More John Bodin’s Essential readings for this summer:
If you’re up for a promotion at the end of this season and you’re thinking of moving past the Rookie ranks to the D-Class level (or beyond), I’d recommend considering a few things about some of the series that you might be considering as your next step beyond Rookie:
The Skip Barber series has a good reputation for clean racing. The Skip Barber ranks are VERY well-populated, but sometimes that’s a bad thing, as it means that a LOT of drivers of all different skill levels are participating. Because of the participation numbers there are usually frequent splits with the Skip, which is good because it helps place you against drivers with similar ratings. Note, though, that the top splits can be brutally competitive, and the lower splits can be as bad as a Rookie MX-5 race, with everything in-between, so it can be hit-or-miss as far as clean racing goes (as it is with most series around here, to be honest).
The Spec Racer Ford series is also pretty well-populated, but it only has about half the attendance that the Skip has, so even though it’s a fairly popular series, it’s still a bit smaller and more tight-knit, which means maybe a bit more clean racing. Also, the SRF will teach you a LOT about car control and smoothness, and everything you learn there will transfer on to other cars. The same applies to the Skip as well, but the SRF feels like an open-wheeler (open, central cockpit seating position), but it has fenders, which means it’s not quite as delicate as the open-wheel Skip, and thus perhaps a little less frustrating.
At the Advanced Rookie (Rookie 3.0 or greater) level, if you want to keep driving the MX-5, you can drive the right-hand drive Roadster in the multiclass iRacing Production Car Challenge (iPCC) alongside the Solstice.
The Grand Touring Cup is also a multiclass environment which can have some particular challenges… but it is also an option to consider. Going straight from the Mazda Cup Rookie series to the multi-class Grand Touring Cup will most likely feel like a big step, with three different classes of cars (the Solstice, the front-wheel drive Volkswagen Jetta TDI, and the Mustang), and the racing there can be fast and furious, but you have to work hard to avoid cars that you’re NOT racing against in a multiclass series, so keep that learning curve in mind.
One other thing to consider is what tracks are going to be familiar to you, and what tracks will you have to learn from scratch… while also trying to master a brand-new car as well? The Season 4 schedules aren’t out yet, but once they’re released, you should take a look at each series schedule to see how many tracks are on the schedule that you’re familiar with, and then realize that all the tracks you haven’t raced at yet will represent additional learning curve (again, in addition to trying to master the new car of your choice).
These things all deserve some consideration as you try to determine how to maximize your enjoyment as you move on to the next season in iRacing.