Column: Is Rain Making iRacing Safer?

Imola column 5.jpg

Do you think iRacing is safer and less chaotic in the rain?

  • Yes

    Votes: 11 22.0%
  • No

    Votes: 39 78.0%

  • Total voters
    50
In this latest column, join me on my first foray into iRacing's new wet weather as I discover something rather strange. Based on my relatively limited experience, is iRacing now safer with rain? Share your experiences in the comments.

Image credit: iRacing.com

Around a month ago, iRacing finally delivered on a promise it made its racers some two or three years ago. The arrival of Season 2 of 2024 also introduced the initial roll-out of the Tempest weather system, bringing with it rain.

At this current stage, only a select number of cars are eligible to race in wet conditions, those being the Formula Ford, Toyota GR86 and the entire IMSA Series grid. Lucky for me, as the obsessed endurance racing fan I am known for being only ever races the 45-minute sportscar races on iRacing.

But busy elsewhere and frankly scared to commit to the additional challenge, it took me a while to truly test out the new system.

That all changed last weekend however as I finally made the leap and plunged myself into the wide open sea. Oh no, wait, it was just Imola in torrential conditions. They do not call it Acqua Minerali for nothing...

Here is the story of my first wet weather escapade and what I thought of the ordeal.

Imola column 2.jpg

Puddles in Acqua Minerali are particularly treacherous. Image credit: iRacing.com

iRacing Rain: A First Test​

After a week of enviously watching videos and streams of IMSA content racing at IMSA in varying conditions, I thought I would finally give the system a go. So on Saturday, with nothing better to do, I decided to open up iRacing and hoped for a race to pick off soon. As it turned out, the next IMSA session would get underway in just ten minutes, leaving very little time to practice.

But as an avid sportscar fan, I had been driving the combination a week or so prior in anticipation of the World Endurance Championship's visit to the venue later this month. "What the hell," I thought as I signed up for the session in a trusty LMP2 car – I know that the GTP tyres are treacherous in adverse conditions.

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GTP cars are not fast in the rain. Image credit: iRacing.com

A few practice laps - all of which were invalid – and a mediocre qualifying session later, a wet grid with 0% chance of rain for the race gave me hope. A full tank, wet tyres to start and then pit for slicks as soon as the track dries out enough was the plan. But never could I have prepared for the ensuing thrill.

Lights out and away we go​

Leaving the pre-grid, the LMP2 leader gave plenty of space to the GTP cars ahead and off we went. Where usually in my experience iRacing races would feature a messy Turn 1 with classes blending causing frustration, we got to the first corner in a tentative manner with not a GTP in sight.

Furthermore, this was not the typical latest-to-brake competition at a sprint's start, the field calmly aligned one by one through the chicane, living to fight another day.

Throughout the early laps, it became clear that racers were experimenting with lines. In fact, it took until the mid-way point for my avoidance of slippery sections to become consistent.

But during this time, players certainly did find the barriers. This was spearing off-track in a gentle way, however, rarely did I see mass pileups, or multi-car contact. Instead, the determination to keep it on the island seemingly favoured a lack of messy passes.

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The lack of visibility does not help to reduce caution. Image credit: iRacing.com

As drivers slowly found their way off the track, I soon managed to climb up to the podium spots. Better yet, it seemed that the supposed top GTP class was no longer at the front of the pack due to their wet tyre struggles.

So the fight was on for an overall podium from behind the wheel of an LMP2 car. I felt like Pilet, Tandy and Lietz going for outright victory in the 2015 Petit Le Mans aboard a GT car, albeit with more grip and power.

iRacing Rain Strategy: Wets or slicks?​

Keeping the car on track was an immense challenge. Yet, with there still being no rain in the air bar the misting of spray, the true challenge was working the tyre strategy. With a full tank, I could go for the majority of the race, but working out when dry tyres were needed was difficult, given the lack of practice.

As it turned out, lap after lap would see very little change in the track surface. Even come the final time to lap GT traffic, spray was very much prevalent. However, there was a faint sign of a dry line appearing along with the tyres' need to search for the cooling relief of puddles.

During this time, a low qualifier had managed to close up to my rear. But at a similar pace behind me at my safest, the gap remained relatively stable at the 1.5-second mark for much of the opening stint.

By the time my tank was empty, just a dozen minutes remained and spray was very much in the air. As a result, I decided to take fuel and keep the same worn wet tyres in the hopes of achieving a Lewis Hamilton in Turkey 2020 master class shredding my wets into inters. Exiting the pits, a first P2 car flew past, but a second never came.

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iRacing Imola race results. I got a podium! Image credit: iRacing.com

Looking back after the race, the second place racer attempted to fly in the second stint by fitting slicks. Whilst fast, they did find themselves in a spot of bother early on, having a few tentative off-track moments.

I on the other hand managed to find speed on the old wet tyres, finally gathering the courage to push, notably through the Villeneuve Chicane. By taking more of a dry line through here, I managed to open the gap behind, giving me a solid P2 finish.

Is Wet Racing Cleaner?​

Recently, a collection of race-ending pileups emerging from overly-aggressive overtakes, sometimes even under yellow flags, caused a clear loss of motivation in iRacing. But such a good result in this race motivated me to continue, and I look forward to trying out more wet weather series this weekend.

"Why only wet weather series?", you may ask. Well, of course as part of the ADHD, TikTok generation, my mind is always on the lookout for something new. But really, the answer is in this article's title. Following that first, albeit short wet weather experience, I do think that the ridiculous chaos often seen in iRacing is not as prevalent in the rain.

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Racing feels far safer in the rain on iRacing. Image credit: iRacing.com

From the first wheel rotations of my Imola escapade, I felt a heavy sense of caution fall upon the field.

Braking zones involved heavy lifting prior and overtakes only ever took place in flat-out sections. Not only were reckless passes an idea of the past, but greater awareness meant slow cars on track did not become imploding parts bins for spectators to profit from.

Sure, there were plenty of spins, wall contacts, damage-enforced pit stops and a whacky end-race result. But the incidents were all far more realistic to real-world mistakes rather than overly aggressive lunges with drivers benefiting from a lack of risk.

Have you tried racing in the rain in iRacing? If so, what do you make of the experience?
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About author
Angus Martin
Motorsport gets my blood pumping more than anything else. Be it physical or virtual, I'm down to bang doors.

Comments

@Angus Martin , please try TradingPaints. Your articles will look better.

About the content, very interesting take. I haven't thought about it, and haven't really noticed it last week (also raced IMSA @imola), but it makes sense. I think some aggressive and reckless drivers may just give up racing when they see the rain forecast, IDK.

What doesn't make sense is how LMP2s are faster than GTP ATM. It seems that something similar happens IRL, but much less pronounced. And don't try the skill joke, I have seen very competent drivers in GTP unable to beat LMP2 various drivers times depending on the conditions.
 
I share your experience, though so far I have only raced the Ray FF1600 in wet conditions. I now always do a single practice on wet track to know where the puddles will probably form or dry out latest. In the race, overall, players try not to make a fool of themselves, much more so than in the dry. If they do, they usually do so on the normal racing line, which is usually where you do NOT want to be in the rain, so these guys sort themselves out on their own in the first two wet laps, after that, searching for grip here or there or everywhere really is soooo much fun. The Ray races are too short and the tires too small for a dry line to form, though, will have to buy one of the IMSA cars to experience that next season. All in all, I am very happy with how they have implemented wet weather.
 
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It was fun for 2 days but then it's like all sims in the end once you know where the puddles are... In short, the hype is already over. good feature for endu.
 
Have you tried racing in the rain in iRacing? If so, what do you make of the experience?

In the main, I think they did the right thing to delay the rain build like they did. I think the rain experience is brilliant, and it'll be gr8 as they ramp up the number of supported cars asap. Hopefully the next build will expand the amount of rain cars, and also increase the number of tracks with 3D kerbs.

It will be cool to hopefully see the new Aston GT3/720S GT3 Evo & Huracan Evo 2 land too.
 
I've been doing this since 2003 and one thing I've always noticed is when grip conditions are low/tricky is when you have the safest races. Sure, you'll have one or two spinning out or clouting the barriers, but OVERALL, the field races with a fair bit of caution, which ends up producing cleaner racing. Whereas when the conditions are easy, everyone grows an extra pair and you have silly wrecks and pile-ups more frequently.
 
OverTake
Premium
I've been doing this since 2003 and one thing I've always noticed is when grip conditions are low/tricky is when you have the safest races. Sure, you'll have one or two spinning out or clouting the barriers, but OVERALL, the field races with a fair bit of caution, which ends up producing cleaner racing. Whereas when the conditions are easy, everyone grows an extra pair and you have silly wrecks and pile-ups more frequently.
I think that is the essence of it. That, and that everything tends to happen in slow motion, or at least it feels like it. This also makes it easier to avoid spinning and/or crashing cars in most cases in my experience.

The tricky phase is when it is starting to rain and everyone has to get used to decreasing grip, I find. Once it has been raining for a while and everyone had some time to get used to the conditions, things are usually a lot less hectic. Shame so many racers avoid rain like the plague :(
 

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Angus Martin
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