Drivers reveal the similarities and differences between the two sports.

Training and setup are important to the success of any driver. And if you’re familiar with the ever-expanding world of iRacing, you’ll know the digital terrain is where iRacers and traditional racers alike go to learn. Professionals like Will Byron begin their career iRacing, sharpening their skills and familiarizing themselves with the tracks they’ll soon race on IRL.

We linked up with a couple of the hottest names in the real and the digital versions of the racing world to learn more about what it takes to excel in both arenas.

What’s the biggest difference between iRacing and traditional racing?

RAY EVERNHAM - Traditional Racer

It's very visual. You have no acceleration, deceleration g-forces. So every decision you make is based off of what you see on the screen. And that just takes timing and training because I'm used to that gyroscopic force put on a real car. It's honestly very good training for any race driver because you have to be able to have such a quick process from hand and eye.

AARON LEICHTY, The Winning Formula - Traditional Racer

You have to point out the differences in cost and accessibility right away. "Real" race cars take a lot of time, money, and effort to prepare for a single race weekend. And one mistake can leave you with a banged up car, or worse. iRacing costs the same no matter how many laps you run, can be reset after a crash with the push of a button, and can be accessed at any hour of the day. This makes iRacing a great way to practice and prepare for the real thing.


The main similarity is competitiveness can be just as extreme as real life. For example, I race in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, and we put in countless hours towards setting up our cars because we want that exposure, we want the feeling to do well. It can also be just as frustrating at times, even if we have a reset button and don’t have to put in the labor to fix our cars.

What are the advantages of iRacing?

AARON LEICHTY, The Winning Formula - Traditional Racer

iRacing is a great way to keep your mental and physical skills up to task during the off-season or in between races. Top professionals in Formula1, Indy, and NASCAR are using simulators to prepare for their races. You can also use it to develop your race craft in the competitive online iRacing events where you compete wheel-to-wheel with other iRacers. And the good news is that a mistake in judgment during one of these races doesn't mean a banged up race car!

DAVE of Speed Academy - Traditional Racer

iRacing does a great job of simulating car setup, so I can replicate my car’s setup in iRacing including gearing and alignment and tire pressures such that I can learn a lot more than layout and lines. I can also learn what gear I need to be in where, and maybe even some other finer setup variables like roll stiffness and wheel alignment. This means that when I show up to that track in real life, I’ll be able to focus more on extracting those last few seconds out of myself and the car instead of spending valuable on-track time learning the layout and sorting out the car’s setup from scratch.



What makes a great iRacetrack vs. a real racetrack?


What makes a great iRacing track is where you really have to control the car by wheel inputs, throttle inputs, and brake inputs. A good example of this on the oval side would maybe be Martinsville, Dover, and Atlanta.

AARON LEICHTY, The Winning Formula - Traditional Racer

What makes a great racetrack is speed, elevation change, and a touch of danger. High-speed tracks that force drivers to confront an element of "risk" make for the best racing. A long history of racing and a great surrounding town make a great track infamous!

What would you say to someone who has never tried iRacing before?


I used iRacing for 5+ years before buying a real race car - started at the back in my very first race because I was nervous. By lap 2, I had complete confidence in the car and began working my way through the field and finished third like I had done it all my life. It is truly unbelievable how similar everything is.

RAY EVERNHAM - Traditional Racer

It's as close to being in a real racing event without being in a real racing event. When you get to do something virtually, and you're doing it and then you get to watch it in reality, you're gonna be a fan of it because you're gonna go, “Wow, that's really hard. I know that track.” I think it can only be good for our sport.

DAVE of Speed Academy - Traditional Racer

So for me, the appeal is racing online with my friends, but I also see value in having an iRacing setup for whenever I go to a new track. I spent a lot of time on Forza learning the Nurburgring Nordschleifebefore making a trip over there in 2009. Having watched my buddies Jackie Dingand Ben Lin from Gears & Gasolinecompete in the iRacing Nurburgring 24-hour race, it’s clear that iRacing has done an incredible job modeling that track with pinpoint accuracy, and I now find myself online shopping for a gaming PC so I can join them for the iRacing 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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Tags: Culture




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