The problems with special events
This past weekend saw the iRacing 24 Hours of Spa and as with every special event in iRacing there was some backlash over the abuse of the penalty system and the split system.
When iRacing runs a special event endurance race, they disable the off track limit for the race. This means that regardless of how many incident points you accrue from off tracks or contact, you cannot be disqualified. The usual penalties apply after the race, that is your Safety Rating will take a hit based on your incident to corner ratio, or however iRacing calculates this.
The obvious problem here is that this opens the door to track limits abuse. And while 95% of teams know that just because you can, it doesn't mean you should. You inevitably have those guys who give it the ol' "real race teams would use every chance they could to win" etc.etc. to justify their actions.
As you might expect, the teams wracking up incidents in the region of 1400x are often winning the split. The small advantage gained from each off track adding up over the course of 24 hours.
The second problem we have is smurfing. When iRacing creates the splits for a special event, it uses the average irating of the drivers signed up for the team when the session goes live. At face value this seems like a good idea, until you see that there are 2 simple ways to abuse this system.
Firstly, once the session has been created, there is nothing to stop anyone of any irating joining a team. e.g. 1 person signed up a team, their irating is 2000. Once the session has been created the other 4 members of this team join, all of which have an irating of 5000. It's easy to see that in a split that will have a strength of field of around 2000, it becomes an easy win for that team consisting of mostly 5000 drivers.
Secondly, you also see drivers intentionally tanking their irating in the week or so leading up to the special event so that they can register the team and get entered into a lower split, much to the same effect as above. This was the case for the team that won split 5 of this years Spa 24. It's of no surprise that they were guilty of both track limits abuse and smurfing.
And while all of the above is grounds for a protest within iRacing, this does not change the fact that it has already spoiled the competitiveness of a 24 hour race. Not to mention that more often than not a slap on the wrist is about as much they will ever get from iRacing.
Fixing track limits abuse
So how do we fix this issues? It seems pretty self explanatory for the most part. Track limits abuse can easily be fixed by enabling an incident limit. It can even be a more generous limit than usual and still prevent prevalent abuse of track limits, which is particularly prevalent at Spa.
In fairness to iRacing, there was some discussion on the forums prior to the race involving staff members where an incidents limit was being considered, though this was only a few days before the race and was ultimately decided against for this race. Hopefully we'll see this implemented in the future.
Going beyond a simple incident limit, which there is certainly an argument for as I alluded to earlier, no one wants to get a DQ after 23 hours. One suggestion is to have a rolling incident limit that triggers a drive through penalty. So if you have collected X incidents within Y period of time, this resets to 0 and you are given a black a drive through penalty.
This problem is certainly more complex and may not be completely fixable within the scope of the resources iRacing has available.
Certainly the first half of this problem can be fixed with a solution along the lines of, once a strength of field has been set for a split e.g. 2400, the irating of any driver attempting to register for a team in this session once it has been created should be within X % of the strength of field.
The tanking issue is slightly harder to resolve and without live protesting and action from iRacing during the race to DQ a team, you would perhaps need to take a users average irating over the past 2 months when signing up for special events, but this still leaves a loophole for the dedicated scumbag who is willing to maintain a lower irating for months prior or even a second account just for special events.
Whatever the best solution may be, it's clear from the growing backlash after special events that iRacing need to address these issues as soon as possible.
This recent race certainly left a sour taste in the mouths of many who are rightly frustrated at the constant abuse of these systems to gain an unfair advantage on the rest of the field.
If you have a different idea on how to fix this or disagree with our proposal, let us know in the comments below we'd love to hear what you think!
A statement from iRacing staff on the track limits situation