With just a few hours to go until the start of this year's (virtual) 24 Hours of Le Mans, we talk to Mark Chorley, one of Pure Motorsports drivers in this year’s race, who gives us an insight into the phenomenon that is iRacing…
“iRacing is the world’s premier motorsport racing simulation, with incredibly accurate, laser scanned tracks and fantastically realistic physics of cars and tyres worked on alongside real-life race teams. Not to mention a very complex dynamic weather and track system and day/night transitions, putting members in the driver’s seat by allowing them to experience today’s newest form of competitive motorsport: virtual racing. iRacing is a fun, inexpensive and a highly-competitive way for race fans and gamers to break a sweat by braking hard at the apex, while overcoming head-to-head racing challenges usually reserved for professional racers.
iRacing differs from other "console sims" in that each car is laser scanned, and real-life data from professional race teams is used to model not only the aesthetics, but the physics of each car, from unsprung weight to crank weight inertia. There is no modding community within iRacing, everything is built to the highest standard possible by the developers. All the racing in iRacing is against human opponents, there is no artificial intelligence, and the license and safety rating system ensure that you will always end up in a race with drivers of a similar skill level.
The sim is governed by a series of licences from Rookie, through D, C, B, A and finally a prestigious Pro licence. Penalties are also applied through the safety rating (both licence and safety rating working hand in hand) to provide a robust system to ensure fair racing. Each race will have an incident limit, and this will build on occasions such as going off track, contact with barriers and cars. Reaching the limit will lead to disqualification from a race.
Last year’s Le Mans 24 hour race fielded a total of 620 teams (usually consisting of around 3-5 drivers) including many top line professional drivers. Rubens Barrichello, Max Verstappen, Frank Biela, Ash Sutton, Lando Norris and Jason Plato all regulars to name just a few.
Racing rigs will vary from driver to driver. From a very simple wheel, peddle and single monitor, to triple screens, virtual reality goggles and motion rigs for the lucky few. The cost of the setup varies greatly, from as little as maybe £2-300 up to tens of thousands for the most outlandish setups. Drivers are spread across the globe and still race in the same team via radio comms and a nifty in sim driver swap mechanism in the pit stop.
Qualification for this year’s race has been on going all this week and once the race is divided up into "splits" each team will know where they have qualified for the race. Splits are formed by dividing the 600 or so teams entered the race into fields of approx 50 cars, according to the skill rating of that team.
Last year Pure Motorsport finished in 6th place (3rd split of many) in the LMP1 class which they were a little disappointed with due to some bad luck and being a little inefficient with their aero package. Preparations have gone well this year with a much more slippery car so hopes are high. We shall also be fielding a P2 car too which should be interesting.
At a "hobby" level, there is no prize money up for grabs, but the satisfaction alone of doing well is enough for most of us. Pro teams are now a very real thing within esports and iRacing, with some drivers making a full time living out of Sim racing and coaching. This year the "Porsche Esports Supercup" launched on iRacing, with a season prize pool of some $100,000, the same sum of money for the premier Nascar series sponsored by Peak antifreeze. All in all, this year there is approx $300,000 of prize money available with iRacing!"
iRacing will be showing the top split with live commentary of all the pro teams at http://www.youtube.com/iracingesportsnetwork . Pure Motorsport will be streaming the LMP1 entry at https://www.twitch.tv/moreau27 and our LMP2 entry at https://www.twitch.tv/watchmerace