Fixed Or Open Setups - What Do You Prefer?

Fixed or open setups Saleen S7R.jpg

Do you prefer fixed or open setups?

  • Fixed

    Votes: 916 51.9%
  • Open

    Votes: 618 35.0%
  • It depends (please comment)

    Votes: 231 13.1%

  • Total voters
Sim racing can be complicated: Being fast on track is one thing, adjusting your setup to gain a tenth or two and get more comfortable with certain aspects of your car is another – and it can possibly scare newcomers away if they know that they have to sift through pages of setup options. Fixed setups can help with that, but also open up other problems.

Being comfortable with a car and track combination is essential to having fun in a race, and it can be achieved by putting in enough practice. Some driving styles, however, favor different characteristics of a vehicle, and to get them just right, setup changes may be needed. As you can see, the question of fixed versus open setups can be just as complicated as creating a great setup itself.

Pros of Fixed Setups​

On the surface, the main advantage of fixed setups is obvious, especially in races that use the same car for the entire grid: Everyone has the same conditions to work with, putting more emphasis on the drivers instead of factoring in the engineering talents of them as well. Each participant is going to be on the grid with the same amount of fuel, the same tire compound, and the same settings for suspension, gear ratios, and more.

This also means that drivers can focus more on learning a combination of car and track without having to worry how much fuel to take for the race or if reducing the rear wing angle a few degrees might make them faster. Especially for beginners, it allows a level playing field and an opportunity to fully concentrate on their driving techniques.

In lower license classes, iRacing uses fixed setups for some of its series - though most of the time, there is an optional open setup variant of a championship. This is true for oval series and events as well, avoiding forcing one of the settings on sim racers.

A Big Con for Some​

Focus on driver skill alone is the idea of fixed setups at least. Of course, different drivers feel comfortable with different characteristics, and not being able to tune out the unwanted ones can put some racers at a bit of a disadvantage if they cannot adjust their driving style or drive around problems they might face. For open lobbies, this could mean that drivers drop out again after noticing that they cannot adjust their car's setup, leading to smaller grids.

The opposite could apply to ovals: As setup work on speedways is vastly different from road racing tracks, it can be easier to attract racers to oval grids if they just have to focus on the art of driving on such circuits – which is a lot more intricate than it might look. The effect on pace from setups is much bigger on ovals, especially in downforce cars that can go full throttle for the full lap – or at least close to a full lap – and achieve breakneck speeds.

Your Thoughts​

There is no universal answer of which is better when it comes to fixed and open setups, so we want to know: Which do you prefer? Are you glad to be able to ignore the setup screen, or do you prefer to tinker with setups until the car feels perfect for you? Let us know in the poll as well as in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D


Fixed by a long shot. The it's just driver vs driver.
I don't have time to test endlessly, and I usually botch the setup if I try.

I host fixed setup servers and find that people prefer open setups by a huge majority. Most people leave my servers once they find that they can't load their setups.
In theory the fixed setup has many advantages for the sim racing.
But it is also very rewarding to be successful in taming a car we like with an open setup.

Let´s face the reality. No chance for me to win.
Then, let´s enjoy simracing in all of its aspects, including setup (of course it should only be available the same parameters as in the real car)
For me, the only things I care about in setup are gears, aero, tire compound, and other simple things like fuel load, but the gears are the biggest thing for me. If I notice that certain gears feel off in terms of the gaps or spacing between them, I would like to be able to change them individually to make the shift patterns feel better to me.
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Open Setup for me.
In a racing simulation, creating a setup corresponding better to your driving style is a part of the work.
Mostly, I don't trust the validity of a fixed setup.
Was it correctly done ? was it ever done ? when updating a car ( it regularly happens ) is the basic setup modified ( I really doubt about it ).
Open all the way. Fixed was a fad that should have been abolished by now.

Car setups are a core gameplay mechanic of racing simulators. Being able to turn them off is like being able to turn off enemies in Super Mario 3. This is what you signed up for when buying a racing simulator.

As a teenager I loved the fixed setup stuff on iRacing, but it's literally because I was lazy and didn't want to put in the work. iRacing also had quite borked physics/setups at the time, so sitting down and building a setup was only 50% of the battle - > you then had to learn in what ways the tires, suspension, or shocks were broken in that particular build (knowledge at the time a closely guarded secret by the eSports pros).

It was completely impractical for teenagers just dipping their feet into the world of sim racing.

As I put more time into the hobby & played other sims (mainly European road racing stuff), within about a year I realized that setup work wasn't daunting at all. Changes made in other sims felt intuitive, and if I needed to learn something, it was as simple as reading an article or two on my coffee break at work.

If you can't do that, I do genuinely have to ask why you're here and playing these games, especially if your rig setup is a bit on the pricey side.
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  • Deleted member 217114

Some people are really good at tuning. It's part of racecraft and it can be that noselength between winning or losing.
For someone who has atm a max of 2x45mins a week to play, fixed is the way to go. iRacing fixed setups have become so good in response to the setup shops taking cash for a good setup that really the track by track setups are great. I join the race server 15 min. before start do some laps to get the lay of the land and then enjoy the game, driving carefully to not ruin the fun of those who have done endless laps to learn the track.
Being able to buy a super setup for cash has really killed open setups for me, it used to be easy to get any number of sets from folks if you asked politely on an iRacing practice server and then changed little bits to suit your style. But now it's the person who is willing to pay extra cash who gets the proper setup, no way, fixed is the layman's choice!
It's a different piece of cake if you are part of a team where the setup has to suit everyone and people get together to hash out a proper set, but that is time I do not have on my hands atm.
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There is one common misconception that needs to be debunked: no, open setups won't close the gap between drivers. It makes things more complex for beginners, increases the time investment needed, and will actually make the skill gap between drivers even more visible. Any open setup race / series I drove in or hosted, that was the case.

Better drivers in most cases are also more experimented, knowledgeable and are just able to understand the car's reactions and how to adjust towards a certain goal. Which means they'll get their car dialed in better and faster, which in turn allows them to get more practice on pure pace or strategy.

On the other hand, amateur drivers will get frustrated when they find themselves off pace and often blame the car instead of looking for flaws in their own technique. Then there's a 50% - maybe more - chance they'll actually make the setup worse and either get even more frustrated, or get the illusion they've achieved something because they can keep the track on car when in reality their setup is slow.

It gets even worse when the software allows for asymetric setups - because yes, those work, and not only on ovals. Best way to fry an amateur's brain is showing them a pro's setup with 4 different values on each corner for a road course while they're still struggling to understand how the basics work. And there's also the dirty tricks like increasing tyre pressures past optimal to improve your times through top speed and decreased scrubbing even though you'll get less grip as a result.

There is one thing I firmly believe, and that is supported by the driving style and telemetry from the greatest drivers of their times: the fastest setups are always loose. You can prevent a car from turning too much with technique, but you can't make an understeery car turn more than it is eager. Means the fastest setups are hard to control. By experience, amateur drivers will always complain the car is impossible to drive when given a pro setup.

So to me, for league racing, fixed setups is vastly superior in almost every way. The advantages it could have at enabling different strategies and degrees of risk regarding varying conditions are pretty much nullified in the context of simracing, because there's just not a platform good enough to allow for that - and it would only really be interesting for pro series. Even then, in real life, the driver is not the one who turns the knobs, sets the alignment or designs the wings. They'll give feedback, describe how the car behaves under various circumstances and inputs and how they'd like it to change, but they're not the ones ripping out the tools and picking values. You get a bunch of other people to take care of that for you when things get serious. And esports teams now have full-on engineers as well, to the point there's a guy I worked with on an event who's been doing data engineering for the esports team related to the F1 team he should be doing his internship at as we speak.
Aliens and some other unusually quick drivers game the system through open setups, as Eckhart von Glan explains.
But there are plenty of nerds, too, who can't think of anything better than spend most of their in-game time tweaking away, chasing fractions of a second only they and their mum will ever care or know about.
Open setups. I like the idea of being capable to overcome people gifted by mere luck in the DNA lottery by means of pure cleverness and hard work. I like the idea of transpiration beating inspiration.

One is totally on merit of the individual due for his hard methodical work, the other comes from a gifted physical constitution already set in stone even before that individual had breathed for the first time.

Taking away the capability from the non gifted racer feels like 5 people beating a lone person. The non gifted person has lost his chances even before the race started because he got his fighting weapons taken away form him.

Now, let's be realistic: the winner on a open setup is always going to be someone gifted that put the crazy work hours to craft a very clever and fine tuned setup. And the people that still think that the aliens can be beaten with a fixed setup are just lying to themselves, and psychologically setting themselves up for a very deeply painful reality check.
Open setups and an AI Engineer.

Also like the AMS2 system for sharing setups.

I put about 0.8 seconds into a setup, and have learned from past experience that I generally just make the car worse. So while I see no reason to restrict other people's ability to tweak their cars, I do however like the idea of reaping the benefits of their efforts.

Zero chance of me beating good drivers even if we have the exact same set up, But I can usually keep them in sight if the AMS2 weekly challenges are a good indicator.

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