Ever wonder what it would be like if you could go back in time with what you now know? Of course you have, everyone has. But until a time machine is invented you’re never going to be able to take all those lady charming skills you learned over the last decade or two back with you to highschool.
Improvement isn’t an instant thing. We haven’t learned all that we now know in an instant. It’s a long process of doing it wrong, some introspection and some ideas of how to get better, then applying those ideas to see what makes the difference.
I started my iRacing “career” slowly in January 2011, most of my effort was interrupted with Codemasters F1 league racing I was already doing – but I was never a player of the single player – I craved competition against real people. A few years in, with my iRating – the only real indicator of how good we are as racers – yo-yoing up and down, while my friends go on to new height after height, I ask myself “Have I even improved?”
iRacing recently advertised the Nurburgring 1000 promotion (http://www.iracing.com/nurburgring100), where they’re giving away 3 months subscription for free. This presented me with the perfect “time machine”. So I signed up and took my years of learning back to the start to see how I fared.
2600 iRating is nothing too bad and I’m regularly dicing with competing closely with people with iRatings closer to 4000, so I know by the numbers I’m not a total noob.
My first race was successful to say the least. Having not driven the MX-5 Cup for months I signed up and started from 9th place out of 11. This was probably my best drive of this entire experiment. I got one incident (1x) and set the fastest lap of the race as I came through the pack.
My next race wasn’t so great. I qualified before the race this time, experience telling me I won’t get so lucky next time. My time was good enough for 2nd in the next race, only just behind first, but I knew I could get by him. I sat on his rear, 0.3s away, for the first lap. My experience telling me to brake a little earlier than I normally would. Then, near the end of the lap and still in 2nd, the 3rd place car tried a move up the inside and understeered into me, turning me around. I was too broken to drive back to the pits and despite my proximity to it I had to get a 45sec tow.
Experience again had me turn off refuelling and new tyres, so I was away with an instant stop. Something I didn’t know when I first started.
I caught up with Erick Downs, after closing him in at 2 seconds a lap. I slowed down, waiting to get a good exit unto the straight I decided to make my pass, the back straight (we’re at Okayama). Downs basically came to a stop mid corner. Or so it appeared to me – moving substantially faster. I hit him on his rear but was fine to keep going, with a few apologies on my part. A few laps later I caught up with Richard Tillman who was deep in a battle for 4th place. Both these guys were lapping about 2 seconds a lap slower. Coming out of the last turn, Richard pulled to the right and on his mic told me to go past. He then launched into a tirade about how I shouldn’t be overtaking cars who were a lap up on me, and getting in the way of his battle. I felt for the guy, but I was completely within the rules of iRacing to unlap myself.
Race 3 and I got a connection error 61 and then 71. By the time I’d resolved this and join, the race had literally just ended. So that race was a write off and I lost a bunch of iRating because of it (not that it shows at Rookie, but I know from experience that failing to start a race you’re registered for costs about 100+ iRating!)
The remaining races were simple. I requalified, this time in the top 100 of all drivers this week. My warmup lap was another 0.2s faster than my qualifying at 1:02.690. I won that race from pole, as I did ever race until I got my D class license and this little experiment came to an end.
Not long ago iRacing changed the promotion rules out of Rookie. Back in my day you either got instantly promoted to D when you got to 4.00 SR in rookie, or you got promoted at the end of each 4 week season if your Safety Rating (SR) was 3 or more at the end of the season. iRacing now instantly promotes all rookies who get their SR about 3. Safety ratings start at 2.50, and it’s a hard climb to 4.0.
When I originally started iRacing Laguna Seca was one of the 2 circuits in the rookie rotation. Maybe 6 months later it moved to the much much easier Okayama (club) layout, which probably made a big difference to the rate at which SR could be improved.
My first attempt results looked like this
Not exactly awe-inspiring. I disconnect a few times. I lost a lot of iRating. There was much I didn't understand about iRacing. Using the last near four years of simracing experience my results looked much more respectable:
As already discussed, I likely would have won both those races, had I not been hit (not my fault) and not had the game not load.
What did I notice from what I remember of my first attempt and my do over?
- Being a fast driver helps :)
- Always qualify. I rarely qualified when I first started out. That would put me back in the pack. Lots of other didnt' qualify either, so starting position was ranked by iRating. Qualifying puts you as far up the front as possible. This reduces your chance of being hit by noobs who haven't yet learned racecraft (people like me in my when I first started).
- Know when to pace yourself. You don't need to set fastest laps in every race. What you need to do is FINISH every race.
- Have experience before you go iRacing. I know that makes little sense, but even though I had a bit of F1 2010 experience before I started iRacing, and I did ok there, I had pretty much no racecraft (the things mentioned above). I played racing games (simulations such as the GP series from Geoff Crammand) in highshcool and early uni, but knowing you have a restart button and there's not an angry real life player at the other end of the mic does not teach you racecraft. Race real people. Race with a sim that as simulated real life consequences (damage).
If nothing else, this test conducted last night and this morning has shown I have actually improved.
In the infamous words of the T-1000, that will forever echo through my mind - My CPU is a neural net processor; a learning computer.