One of the longest standing simulators out there, iRacing has been curating content and licenses since before their public launch in 2008. With some of the biggest names in motorsports included on the platform, there are a lot of neat things that iRacers get to partake in.
Some of those neat things are iRacing’s yearly Special Events. Every new year, iRacing curates a list of big, specialized races. This list of events is basically open to all iRacers in some capacity, seeing to it that users interested in racing own the content and meet the license requirement to partake.
Many of these races are based around some of the biggest races in real-world motorsports hence why the fall under the category of special event as opposed to just being another regular official race. What’s so special about them anyway? Well, let’s take a look at what makes an iRacing special event prestigious.
SOME OF THE BIGGEST RACES IN THE REAL-WORLD
There was a time a few years ago where iRacers could put a full season of special events together and virtually compete in the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Chili Bowl and the Snowball Derby.
While Le Mans and Indy are no longer on the table due to iRacing not having the proper licensing despite offering the content needed, there are still a whole mess of other prestigious sim races to jump into.
Just in the next month alone, iRacers who meet the license requirements can partake in iRacing’s Daytona 24, a simulated event of the real-world Rolex 24 at Daytona, and then turn around and get in a NASCAR NEXT Gen car and take on the same venue’s oval for the Daytona 500.
Supercars in Australia runs the Bathurst 1000 every year in the real world. For iRacers, there’s an iRacing Special Event of the same name that uses the sim-imported versions of the Supercars on the laser-scanned Mount Panorama.
The Chili Bowl happens in the real-world every January. On iRacing, members can experience all the magic of the Alphabet Soup in a Dirt Midget at the Tulsa Expo Center just as well on their computer in December.
Both NASCAR and IMSA have nearly half the Special Event schedule alone, each series with four Special Events to take on through the year. Both series’ races are emulating races that are full-distance in the real-world, and for both series, these are some of the most highly anticipated races of the year.
TOP LEVEL DRIVERS ON DISPLAY
While anyone can qualify into these races and participate, the numbers are usually big for these races, which means multiple splits will all race at the same time. The Top Split is usually those with the highest iRating, but for some of these events, there are qualifying sessions where iRacers can try and put a fast enough lap time down to make the top level split.
Not every Top Split will be broadcasted, but usually iRacing or one of their partners (such as VCO Esports) will take on the task to display at least one of the top split races from the event, and usually the split in question is determined ahead of time.
If it’s a qualifying to make Top Split type of event, your iRating won’t matter. Putting down the fastest lap that you can will. In some events, having the highest iRating will be the ticket to the Top Split. Just recently, iRacing introduced Super Sessions, where drivers can qualify into the top split through earning the most points through the week leading up to the event.
Either way you slice it, the Top Split will be made up of the most deserving drivers. If you don’t make the Top Split, never fear, you’ll be placed into a split of other drivers that should be around your talent level, whether it’s by iRating or qualifying time or Super Session results.
I’ve won a 10th split Indy 500 on iRacing before and it felt like all 32 of my opponents were top level sim racers. They weren’t, but it felt really evenly matched through the racing, and that’s what any of the ways the field gets split are supposed to be doing.
Because of the commitments that it takes to either make a Top Split or win any split, these races are given a higher honor among the community, often with races including awards or achievements to collect.
WHAT ARE THE EVENTS IN 2023?
The 2023 iRacing Special Event Calendar will feature a decent assortment of oval racing and road racing, and most of it is returning content from the 2022 calendar.
As previously mentioned, there are four NASCAR events, all of which will emulate the actual distances of the real-world events. NASCAR sim racers can take on the Daytona 500, the Coke 600, the Bristol Night Race and the Phoenix Championship Finale this year.
Road racers can look forward to a good mixture of IMSA events and international events for racing sanctioned by ADAC and the Intercontinental GT bodies.
For IMSA, there’s the VCO block which is being called the VCO Grand Slam. It’s starts with the 24 Hours of Daytona and includes the Sebring 12, the Watkins Glen 6 Hour and Petit Le Mans. Other GT3 only races include the Bathurst 12, the Spa 24 and the Fuji 8 Hour. The Nürburgring will also see some 24 hour racing
Supercars fans can take on the Bathurst 1000. Short track fans can get their own version of the Snowball Derby from iRacing’s Winter Derby. As for Dirt lovers, there’s the Knoxville Nationals for the World of Outlaws as well as the Chili Bowl, one of the most participated-in races in the real-world out there.
This year will also see a throwback race, of sorts, with the Road America 500 in the older Nissan and Audis. The SCCA Runoffs return for another year and the Pro 4 faithful will get their shot with the Crandon Pro 4 Championship.
Each race will have its own minimum to partake in the event. For example, the first race on the calendar, the iRacing ROAR at Daytona, would normally need a C-level license, but those on the D-level can get in on things if their Safety Rating is over 4.0.
For the NASCAR-specific events, the entirety of them will follow NASCAR iRacing Series (NiS) rules and qualifications. That means drivers will need that C-level license to partake in the series, and not only will the event be special in it’s own right, but will also count towards the official series standings as well.
Just because they are special doesn’t mean that they are above any other iRacing session. Drivers can still be penalized, protested, and can lose out on Safety Rating and iRating based on how you fare.
Most other sims don’t have events like these, and if they do, they don’t quite have the same quantity that iRacing is able to pull off year over year.
For more information and details regarding these special events, that can be found on the iRacing forums or the iRacing Special Events section of the iRacing website. Be sure to check out this year’s schedule of events as well.