So you want to get into Sim Racing, aye? Well, Eat Sleep DSM is here to help with that a little bit too! Along with being super crazy about DSM’s and dirt racing, we are pretty avid Sim Racers too. Because we are actively competing on iRacing and being pretty vocal about it on social media, we get a lot of questions about how to get into it, what is needed, how expensive is it to get into, etc. The point of this article is to help answer some of these frequently asked questions.
Now we don’t, or at least I don’t, know a whole helluva lot about the technology side of Sim Racing with the PC specs, but I have learned a lot. When I first got into it, I knew absolutely nothing about the inside of a computer so I didn’t quite know what I needed as far as the specifications of a gaming PC but I was able to pick one out fairly easily but sifting through iRacing’s “System Requirements” page.
Choosing the Right PC
Chances are if you are reading this article, you aren’t very familiar with PC’s either and because you and I both share that, I am the perfect type of person to help you get started because I’ll be able to answer your questions without the boring tech mumbo-jumbo talk.
The PC I chose to go with ended up being a great choice for many reasons which I will list here. The first reason is pretty obvious and that is that it is able to do exactly what I am asking of it. I mostly use it solely for iRacing, but I use it for many other tasks and hobbies too. More specific to the Sim Racing usage is that not only do I want a PC capable of racing, I also like to stream and record races often.
This PC is a CyberPowerPC and i got it on Amazon. The best part about getting it on Amazon is that with Amazon Prime, my PC was eligible to be bought in payments. So I made one monthly payment of like $150 and they shipped it to me. The total cost when I bought it was around $800 (done in 5 monthly payments) but for whatever reason whether it be Covid or inflation, the same PC is now around $1,300. But, at the time of this article, the payment option is still available with Amazon Prime.
Your budget and circumstances is a large factor in determining what PC or select. But, I HIGHLY recommend not getting anything that is “lesser” than this exact PC, even if it is slightly overkill (which it’s not). So, the rest of this article will be based on buying this PC. I cannot stress enough on how happy I am with this PC. Kurt chose a PC that was twice as expensive and mine seems to outperform his in my opinion.
Upgrading Your RAM Sticks
I bought my PC in October of 2020 and it at the time of this article, it is now January 2022. I’ve run my PC as is out of the box this entire time, up until about a week ago. It comes with a single 8GB RAM stick (DRAM). iRacing now recommends at least 16GB of RAM.
My PC was fine for the most part this whole time but I eventually began having problems when I ranked up through the asphalt oval racing. I do a lot of NASCAR races and there are usually 30 or more cars in each race. That is much more demanding on your system than a dirt oval race with 15-20 cars on track.
This computer would still have been perfectly fine, even with a lot of cars on track, but I use a VR. VR’s are incredibly demanding on PC’s. So the more cars and things the system is trying to process, the more you are pushing the system to its limits.
Last week, I removed the Patriot 8GB RAM stick and installed two 16GB Corsair RAM sticks. Doing this allowed me to go from single channel 8GB RAM to 32GB of dual channel RAM. I shit you not, it was like having a brand new PC when I made the switch. It is so fast and smooth now.
What DRAM does is handles the load on how many things are open, including all the background processes. Upgrading the RAM lightens the load on the system, allowing it to be faster and handle more things at once. I like to describe it as if you are driving your DSM around and doing some data logging. The more more things you log, the slower you are receiving each individual input. Logging 30 inputs would be slower than logging 15. The same applies to RAM. The more things you have open or are trying to load, the slower your PC will be able to process them. With 32GB of ram, my PC doesn’t even break a sweat no matter what I’m doing. I can have OBS open and stream my iRacing races while using the VR and anything else I want to do.
I highly recommend upgrading the RAM immediately when buying this PC. My two Corsair 16GB sticks (come in a pack of two) were around $150 on Amazon. I should have done the upgrade a long time ago but I didn’t know much about any of this.
The problems I was having were mostly when loading into the bigger, higher car count races. Furthermore, some tracks have more things to load and have more detail than other etc. It would take so long to load that I would sometimes not make it in time to qualify prior to the race. And in some cases, it’d take so long I’d miss the race. I eventually started restarting my PC before/after each race.
In official iRacing race sessions, there is a 3 minute practice session followed by a 5 minute qualifying session prior to the race. Following the qualifying session, there is about a minute and a half they give you to make changes before going to the grid. So you have almost exactly 10 minutes to load into the grid from the time the face session becomes available.
Even when clicking the button to join the session as soon as the session pops up, occasionally it would take so long to load that it would take over 10 minutes and I would miss the start. If you miss the start of the race, iRacing won’t allow you to leave your pit stall until the field comes by after taking the initial green flag. At a really small track, you could go a lap down by the time you get out of the pits, onto the track, and up to speed.
Another issue with the low amount of RAM is with the VR itself. The VR I use is an Oculus Rift S and I bought it used on eBay for $350. For it to operate, you need to use the Oculus program/app on the PC.
The VR would experience a whole heap of operating issues when loading into a demanding race event. When I finally got into the car, I’d have to sit there and wait for it to stop spazzing out. Sometimes in the middle of the race, the “camera position” would reset and instead of looking ahead, I’d be looking at the wall. Not good. Since upgrading the RAM, even in the most demanding races while streaming, I have yet to have a SINGLE issue. Everything runs amazingly smooth. It’s incredible.
VR or Screens?
While on the subject with the VR stuff, that is something to think about. With Sim Racing, you need to decide which display you want. You have 3 options really. VR, a single screen, or a triple screen setup. A lot of it depends on your budget but if you remove the budget aspect, it is solely personal preference.
I started on a single TV screen and switched to the VR. The VR helped my on track performance a TON. It is so immersive. It’s the difference between staring at a screen or screens compared to being in the car. When you put the VR on, it puts you the driver inside the car.
IMO, screens do not compare. Myself and almost every other driver that races in real life always say you can’t “feel” anything and you are disconnected from the car/track. Going with a VR drastically helps with the feel aspect of that.
If you chose a screen setup, you’ll have to decide on whether or not you want to use TVs or monitors. Monitors are more expensive but they are way faster, have more FPS, and higher resolution. A good budget setup would be to use TV’s.
EDIT 4/20/2022: I have now switched to a triple screen setup using a few oddball, unmatching 32″ TV’s that I purchased from 3 different people on Facebook Marketplace for like $50-70 each. I love it. I was able to build a nice rig that I wouldn’t be able to see if I was using a VR. The graphics are way better than on my Oculus. And it is still very immersive. More on the triple screen stuff later, but something to consider here is the amount of room that a rig and/or triple screen setup takes up. The widest point, screen to screen is approximately 5ft wide. You need at least a good size room and a pretty decent sized corner desk.
Selecting A Racing Wheel
Next is choosing a wheel and pedal setup. There are a crap load to chose from on the market of all types. The three types that are good enough for Sim Racing is a belt driven wheel, a gear driven wheel, and a direct drive wheel.
Direct drive wheels are superior but they are not cheap. I use a gear driven Logitech G29 wheel and it comes with pedals. It’s a great starter wheel and I bought mine for $200 used. I believe they are hard to find new these days and are more expensive. Any gear driven Logitech or Thrustmaster wheel is a good starter wheel. Whatever you do, make sure you DON’T get a wheel that is NOT forced feedback! Forced feedback is an absolute must. The Logitech G29 is easily the most popular and most used wheel on iRacing.
EDIT 4/20/2022: I have used the Logitech G29 for a couple of years but I have recently switched to the Thrustmaster T300 which is belt driven vs. the gear driven of the Logitech. It is a completely different level of a wheel compared to the G29. If I could go back, I would have went with the T300 from the beginning so I definitely highly recommend the Thrustmaster T300. Again, I got it through Amazon and the monthly payments thing was available for it through Prime. The total cost of the wheel was a little over $450 with taxes.
Next, you’ll need a place to put your wheel. I started out with a desk for my wheel and my Logitech G29 has clamps that allows the wheel to be clamped to the desk. Eventually I built my own Sim Rig. You can use PVC piping, wood, metal, people use damn near anything they can get their hands on. I built mine out of an old engine stand, scrap metal, and a Kirkey Racing seat.
You can buy pre-made rigs on Amazon for pretty cheap. Kurt bought his on Amazon for $130 and is fully adjustable. It’s a very nice piece and allows the wheel and pedals to be bolted in. Most wheel and pedal setups have threaded bolt holes so you can bolt them to a rig. He also bolted a 1G DSM seat to his rig.
EDIT 4/20/2022: I have since built another rig using metal roll bar tubing. I basically built a cage or cockpit and filled it in with sheet metal.
The iRacing membership is another thing to keep in mind when setting a budget. It’s not like a normal game because it isn’t a game. To race or participate on iRacing, you have to pay for a membership. You can do monthly or yearly or whatever you want. I do yearly.
The cost varies so you will have to check on iRacing’s website when you are ready because it’s always changing. Last week when I looked, it was 40%. I wanna say it’s around $100 a year if you pay yearly without any type of discount.
Along with the paid iRacing membership comes in game content. Of course the iRacing membership comes with some tracks and vehicles but you will end up having to purchase many tracks and vehicles.
The cost of tracks and vehicles also varies but it’s around $10-15 per vehicle and track. After buying a year and 3 months of cars and tracks, I’m willing to bet I have nearly a grand worth of content including the yearly membership.
This concept is one of the things that always turned me away from iRacing before I finally decided I wanted to do it. But, this is exactly the way I would want iRacing to do this and I’ll tell you why.
iRacing has an iRacing rank (IR) and a safety rating (SR). This is part of their licensing system that allows you to rank up and separates drivers based on skill level. Safety rating is a big deal. You cannot rank up unless your safety rating goes up. This is a very long discussion and there is many many videos and info out there on the specifics.
Basically, when you purchase tracks and vehicles, it doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to your membership/account. Members have the ability to report each other for bad driving, wreckless driving, etc. by clipping a replay of the incident and send it to iRacing. The consequences of being a dirty driver, bad driver, hitting people, wrecking people, etc. can vary from a warning from iRacing, suspensions, and getting banned.
If you get banned, all you have to do is go to iRacing’s website and sign up and pay for a brand new membership. But all those tracks and cars you paid for, you’ll have to buy them all over again. This is what separates Sim Racing from a console game.
On XBOX, it’s very common for some dumbass or dumbasses go wide open into turn one on the first lap and wreck the field. There are zero consequences on an XBOX game and you aren’t risking losing hundreds of dollars of game content if you could get banned.
This puts things into perspective when racing on iRacing. While you’ll still have some beating and banging and a couple guys retaliating on each other on the track, everyone always has that mentality of the possibility of losing all that money and content from getting banned if someone reports you via replay to iRacing.
Licenses, Classes, iR, SR, & MPR
There are 4 different licenses on iRacing.
Oval consists of all kinds of asphalt oval cars like NASCAR, Indy Car, Super Late Models, and Street Stocks. In the Dirt Oval, you’ll find your Dirt Modifieds, Dirt Late Models, Sprint Cars, and Dirt Street Stocks. Dirt Road has the Rallycross cars as well as Stadium Trucks. And in Road, is all the road racing stuff like F1, IMSA, Rolex cars, V8 Supercars, etc. Between the 4 types of racing, there are dozens and dozens of different types of cars and trucks to race.
When you first start out on iRacing, you will have a Rookie class in each license category. In Rookie’s, you will only be allowed to compete in races that are Rookie class. There is also no iRating in Rookie classes, only safety rating. This means you aren’t rewarded any differently when winning a race than you would by finishing last in a race. To get promoted to the next class, regardless of what class you are in, you do so by improving your SR.
Once you get your SR above a 4.0 and have also met your Minimum Participation Requirements (MPR), you will automatically be promoted to the next license immediately. If you get your SR above a 3.0 and have met your MPR, you can also be promoted at the end/beginning of each season. Seasons are broken down into 13 weeks. Every 13 weeks is the start of a new season which means there are 4 seasons in every calendar year. Every time you get promoted, your SR goes back to around a 2.0 every time. If you allow your SR to dip below a 2.0 at the end of a season, you will be demoted. If you allow your SR to fall below a 1.0, you are immediately demoted.
The types of cars you can race is dependent on your license for that type of racings category. For example, I initially got iRacing because I wanted to race the Dirt Modifieds that I race in real life. The problem was, the UMP Modifieds on iRacing only has official ranked races for Class C. So, I had to be a Class C or higher to race those cars. I had to grind it out in the Dirt Stock Cars in the Rookie Class, get promoted to a D Class, work my SR back up to a 4.0 in the Dirt Late Models, get promoted to a Class C, and only then was I able to compete in official UMP Modified races.
When I finally got to Class C and was able to race the Modifieds, I couldn’t just stop caring about my SR all of a sudden because it is much easier to drop your SR than it is to improve it. If I fucked around too much, I would have fallen back to a D class and would no longer be allowed to run the UMP Modifieds. Anyway, the system can seem like it’s fucked because you can do everything right for 99 laps and have 0 incidents, then get wrecked in lap 100 and boom, now you will have incidents points.
Incidents are referred to as “x”. A perfectly clean race, you will finish with 0x. If you go off track (in the grass or something), you will get 1x from that incident. Moderate contact with the wall or another car, you will be given 2x. Heavy contact with another car, 4x. If you lightly tap a car, it will trigger 0x but it will watch to see what happens for the next couple of seconds. You could be holding your own line and a car in front of you comes down from 3 lanes above you, make light contact with you, then spin out of control on their own and hit the wall and you will be given 4x for literally doing nothing wrong and not even receiving any damage. This is just how this all needs to work in order to police the driving through the SR.
How Much Does It Cost?
This is the absolute most frequent question I get. People will see my live stream videos or photos of my rig on social media and the first question they always ask is, “how much does it cost to get into?”.
In this section of this article, ill try my best to break it all down but the truth is, there are so many paths you can take. The absolute most important thing that determines how much it costs is your budget. If you have $4,000 to piss away and jump start your iRacing career, you’ll have many more options than let’s say a $800 budget.
I will come up with two different types of paths, one being the absolute cheapest path I can think of and one that I highly suggest if you can swing it, while still being very affordable. I am also going to assume for the purpose of the budget that you have nothing at all, no computer capable of running iRacing, nothing.
But with that said, I’m going to assume that you have some basic items like a desk of some sort. I will also start the budget as if you did bare minimum to buy everything on your phone through Amazon or online to where you would receive everything in the mail, set it all up, and join.
The other thing that makes building these “budget paths” for you is the constant fluctuation in prices. I bought my PC for like $990 on Amazon. Now, the same exact thing, is $1300.
PC: CyberPowerPC or equivalent- $800-1,600
You could buy the same PC I bought on Amazon. You might even get lucky and find it when they are offering the monthly payment plan. There are so many good PC’s on Amazon and I highly suggest sourcing one out on there. Another budget option is finding one on Facebook Marketplace. Just make sure the PC you choose meets the system requirements from the iRacing website that I linked further up in this article.
Cheap Route: Logitech G29- $300
Stage 2: Thrustmaster T300- $500
At the time of this article (4/21/22), the G29 is $281 on Amazon. Clamp that some bitch to your desk, toss the pedals on the floor and call it a day. Or, spend a little more money and get the T300 and probably never have to worry about wanting or needing to upgrade the wheel ever again. Most likely, you’ll love the G29 until you start getting extremely competitive and realize you need a better wheel and pedal setup.
Cheap Route: Single Screen, 32″ TV- $0-75
Stage 2: Triple Screen, 3 TV’s- $145-300
Stage 3: VR, Oculus Rift S- $250-600
This, you probably already have if you want to go the single screen TV route. Maybe steal it from your living room or maybe even your son’s bedroom. But if you have to buy one to dedicate it to Sim Racing, these can be found for cheap on Facebook Marketplace. I bought 3 32″ TV’s to run my triple screen setup for about $60 each. I bought my Oculus Rift S used 2 years ago for $300 on eBay.
Headset/Mic: Corsair Headset- $75
I got mine at Walmart for about $70. I was going to list a cheap ass $35 Amazon headset here but they suck ass and just aren’t worth not spending the extra $30 for a nice Corsair headset. If you chose to go the VR route instead of a screen setup, the VR has a built in mic and sound.
iRacing Membership- $7.80/month
Right now, the monthly cost for new memberships is $7.80 a month. If you pay for a full year, it’s $60.
In conclusion, the amount of money you spend depends on so much and is impossible to replicate. One thing for certain is that it’s an ongoing cost. It’s a hobby. You will constantly be paying for something whether it be upgrading something, buying more content, all kinds of things. But, it’s so fun and competitive. You are paying for you’re happiness. One last thing to keep in mind is that it’s a lot of money to spend on something if you only plan on racing once in awhile. This is more for individuals that are looking to turn this into a hobby for years to come.