The Dallara IR-18 debuted on the iRacing.com service before it hit the track in anger in 2018, allowing racing fans to get hands on with the next generation of American Open-Wheel race cars. Similarly in 2020, due to the last minute delay to the 2020 Motorsports schedule, the Aeroscreen debuted to simracers across the globe before the NTT IndyCar paddock got the chance to race with the new driver protection device.
With no power steering and an almost 1-1 power to weight ratio (700 hp to 735kg), the car behaves unlike any other open-wheel car to be found on the iRacing Service. Adam Crane (VRS Satellite Racing), the 2020 iRacing IndyCar Series champion, described the car as "a high-powered sledge hammer of a car; extremely difficult to drive with the demanding surgical precision required if you want to go quickly". Featuring the new iRacing Tyre Model, the New Damage Model, as well as various new graphical features (including driver helmet movement), the Dallara IR-18 is one of the premier cars on the iRacing service but enjoys a small niche community due to the relative difficulty of setting up the car in the right window.
While every single Dallara IR-18 on the iRacing service is identical, with so many options in aerodynamics, chassis and drivetrain - car setup can be cruical to finding the edge both on ovals and road courses. Its not just about raw performance, but balancing driver comfort with tyre wear and the requirement to run multiple tyre compounds - it can all be overwhelming to newcomers on the iRacing service.
"The new tire model is definitely a pretty big step up compared to what we had before, because with the previous tire model the races usually boiled down to who could drive the same exact way over an entire race distance, whereas the new tire adds a bit of variability in how you have to drive over a stint" said Philip Kraus (Team Talent), the 2020 Indy Elite Champion. "You have to control the tire heat much more and you have to be much more aware of how you're driving the car and how it'll effect the tires over the remainder of the stint. Push a bit too hard at the start of a run, and you'll have ruined your tires for the rest. Also the addition of different tire compounds is always an added plus, as it gives us drivers more flexibility when it comes to the strategies we employ in the race."
Satellite Racing's Crane agreed on the importance of strategy in the upcoming 6 race season - "boxing too early or too late for a preferred or compulsory compound will strand you in poor track position and can compromise your race completely, so drivers need to pick the window wisely. Decision-making in the Indycar, both on-track and in the pits, has never been more important".
It's not just the work in the garage that is important. With front and rear ARB adjustments on road courses and the additional weight-jacker on ovals, drivers can constantly fine-tune their cars to rise to the top beyond the work done in the build up to the race. Testing how these in-car tools can work hand-in-hand with the setup options adds more flexiblity for teams to find speed in a variety of different ways. Drivers will also have 10 Push-To-Pass uses throughout the race. While this differs slightly from how the system works in the real world, it provides a different strategic element for series newcomers to adapt to.
With an expanded 50 car roster but just 32-35 grid slots available at every race, qualifying setups will be crucial as well. Take out the fuel, reset the ride heights - and then what can you do to maximize lap time? Sometimes extreme things may work....but only for a lap or two! It's a fascinating balance, and one that rewards those with a creative mind - especially when we visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for our season finale and the traditional 4-lap qualifying runs.
ISOWC 2021 gets underway on May 8th, 2021 at Watkins Glen with the final round of the 6 race championship taking place on July 31st, 2021 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To learn more, visit the Competitor Home or join the Series Discord. To sign yourself up for the ISOWC, visit https://isowc.org before the 17th of April, 2021.