iRacing’s road career offers a multitude of racing series, especially at the D and C license level. Choosing a proper career path can be a bit confusing, hence this guide.
How to increase license level
Everybody starts out at Rookie level with a safety rating of 2.50, in all four careers (oval, road, dirt oval, dirt road). There are five license levels above Rookie: D, C, B, A, and Pro. Advancing up to A works the following way:
- You need to meet the Minimum Participation Requirement (MPR) of four races or four time trials in your current license class.
- Your safety rating needs to be 3.00 or better. If you’re a rookie, you are immediately promoted to D upon reaching 3.0. In D or higher, you are promoted at the end of the season.
- You are promoted mid-season if your safety rating is 4.00 or better. This means that you easily climb multiple classes in a single season as long as you drive safely and fulfil the MPR.
Pro rating is based on results and reserved for the very best drivers.
As you can see, promotion up to A is based only on safety rating. You don’t need to be fast, you just have to be a safe driver. This means that you can be in A class with a pretty low iRating (which is based on your results) – whether it’s fun to be there competing against much faster drivers in another question. The safety rating you gain (or lose) each race is dependent on the number of incidents and the number of turns in a race, so having zero incidents will yield a higher SR gain in a long race than in a short race. In higher classes, you lose SR more quickly – another reason not to climb too quickly.
You can always race in races of lower license levels. A race needs to have at least six entries to become “official”, i.e. to count for iRating. A season consists of twelve weeks and week 13 (with special events), a new week starts on Tuesday.
In Rookie, you can race in two series:
- The Global MX-5 Cup. The place to begin, small grids (11 cars max) and short races of approx. 15 minutes. As of season 1 2020, it has been upgraded to ND2 specs (more power) and is on NTMv7, making it even more fun to drive.
- The Sim-Lab Production car challenge. This is a multi-class series with the MX-5, Pontiac Solstice (both free), Ford Mustang, and VW Jetta (both paid). The MX-5 is by far the most popular, and I recommend driving this car. Races are of varying length, including a few longer races with a pit stop. This makes the SLPCC a great series to learn in.
Both series race only on free tracks, and have races once an hour (the Global cup on the hour, the SLPCC at half past). This means that both are very popular and always have multiple splits in peak hours.
What’s a split? There’s a maximum of 11 cars in an MX-5 cup race and 18 in the IPCC. When there are more drivers than this, they are split into multiple races based on iRating, which means that people of similar speed are likely to race together. Yes, this means that a fast Rookie may be racing against an A class driver if both have similar iRatings.
Quite a number of new race series are opened up by promoting to D class:
- Fanatec Global Challenge: Cadillac CTS and Kia Optima, both free cars. The Caddy has a lot more power than the MX-5, driving it is a good introduction to driving a high-horsepower car like the GT3 and GTE cars. The grid size is quite large and rolling starts are used. Race length 25 minutes, decent participation.
- BMW 12.0 (replaced the Ferrari GT3 Challenge as of season 1 2020): Your first chance to drive a GTE car. A popular series, the M8 GTE can be raced in the higher license classes as well so might be worth it if you want to limit spending on cars. Short 12 minute races.
- Formula Sprint: New for Season 4 2019, this series features the current F3 car on free tracks in official races. A good way to get started in a fast formula car.
- Formula Renault 2.0 Championship. Open wheel, the Skippy (see below) is much more popular.
- Spec Racer Ford: The SRF is a free car. Lightweight but with low horsepower, it is also a momentum car like the MX-5. It is more unstable under braking though and in this regard a good preparation for the GT3 and GTE cars, which also tend to be less forgiving than the MX-5.
- Ruf GT3 Challenge: A series with an older car, not very popular. The car cannot be raced in other series. 30 minute races.
- Skip Barber: Very popular series and the logical choice if you want to do open wheel racing. The “Skippy” is another momentum car, so a logical progression from the MX-5.
While all D class series except for Formula Sprint use paid tracks, most of them are on a free track at least once in a 12-week season. This means that you can use the free cars (Cadillac, SRF) to get your four-race MPR, and increase your safety rating in the Rookie series, to promote to C-class without spending money on content.
The following race series are C class:
- Advanced Mazda MX-5 Cup: Here’s the trusty MX-5 again, now in an open setup series on mostly paid tracks and with a larger grid size. Popular and good competition, so even if you focus on another series it’s always worth doing a race in a week on a track you own.
- Fanatec GT Challenge: Ford GT, Corvette, Aston Martin DBR9. A bit of an odd one, this one is for racing older cars and thus not popular. 30 minute races.
- Grand Prix Legends: Uses the classic 1967 Lotus 49, which is reputed to be difficult to drive. Unfortunately, unlike the original Grand Prix Legends games, there are no old race tracks in iRacing, so you’ll race on more modern tracks.
- IMSA Michelin Pilot series: New for season 4 2019, currently featuring the Audi RS3 LMS TCR car. Considering the name, it is to be expected that a GT4 car will be added at a later time. Very popular as it is new, with a fun car. 30 minute races with rolling starts.
- IMSA Sportscar Championship: The top C-class closed series, featuring large grids of GTE and GT3 cars and fierce competition. 45 minute races.
- Verizon INDYCAR series: Like real INDYCAR, a mixed road/oval series.
- Simucube F3 series: A relatively recent addition of a fast high-downforce formula car, currently very popular.
- V8 Supercars Series: Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, for Australians 😉
- Kamel GT Championship: Another series with historic cars, the Nissan GTP ZX-T and the Audi 90 GTO. Not very popular, but with a dedicated group of racers. 40 minute races.
- Porsche iRacing Cup: Currently the only series where you can race the 911 GT3 Cup, quite popular for a single-make series. The car is not easy to drive but very rewarding. Approx. 30 minute races.
- Pro Mazda Championship: Open wheel series, races at least one oval track in each season. Limited popularity.
- Radical Racing Challenge: Another single-make series, free car. Fast and high downforce. My main series this season.
- VRS GT Endurance Series: GT3 cars in three-hour races every Saturday and Sunday.
As you can see, C class offers a wide variety of race series. This does of course lead to fragmentation, and several series suffer from poor participation outside of peak hours. While more popular series offer larger grids, the racing can be a bit rough. The smaller series often have a dedicated and close-knit community and thus cleaner racing.
B class, on the other hand, features only five series:
- Classic Lotus Grand Prix: Another historic series, with the 1978 Lotus 79. Races are quite long.
- Endurance Le Mans Series: Featuring LMP and GTE cars, team racing due to 360 minute race length. Races only every other Saturday.
- Formula 3.5 Championship: Formula Renault 3.5, the only B class open-wheel series.
- Le Mans Series: With the same LMP and GTE cars as in the Endurance series, but 60 minute races.
- VRS GT Sprint Series: GT3 cars in 40 minute races.
As of season 3 2019, there’s only one A-class series:
- Grand Prix Series: Williams-Toyota FW31 Formula 1 car.
Possible career progressions
- GT3: Rookie – Global Challenge – IMSA – GT Sprint
- GTE: Rookie – BMW 12.0 – IMSA – Le Mans
- Open wheel: Rookie – Skippy – Formula 3 – Formula Renault 3.5 – Grand Prix
- Free to B (free content only): Rookie – SRF/Global Challenge Cadillac – Advanced MX-5/Radical
I do not think it is desirable to progress to A class for the sake of getting an A class license. The best racing can probably be had in D and C class, while the two Rookie series have very good participation and race every hour. You’ll probably have the most fun when concentrating on one or two series and getting in the occasional race in another series using a car and track you own. There is nothing wrong with sticking to the Advanced MX-5 in C class, and you might have more fun there than being frustrated with a much faster more difficult to drive GTE car. Likewise, the Skippy has a very loyal following. The big advantage of the popular series is that there will be multiple splits in peak times, meaning that you’ll race against people with similar iRating and thus similar speed. This is much more fun than racing in a series with just a few drivers (and thus a single race) of potentially very differing skill and speed. You can always drive in the Rookie series and have fun there while learning to drive a faster car in another series.