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

iracing setup - a quick start guide

Last updated: October 11th, 2021

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 a Mazda MX5 global cup racer for almost a year now (as well as 5 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


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 that 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 10. 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:

Your wheelbase setup

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 the belt drive CSL Elite / Clubsport wheelbases too.

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 center 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 center 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 in driver version 346, 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 a later driver, please refer to this post.

Before we conclude your wheelbase setup, it’s worth taking a quick look at your shifter calibration. 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:

shifter calibration for fanatec SQ
Shifter calibration for Fanatec SQ 1.5

Your Pedal Setup

I’m using the Heusinkveld Sprint pedals, which have been quite a gamechanger in terms of controllability in iRacing. They 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.

The app itself is a standalone executable (.exe), so just be sure to download either the 64-bit or 32-bit version. Most gaming machines are 64 bit.

Start with the pedal 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 setup

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 new Beta 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.

Click Launch for Run Graphics Config in the current iRacing UI
Click “Launch” for Run Graphics Config” in the current iRacing UI

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)

Open “Options” as soon as you enter the iRacing simulation. The option is visible in the top right-hand corner of the iRacing window.

iracing settings
iRacing’s in-game options control panel

In here, 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, you don’t need linear mode. Set strength to anything between 3.5 and 6 (this is a personal preference, you will have to try and see what strength level works for you). I have the wheel force set to 24nm. As I have said before – a direct drive wheel can hurt you, so while you’re learning, you can start by setting these settings lower.

Steering 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 enabled.

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:

graphics settings iracing

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.

Try these settings as a basis for that principle:

  • 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

These settings might be a bit hungry for your setup. You’re looking for the frame rendering to feel smooth, not jerky in any way. If it’s too much then I suggest reducing the max frame rate.

I’ve found a few machines struggle because they’re running background apps. For example, the ASUS Aura application makes outrageous demands on your PC. Uninstall it, 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 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 the fundamentally affect the way your car will handle:

iracing setup garage
iRacing garage: where setup changes to your car can be made, 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 behaviors 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 phase 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)

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.

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