• Danny Lee

Why iRacing Is Best Enjoyed When You Join a League

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

There are many iRacing leagues operated by Apex Racing League and broadcasted by Apex Racing TV. I've been on the grid for over a year and have enjoyed my time so far, as you're about to read. Check them out via my referral link for discounted entry: http://apexracingleague.refr.cc/daniell

People of iRacing, do you remember why you got hooked? It’s generally agreed that its driving feel is not as developed as Rfactor 2, it’s visuals and audio lag behind Assetto Corsa and ACC and it’s vehicle selection has a few gaping holes and an outdated roster, no modding support, not to mention its cost is far greater than the other sims. Well, I joined iRacing 10 years ago and I can tell you why I loved it then and still love it today, because iRacing is first and foremost the best competitive simulation, not just a driving simulation, and I’ll bet you love it for the same reasons. iRacing is not for hotlapping by yourself, it’s for racing with real competitors and absorbing a piece of that pre-race jitters before every race wondering what’s about to happen between now and the chequered flag. It’s for this reason that I appeal to you now that if you haven’t considered joining a community organised league, you really should because it will take your current iRacing motorsport experience and supercharge it. Since getting involved in league racing earlier this year I have near enough stopped taking part in the official races because I’m enjoying the league format so much more.

The Apex Racing League GT Championship field approaches Turn 1 at Interlagos 5-wide. Image credit Andy Taylor of Groove Media

OK, so there are big differences between league racing and just sticking to the official sessions provided by iRacing.

Firstly, as you’ll know, official races roll around every 1 or 2 hours in your chosen series. You finish work for the day, do a bit of housework or whatever and finally sit down and register for a session. If you have time to spend, you might have a couple of races in one day, or just have a race every day or other day. Point being that every week there are probably 100 chances to jump in a session every week, day and night.

Contrarily, League racing usually runs just one event per week. Yes, the event may be a double-header or a heat event, but in essence it’s just one weekly gathering. This emulates real life in that there is almost always a full week’s gap between real life championship rounds and allows a build-up to occur for everyone involved, finally converging onto the scheduled race time. It doesn’t matter how much practice or preparation you do, you only get one chance, just like real life. If you make bad decisions or crash and burn in the race, the consequences on your season long points tally will be with you for the rest of the season rather than just a temporary 50-point ding to your iRating. On the flipside, if you put down a legendary drive and place higher than you expect, that points boost is yours for the rest of the season and your rivals will have to do the catching up over the remaining rounds.

Which leads me on to League scoring. iRacing doesn’t really have an easily understandable score system in the respective divisions, whereas leagues definitely do. Each place on the grid is worth a determined number of points, no fuss or whacky equations. This sets you up perfectly for a season-long rivalry with other drivers in the league which makes things so much more meaningful. When we sit down to see who gets the top spot in the Drivers F1 championship we don’t realise there are midfielders fighting tooth and nail for a mere point further down the grid, and that’s how it feels racing in a league - every position matters and will make a difference in the finishing results. To make things clearer still I have seen many leagues discourage car-hopping, which if it’s a multi-manufacturer series like GT or Endurance means no more grids full of the optimal car for whatever track we’re on this week like you see in official sessions - you pick your car, be it Porsche, Ferrari, BMW or whatever at the start of the season and you stick with it, taking the rough with the smooth instead of just picking whichever car suits the track best. This gives each round in the calendar more character as sometimes there is a slight advantage to one car, then it flips around the next race, making it more likely you’ll punch above your weight in some rounds, which is great.

Which leads me on to Driver classes. Unlike iRacing, Leagues don’t usually separate drivers of low or high skill into separate grids like the official split system does, so you could easily see drivers with 1000 iRating racing on the same surface as those with 7000 iRating. Now before you panic, there’s a system for this. There’s not much hope of beating someone who is objectively far above your own ability so to make this interesting leagues often use Pro, Pro Amateur and Amateur classifications based on your ability, so you’re never without a fighting chance of being top of your class. This means that if you’re considered a Pro then you are battling for overall 1st, whereas if you’re an Amateur class driver then you are fighting to be top Amateur, which might be 5th, 10th or 15th place. Leagues usually have two points tables to facilitate this, one for Pro and one for Amateur, and the winner of each table is lauded equally as much. This sets the scene for great rivalries that go on all season as you compete with your closest competitor on the grid.

Which leads me on to persistent competition. Unlike official sessions, where every other grid is filled with new names you may never have seen before, league format racing specifically ensures that you race with the same people over the course of the season. Within just a couple of races you’ll have a good idea who is of similar skill to you and putting a laser sight on specific people who you are really aiming to beat, and if you manage to outfox someone who has been outpacing you all season you will be patting yourself on the back for a job well done. Soon you’ll start to get to know your competition - who’s safe, who’s dangerous, who’s going to divebomb you, who’s nervous. Some circuits will favour you, whereas others will favour your closest rival, which really highlights just how organic motorsport can be. The fact that you recognise the names week in week out really adds such an extra dimension to the racing - When you’re overtaking, you’re not just outsmarting a stranger you’ve never seen and probably never see again, you’re getting revenge for an amazing overtake they made on you 2 rounds ago. When someone’s in your mirrors breathing down your neck, it’s not just a random name, it’s someone who has always placed above you and you now have to hold them back for 5 laps to show them what you’re made of. Then after all’s said and done you can compliment or berate them in the post-race chat room afterwards.

The Apex Racing League GT Championship field on lap one one of the season opener. Image credit Andy Taylor of Groove Media

Which leads me on somehow to Team participation. Unlike official races whereby it’s not really possible to orchestrate being in the same grid as your friends, with league racing it’s effectively guaranteed. There’s a whole new level of racing added when you are racing as or against a team of drivers as they may work together not to fight, making it more of a challenge to pass or defend against them. You don’t need to be in a team to race in leagues effectively at all, but the ability to run together is a huge strength of league racing. The grid around you will no longer be a group of lone wolves with no consideration for each other, but pockets of drivers that are much more likely to fight clean.

Which leads me on to organisation and race control. Unlike in official races where protesting is only really for the most egregious bannable behaviour, league racing has the mechanism to get recourse for wrongdoing even in very minor cases. Many leagues operate a protest system which delivers swift justice where a foul has been committed, often in the form of a points or race penalty. Any racing incident can be subject to a stewards decision and this can really reign in careless drivers. At the end of the day, if all the drivers have built up to the race over the course of the week, nobody wants a driver to dash it to bits in Turn 1 and to get away with it. Most leagues have a low threshold for booting someone out of the league, so good behaviour is almost completely assured. Knowing that an incident will be analysed quickly and personally helps keep faith that the league will be fair and legitimate.

Which leads me on to the social aspect of league racing. With communication an important part of league racing, oftentimes an organiser will use a Forum or Discord server to gather all drivers in one place to have some discussion, info sharing, post-race drama and analysis that you can’t really find in the chat box during official races. With iRacing being a fairly mature driver demographic, the tone is usually warm and non-toxic just like you’d expect there to be were it face to face. Considering you’re racing with the same people over the season, it makes no sense to be a bad sport especially when there’s no hiding place for unsporting behaviour under the watch of race control, other drivers and the spectators.

Which leads me on to maybe the biggest draw of league racing, the broadcasts. If you daydream of being a star on the racetrack and having your performances put on display to the whole world then league racing is for you. If you’re unaware of the broadcasts that often accompany organised leagues, you need only check out the livestreams from Apex Racing TV and Racespot TV for example to see what they can do nowadays. They’re really, really well done and can easily match the level of production value seen at real world events which makes them perfectly watchable by family and friends who otherwise have no stake whatsoever in sim racing but will love to see your adventures as they happen live. When you know your overtakes and defense will be held up for praise or scrutiny live on stream it amps up the pressure, probably some way towards the same thing you might feel driving around a circuit with spectators packed in the stands. The viewership for regular broadcasts can stretch into the thousands, too, which is fantastic. Racers can even make themselves available for a post-race interview with the commentators too, the put the cherry on top of your motorsport fantasy. The broadcasts are the best way to really see what league racing is all about.

Which leads me on to joining a league. It’s not blatantly obvious how to join an organised and broadcasted league but the community is as such that I would recommend checking out the broadcasts on Youtube from Apex Racing TV or Racespot TV, find a league broadcast in which you like the look of the racing within, and you can then seek it out with a quick google search and find the registration details, usually within a dedicated website somewhere. It’s easier than you think and once you’re in the league biosphere it’s much easier to then find other leagues when you want to move on.

When new racers discover and feed into league racing it’s like plant food for the community that props it up. Because of league racing there are now broadcasting brands competing for business, there are genuine actual sponsors paying for logo space on the cars and broadcasts, and it’s only set to grow further. If you joined iRacing to pretend to be a racing driver, then up to now your time in the official sessions has been just a training ground for moving on to the true experience, league racing.

Go and see if sign-ups are currently open for a league for your preferred type of car and join the scene. Thanks for reading, head over to the youtube video of this article and drop a subscribe and comment there if you have a league to recommend to other viewers that might drop by and follow their nose into their very first league campaign.

128 views0 comments