Most drivers new to iRacing spend a lot of time going around classic oval tracks, feeling like they’re not advancing. It’s not surprising to see drivers with years of sim racing under their belts still in rookie leagues. Thankfully, there are a few key iRacing oval tips to make you better faster.
5 iRacing oval tips to get better are:
- Improve your iRacing ratings strategically
- Watch drivers better than you
- Optimize your setup
- Virtual racing school
- Upgrade your rig
In this article, we’ll go into each of these tips to discuss how they can help you go from the rookie leagues of iRacing to Class A or even the Championship series. Once you know how to approach your sim racing career strategically, you’ll start improving faster than you thought possible.
5 iRacing Oval Tips To Get Better Faster
1. Improve your iRacing Ratings Strategically
iRacing uses two different rating systems to judge their drivers. These are the iRating and the Safety Rating. Your iRating is based on your skill when driving and depends on your success on the track. Your Safety Rating is a function of how many incidents you have during a race and impacts what kind of racing license you have.
iRacing uses each driver’s iRating to assign racers into different session splits. During the matchmaking process, iRacing will put racers with similar iRating rankings together to ensure that each race is fun and competitive for everyone involved.
Put The Time In
Getting better at iRacing means improving both of these ratings as quickly as possible. Of course, the only way you’ll improve either of these ratings is by putting time in the racing seat and completing races.
Most people think that the best way to improve quickly in iRacing is to initially sacrifice your iRating for Safety Rating. This metric is the only rating that actually impacts your racing license, which is why it’s such an important metric to follow. More specifically, the Safety Rating is a factor of how many incidents occur per corner taken while racing.
Simply put, the way to improve your Safety Rating and thus your racing license is to finish races with as few incidents as possible. If you’re trying to grind through sessions and improve your license, you can do so by merely doing races as safely as possible and disregarding placing. Some drivers even choose to come last during races if it means doing so without any incidents.
Consistently finishing races last will impact your iRating, which means that when you return to regular racing with your chosen license level, you’ll probably be racing with others who are less skilled than you. However, improving your iRating, with less of a focus on safety, is a bit easier.
Maintaining A Good iRating
Many people with high iRatings achieve and maintain them while still having a few incidents per race(between 5-8 incidents.) Once you have your desired license level, keeping it is a lot easier once you become competitive.
It’s important to know that there is a bit of a limit to how high of an iRating a hobby driver can maintain. An average racer has an iRating of about 1300. However, it sharply falls off after that. The top 1% of all oval racers on the platform have an iRating of over5200, showing just how severe the disparity is.
High Volume Racing
The best way to improve iRating is to participate in high-volume races against a large pool of drivers. If you place well in those races, you’ll see a more significant increase in your rating.
Early on, most drivers see success in the Mazda MX-5 or iRacing’s Street Stock Series races. As your splits become more competitive (and as you increase your iRating), you can move out of the rookie tiers into other races that may be more competitive, such as the iRacing Late Model Tour or the Skip Barber Driving School.
Many drivers find that as their iRating increases, they have to focus more on practicing to maintain it. Practicing effectively isn’t just what you do behind the wheel – it’s also what you do when you’re not driving.
2. Watch Drivers Better than You
Learn From The Best
You can learn a lot from watching other racers drive. This process is comparable to how professional athletes watch tapes of their opponents to set up a proper defense. Skills learned from watching videos include seeing how other racers attack a corner and how they strategize on the track. Learning these skills is essential, so you should prioritize watching drivers who are better than you.
There are several great sim drivers out there with YouTube channels designed to help new racers learn racing basics. It’s important to know that even if you’ve been racing for some time, you can still drill the fundamentals to improve your technique. Things like eye training, following a racing line, and practicing braking while trailing another car are skills that even experienced drivers can practice.
Watching videos will also help you learn how to troubleshoot problems on the track that you might not have experienced while driving on the road or in other racing games. For example, if you’re watching a driver understeer or oversteer, you can see how they correct the error without causing an incident on the track.
Each driver might have a different strategy when it comes to pitting in iRacing, or how to manage their tires while driving. You can learn a lot by studying these strategies and implementing them in your racing to see what works best for you.
The important thing about observing other racers is not focusing on a driver just because you like them. I know that I’ve been compelled to follow my favorite drivers, only to realize that the time I spent watching their stream did nothing to benefit me during my own racing because they were racing in a different league or different car.
Watch The Right People
When you’re trying to improve your racing, you must focus on situations similar to your own. That means the driver should be driving the same vehicle on the same track that you’re planning on driving on.
The best view to observe other drivers from is the cockpit, so you can see the road precisely as they do. You’ll also see how they steer the car and what gear they’re in, so you know how you should be driving in certain situations.
Ideally, it would be best if you watched these videos a few days before a planned race, so you have time to take what you learned and apply it in practice sessions.
Each time you watch a video, try to focus on a single thing, like accelerating out of a turn or braking into one. Then, train that skill during your practice sessions. Once you feel that you’ve mastered one skill, you can work on another proficiency until you feel prepared to do your best on race day.
3. Optimize your Setup
While excellent gear will undoubtedly help you race better, there are some things you can do with your existing sim rig that can help you immediately see improvement in your racing ability.
Many new drivers are surprised to learn that unlike console racing games like Forza or Gran Turismo, iRacing is incredibly customizable. Simply loading the software and joining a race usually isn’t the best way to have great results.
Change Your FOV
The first thing to manage is your field of view. While it may not seem like a big deal, how you’re viewing the virtual racetrack through your screen severely impacts your racing ability. This is an aspect of sim racing that can take some time to get used to, so spend some time dialing it in.
You should optimize your field of view because it impacts how you perceive both corners and other track obstacles. If your picture is too close, you might think that corners are much closer than they appear, causing you to brake too early. Similarly, if you’re not close enough, you might overshoot corners, causing you to brake more heavily and lock your tires, losing speed.
Luckily, iRacing has a great tool that helps you manage your field of view and optimize it for your setup. It’s important to note that the field of view isn’t just dictated by what appears on your screen. You can also change how you recognize your screen’s action by moving your monitor closer or further away. Take time to play with this, so you find the right setup.
Force feedback wheels can give a driver a lot of information about their car and the road conditions as they drive. It’s essential to have these settings dialed in so you can get the most from the sim racing experience.
Now, most sim racers want to take advantage of all of the force feedback a wheel offers. As a result, they’ll max out the settings, all but asking that the wheel be ripped out of their hands if they spin or have a collision.
Unfortunately, this can cause you to be less sensitive to road conditions or more delicate input forms. If every experience with your wheel is jarring, you might not know the difference between uneven tire wear or a sloped road surface.
Optimized For Your Setup
This lack of refinement is why it’s important to dial in your force feedback settings. Many iRacing forums will have specific settings optimized for your kind of wheel (as each peripheral will have different options required to get the most out of the mechanics available.) After you implement the recommended settings, you can optimize them for your driving style through trial and error.
The last piece of the puzzle to consider is your computer’s graphics card. While this might be a high-tech setting to implement, considering how your graphics card holds up to the demand of iRacing will help you better perceive the track and racing environment. I recommend using other racer’s expertise for this – and relying on the suggested settings in forums to find what’s best for you.
4. Virtual Racing School
You can take some paid avenues to get better at racing, such as a Virtual Racing School membership. Virtual Racing School, which has three tiers of membership, gives members access to tools like data packs and racing sessions to improve their iRacing performance.
Some drivers can even take advantage of one-on-one coaching with some of the best Sim drivers in the world, like Martin Krönke or Ray Alfalla.
Most drivers will use Virtual Racing School mainly for data packs, which are downloadable car presets that can help new racers optimize their driving performance.
VRS has several free tools, such as a telemetry tool that can help drivers better understand their habits and how the car is wearing over the course of the race. You can also compare your performance to other drivers.
Find Where You Can Improve
For example, you can see where more successful drivers are likely to brake when entering a corner or how fast they’re accelerating. These data points can be incredibly valuable for someone trying to make the most of their driving time and find actionable improvements in each lap.
Virtual Racing School is relatively affordable and can be a great way to unlock the most in driving for a low cost. There are some additional programs like iSpeed that can provide a similar experience to Virtual Racing School. The data that these programs provide to a new driver is essential. You can learn about your driving habits and find out how to correct them quickly.
5. Upgrading Your Rig
Not The Biggest Factor
It’s not surprising that better gear will generally help you become a better driver. However, you can still perform poorly with a top of the line rig if you’re not committed to the other parts of being a great iRacing driver. Practicing, optimizing your settings, and observing better drivers can be just as important, if not more so, to your success as a sim racer than the equipment you have.
Now, there will be a point where you might feel limited by your racing rig. If you find your steering wheel isn’t strong enough to provide meaningful feedback or that your pedals are wearing out, it might be time to commit to better peripherals.
Comfortable Racing Setup
More importantly, if your driving position isn’t ergonomic, you may find that it’s impossible to take on longer races. Although this list is of ways to get better in iRacing fast, you still need to devote a fair amount of time behind the wheel. Make sure your racing setup, whatever it may be, is comfortable and ergonomic enough to allow you to race for hours.
When considering what parts to upgrade first, I would usually suggest your overall rig. I’ve found that having an ergonomic racing setup was essential for allowing me to devote the time and focus necessary to put in the hours needed to build my iRacing career.
Upgrading Your Wheel
Next, I would suggest upgrading your wheel and wheelbase, as these are the two peripherals that give you the most valuable feedback. Ensure that you’re buying a steering wheel that can accommodate you as you grow as a driver. If this is your first or second upgrade, consider more top-of-the-line options, so your growth as a driver isn’t limited.
Get Good Pedals
Finally, invest in your pedals. Top-of-the-line pedals are generally load-cell, which provide an enormous range of feel while driving. These also have a very lifelike feel when you press on them, making driving a lot more realistic.
As before, just because you’ve upgraded your rig doesn’t mean that you can give up everything else mentioned above. Becoming a great iRacing driver is a combination of factors but is made up primarily of how effectively you use your time behind the wheel. While having great equipment can make that time more comfortable, it’s not a replacement for the time investment itself.
Getting better at iRacing isn’t just a matter of getting into your racing rig every day and grinding out hours until you magically get better. Like any sport, it requires strategy, skill, and a bit of work to improve. One great way to drill in the fundamentals is to improve your Safety Rating first, so you can build your license, and then focus on getting faster and building your iRating.
Take time to learn what racers that are better than you do and learn how to use your equipment effectively to make the most of every lap. Finally, when you reach the limits of your setup, make logical upgrades so that nothing can hold you back. But the most important thing is that you’re coming to the rig every day and having a good time.