In four seasons of NTT IndyCar Series competition, Alexander Rossi has captured seven wins, including the Indy 500 on his first try, and stood on the podium in 19 of 67 races. All of which, as the perennial championship contender can attest, means absolutely nothing in the world of Esports and iRacing.
Rossi is among three or four drivers with the strongest odds of walking away with the 2020 IndyCar title in hand, but when it comes to Saturday’s inaugural IndyCar iRacing Challenge, the Californian predicts humbling misery.
“I’ve been distracted with trying to figure out how to drive a stupid computer game race car thing on the internet, which is really pissing me off,” he said on Wednesday.
Known for taking a perfectionist’s approach to his craft, Rossi’s attempts to practice for the 90-minute race set to begin at 4 p.m. ET, in which he’ll face 24 other IndyCar drivers on the virtual Watkins Glen road course, have been frustrating, at best. Of the various challenges in adapting to Esports driving, is there one area of piloting a simulated Dallara DW12-Honda that has been problematic?
“All of it,” he said. “Man, I’ve gotten to the point where I can do a decent-ish lap and by no means is it fast, but it’s good enough for top 10-ish. But repeating that is not possible right now. So I’ve got a couple of days still to get dialed in before the season opener. But it’s been not been my favorite pastime, if you will.”
After poking more fun at himself while acknowledging that driving a real IndyCar around Watkins Glen — a track where he utterly decimated the field on IndyCar’s last visit in 2017 — was proving easier than mastering the iRacing version of the car and circuit, Rossi said the disconnect lies in the differences between using a cutting-edge driving simulator and the home-based setups used in Esports.
“I think the big thing to remind people of is, because I’ve gotten a lot of comments and responses like, ‘Well you’re, you’re on the SIM all the time,’” he said. “It’s like, ‘OK, there’s a big difference between like a purpose-built $5 million dollar HPD or Pratt and Miller SIM, that has the tire modeling and the vehicle dynamics done correctly by IndyCar engineers, versus something that’s certainly a big step above a Forza or a Gran Turismo, but ultimately, is still a game.’
“It’s got that game element to it to where you can find tricks that are worth huge amounts of lap time. And if you don’t know those tricks, you can find yourself looking pretty silly, like I am right now.”