iRacing setup: follow our starter guide to get on the pace quickly

iracing setup - a quick start guide

iRacing is probably the best environment to finesse your race craft online. If you’re serious about getting involved in some real competition, that is! Yes, there are other sims: rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione for example, but for me, iRacing is my spiritual home.

I’ve been using iRacing for 4 years, (class A licence, still working to get to 2k iRating) now, as well as 8 years of track racing, and since the day I installed it and got it set up properly, (save a few minor setbacks in the learning process) I’ll never look back.

I’ve written this setup guide for iRacing to help you get started on your journey to finding your pace. Our guide covers your gear: wheelbase and pedals, setup for the iRacing software and input configs, and naturally, the basics of car setup, links to useful guides, and the best places to buy setups too. Enjoy!

iRacing's loading screen

Contents:

Some assumptions

I’m assuming that you’re relatively new to sim racing, that you’re certainly relatively new to iRacing, or that you’re trying iRacing for the first time having run a similar simulator like Asetto Corsa for a short while.

I’m also assuming that your sim rig is built and ready to go. Your Windows drivers are installed, your monitors are set up and working (or, your VR headset), and the pedals and wheelbase are ready to go.

In this guide, I’ll take you through the wheel and pedal calibration in the USB game controllers dialogue via Windows. I’ll also walk you through iRacing’s own setup (of course). By the end of this guide, with a bit of luck, you’ll be set up and ready to get fully involved in iRacing.

One final assumption is that you’ve installed iRacing! iRacing installation via Steam or via the downloadable installer is extremely simple.

Head to iRacing here to learn more or watch this simple video:

Set your DD wheelbase up

Before we delve into iRacing itself, let’s make sure that your wheelbase is correctly set up. This article focuses exclusively on the Fanatec DD2 wheelbase, much of the process however applies to all of the other, newer wheelbases like the Fanatec CSL DD and so on. If you’re using a Simucube or similar, those platforms have their own config software such as Truedrive, but the fundamentals are the same. Set wheel centre and max torque and so on.

Back to the DD2, let’s start with the tuning menu. I access this via the game controllers dialogue in Windows 10. If Fanatec’s installer didn’t save this on your desktop as “Fanatec Wheel Properties”, you can search in the Windows search bar for “USB Game Controllers”.

fanatec wheel properties

Open the properties page for the Fanatec wheel, by highlighting either of the “Fanatec Podium Wheel Base DD2” items and double-click (or, click properties).

fanatec wheel properties dialogue

Firstly, we’ll head to the DD2 “Settings” tab to do some wheel and motor calibration. In the settings dialogue, we’ll start with a wheel center calibration. Move your steering wheel to be perfectly centered. I use the centre stripe at 12 o’clock on my steering wheel – lining it up by eye is always enough.

When you’re happy, click “Wheel Center Calibration”

Wheel center calibration on Fanatec DD2
Wheel centre calibration on Fanatec DD2

Once this procedure is complete, you’ll get a confirmation message on the wheelbase’s OLED display screen.

Next, we’ll do the motor sensor calibration. For this, you need to remove your steering wheel. Exit from the wheel properties page (although Windows will do this automatically if you remove the wheel).

Once the wheel is removed and stowed safely, re-open the wheel properties dialogue and head back to settings. Click the “Motor Sensor Calibration” button:

Fanatec wheel properties page for a Motor Sensor calibration
Back in the wheel properties page for a Motor Sensor calibration

The base’s wheel axis will turn clockwise and counterclockwise before completing. Reattach the wheel when it’s done and return to the properties dialogue to check your tuning settings.

clubsport tuning menus

Once the wheel is calibrated, it’s time for tuning. My DD2 settings for iRacing are close to default, but not quite:

Fanatec DD2 iRacing setting Value
[SEN] Maximum Steering Angle 900°
[FF] Overall FFB Strength 100%
[SHO] Vibration Strength 100%
[ABS] Brake Pedal Vibration OFF
[FOR] Force Effect Strength 100%
[SPR] Spring Effect Strength 100%
[DPR] Damper Effect Strength 100%
[NDP] Natural Damper Strength 50
[NFR] Natural Friction 0
[FEI] Force Effect Intensity 100

If you’re running Fanalab, this is the settings screen you’re looking for:

Fanalab for the Fanatec CSL DD

a later driver, please refer to this post. If you’ve got a Simucube and want to set it up, take a look at this guide. Finally, if you own a VRS DirectForce pro, here are some useful settings: (PDF).

What’s brilliant about the Simucube is that presets are available in Truedrive Paddock:

Simucube’s TrueDrive Paddock comes with Force Feedback presets

Before we conclude your wheelbase setup, it’s worth taking a quick look at your shifter calibration, if you have one. Once you select the option to calibrate your shifter, the text located to the right of the next button will guide you through the procedure for a Fanatec SQ 1.5:

shifter calibration for fanatec SQ
Shifter calibration for Fanatec SQ 1.5

Your pedal settings

I’m using the Heusinkveld Sprint pedals, which have been quite a game-changer in terms of driveability in iRacing. These pedals really need little setup work and are quite plug-and-play. If you’ve just installed them though, it makes sense to run the calibration in the Heusinkveld Smart Control app.

If you’ve got a different set of pedals, they all come with a variation of the software pictured below. SimTrecs GT Pro pedals, for example, have software called SmartDrive, but it looks more or less exactly the same:

smartdrive from simtrecs to calibrate your pedals
Smartdrive from Simtrecs to calibrate your pedals (review here)

Whatever app you’ve chosen, having pedals calibrated is a must. Here’s how you calibrate your SmartControl-driven HE Sprints and Ultimate+ pedals from Heusinkveld. So let’s get on with the calibration:

pedal setup software

The calibration process is extremely simple. Follow the instructions being sure to keep the pedals depressed until after clicking the next button:

throttle calibration in Heusinkveld smart control app
Throttle calibration in Heusinkveld smart control app. Keep the pedal depressed until you hit the “Next step” button!

Over in the settings menu, I tend to keep the pedal responses set to “linear”, with a small percentage of dead zone at the top and bottom of the range of each pedal. Do be sure not to set the dead zone too high or you’ll lose the opportunity to induce throttle off oversteer, and trail braking will be less easy!

heusinkveld smart control software

Now, we’re ready to tackle the iRacing settings!

Your iRacing settings

We’re almost finished and you’re almost ready to race. Now we’ll open iRacing and set up the graphics and controller properties. Firstly, make sure your installation is up to date. If it isn’t, there’ll be a message as you won’t be able to enter a race or go testing.

Click the update link, and you’ll see the items that are ready for an update from the iRacing server. Here’s the update menu as seen below in the beta UI:

updates for iracing software
Update iRacing in the UI

Next, let’s use the automatic graphics configuration option in iRacing settings to start a reasonable minimum graphics config. We’ll be adapting these settings, I just think it’s always wise to let the software have a go first. It pre-configures things like screen resolution and memory limits. That’s not to say you can’t change them during configuration, it just gives you a useful starting point to get things perfect.

Using the iRacing UI, click your helmet (your account profile), select settings > interface, and click the “graphics config” button pictured below:

How to run graphics config in iRacing UI
Using the iRacing UI, click your helmet (account profile) > settings > interface – run graphics config

You should now be ready to open a session in iRacing, where we’ll tackle the final items on the list. Wheel and pedal setup, the shifter and the graphics settings. I recommend you set up a test session via the test car on track link, rather than immediately going into a race!

Test car on track first, we’ll use this as an environment to check all of the settings (image source) – this is the web UI which I still prefer!

Setup options for steering, brakes, force feedback and more

As soon as you enter the iRacing simulation, open “Options”. The options tab is visible in the top right-hand corner of the iRacing window.

iRacing's in-game options control panel
iRacing’s in-game options control panel – Click “Strength” and it will change to “Max force”

In iRacing’s options panel pictured above, you’ll see setup options for steering, brakes, force feedback and more.

Looking at force feedback first, make sure enable force feedback is checked. For the Fanatec DD2 or any direct drive wheel, disable linear mode. Click “Strength” and it will change to “Max force”.

Set Max Force to around 50Nm which is a personal preference, you will have to try and see what max force level works for you.

Set the wheel force set to the peak torque characteristics of your DD wheelbase. A Simucube 2 Pro is 25Nm. Here is a more in-depth guide to setting your Torque settings correctly.

Steering and Pedals setup

Steering setup, we’ll cover in just a moment, and as the Heusinkveld pedals have a load cell (see our guide to pedals here), you don’t need Force Factor under “Brakes” set to a particularly high value (mine is 0) but do give it a try so that you can understand the difference.

Now, we’re going to do the input calibration procedure. Critically, you need to set 900° of rotation in the steering wheel setup procedure, so that when you’ve finished, you’ll see a 900° setting understeering in the window above. When you’re ready, click the steering button under input calibration.

I’ve recorded that process here:

Animated gif: configuring the steering setup in iracing
Animated: configuring the steering setup in iRacing

Follow the procedure as instructed, setting the “lock to lock” range to 900°.

If you’ve got the steering configuration right, your inputs should precisely match the little graphic of a steering wheel when you return to the main options screen. It should read “900°” in the steering box.

Now, head to the “Graphics” tab and we’ll set up everything we need to make your racetrack look pretty:

iRacing Graphics settings
iRacing Graphics settings

For the most part, the automatic configuration sets resolution and so on. As I’ve discussed in my VR setup guide, you should go for performance over detail, but there are nice ways to reduce the load on your GPU while retaining an awful lot of detail at a high frame rate.

With the latest generation 30 and 40 series GPUs, you can basically get away with maximum settings all around. If you’re performance limited in some way, try these settings to help your framerate:

  • Use SPS if you have a Nividia 1060 or higher GPU
  • Set performance to “max quality” (Custom)
  • Reduce detail on pit objects to medium
  • Event: high detail
  • Grandstands: off
  • Crowds: off
  • Objects: high detail
  • Particles: high detail
  • Reduce Max Cars to Draw 20 (12 cars)
  • Max pre-rendered frames: 3
  • Limit your frame rate: between 70 and 150 depending on your hardware
  • Enable only shadow maps on track

In essence, you’re looking for the frame rendering to feel smooth, and not jerky in any way. If it’s too much then I suggest reducing the max frame rate. If you’ve got a high-end GPU and you’re still experiencing FPS stutter, it may be that your GPU is getting too hot. Try installing GPU-Z and have a look at the VRAM and GPU temps while the game is running.

I’ve also found a few machines struggle because they’re running very power-hungry background apps. For example, the ASUS Aura application makes outrageous demands on your PC. Uninstall it, and forget your motherboard lights!

Once you’ve got your graphics settings working for you, you should be fully set up and ready to go in iRacing.

Your iRacing car setup

As soon as you’ve found your feet with iRacing and your wheelbase, software, and technical setup is done, you’ll want to start thinking about your vehicle setup. The setup of a car (ride height, spring rate, damper settings, aero settings, tire pressure, and so on) will determine how easy the car is to drive around a particular circuit, and how fast it will be!

Get to know the car and note where it is limiting your pace

I’m assuming that you’re reading this because you’re considering entering non-fixed setup races. Fixed setup races are really popular because the setup is fixed! No changes are possible, save fuelling, so it’s much more of a pure driver competition. But in real life just as much of the competition is between the mechanics, making sure that your setup is the fastest set-up on the grid.

Outside of the fixed setup ecosystem where you can affect a lot of changes that fundamentally affect the way your car will handle:

iracing setup garage
iRacing garage: where setup changes to your car can be made, and presets can be loaded, imported and shared.

Get used to the car before you make setup changes

When you’re totally new to a car, it pays to spend a good amount of time driving it before you make setup changes.

Once you’re comfortable and you feel you’re driving “on the pace” you’ll start to notice limitations. Does it take too much steering input to enter a corner (entry understeer) or worse, does it feel like you’re still steering the car in the corner exit and can’t get on the throttle because the car will go off the track? (exit understeer). These are behaviours that are difficult to ignore and, as they can ultimately affect how soon you’re able to get on the throttle and how late you can brake, they are going to limit your lap time.

My tip is to make a note of what the car is doing in the entry, mid and exit phases of the corner. Record whether the car understeers, oversteers, both (!) and where on the track map these characteristics are manifesting. This is the first part of determining what setup changes to make to the car: being able to record what it’s doing, correctly. And proper notetaking is surprisingly hard to get right at first.

Is the car understeering, or oversteering at the entry, mid or exit phase of the corner? Always write it down, watch the replays and in particular, focus on what you’re doing with the steering wheel.

Wait, what is understeer / oversteer?

When I was racing a Radical SR1 it was the most oversteering car, ever – it actually took a long time to sort it out because at the time I didn’t know how best to describe issues with the car.

The lesson: learn how to communicate what the car is doing! I made a short video comparing two setups, the first made the car oversteer, the 2nd balanced the car nicely and made it faster.

A demonstration of a Radical SR1 with two different setups:

By watching the steering wheel you can see how the car is behaving.

The first setup is quite rear-limited and therefore oversteers in the entry, mid and exit phases of the corner.

The second session shows a more balanced car with more grip at the rear.

The most important part of changing car setup is to just know one simple rule: only make one change at a time! That way, you know if your change has dealt with the problem, or made it worse.

Useful setup guides

There are lots of ways to improve your understanding of car setup. Here are some links you might want to take a look at:

  • iRacing Car Setup Guide (pdf)
  • Skippy tuning guide (pdf)
  • The “ULTIMATE” racing car chassis setup guide (link)
  • GTR Set-up Cheat Sheet (image)
  • Understeer / Oversteer Quick Set-up guide (image)
  • F1 Setup Solutions (image)
  • Paradigm Shift Racing Flowchart Car-Setup (link)
  • XSR setup guide (link)
  • Live for speed basic setup guide (link)

Where to buy setups

  • Craig’s Setup Shop (link)
  • Virtual Racing School (get setups, 1:1 coaching, data analysis and live telemetry) (link)
  • Pure Driving School (link)

Tips for a better iRacing experience

Now everything is running and you’ve got a feel for your new rig, we’re going to cover six important things which will definitely improve your iRacing experience and consequently, your driving!

Getting FOV (Field Of View) correct

I’d class FOV as a game-changer. It’s such an important thing to get right and having the correct FOV will enhance your racing. By making sure that you’ve got the correct field of view (FOV) settings configured, your brain should be able to help, not hinder, the visual interpretation of the racing environment you’re in (yes, really – check out the full guide here).

Even if you think you’ve got a good view in front of you, it might not actually be correct. And by “correct”, we mean the right field of view settings. To make sure you’ve got FOV configured perfectly, head to iRacing options.

Under the
Under the “Display” section in options > graphics

You’ll see on the left-hand side of the options screen in the “display” section at the top (pictured above), firstly make sure the correct resolution for your monitor(s) are checked. You can do this manually but I’d advise using iRacing’s graphics setup wizard, as that will run a quick configuration script to match your hardware to the recommended settings.

Once that’s done, on the right-hand side under display settings there’s a FOV calculator. Start by measuring your full monitor width (literally the actual monitor including the bezel, and the black casing surrounding the screen) and enter the correct number in millimetres or inches for our American friends.

Next measure the visible width (excluding the bezel) which internally allows iRacing to make a pixel width calculation. After this, measure the viewing distance from your eyes to the centre point of the screen directly in front of you. This might require a friend to help!

Sit in your normal driving position and measure from your eyes to the centre point of the screen, and enter that distance into the “Viewing distance” field.

This will calculate the correct field of view. If the outcome is drastically different to what you’ve become used to, do a good few laps and you’ll find, very quickly that you get used to the changes. What you’re seeing is fundamentally the rendering mimicking what it’s like to see out of a real car.

As this is a “true representation” of what you might see in a real car, it’s important to make sure that you assign buttons on your steering wheel for look left and right so you can look into your mirrors or to the left and right of the car (just like you do when you’re actually racing a real life racing car!).

Get your Brake Force settings right

Next, we’re going to look at brakes. I’ve talked about threshold braking before, and generally the need to look out for a few gotchas like making sure you’ve disabled brake assist. But there’s an often missed setting called “brake force”.

Brake force factor, by default, is set to 1.80. It’s intended to help you make adjustments to control your brake response to pedal input so, for potentiometer pedals, the recommended setting is 1.6 to 2.0 and zero for “linear” pedals that use load cells such as Heusinkveld (and most of them, quite frankly!). But that gets missed, you upgrade to a better set of pedals and think no more of it other than calibration.

Brake force factor setting change in iracing
Brake force factor is highlighted above

Fundamentally you can play around with this number to find the threshold where you’re not locking up the wheels but getting the absolute maximum brake force from the car. It’s a setting that is unique to each car, particularly the non-ABS stuff like the Porsche 911 RSR. So make sure you’ve selected “Use custom controls for this car”, because it’s an extremely car dependent setting.

Enable Fast Repair using iRacing’s app.ini

Fast repair does exactly what it says on the tin, you pit, get an instant damage repair and you’re back in the race. By default, though, it’s turned off!

I’ve configured my Streamdeck with some iRacing macros for pitstop settings such as enable / disable tyre changes, enable fast repair and so on. You want to be able to control these settings because an unplanned pitstop will, by default, change your tyres and re-fuel your car which can take ages.

my streamdeck with iRacing macros
Select fast repair on Streamdeck using iRacing macro

But, you can enable or disable this stuff in the iRacing app.ini file, which is located in …\Documents\iRacing\app.ini.

fast repair always selected
autoResetFastRepair=1 will leave fast repair always selected

There are lots of cool things you can customise in app.ini, like screen layout and other default settings. Check out this useful thread on Reddit for lots more where this tip came from.

Get trading paints

Want a more customised look and feel to your car’s livery, or perhaps an entirely custom paint job? Trading Paints is your friend. It’s extremely easy to install. Firstly, setup an account and install the application. Then, for any car you regularly drive, select a paint from the showroom:

Trading Paints Showroom (BMW M4 GT3 selected)
Trading Paints Showroom (BMW M4 GT3 selected)

Select the pain you like, and click “Race this paint”. So long as the application is running (just select it to run at startup), your car will look awesome:

Race this paint on Trading Paints
Race this paint on Trading Paints

Install Crew Chief

Since its inception, Crew Chief has come a long way. It’s a free application that handles a lot for you in-race, such as fuelling and spotter warnings. There’s a huge community following and more settings than I can cover in this article. However, my top tip for Crew Chief is how to setup automatic fuelling so that in an endurance race, you don’t have to attempt fuel calculations in your head (it’s not easy to work it out in your head and stay on the pace!).

Download the installer from the top link on the Crew Chief homepage. Install, open. Click all the update buttons and let it get up to date.

Crew Chief
Crew Chief

To set it to automatically calculate your fuelling, click “Properties”.

There are hundreds of settings on the properties page but fortunately, you can search by keyword for what you need:

Crew Chief: enable auto re-fuelling

I’ve highlighted a few things in red. The search for fuel highlights all fuel settings, the checkbox to enable automatic refuelling and the additional fuel to add to finish the race. This last bit is important. Crew Chief is only software, it’ll calculate exactly the fuel you need. If you lose a tow or have an off, or even have to complete an extra lap for some reason you may not finish the race. I think a good safety margin is to get it to add 0.7 additional litres of fuel as a minimum.

When you’ve made the changes, click save changes and start crew chief. There’s a huge community and a lot of helpful tips for beginners here.

So now you’ve got all aspects of iRacing setup, it’s time to get racing! Good luck and I hope to see you in a race soon.


Related posts:

iRacing setup: follow our starter guide to get on the pace quickly