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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Long Long ago, on a PC far away....

Many (many many many) years ago, a small PC game caught my attention. Ok well it wasn't that small, it was Microprose’s Grand Prix 2, at it’s time the pinnacle of PC racing simulations and the best way for any fresh faced racing fan to get a real taste of what it is actually like to continually crash a very expensive and very high powered car into the wall at Monaco over and over again. It was heaven. I played the death out of that game, and its followup GP3 but then, due to various reasons, mostly the larger variety of available gaming diversions I fell out of step with the Sim racing world, bar playing a lot of Gran Turismo 1 and 2 on my old PS1.

That all changed recently whilst I was casually perusing the store on Steam and came across Race 07 and picked it up for $7 or something, which is a bargain in any one's book and found myself getting the taste for racing again. Getting a further taste through some rfactor sessions and frustrating the heck out of myself (and spending the majority of my time on upside down in the gutter) with Richard Burns Rally (so so hard, its is almost sexual) I then came across the premier online racing service at Grabbed the special they had running (buy 3 months membership get 2 free, costing me in total $12) and dived in.

By this time of course I had ditched my aged Logitech gamepad for a cheap, but serviceable steering wheel.

This is then the story how I went from sucking, to sucking slightly less to hopefully becoming somewhat competent as I progress my virtual simulation racing career at iRacing.

There will also be scatterings of other games as well as I like to use the variety of several good games to practice and have fun. Particularly when I wish instant access to some high powered ridiculously fast cars that I have not earned my stripes at yet online.

Vroom, I say!

Sim racing, proper Sim racing is tough. Forget your Need For Speeds and the latest degeneration of games who were once tough but now hit thoroughly with the ‘arcade’ stick. Granted, these games are fun and are great for a bash when time is short and the smell of petrol and rubber smoke is strong, however for that true whoops-one-mistake-oh-shit-I-am-in-the-wall-again feeling you need a good Sim. You won’t find them very often on the shelf at EB Games and they are better to grab online from your vendor of choice. SimBin make a large range of titles, including GTR 1 and 2, Race 07 and its numerous and varied expansions, rFactor is a good choice and is very highly customisable covering just about every conceivable race type you can find ( I thoroughly recommend the Enduracers mod and the V8 factor super cars mod). For Rally there is only one true choice and that is Richard Burns Rally.

So where does iRacing come into this. Well check out the site at and have a look. As far as Sim’s go this is the ants pants. Endorsed and supported by many real life racing organisations (including a new endorsement by our very own V8 series) and is about as Sim as it gets. There is no dumbing down of this game, you can’t turn on easy mode. The cars and tracks are  extremely realistically portrayed and how they race in real life is how they race here.

Sounds like the stuff for me.

It is a premium service however, and you don’t get anything for free so think hard before you sign up, grab a couple of other titles and see if you really do, if you have not done so before enjoy the realism of Sim racing.

Here are the keys, for God’s sake don’t break it....

Ok so membership payapl’d. steering wheel configured and the whole night to myself I logged into the website. My, there sure is a lot of stuff here. Profile controls, press releases, video and race broadcasts, customise you car, helmet and suit colours, full calender of available races, resource documents, forums, set up guides, download links to the Maclaren Atlas Telemetry software and in amongst all of that I find the ‘go’ button. Woot!

such eager and reckless enthusiasm was of course rewarded appropriately. That is to say I spun out on the first corner and crashed into the wall. Hmm ok. Awesome. A few more laps and I had my dinky little jalopy going strong. Closing the client back down I began to find my way around the site, its systems and all its bells and whistle to find out what exactly is the point.

iRacing works on the real life principles of safe driving. That is don’t crash and don’t crash someone else. Simple really. Beginning with a basic ‘rookie’ licence your task is to drive and increase you Safety Rating (SR) in order to unlock higher licences to gain access to more events and tracks and vehicles. One does this by participating in ‘official’ sessions. These are Qualifying, Race and Time Trial sessions. Note that Time Trial is the only ‘solo’ session that you can improve you safety rating on. SR is calculated by seeing how many incident free (ie no run offs, contacts or spins) corners you go around. The more laps you can do incident free, the better you improve your SR.

Anyway, to keep this post shortish, here is a taste of a Time Trial in my dinky little purple Mazda.

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