Yesterday iRacing released dirt. Starting out as an April Fool’s joke that wasn’t. iRacing recreated an entire segment of racing that hasn’t been well simulated (first party) for many years*.

*Specifically dirt ovals, not rally.

There were many surprises with the release of dirt on iRacing, primarily

  1. They actually did it
  2. It only took 1 year from announcement to release (which is unexpected *cough* BTCC *cough*)
  3. There hasn’t been much that has gone wrong (server crashes, glitches, etc.)
Photo Credit: simracingpaddock.com

Last night I was finally able to get behind the wheel of some of the dirt cars and one thing stuck out. Everything I know about driving a racecar is wrong! Gas, brakes, apexing, everything is different. There are a few similarities in concept, but the execution is staunchly different.

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Throttle control is the name of the game in dirt. It is also a key component of paved oval racing. However, on paved ovals use the throttle to help make small changes to the car in the turn and help off corner middle and exit. On the dirt side, the throttle is used to set up entry, hold your line in the middle, and power off through the exit like a badass. For me on paved ovals, I am watching my braking points and rolling the car through the corner to get a decent exit. On dirt, I need to make sure the car is kicked sideways enough so that when I mash the throttle to hold the middle, the tires grip correctly. If I tried that maneuver on paved ovals, it would be a one way trip to fence-ville.

I still do not feel comfortable doing an actual race, but I did go onto an official practice server which has obstacles called other cars. Dirt racing is essentially a controlled car crash. Being on a single 19" monitor doesn’t help either because I can’t see anything to the side of me. I have to toss the car under another competitor with little to no knowledge of where they are going or how close I am to them when sliding up. This resulted in many smashed racecars.

Photo Credit: osracing.net

Speaking of car crashes, those are hard to avoid too. When the name of the game is power sliding around a corner, crashes are much harder to avoid. Oh, I am sliding around toward the wall and someone is looped sideways in front of me, let me just calmly steer more. Yeah, doesn’t quite work like that.

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Overall though, dirt racing is a blast. I cannot comment on how realistic it is, but judging from feedback it is pretty good. I am excited to try some actual racing when I feel more comfortable with the car and driving style.

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Below are quick reviews of the dirt cars I got to test

Street Stock

This is a great starter car. The power is good and the weight is easy for people to get their feet muddy. The weight is the biggest factor with this car because it understeers very bad if you mess up corner entry. I think I will be spending most of my time in this one. (Plus it is free)

Legends

This is the same as the rookie legends car with dirt tires. I think this is a bit harder to drive than the dirt street stock. It is really small, weighs nothing, and the 1200cc motorcycle motor has no issues spinning you around if you aren’t careful with the throttle. Also its tiny size likes to fall into ruts and tip you on your roof. (It is also free)

Photo Credit: bsimracing.com

Late Model

I tested the Limited Late Model (the slowest one). It feels so weird, the articulating suspension really messed with my driving perception. Late Models are built so that in the corner, the LR tire essentially tucks under the body. The oscillating of the chassis really threw off my steering (the view was bouncing all over). I found the wall a lot. I don’t think that I am ready for this car yet.

Photo Credit: racingnews

Truck

The dirt truck was a lot harder to drive than I expected. It is kind of like the street stock except it would be like putting treaded tires on the asphalt street stock and called it good. It handles like crap, it weighs a lot, and there is little to no grip. The engine has so much power that it is very easy to lose the rear end even on the straightaways. I definitely need to focus on the lower tier cars before attempting a race in this.

Mazda Miata

This ended badly, I would not suggest it. Mazda Miata with road race tires on dirt, good luck going faster than 50mph. Please iRacing, put dirt tires on for ultimate Miata hoonage.