I am excited there is racing. Well…”racing” because it’s not the same atmosphere as being at a live event, and not the same atmosphere as even watching it on television. Some of that may be due to social distancing (tend to watch races I’m not at in a group), but I think a lot of this has to do with – not completely understanding the idea of iRacing, or any type of racing simulation. My experience with computer-based racing came from Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Honestly my experience with video games is limited mainly to Mario Kart, and games for the Wii.
Here we are though, March 28, 2020 and we get some speed in the form of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge starting with the American Red Cross Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International. If you’re unaware of what iRacing is, which I was prior to this, it’s an online racing simulation platform. Chances are you’ve seen video or photos of drivers within a racing simulator. This first race is part of a six-event series to be held weekly on Saturdays through May 2. The opening virtual race event will be followed by Barber Motorsports Park (April 4), “Driver’s Choice” track (April 11), “Random Draw” track (April 18), Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track (May 2). INDYCAR drivers will compete in the races with commentary by Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell, and Paul Tracey.
Sim racing follows the same course and length as the track chosen. With Watkins Glen the course was 3.37 miles and the race consisted of forty-five laps in total. In this race, the drivers must complete two pit stops, which the cars just sorta of hovered in the pit lane while they ‘refueled’. Drivers were also allowed two “resets” or “fixes”. This resulted in some weird moments were cars seemed to suddenly disappear after an accident.
I can’t quite tell you what happened during the race. There were cars. They were on a track. They were driving and there was commentary but generally not sure. There was simulated damage, like missing front wings and engine covers. There was a mysterious disappearance of Tony Kanaan, Colton Herta, Sebastian Bourdais, and James Hinchcliffe that was at one point brought up, but never fully discussed. It does turn our Hinch’s car didn’t even start the race and according to the results the other three ended up “off course” never to be seen again.
Here’s the deal, it was fun to watch. Sage Karem ran away with the race, going pole-to-pole. Which is great for him, this year Dryer and Reinbold Racing have stepped up to support him in multiple races, and I think this win helps show he’s been putting in the work. There was a few of us on a Skype chat which helped this feel more normal. Also being tipsy slightly helps. The camera work (?) was really nice and it helps bridge the gap from now until real racing starts back again. This Saturday is Barber, which feels like a pretty challenging course for iRacing.