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Aug 17, 2022 Joey Coulter

Can "Real" Drivers Learn From iRacing? DriveRefine Answers

Now that you have spent your valuable time reading our opinion on the “realism” of iRacing we are back again with more. This time, we tackle the question, can “real” drivers learn from iRacing? The simple answer is… Well I’m not going to give you the simple answer because I want you to read the whole thing and more importantly, I want to hear your feedback! 

To get started, let’s think about a few things. First, I want you to think about how you learn how to go faster in the real world and compare that to how you learn how to go fast in iracing. I’ll explain the DriveRefine way of doing both a little later. Second, We often talk about learning from every lap that we run and that repetition matters. Do you think you could learn from every lap you run in a sim? 

Take a few minutes to write down how you learn something at either a new track or even a track you have lots of experience at. In the real world, if we are trying to run faster laps we make adjustments to our driving by driving in harder, rolling the center faster, picking up the throttle harder, adjusting our line or all of the above. What triggers those adjustments? Are you just guessing or are you using other parts of the DriveRefine process to figure out what to try next? Hopefully it's the latter, since I know you have been reading all of these blogs since we started publishing them. 

In the DriveRefine process we practice making adjustments based on “indicators” or “triggers”, meaning things that we as drivers realize we are doing and use those to make improvements. For example, if a driver notices that he/she is not turning the wheel much on entry by being aware of their own hand movement (tape mark on the top center of the wheel) and is “driving straight” down to the center, we consider that an “indicator” that there needs to be a line change to enter in more of an “arc”. If the line change creates a “loose on entry” condition, then the driver knows to ask for an adjustment. Another “trigger” that we often discuss is when a driver notices that he/she has to “back-pedal” or lift out of the throttle during corner exit after beginning to re-accelerate. Once this realization is made, DriveRefine drivers are taught to react by first trying to increase their roll speed through the center to force themselves to move their throttle point farther around the corner. The idea is that if you are getting back to the throttle too soon, that is an indication that the speed through the center of the corner is too low too soon and the car “settles” indicating to the driver that the car is ready to re-accelerate. If the car is settling too soon and causing the driver to rush to the throttle, a simple fix is to try and carry more roll speed so the car settles later in the corner, therefore forcing the driver to accelerate later. Pro Tip: Making sure that you can apply throttle constantly without back-pedaling is what we refer to as “throttle efficiency”.

By using the “indicators” described above, a driver can make a few adjustments to decrease their lap time and provide better feedback to their crew to make more effective adjustments. Now check this out. Apply those same “indicators” to iracing. There are drivers that knock iracing because they say that iracing or any sim for that matter “has no feel”. The two examples I gave above have nothing to do with feel and in certain cases may not even have anything to do with a handling characteristic! If following indicators like the ones above is something that you struggle with, you can practice them on iracing with any car on any track. In fact, I encourage all of the drivers in the DriveRefine program to drive all types of cars on all of the different surfaces and practice applying the same indicators or even figuring out new ones. 


What is experience in racing? Duh. It's that thing that the old guys have and the young guys don’t. How did the old guys gain the experience? They raced. A lot. A lot means repetition. You can “repetition” a lot on iracing. The key is to practice repeating the right things and to allow those things to make you a more experienced racecar driver. Will running a thousand laps a week on iracing at Hickory make you the best late model stock driver in the track’s history? It could! But you have to focus on the things that “trigger” you make adjustments. You can’t run laps on iracing with the assumption that things will “be the same” in the real world. They won’t. But the way you learn how to go faster and the way that you learn to make adjustments is the same. Your “indicators” are the same and you can practice them on repeat. 


Since you made it this far… The short answer is yes. “Real” drivers can and do learn from iRacing. Look up a guy by the name of Max Verstappen. The key is using the sim platform in the correct ways, like we have discussed above. As I often tell my drivers, when you compare iRacing to the real thing, you aren’t comparing apples to oranges. You are learning how to peel and eat an orange by practicing with an apple. Practice using your tools that you have to deploy at the track. Those same tools get you going faster in the iRacing world and that is exactly why I think sim racing is so useful for “real” drivers.


Published by Joey Coulter August 17, 2022