iRacing has been the premier online motorsports simulator for years at this point, and the platform seems poised to continue dominating the genre in realism, breadth of content and scope of features for years to come. The developers behind iRacing are well aware that they’ve managed to catch lightning in a bottle with this sim and are committed to providing an experience that merits the requisite subscription cost month after month.
Whether you’re a hardcore iRacing veteran in search of ways to shave fractions of a second off of your lap times or a newbie trying to learn the ropes, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to the end of getting our readers in prime condition to dominate the tracks in iRacing.
iRacing doesn’t require the most powerful PC components on the market in order to run great; virtual all gaming computers built in the last 5 years will run iRacing. We’d be lying if we said this sim looked as good as the flashier racing games such as those in the Forza Motorsport or Project Cars series, but iRacing does scale well with powerful machines and occasional upgrades to the game’s engine and graphics mean that it will continue to look better and better over the years.
Whereas your average racing sim is typically going to be GPU bound – especially on higher resolutions – iRacing’s commitment to providing the most realistic racing experience means the service requires massive amounts of physics computations to be performed on your computer CPU. Minimum spec in this regard is a second-generation Intel Core i5 – but the devs state that just about any quad core CPU should be able to get the game up and running. As we stated earlier however, the game will scale and chew through just about any amount of resources you can toss at it, and as such the devs recommend users bring ninth-gen Intel Core I9 to the track.
On the GPU front, users can get away with something as humble as a Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 – but the devs suggest that you should bring a Nvidia 2080 TI for the recommend experience. As is the case with the recommend CPU, the recommend GPU is nothing less than the top-of-the line as of 2018; these components are much more affordable than they were a couple of years ago, but still far from what one might consider budget components.
Mercifully, the game only requires a meager 8GB of RAM, but we humbly suggest that our readers ought to up their rig to 16GB for a number of reasons – we don’t want to waste a bunch of space on such a trivial recommendation though, so it should be sufficient to simply state that an additional 8GB of RAM is a drop in the bucket compared to some of the other components you’ll drop into your sim racing rig!
Other important notes regarding your iRacing computer:
- The game will only run on 64-bit Windows 10 or Windows 8.1 operating systems.
- iRacing is an online-only game; as such you’ll be required to connect to broadband internet to not only download the game, but you must maintain your internet connection at all times during play.
- iRacing requires a minimum of 16GB storage space for installation, but 32GB are necessary if you want to download high quality textures and assets. This amount is likely to increase as time goes on.
Steering Wheel Setup
While tires are of course the point at which the proverbial rubber literally meets the road, racing simulator enthusiasts know full well that the steering wheel is the most important point of contact in any racing rig – as it is here that the driver is able to most profoundly exercise their influence over their chosen virtual car. If the PC is the brains of your rig, the steering wheel is the heart.
If you spend any amount of time researching which wheels are best-suited for use with iRacing, you’re likely to find that a wide array of wheels from entry-level to virtually unobtainable are supported and perform great. That said, anyone who intends to compete at a high level in iRacing will likely want to opt for a high-end direct drive or belt drive wheel base.
We’ve invested tons of time and resources testing every high-end wheel we can get our hands on – and even more time researching those that we can’t. In our experience, the sim racing wheel scene is one in which the general sentiments are actually quite similar to our own opinions – meaning that direct drive wheels are indeed awesome, and they’re here to stay. Check out our Ultimate Guide to the 7 Best Direct Drive Wheels.
At the end of the day, your sim rig needs to work for you – not the other way around – and we hope you’ll use us as a navigation tool en route to your perfect wheel. If you don’t have the extra money or desire for a direct drive wheel, there are plenty of more affordable products that feature belt drive force feedback motor systems that are more than sufficient to steer your baby. We recently pitted our two favorite belt drive sim wheels from Fanatec and Thrustmaster head-to-head we think it’s a side trip worth taking if you’re in the market for a premium belt driven race wheel.
Regardless of the wheel you ultimately go with, make certain that you install any software and perform subsequent updates and calibration to ensure optimal performance – then take a few more minutes to run some test laps in iRacing to make sure you don’t need to make any setup changes – after all, it’d be a shame to hop straight into an event before ensuring your game is recognizing your inputs. On the off chance that you encounter issues with your wheel upon booting into iRacing – first take a deep breath, then restart your PC and try again; this simple step has been a staple of every IT troubleshooting process since the advent of the field and it remains the most common fix for little glitches to this very day.
Your pedal setup is no less important or nuanced, but there are (mercifully, perhaps) dramatically less choices for serious sim racers than there are on the wheel front. Wheel and pedal sets rarely include great pedals (the brake pedal in these pack-ins are especially dubious at times) but can serve as a great entry point for beginners or those on a budget.
For sim racing pros and enthusiasts, something a bit more specialized is likely in order. We cannot stress enough how impactful an upgrade it is to install a set of load cell pedals – or at least a pedal set that has a load cell brake pedal – many of our readers already know (and others have likely surmised) we recently published The 7 Best Load Cell Pedals: Ultimate Guide to help you find the best set for your rig.
By now, we’ve established the core requirements and recommendations for your iRacing rig – PC, wheel and pedals – but what about iRacing itself? As with any PC game, there are settings to set and tests to run in order to ensure you’re running your game at the highest frame rates possible and with the best image and sound quality your rig is capable of pumping out. As the sheer number of variables in play amount to an unfathomable number of potential optimum configurations, can’t offer any blanket advice in this regard – aside from the great news that the game includes a fantastic Graphics Config utility right in the launcher! Run the utility and makes tweaks to taste; in the unlikely event you run into issues that you can resolve on your own, you should start your search for answers on the game’s Steam forum, which is full of long-time sim racing hobbyists that are always happy to help a newbie get things up and running!
Any iRacing veteran already knows that the most elaborate, deep and nuanced aspect of setup is that which is performed on your in-game car(s) of choice. The sheer amount of parameters that can be tweaked and customized per-vehicle is positively mind-boggling to the initiated, and even those in the know are giddy with delight upon learning of iRacing’s deep commitment to immersion on and off the track.
We could offer a few tips of our own here but we would feel pretty ridiculous considering that you can start with some coaching from some of the biggest drivers in IRL race car circles; this stellar guide is both accessible and comprehensive – and features technical contribution by Dale Earnhardt Jr. & Barry Waddell!
Users are strongly encouraged to start with the above linked guide, then use personal experience as data to make incremental adjustments over time until your car setup starts to feel like a part of your very being. Seriously, that’s where this road leads!
One of the best things about being a part of such a massive gaming community is that there are a load of great guides that cover every aspect of the sim experience. We don’t want to shortchange any of the great guides contributed by community members on Steam, Reddit or the iRacing forums, but we have compiled a short list of some guides that we’ve found especially useful; start here and hit the boards if you need more help or want to make contributions of your own:
- Introduction To Set-up And Tuning
- The “ULTIMATE” Racing Car Chassis Setup Guide and Tutorial
- Basic Setup Guide
- Racecar Setup Flowchart
- Setup Solutions
- Basic Training
- Getting Started on iRacing
If you’re hitting a roadblock in the form of car setup and tweaking – you’re not alone. While learning is a big part of iRacing, there is an awful lot to take in all-at-once for those new to genre; lucky for them, there are folks who have taken all of the guesswork out of putting yourself in a great starting position.
A number of sellers offer expertly crafted setup files for a variety of vehicles. These files come in a variety of forms – from subscription-based models to à la carte to crowd-sourced; the following are the best shortcuts available to the iRacing community, and if that sounds like something you’re interested in you should look no further:
Last Updated on April 22, 2021