Tuesday, 18 August 2015

iRacing Skip Barber Summit Point lap and thoughts

I like Summit Point. It's one of the first tracks where I felt I could actually compete at least with the times of the fastest drivers in the series. I was no longer a full second behind them, I was a few tenths short. And that makes a huge difference in terms of confidence.

The lap below is about half a second slower than the fastest time in pre-race week testing. I would have liked to have gained a tenth or two during the week, but that wasn't to be.

I entered two races, in the first of which I made a mistake going into turn three, which is a third gear left hander, exiting with a sand trap on the right. In attempting to go around a driver ahead for seventh position I touched the grass slightly at turn in while giving him room and span the car. You don't need to take much of the grass there to be turned around.

In the second race the driver behind attempted a pass in the same location, and it seemed to me he pushed across a little to the right on exit, forcing me into the sand.

I realised at that point that I'm not enjoying the race experience. I should be in top splits, there's no doubt about that. When you find yourself winning 1900 SOF races while feeling disappointed it's clear a greater challenge is required.

The problem I have with iRacing and the Skip Barber series is really twofold. First the damage model is seriously flawed. If you participate in the series you know how fragile the rear of the car is. In contrast the front wheels seem to be made of titanium. You will consistently see drivers being rear ended and having to pit with critical damage, while the other car continues without issues. That inevitably leads to a casual attitude towards hitting the car in front. What makes that even worse is the effect of the tow, and there is a widespread belief that the tow is exaggerated. In the past iRacing have stated that the tow is set up to encourage close racing.

The end result is that racing becomes dominated by the need to keep within the tow. You can be significantly slower than the driver ahead, but you can still be all over his gearbox due to the exaggerated aeorodynamic effect. And all it takes is one miscalculation of the effect the tow has on closing speeds to go into the back of the leading driver and essentially "take him out".

The only thing you can do is to drive out of your skin for lap after lap and hope you can somehow break the tow or just keep your nose in front. Even then a single mistake will cost you. And that is not the experience I'm looking for. I don't want to have to drive qualifying hotlaps for lap after lap, knowing the driver behind has nothing to lose by rear ending me, and everything to gain.

It doesn't help that the Skip Barber is the only car on iRacing that I enjoy. The other cars either understeer too much or they're too fast for me, or in the case of the Star Mazda, it just doesn't interest me.

As a consequence I'm stepping aside from iRacing for the time being. That does mean I'm losing out on at least a top three in my division for the season, but continuing to compete comes at the price of constantly waiting to be taken out of races, and I know I'm not the only one this season to have walked away from the series as a consequence.

Will I return? My subscription ends around the time of the "Black Friday" deals. I might renew at that time, I might wait until I see some progression in development. I know plenty is promised, but plenty of things have been promised for the last few years. I might just leave it until the Formula Renault 2.0 has been released, along with the new surface model, and hopefully an improved damage model. But for now other things excite me, and more on that soon.

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