Changes to iRacing’s track surface model have revitalized the competition in the eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series, and after two races with the new model in place, drivers are liking the racing that comes with it.
“[The race at] Auto Club was probably the most fun I’ve had in the last few years,” said Roush Fenway’s Nathan Lyon of the changes. “You can just move around and be in any lane that you want to be in. It’s a lot of fun.”
In iRacing’s most recent update, the company modified the characteristics of some portions of the track surface — mainly the high grooves — to add additional grip and make the high line more viable to run. Previously, drivers were forced to run the bottom at virtually all tracks as any other lane proved to be too slow to use successfully.
The modification is, in some ways, a band-aid. iRacing had previously released a model it calls “dynamic track” to simulate changes in the track surface caused by the cars throughout the race. The effectiveness of that system was dampened by changes made elsewhere, mainly to the tire model of the cars.
That “band-aid fix” has been met with high praise, however.
“The changes have made the racing a lot better so far,” William Byron eSports’ Logan Clampitt said. Clampitt won the Atlanta round of the Coca-Cola iRacing Series — the first race after the changes were implemented
“The higher the line, the more the grip, it seems like,” Clampitt said. “I think the biggest thing is where the cleanest air is on the racetrack, [that’s the] line you’re going to be running in that corner. The top also seems to burn your tires a little bit more than the bottom, so it’s a risk running up there the whole entire run. There are many aspects that come into play when it comes to the update on the track surface model.”
By far, this is the most fun I’ve ever had at @ACSupdates on @iRacing. Multiple grooves, side draft, and good driving by @NickOttinger and @bobbyzalenski made for a very enjoyable time. https://t.co/rjzfoiN9lB
— MikeConti5 (@MikeConti5) March 31, 2021
The changes have shifted the focus of drivers away from holding the low line to other aspects of racing like clean and dirty air, or tire wear. All of that has opened the door to more interesting racing.
“My initial impressions are positive,” 2020 series champion Nick Ottinger said. “I’m glad we have more options to try and work different grooves to maintain speed, or to improve speed.
“As a driver, you’re always thinking on how to approach situations better, and knowing the bubble parameters and tendencies of your car really pay off. If you’re running the wall and [the] car in front decides to take that line away, it’s not a fun time running in his tire tracks, so you really have to consider your corner approaches in those situations.”
That thinking was echoed by Lyon.
“You definitely can mirror drive somebody now,” he said. “If you’re the car in front of them and [there’s a] guy catching you lap after lap and he’s starting to close in on you, you can start to mirror drive and take his line away and give him that dirty air and force them to search for other lanes, because he won’t be able to pass you if you run the same lane. So that’s a huge thing now.”
Overall, drivers have found that the racing feels a lot like it did when the dynamic track was working to its full extent. The only major difference is that different lines are available to drivers right from the start, rather than the lines having to be worked in throughout the race as the tires applied heat and rubber to the surface.
Given that, and the need to be able to run multiple lines to respond to the cars around them, drivers have needed to find setups that work for multiple lanes, which of course requires compromise.
“You have to be able to build adjustability somewhere in your setup and the driver really has to be committed in their approach to learn how to run each lane effectively,” Ottinger said.
The eNASCAR Coca-Cola iRacing Series heads to Richmond Raceway next week where drivers will get their first chance to test the track changes on a short track after the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway and 2.0-mile Auto Club Speedway.