was another race where I was actually in 3rd after about 9 laps in a 20 lap race. Myself, 1st and 2nd were all within 2 seconds of each other so it was a close race. Then we came up on a back marker who was being difficult and not moving out of the way. The leader got sick of being held up and tapped the slow car from behind, a good driver would have been able to control that, but this person was obviously not that good as A) their pace would have been quicker and B) they would have pulled over and let us through. Subsequently, as a result of the nudge the driver lost control, 1st and 2nd got through, but then the car lurched across the track and hit my offside rear just as I was going past. Sometimes it just feels like the iRacing Gods have got it in for me!

My car took some damage and my pace suffered as a result, fortunately our pace at the front had been good enough that I was able to lose time on each lap, it meant that the leaders got away from me, but I was still able to nurse my car to the end and finish in 5th, only losing 2 places over the remaining 10 laps.

I'm not terrible after all! (click to enlarge)
It's not all bad news, I have had my first win... YAY! I was still in the rookie class, I started in first and got a good start to keep out of any first corner nastiness. I led the whole race and even had the fastest average lap time to validate my win and prove that I wasn't just holding everyone else up! I did miss out on setting the fastest lap time by around 3/10ths which was a bit annoying, but you can't have everything.

The timing sheet proves it! 1st place. (click to enlarge)
So, my iRacing career is having its ups and downs, but I'm settling in, finding my feet and getting to grips with the vehicles. I hate to be one of those "like driving on ice" people, but it really does feel like that when you have no experience driving these cars. Without the feedback in the seat of your pants from the cars grip and relying solely on the wheel and sound makes it very difficult. But once you've spent time with them, you start to find the limits and can pick up on the indications better. I'm still a long way off being what I would consider to be "good", but with time and practise I hope to get there.

I'll be back with another update when I have something to share.

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