WATCH: iRacing Indy 500 Special Event Tips & Tricks


The Indianapolis 500 Special Event is back in iRacing, but 200 laps on a high-speed oval are much trickier than you might think. Our guide is here to help.

200 laps, 800 left turns - sounds simple, right? Well, the Indianapolis 500 is anything but, as last weekend's 108th running of the race clearly showed. As a result, it should come as no surprise that the iRacing Indy 500 Special Event is far from straight-forward itself.

Asymmetrical setups, weight jacker adjustments and restart procedures are just a few select pitfalls in the art of IndyCar oval racing. With the event not taking place in 2023 due to licensing issues, plenty of sim racers will try it for the first time, and those who are not seasoned oval racers might come back after a two-year break and be a bit rusty.

Luckily, our own @Emily Jones is here to help. Watch her video embedded above to learn about the ins and outs of racing a single-seater against 32 other drivers at the fearsome 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway - or keep reading below. Be sure to also take a look at our explanation of the iRacing Indy 500 Special Event format.

Basic Driving Tips​

Indy is a rectangle. There’s two big straights, and four corners. In clean air in both race and quali trim, the whole track is flat out. But in the race with cars in front you will have to lift - we will get into that in a little bit.

The track looks symmetrical, but it actually goes slightly downhill into Turn 1, and uphill into T3, so you will often find Turn 3 easier than Turn 1.

The track is pretty straight-forward, You will want to enter each corner near the wall, take a nice wide arc into the corner getting your lefthand wheels over the white line, and exit up towards the wall. Do not touch the curbs.

Also do not hit the wall. It is obvious, but IndyCars are not built like stock cars - if you hit the fence a bit, it is probably going to be race over.


Setup​

Anti-roll Bars​

With the open sets, you can change pretty much everything on the car. You will mainly be playing with the wickers and the wing angles on the front and rear to find the best balance. It is important to set the car up well to run fast in clean air, but also make it able to turn when in the dirty air behind other cars.

The fixed setup is mostly fixed, but you can change pretty much everything that is adjustable by the driver mid-race. This opens up things like roll bars, engine maps, and the weight jacker.

For starters, there are the anti-roll bars, or ARBs. A higher number means stiffer ARBs, a lower number is softer. You generally want it really stiff in the front and soft in the rear, but you can play with it as the run progresses. If you want more turn-in, you can go down some clicks on the front bar to soften the front suspension, but it also will load the front tires more so you want to do this in moderation. You can also stiffen the rear to make the car rotate a bit more.

Weight Jacker​

The weight jacker is something completely different. It is used only on ovals in the IndyCar, and it is really useful at Indy. Basically the weight jacker basically raises and lowers the rear right suspension. You can actually see it in iracing if you alter it. It goes between -20, which is the rear right at the lowest, and 20, which is the rear right at the highest point.

By raising the rear right suspension you are putting more load into the front left wheel, pushing it into the ground. This means that the higher the weight jacker setting, the more oversteer the car has. If you want more turn-in, raise the weight jacker. And if you want a more stable rear, lower the weight jacker.

Engine Map​

The other in-car setting is the engine map. Basically this decides how much fuel the car uses. Map 1 uses the most fuel for most power, and map 2 - 5 uses progressively less fuel with 5 using the least. It’s worth using map 5 if you’re in the draft and you want to save fuel, otherwise sit in map 1. Map 8 is a safety car fuel mixture that uses a minimum amount of fuel when running behind the pace car. Map 6-7 change the throttle curve.


Qualifying Strategy​

Qualifying is taking place in the week leading up to the race, so you want to make sure you complete all four laps as fast as possible. In the open-setup variant, you want to trim your car with as little aero as possible. Have a feel of the car in practice and work out if the it loosens up with oversteer over the four laps, or if it tightens and has understeer instead. You probably want to adjust the weight jacker as you go to manage this.

Another element to factor in when using the weight jacker is that by raising or lowering the rear right suspension, you are also raising and lowering the rear wing and diffuser. By lowering the weight jacker, you will be lowering the rear wing out of the air, causing less drag and making the car go faster in a straight line.

In real life you can see drivers wind the weight jacker to the minimum in straights and back to normal for the corners. It is worth trying in qualifying on iRacing as well.

Otherwise, feel free to have as many goes at Qualifying as possible. It is one of the few big hotlapping contests on iRacing for the year, so if you are into it, go and try to get into the top 33 drivers in the world. Emily actually managed this once in fixed in 2020, but it was a sweat for the entire qualifying week.

Racing In The iRacing Indy 500​

Rules​

For starters, it is probably worth going through some Indy rules. In iRacing, there is no three-wide start - which is probably for the best. The main start is two-wide, and every safety car restart is single file. The main thing to be aware of in IndyCar is that like in most oval races, you cannot pass the car in front before the green flag, and once the green is out, you cannot pass on the inside before the start-finish line. You can pass on the outside, but most drivers will crowd up to the wall on restarts to stop the car behind passing them.

Another rule to remember is that unlike NASCAR, there is no green-white-checkered for the finish. If a crash happens on lap 197, the race will finish under caution, so keep that in mind if you are racing near the front at the end. It is kind of like musical chairs: You want to try and lead as much as possible because the caution could come out at any moment, and whoever is leading wins the race.

Dirty Air​

Once the green flag goes for the start though, Emily recommends starting on 0 with the weight jacker for the first lap as the car can sometimes be a little loose on new tires.

Once you are in traffic though, you will start dealing with dirty air, and it is an absolute killer. Behind other cars, you lose all your front-end grip and it is really easy to understeer into the wall. Emily's recommendation for this is to take it easy on the way into corners. Try to lift nice and early and roll into the apex before picking up the throttle. Do not drive the car hard into the corner and then realize you are heading towards the wall and have to rapidly wipe off all your speed.

Otherwise, try and find the line that the car in front is not using. If they are running really high through each corner, try getting your car super low below the white lines - just to get as much air over your front wing as possible.

As for the weight jacker, it is worth going up as well to combat the understeer. In clean air, Emily runs 0 weight jacker, and when understeer starts coming in, slowly dialing it up to around 10 when running directly behind another car.


Pit Strategy​

For pit strategy, copying what the leaders in your split are doing works well - unless you fall a lap down, in which case if there is a caution, you should try and stay out if they all pit so you can get your lap back.

If you are doing a green-flag pitstop you can enter after Turn 4, but make sure to brake as early as possible - getting a pit lane speeding penalty will kill your race. When exiting pit road, make sure not to lose it on the inside of Turn 2, and exit on the backstretch.

Race To The Finish​

200 laps are a long way around Indy. The first 100 laps are just about cruising keeping your car straight and staying on the lead lap. Then after lap 150, you can really try and get your car to the front so you are in a position to win.

It may sound funny, but often the race for the win will come down to the final laps. So you have 199 laps to rehearse how you are going to win, and then one lap to execute at the end. Practice lining up the car in front and seeing if you can beat them to the line from Turn 4. Alternatively, try weaving and breaking the tow, just to see what it will be like at the end if you are leading out.

Once you get to lap 200, you want to know what your plan is and you want to execute it as best as possible - whether that is leading out, or making a move on the last lap. Set up your opposition, and put them exactly where you want them so you can win.

Are you going to attempt the iRacing Indy 500 Special Event this weekend? Got any additional advice to share? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or 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

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