iRacing has been criticized for the amount of money you need to spend for racing there. Besides the monthly fee (which amounts to a couple of €/$ per month, if you make use of the one-year or two-year Black Friday offers), buying tracks is the largest expenditure. A track costs US$15. Luckily, it’s not necessary to buy every track, as a) iRacing comes with quite a large number of free tracks, and b) some tracks are more popular than others and hence used a lot more.
As of season 4 2020, iRacing includes these free tracks:
- Charlotte Motor Speedway (two versions)
- Lime Rock Park (two versions)
- Oran Park (new for season 4 2020)
- Oulton Park (new for season 4 2020)
- Summit Point (actually two different tracks)
- Tsukuba (also two distinct layouts)
- Laguna Seca
- Daytona (old version)
- Phoenix (old version)
- Pocono (old version)
- Silverstone (2008 version)
- Texas Motor Speedway (2008 version)
That’s a total of 13 tracks, not counting multiple versions and layouts – hence it is possible to run a complete season of 12 races without using a free track twice.
Nevertheless, most of the class D and up series make use of multiple paid tracks each season. Most series use a fixed rotation scheme where a track, once voted in, stays in use for a couple of seasons before being rotated out again. This means that, by checking the proper post on the forum, you can get a good idea of which tracks will be in use for the coming seasons of your favorite series. Beyond that, some tracks are also more popular than others and get used quite a lot, meaning that they are a better investment than others. Based on my experience, I would categorize the tracks as follows:
Very popular, used the most:
- Road Atlanta
- Road America
- Watkins Glen
Many classics here, including four of the best tracks on the American continent. I would consider these five must-haves.
Used regularly, though not as often as the A tier:
- Nürburgring/Nordschleife. This is a special one, as many series race on a combined circuit and hence require you to purchase two tracks.
- Le Mans
- Brands Hatch
Many options here, so check the schedule of your preferred series before making a purchase. Most of the Formula 1 tracks fall in this category. The Nordschleife really is a love/hate thing. If you love it, I recommend getting the GP circuit as well, as many series will use a combined layout.
The others. Since they are little used, many people don’t own them – hence race participation will suffer as well. Sometimes it’s a shame, as there are a couple of good tracks (like VIR) here. Chances are though that the older tracks will become free tracks at some point.
Whenever a new track is released (I believe Barcelona was the last), they are usually used extensively for a couple of seasons, by many series. Hence it makes sense to buy a newly released track most of the time, if you like it.
Remember that you get a 10% discount by buying three items at the same time. Consider buying e.g. two tracks and a car at the beginning of the season instead of spreading single purchases throughout the season.