During a broadcasted charity event in July of 2021, Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of iRacing Greg Hill unveiled that the iRacing developers were indeed working on adding rain racing to the iRacing service in the future.
At the time, Hill said that they’d hoped to have something functional by the end of 2021, but questioned whether it would also be released by the end of that year. In the end, nothing publically materialised.
We’re now almost halfway through 2022 and there’s been little talk about the feature. There was a post back in February 2022, also from Hill, that showed two Formula Vees racing side-by-side at Imola. Hill stated that the team had been making tremendous progress with the upcoming rain system. That was four months ago, however.
2022 iRacing Season 3 launched on Tuesday (7th June) and yet again, the talk of a new rain system was not even mentioned in this build’s release notes. While it’s probably a good thing that they are taking their time to get it right, it still begs the question as to when it will launch, even if it’s in a testing or beta mode for now.
Also, we wonder what types of features the iRacing rain system will have. How will the simulation incorporate it into a race event for any of the four disciplines? Will it just be basic like a track with less grip? Will there be those nuances that make rain racing the special product that it truly is? Are any of the wet components from their acquired Orontes Engine make their way into the rain system as well?
While racing in the rain is mostly a road racing thing, rain still affects an oval event when it washes away the rubbered-in groove during an event. Dirt ovals need to be careful to condition the clay so that it’s not a muddy mess when cars can get back on track.
iRacing could be one-dimensional and just release it for road racing tracks, but here I am holding out hope that it releases service-wide.
Thankfully, we already have windshield wipers installed on some vehicles that can easily clean off dirt and mud in Rallycross races. Strangely, there are a couple of cars recently that have enabled the wiper functionality – such as the Ford GT-R depicted above. These are vehicles that you’d never see on dirt, but could definitely be seen racing in rainy conditions.
iRacing has a tall task to make its rain system one of the top ones in all of sim racing, especially when the competition out there already is so strong.
With this in mind, I’ve looked into several leading simulation platforms recently, and after several hours of slinging it around in the wet, I’ve pretty much gotten a wish list together of features I’d like to see when iRacing finally does release its awaited rain racing system.
Weather must be dynamic with the option to have static weather
What I mean by that is the weather, naturally, has to be dynamic, where it could change at any moment. In the same respect, I hope they keep static weather as an option, for qualifying and time trial-type activities.
iRacing already has dynamic track surfaces, where visually, the track sees rubber laid down in the racing groove, or on dirt, the line slicks off from its originally tacky surface.
It also has dynamic weather, minus the wet stuff, where clouds and air temperature affect the track surfaces.
While the dynamic track isn’t what it used to be before the current tire model, it still exists in form. It’s more prominent on the dirt tracks, but you can still see it happening on the asphalt throughout the race.
Every game I tested this week had its own way to implement rain in a dynamic matter, either randomized or predetermined. Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to setting up a rain event. To be fair, I liked the challenge of both methods.
If you know exactly how it’s going to play out, then you can set a strategy in advance. Keeping it random would be a complete mystery and could severely keep teams guessing the entire event. I felt like Gran Turismo 7 honestly had the best rain set up. Unfortunately, they’ve limited dynamic weather to only a handful of its tracks.
If I was running a league event with rain, I would set it up in a way that people would have an idea, but no specific time frame as to when. I would have it to where that forecast could change to what was predetermined. I’d set a variable weather forecast to let a race possibly play out a different way than what was planned.
I explicitly love how rFactor 2 sets up a race event. You can make the rain can be both predetermined and variable, it’s so perfect. I also like that in Automobilista 2, they have a real-weather option to tie in with seasonality to add even more immersion to the race.
AMS2 has the last 40 years of weather for each circuit loaded up and ready to implement. You could plug in a date at a track that had a certain weather forecast that day and give your best shot at it.
You should be able to see and feel the track get wet (and dry)
iRacing recently introduced a graining and cording visual effect for tires in the most recent build. Also, it introduced a haze effect to improve fog lighting effects. Could these also point towards a iminent wet weather release?
Whenever rain drops on iRacing, I hope iRacers are able to see the track get wet. That’s almost without question. But above that, it would be nice if the conditions could start dry, get wet, wash away the rubber to make it a green track, get dry again… that whole sort of deal.
Realism, and hopefully we can do it without the need of an Air Titan or a track blower.
The water and loss of water should generally affect the temperatures of the track surface as well. If you’re wearing wet or intermediate tires, they should burn up and wear much quicker on a drying or dried track than slicks.
If on a road course, there should be a wet racing line to take that differs from the regular racing line. In my brief amateur karting career, I learned that the normal line should react with the combination of rain and tire rubber to make it the less preferred groove. Conversely, a dry line should appear when a track begins to transition back from a rain storm.
In rFactor 2, AMS2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione, you can see in a menu box how the track state progresses through the event. If the track is dry, greasy, damp, or god forbid moist, you can see that, at least when the game is paused.
ACC goes a bit further and gives a rough forecast of what is happening and what is to come. In rFactor 2, it appears in an options box with the track state in real-time.
As for Gran Turismo 7, you get a small radar in the corner to see incoming and outgoing precipitation which you can zoom in and out on the fly. It also offers a small track moisture gauge to let you know how wet each specific section of track is and a wind direction icon. Out of all four, I tend to like the way GT7 does it the best, but I think rFactor 2’s system is pretty great as well.
That type of weather forecasting integration should be a focal point in any rain-based racing game, not just iRacing. To know what you’re currently getting, to know the current level of wetness of the track, and to know what’s to come, or at least to have an idea, that’s what I hope iRacing can bring to the table.
Tire strategy needs to be a factor
Some of my favorite Formula 1 races and IndyCar races have been when teams have had to gamble on the weather.
Heck, some of the recent NASCAR races with a little bit of rain mixed into the fold have been compelling as well. Teams have had to figure out when to either put on the wet weather tires or take them off.
With that said, I really hope that iRacing can get to a point where it’s like that. I want to see a track that is just wet enough to cause concern for wet weather strategy, but also if you can hang on with slicks, it’s still worth it to stay out or switch back early. Even further, introduce a dry line for slicks to race on and a wet line where wets can cool off.
You can find this super evident in Gran Turismo 7‘s wet weather racing. Honestly, it’s some of the best, most compelling racing that my friends and I do on the weekends. Who takes tires when, and so forth, it really throws a curve into the strategies.
It should be a given, you should be able to bolt up a pair of racing slicks on a completely soaked track, and vice versa. Let people make bad choices, or maybe an amazing one that nobody else saw coming.
One element that is not seen as often as I’d like is more than one wet weather tire. I know NASCAR only has the one, as do many other racing series that race in the rain, but there is a pretty large contingent of Formula 1 drivers on the service, and those open-wheel Formula-style cars should be given a choice.
Finally, don’t let those wet weather tires last too long in drier conditions. If the track is just wet enough where they might still be better than slicks, make it so they have decent wear and tear so that it might force people to either hold back some or change the strategy. Rain racing can be a calculated sport.
Visibility should be worse, but…
Ideally, driving in iRacing’s wet weather should look like rain in the real world, where it’s a more white-knuckle experience. Hitting visual cues should be more difficult, but there it would be even better to have options to make the visibility clearer for enhanced accessibility.
I don’t know if iRacing could add a Rain-X button, maybe that’s too high of an expectation, but NASCAR teams have been known to use the substance to ward off droplets in wet weather conditions. Perhpas have that as an option instead of a wiper, or if you use the wiper, it smears. Again, this might be too extreme, but I’m here for the realism!
For cars with open cockpits, like the Formula 1 cars, an easy fix might be setting a tear-off button. That is thankfully something that already exists in the game. However, maybe make it more realistic by limiting the number of tear-offs one driver can take in a race. Sometimes, when racing off-road iRacing vehicles, I feel like I take a tear-off twice a lap or more.
Following behind cars should be a worse experience. Get those rooster tails up in the air and create that spray effect. We can kind of see that they developed it, by looking at those Vees from the February social update. Hopefully, it is just as daunting from behind those cars as well.
Lastly, with people likely going off-track more often, why not mix in mud to the equation? We’re talking about making this a realistic simulation, so when the car in front of you kicks up the dirt from the side of the road, your windshield should reflect that. Just another added element to immerse the player further.
Most importantly, rain is fun
Maybe a rain license is on the horizon? It certainly could be something worth hoping for. If it’s done right, racing in the rain can be a completely different animal than any normal event. Setups should cater to different weather conditions as well. All in all, I just hope that when it gets released, it’s a fun time.
iRacing has done some pretty remarkable things in the sim racing industry. While there’s still a lot left to improve, some of its technology has been groundbreaking. Rain adds that added element of unknown to the equation.
Only some of the best have been able to master it. Hopefully, iRacing will soon be on that exclusive list.
Featured Image: Valtteri Bottas driving the Mercedes-AMG W12 at Spa-Francorchamps in 2021, photo by Jerry Andre via Motorsport Images