Jump to content

My overview/checklist for starting iRacing

Recommended Posts

As an experienced ChampCar Endurance Series racer, I want to share the main concepts I learned along the way to getting started in iRacing and running a ChampCar iRacing event.  I'm not going to explain how to do all these things, there are YouTube videos and plenty of internet articles for most of this stuff.  However, I did not locate a master checklist or walkthrough that was direct and explained what was possible without all the details.  So here goes:  


Getting started checklist:


* It is important to know what you want to do with iRacing - what type of racing you want to do, what tracks you want to race on, how much $ you want to spend.  All this stuff will affect your decisions.  (at the start my goal was to work on driver development for Rachel and me.  It has since expanded to include doing some sim racing with ChampCar and getting my D license for road and oval racing)
* Realize that this is a computer simulation of driving and racing - which means the physics is not going to be perfect (exaggerated wreck action for speeds), and people are not always going to behave the same as in real life.  Cars can sometimes blink and/or disappear as the connection of the other driver is faltering, and you may experience car to car contact even though cars never touch (google iRacing netcode) 
* You are going to be paying for the iRacing subscription, and eventually you will want to buy tracks and cars - so you'll need a little extra $ for that.  In the digital world this may seem expensive, but in real life all of this would cost a lot more

* Get a gaming PC (check iRacing site for minimum requirements)  I am not an expert but if I were to upgrade anything it would be the video card
* Get a monitor (I used an old PC monitor to start - want to figure out what I want before I make a big investment.  Most TVs now will accept input from PC)
* Get a steering wheel and pedals (Thrustmaster T150)
* Get some speakers (optional - can use headphones or earbuds)

* Get a microphone (optional - but it helps to be able to speak with the other drivers.  Entry level decent gaming headset with mic around $60)
* Decide where to put your racing setup (I advise a temporary setup as you will change your mind on what you want after you use it)
* Set up the PC (regular PC stuff - connect everything, initial configuration, download updates)
* Install the drivers for the wheel and pedals
* Go to iRacing website, sign up
* Download iRacing software.  Download updates (you can use the website or the beta app.  I find the beta app to be decent so I am using that mostly at the start.  you will want both to work)

* Get familiar with the cars and tracks offered with your subscription - know what they are and how to see them
* Get familiar with these activities: test, practice, time trial, racing
  A test is just you in your car and the track.  Great learning tool, does not count toward your safety or iRating
  A practice is you in your car with other drivers on the same track.  Again great learning tool.  Best I can tell does not count toward safety or iRating
  A time trial - well I see it listed there I don't know what it is yet
  Racing is you and other drivers going through a sequence of activities: practice session (see practice above), then a practice within the event, followed by qualifying, entering the gird, then the actual race.  
  You can race against AI drivers which is another great way to get up to speed without wrecking your safety rating
* Get familiar with how the iRacing interface works

* iRacing has a license based rating system and a performance based rating system, which are not related.  These ratings are kept separately for four categories of racing: road, oval, dirt, dirt oval.  (seems relatively structured like SCCA or NASA)
* license based is your Safety rating.  Safety rating is used to determine if you are eligible for the next level license.  You start as a rookie, and can move up to D, C, B, A, etc.  It monitors the number of times you go off or have contact as compared to the number of turns you have completed.  If you do well you gain points.
* performance based is a rating of how good you are and is called iRating.  In races with large # of entrants they will use this number to group you with similar rated racers.  This is not very relevant at the beginning.  
* I've experienced delays in getting the safety rating updated after races

First test:
* calibrate the wheel and pedals to the game
* it takes quite a while to get used to virtual driving, so don't get discouraged if you crash a lot.  Just learn from your mistakes and soon you will understand the limitations of the car and you will improve.  It's like learning to walk all over again.  Treat it like you are driving someone elses car you had no input on setups, tire choice, etc and learn what it can do for you.  

First practice:
* There is no driver meeting!  There are rules: no speeding on pit road, stay below the blend line when entering the track - they will black flag you

First race:
* Be sure to choose a race that will/will not count toward your safety rating as you prefer.  A column on the race selection menu tells you.
* Make sure you can hear your crew chief
* When you sign up for a race, it will automatically redirect you to a practice session.  
* After the practice session, you will go to a very short practice, then qualifying, following by grid, then the race itself.  Along the way it will tell you hundreds of people have signed up but don't worry they just put a small number of you in an event and they run multiple races off the same sign up.
* When the green rectangle at the top starts counting down to grid, it means you have that much time to press the button to be put on the grid.  if you fail, the race will start with you in your pit stall.  Once the pace car comes by they give a short countdown and you can go on track.  If you are focused on safety rating this is a legitimate way to avoid start of race melee that often ends up wrecking cars and affecting your safety rating.
* If the race has a rolling start your spotter will instruct you which line you are in (inside or outside) and who to pass and who to follow.  Be careful on the ovals you can get lulled into speeding up to the field then rear end someone as the pace car is fairly slow
* In each race there is a maximum number of safety violations allowed.  They start counting this as soon as you get on the grid.  Accidents during the pace lap count.  Wheels off, loss of control, contact with other vehicles.  Once you exceed the max you are disqualified from the race.  
* iRacing spotter is OK but sometimes late to give you information.  Can't rely on it exclusively.  Also when wrecks are ahead it will try to guide you but the advice is not always great  

Sim racing upgrades beyond the basics:
* Get the crew chief app:  https://forum.sector3studios.com/index.php?threads/offical-release-of-crew-chief-version-4-auto-updating-and-shiny.2516/
* Get the iRacing manager app:   https://youtu.be/w1GLdEAiu-I

* Get the Trading Paints app: tradingpaints.com  Oddly enough this is not built into iRacing but it does require you to connect with your subscriber ID.  Allows you to see everyone else's custom livery or show them your own.  Plenty of video on how to make a custom livery so I am not going to go into that here

* Get on Discord.  Get connected to the ChampCar server so you can get updates and message others in the community.  For level 2: set up your own audio channel for you and your friends - it works much better than the in game communication app.


iRacing Manager will allow you to start Crew Chief and Trading Paints, and anything else you want automatically when you start iRacing.  Set this guy up to bring up iRacing Manager, then set up Windows to bring this buy up minimized when booting up the machine  
* Learn how to access the in game menus.  Controls pit stops - refueling, tire changes.  Also can see tire temps, relative position in the field.  Default for fuel is F4 and tires is F5
* Allow someone to spot for you.  To do this you have to go into your profile and allow it.  I have made this change to allow my friends in iRacing to get in with no password
* Program key functions into the buttons on your steering wheel
* Explore other overlays - overlays are programs that you run when you are in iRacing to assist you with various things.  For instance I have one that in addition to showing my position on the track and gap to cars in front and behind, it shows the drivers iRating and safety rating.  This info can help you understand the probabilities of being able to race close or negotiate a safe pass.
* custom setups.  like Forza, Gran Turismo console based games you can modify car suspension setups.  There are tutorials and even access to baseline setups for a vehicle at a specific track that can be obtained if you do some searching
* Join a league

Getting involved with ChampCar iRacing
* get your road racing D license and keep your safety rating above 2.0 (this took me some practice and three races - hint: don't race to win these, race to stay on track and not crash)
* apply to join the league
* go on forum.champcar.org and learn the schedule
* get on their Discord as you can learn about practice sessions they have days before the race


For the record, it was 11 days from the time I purchased my PC until my first ChampCar iRacing event.  While my finishing results were not great, I finished ahead of 20 drivers and did not need to make repairs on the car.  

Edited by mostmint
  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...

As the 2020 season is progressing, I see car counts in the league are lower.  This is similar to what happened in 2019.  Why is this relevant for getting started?  


Well you can run ChampCar iRacing events with low car counts which should make your first event that much easier - you can focus more on fundamentals and less on managing traffic.  Get yourself dialed in so you can start 2021 at a more competitive level.  

Edited by mostmint
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...
On 10/28/2020 at 2:55 PM, bbaker480 said:

What is the best bang for the buck VR headset right now?  I'm back and forth between the HP Reverb G2 and the Valve Index based on reviews.  Also curious how in VR you find buttons to access menu functions for pit stops and things.


Your mileage may vary, but I purchased a used Oculus Rift when I wanted to try VR. For the menus, they present on the screen and sometimes you have to look around for them if that makes sense. Keep the mouse in a familiar position otherwise you'll keep peeking an eye out the headset.


Ultimately I couldn't overcome the motion sickness and sold the Rift a few weeks later for $50 more than I paid initially.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/30/2020 at 9:13 AM, obscene said:


Your mileage may vary, but I purchased a used Oculus Rift when I wanted to try VR. For the menus, they present on the screen and sometimes you have to look around for them if that makes sense. Keep the mouse in a familiar position otherwise you'll keep peeking an eye out the headset.


Ultimately I couldn't overcome the motion sickness and sold the Rift a few weeks later for $50 more than I paid initially.

I ended up with an Oculus Rift S.  I haven't had the opportunity yet to drive with it because I'm still building my rig, but I have managed to punch the light on my ceiling fan twice goofing around with it.  I'm throwing together a 2x4 rig to get dimensions situated and then ordering some 80/20 extrusion.  Might as well dive in with both feet right?

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites


My rig keeps evolving.  Started with an old office chair and evolved to a swap meet car seat.  Also I've added a small stand to the left of the wheel to hold the phone.  

After I got going with the league I wanted to speak with the other drivers so I invested around $80 for the HyperX Cloud Stinger headset.  There are other choices in this price range but I'm very happy with its performance.

Edited by mostmint
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Update:  8 months in my throttle pedal return spring failed - luckily it was a practice race.


This raises some questions about the long term viability of the Thrustmaster T150 set.  It did it's job and let me know my network connection supports iRacing, and I want to keep doing it.  


The pedal set is exceedingly simple on the inside, so I just fabricated a new torsion spring setup and fixed it.  Full write up here hoping to increase maintenance interval past 8 months.  For now I will continue to use it.  

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

If anyone is interested in going past getting the minimum D license, I'm sharing how I got to my A road racing license.  Keep in mind license level is about staying on track and not having car to car contact.


Road D license:


Global Mazda MX5 @ Tsukuba – practiced enough to learn the track. Never ran more than mid pack, averaged 4 incidents per race, made it through in 3 races. Races 1-3 of my iRacing open events results


Road C license: 


Global Challenge Series (Optima and CTS-V) – one at Summit Point with Optima, three at WGI with CTS-V. Races 8-11 of my iRacing open event results.  Keep in mind I was practicing to learn the car and the track for each of these - not the fastest times but reasonable pace and able to consistently complete laps.


Road B:


Ran four events in the Advanced MX5 Global Cup series @ WGI. Races 21-24 of my iRacing open event results.


Road A:

Ran Dallara IR18 IndyCar at MIS. Ran four races in two days. This meets the event requirement now need to get safety rating above 3. Oddly they do not count toward road racing iRating or safety rating. Races 30 and 32-34 of my iRacing open event results


Ran BMW M4 GT4 at WGI – 5 events, followed by Mazda MX5 Cup at Okayama full course – 6 events. Both required C level license. I had to get my safety rating up from 2.61 over 3 to qualify. My iRating took a big hit. It was not high in the first place but it put me in lower splits where there was a lot of bad driving. During those events there were 7 4x incidents – getting hit in the back or the side. I had to learn to be very patient and basically not race – starting in the back and staying back there for half the race. At B license level a 4x basically ensures you will lose safety rating in a 25 minute race. Made it on 12/31. Races 31, 35-44 of my iRacing open event results.  If I had done better at not racing and staying in the back this could have been done in 3 maybe 4 races max.  


After this the new season was not here yet so I went to work on improving my iRating.  Making it out it went as low as 1078.  I practiced with the Global MX5 Cup and raced at Sonoma.  In bottom split two of the three races, I was able to get on the podium.  Its a lot easier to race from the front lol.  I also went to work learning to drive and set up the Corvette C8.R so I could do some racing in a higher license class.  Accidentally I learned some things about how to set up the brakes with the entry level pedal sets, and a lot about car setups.  Still not great but was able to improve the car by changing several things.  Started with a setup from a free setups site.  Ran four more races with this car and the iRating is up to 1318.  Races 45-51.






Edited by mostmint
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

iRacing etiquette hints


In no particular order, and probably not a complete list, but I thought I would capture my thoughts on this topic to help those new to the series. iRacing has some unique capabilities vs real life and they can improve how we interact. It also has some unique limitations that change the dynamic somewhat


  1. Be considerate when merging on track

If you do go off track, please be aware of approaching cars. Don't enter the track broadside to oncoming traffic when cars are bearing down on your location. It's very easy to forget about this in the virtual world when you do not have a good view out the side. Don't back up onto the racing line because you nosed it into the wall without regard for who is coming. Be very light on the throttle on the grass as it is easy to spin the car which can cause unsafe or unexpected entry onto the track. Without the feel of tires spinning or g's it is much easier to forget about this in the sim and just punch the gas in urgency or frustration


  1. Make good decisions after loss of control

If you are stopped on track sideways and cars are right there, stay put or press the tow button. Once you have a gap in cars approaching you can start moving again. The tow button will cost you some time but could avoid a big wreck and you needing a fast repair or a lengthy repair – and you disappear instantly which could save you a race ending crash. You have to get to a complete stop for it to work.


If you go off track keep driving the car and try to avoid coming back on track in the path of other drivers. Since this is the virtual world, you might consider hitting that barrier rather than missing it and careening into traffic which messes up your race and several others.


  1. Be predictable

This largely applies to how you look to overtaking cars. Stay on the line. Countless times a slower car tries to get out of the way and ends up filling the path the overtaking car was planning to use. If you can – use the radio to tell the overtaking car “pass left”. Don't wait til the car is so close the driver has already made a choice.


  1. Manage traffic approaching from behind

Always use the relative display to tell you when cars are approaching

Make sure the side mirrors are turned on

Keep an eye on the mirrors

When you get on the main straight or someplace convenient, check the relative display. Each lap you can see the time gap to cars behind, if it's decreasing they are likely going to catch you. This allows you to understand about when a car will catch you so you can be prepared. If you are not racing for position you may consider the best way to let that person by without costing you much time – this applies to cars laps ahead of you (in red on display) or laps behind you (in blue on display).

If a car is overtaking on the inside – or the outside – give them room. Between the mirrors and your spotter you should know someone is there. If you don't like the default spotter get the crewchief app


  1. Do adequate practice so you can safely navigate the track

In order to navigate a race track for 60 minutes without incident, you will need to develop a rhythm or choreography of what to do with your inputs for every inch of the track, and have enough repetitions to commit it to memory. When you approach turn 3 you should already know when to brake, when to start the turn in, when to get back to the gas, what gear to be in. Everybody makes mistakes and that is part of racing, that cannot be avoided. Being unprepared can be avoided.



I'm sure there are more

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...