Any iRacing user with more than a dozen races under their belt has probably been crashed out of races quite a few times, often times as the victim of situations that ocellate between genuine racing incidents & full-on malice-fueled attacks. iRacing attempts to reduce these incidents through the safety rating & license systems, preventing you from racing faster cars until you’ve raised your safety rating to a high enough level (by not accruing incident points through hitting things & going off the track) & “proving” that you’re capable of racing cleanly around others. Unfortunately far too many incidents are caused by drivers who have high licenses & iRatings (a measure of average finishing position/skill), but seem to prioritize hyper-aggressive, “go for broke” moves over finishing the race in a solid position & intact car. As a result the safety rating system seems to be somewhat broken, as shown by Youtube user Empty Box (hint: the answer to “Is the Top Split Cleaner?” is a resounding “no”):
For a more entertaining & admittedly less data-driven example of how dirty the racing can get in iRacing, check out the ARCA Brake Weekly series by I5G:
After seeing the above video, hopefully you agree that iRacing has room to improve in the clean racing department. The question is, what can drive users to race cleaner?
What iRacing (probably) isn’t Gonna Do
iRacing uses a “no fault” approach to assigning incident points upon accidents, meaning no matter your role in the crash (instigator, victim, caught-up bystander), you’re getting the same amount of points based on car contact, hitting the wall, & going off track.
This differs from real-life racing, where real-life stewards analyze each incident, decide who’s at fault (or if it’s a no-fault “racing incident”), and assign punishment only to the person(s) who caused the accident.
While the broader community frequently clamors for the second approach to be implemented in iRacing, I personally don’t see that happening any time soon. Breaking down complex multicar incidents & assigning blame can be really hard, even for the most seasoned stewards. To develop an algorithm that can effectively & accurately determine fault across potentially millions of car-track-situation permutations that span from road to oval to dirt racing sounds like a mind-spinningly complex project, one that would most likely halt (or considerably slow) car, track, and physics development for months (or even years). Just look at the amount of time AI development’s taken. An incident fault system would probably take quite a bit longer, since AI’s been implemented in other sims before (developers have access to templates, lessons-learned, and possibly even some previous experience in it), while no sim to my knowledge has even attempted an incident fault system.
What iRacing Could Do
Make the Safety Rating System Harsher — Ever been taken out by a needlessly aggressive driver, grumble to yourself in the pits about how they probably have a 1.x safety rating, then sit in surprise when you discover they have a 3.x A-license rating?
The number of incident points needed to substantially drop (or even just not gain) safety rating seems high to me. If safety rating is meant to indicate when you’re “ready” to step up to faster cars, then the fact that you can gain SR (safety rating) after a multi-accident race within your license level means that drivers can often get away with hyper-aggressive driving in cars that they don’t yet have the racecraft to race safely.
If a driver consistently gets into ~1 accident per race, this should be an indicator that they’re not yet ready to race at this level. In my opinion their license level should drop to a lower level, and they should spend some time in slower cars developing their racecraft before taking another crack at the current series. To me it doesn’t feel like this happens enough in iRacing as-is.
Track Aggressive Driving — To combat egregiously aggressive or malicious driving, iRacing has a reporting system where users can report offending drivers to iRacing staff, and anything from a strongly worded email to a lifetime ban can be implemented.
Unfortunately most users only report their peers after obvious wreck attempts. While this behavior does exist (and should be disciplined appropriately) the majority of non-racing incident wrecks are caused by one driver unintentially being too aggressive, divebombing or attempting to slam the door when their competitor’s already alongside.
While a single aggressive move shouldn’t warrant a ban (everyone makes mistakes/has a bad race) there should be repercussions to consistent overly-aggressive driving, starting with coaching the driver as to why they crash out of races so often. Keeping a non-visible “strike” system in the background could incentivize drivers away from divebombs & impossible moves, if they know that too many of them will result in temporary bans.
What You Can Do
Though iRacing’s forms are littered with complaints about over-aggressive & boneheaded driving, complaining & being right won’t do anything to your ruined races or your safety rating. To stay safe, I keep in mind a couple keys before each race:
You’re not Racing Gordon or Senna — Most people who use iRacing watch some form of professional racing, be it F1, Indycar, Nascar, etc. We’re used to seeing professional drivers come within inches of each other at 200+ mph and escape cleanly (usually). Enthralled, we log onto iRacing and attempt the same daring maneuvers as what we just saw. Unfortunately most of us aren’t professional racers, and we’re not (usually) racing against pros either. Instead we’re racing against accountants, college kids, factory workers, and others who didn’t spend their childhood racing against the best youngsters in the world, and don’t have near-unlimited time to build their skills. So before squeezing someone or going 3-wide into a corner, remember that you’re (probably) not racing against pros, and unless you’re in a top-of-the-top split you can’t expect the same skill-level from yourself or your opponents. With that in mind, give them some space, back out of 3-wide or other dangerous situations, and hang back if you see a gaggle of cars being aggressive with each other in front of you. Both your safety rating & iRating will thank you in the long run.
Drive Like You’d Pay for Damages — Another potential cause of overly-aggressive driving is the relative lack of risk in simulators. A slight drop in iRating & safety rating due to a crash is a lot smaller of a risk than thousands of dollars in damages and the potential for injury (or death). So to ensure you finish more races, try tricking yourself into thinking that you’d have to pay for any damage on the car, come the end of the race. You’ll have to suspend disbelief for a bit (which you’re somewhat doing already, since you’re “driving” a series of 1’s & 0’s like they’re a race car), but with this mindset you’ll have much more incentive to keep the car clean, and finish higher as your opponents needlessly wreck each other.
No matter what iRacing does with its safety rating, license, incident, and reporting systems, it’s always worthwhile to remember that to finish first, first you have to finish. I’ve personally found that by focusing on keeping the car clean I’ve consistently finished high in fields of drivers who should be easily driving circles around me, thanks to incidents.