I first tried iRacing at the demo trailer during the Grand Am weekend at VIR. I was impressed enough to buy a subscription there and have been playing now for over 6 months.

To get started, you'll need a decent amount of computing power to play iRacing. A pretty new system (year or two old) with most importantly a dedicated video card should be enough. A lower spec system may work but you'll have to deal with a choppy frame rate and also set the graphics detail much lower so that visual references around the track are more difficult to spot. You'll also need a wheel and pedal set as iRacing won't even function without analog inputs. Logitech and Fanatec produce the post popular models which cost $250-$300 or so, but some cheaper options are available. Considering the service costs $7.50 - $14.00 a month depending on the length of plan you choose, tracks cost $12-$15, cars $12 (there are a few cars and tracks that come with the subscription), It could easily cost a thousand bucks plus if you need to buy everything. Pretty steep for a game, especially considering competitors such as rFactor require a one time $40 purchase and much less hardware to run. Still, I think iRacing can definitely be worth it.

Having driven on several configurations at VIR in real life as well as the virtual iRacing version, I can confirm one of the highlights of iRacing is the hyper realistic models of real world tracks, which are unmatched by any sim. Not only are the dimensions of the track near prefect, so are the subtle elevation and camber changes, as well as the type and heights of curbing. Realistic tracks not only make iRacing a better tool for learning real world tracks, but also help in learning the skill of learning new tracks, as well as add to the challenge of sim racing.

Another aspect of iRacing I really like is the well organized hosting and racing structure. Although privately hosted events and leagues are now allowed, iRacing hosts their own official series for each car, which are generally well participated. iRacing also has a ranking system for both performance/results (iRating) and safety(safety rating). The safety rating generally keeps the intentional crashers/wreckers out much better then other sims. The iRating provides a good (although not perfect) way to group similarly skilled racers together and award championship points fairly through a strength of field formula even if many competitors never compete directly with each other in the same race. All this means it's much easier and I think less time consuming and more fun to race competitively versus other systems in which you have to find an individual league, join it, and manage your time to make all specific events.

Along those lines I also like iRacings detailed web based statistics and results displays. This allows you to lookup your competitors and your own detailed stats and past race results through a simple interface. One thing I would like to see added though is a data acquisition/analysis tool similar to what Live for Speed has, which allows you to view for your speed, steering, throttle, brake positions, g-forces, etc. graphs all overlayed against anyone else's lap. This is similar to data acquisition systems used in real world racing and would help drivers improve alot.

In terms of vehicle dynamics, I think iRacing does a good job, although I'm not sure if it's perfect. Although I have driven the Skip Barber F2000 car in real life as well as the iRacing version, it's hard to compare perfectly because I've only had a few days in the real life car, I was on different tires (the sim models the slicks used in the national series) and likely a different setup. The simulation is certainly close enough so that the techniques used to drive in the game are very close to those used in real life. In comparison with other sims, I think iRacing is at least on par with Live For Speed's excellent vehicle dynamics and modeling, and superior to rFactor.

There are certainly areas where iRacing can be improved. For example, the damage modeling is limited mostly to suspensions breaking or bending, and graphically the body panels don't damage realistically at all. The dirt/grass off the racing surface is not realistically modeled like the actual track surface. The gearbox modeling is primitive compared to Live For Speed; clutch slipping feels non existent and it allows flat shifting and downshifting without rev matching in situations that would not work in real life. However, the good thing is iRacing is under constant development, and there are constant improvements to the physics modeling in addition to new features and new cars and tracks.

Overall, I think iRacing is a great game, or simulator or whatever you want to call it. It's both a useful as a tool for real world racing as well as a lot of fun.