iRacing Road Courses Need Safety Cars
Image credit: iRacing.com / Champion Motorsport

Why iRacing Road Course Races Need Safety Cars

iRacing

Rain is coming to iRacing fast, but perhaps Safety Cars for circuit racing would be a better addition. OT writer Angus Martin gives his thoughts on the matter, make sure to chime in yourself.

One of the biggest series on the iRacing service is no doubt the IMSA-branded multiclass competitions. In real life, these sportscar events see Safety Cars – or Full Course Yellows as they are called in the States – play a major part. So why do they not appear in iRacing events?

That is a question I have been wondering more and more in recent months. In fact, we are seeing the arrival of rain become more and more imminent. But is that really the race-altering mechanic that would make the service more fun? I would suggest that, especially for Special Events, Safety Cars would be a far more popular addition. Here is why.

I would prefer Safety Cars in iRacing Special Events than Rain.
I would prefer Safety Cars in iRacing Special Events than Rain. Image credit: iRacing.com

How Safety Cars Improve Racing

There is no doubt, this is not a new opinion of mine. For years I have loved the iRacing IMSA and other multiclass races, but have been missing this feature. As a fan of the sport in the real world, there is no overlooking the impact – good or bad – that the Safety Car has on racing.

The Americans have race stoppages down to a fine art. Opening the pits at a specific moment, they do not ruin teams’ strategies. Instead, it resets the race, allowing all cars to fill the tank and go flat-out. Those a lap down are able to benefit however by skipping the pit window under yellow and gaining a lap on the field, by utilising the pass-around from the front.

Not only does this keep racing exciting from start to finish, even in 24-hour endurance races. It also allows more teams to stay in the fight, by regaining lost laps. Who could forget the fantastic Mazda podium in the 2021 Daytona 24 Hours despite at one point sitting three laps behind the leader?

In more recent events, Safety Cars have led to epic to-the-line fights. Seemingly every IMSA race in living memory has led to tense nail-biters, most of which were thanks to late Safety Cars. Perhaps it is best not mentioning the Formula One example we are all thinking of. There is no doubt this is something that would improve iRacing Special Events.

Spice Up iRacing Special Events

As aforementioned, my opinion on Safety Cars in iRacing circuit events is not new. But in recent weeks and months, it is certainly growing stronger. I will be honest, the desire to bunch up the pack and catch up lost laps may come from a pair of unfortunate early incidents in recent Special Events. Both my 2023 Petit Le Mans and last weekend’s Daytona 24 were unfortunately impacted by early incidents.

The endurance spirit to go on is strong. As such, never would I or my teammates give up from a few laps down. However, if the possibility of Safety Cars were in the mix, motivation to push on and hope would certainly be stronger.

Longer battles would be frequent with iRacing Safety Cars in Special Events.
Longer battles would be frequent with iRacing Safety Cars in Special Events. Image credit: iRacing.com

In addition to the desire to make up time after mistakes, Safety Cars would clearly help keep the pack together and ensure battles continued until late into the race. The winner in my Daytona 24 Hour split claimed the crown by over two laps. Surely they would have enjoyed a closer battle.

How Would iRacing Safety Cars Work?

As it stands, iRacing already features Safety Car functionality on its service. In fact, oval racers will be well accustomed with the procedure. Furthermore, several private leagues manage to integrate race interruptions.

For the higher echelons of oval series, the Pace Car will leave the pits to bunch up the field when an incident occurs. Spins and car-to-car contact will at times cause a stoppage. Indeed, it seems to be a random event as not every 2x or 4x incident will cause the release of the Safety Car. In the case of league road racing, live stewards and admins must manually call for Safety Car periods.

Safety Cars - or Cautions - are not rare on iRacing ovals.
Safety Cars – or Cautions – are not rare on iRacing ovals. Image credit: iRacing.com

It seems the game organisers simply choose not to incorporate the system into road racing series. Perhaps for good reason. Certainly, incidents are not rare on circuits. Complex layouts, wheel to wheel racing, divebombs and such no doubt contribute to increased incident frequency compared to oval racing. As a result, one must assume that using the same system as oval races would not work.

Adapting the Oval System

However, I would propose that a simple reduction in the odds of seeing a Safety Car after an incident would work. For instance, if the game code were to roll a dice every time a trio of cars get a 4x in a pile-up. In this case, the majority of races would not incur a stoppage.

Additionally, one would no doubt restrict the Safety Car procedure to the Special Events in iRacing. In fact, no standard event runs enough time to comfortably contain a SC period. No-one wants to jump into a 15-minute GT4 race to spend 10 of those minutes driving at a slow pace.

Furthermore, there is obviously the risk that Safety Cars breed Safety Cars. After a Caution period, cars bunch up into a tight pack, meaning impatient battles will always cause incidents. Perhaps to avoid the near-certainty of back-to-back stoppages, a cool-off period would work. I would suggest that a race must remain green for a full hour before the Pace Car can re-join the track. This would simultaneously kill repeat offences and the possibility of lap-one yellows.

Would you like to see iRacing add Safety Cars to circuit racing? How would you implement the feature? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

A petrol head and motorsports fan since the early days, sim racing has been a passion of mine for a number of years. The perfect way to immerse myself in my true dream job; racing driver. With lots of experience jotting down words about the car industry, I am happy to share my passion for pretend race cars here on Overtake!