iRacing showcased on their Facebook page yesterday preview scans of the Belle Isle street circuit in Detroit, Michigan which indicates a rare move to a street track more rather than the traditional circuit scans that iRacing is more commonly known for. The 2.35 mile circuit is hoping to be released for June 2018, adding more focus on iRacing’s partnership with INDYCAR.
I like this decision to scan Belle Isle for iRacing. Belle Isle is overlooked as a street circuit and is one that doesn’t tax too hard in terms of building up the world. With the natural geography of the Belle Isle circuit being in the middle of the Detroit River, there is a lot less emphasis on building design, which by the looks of Long Beach as a tech track and not a 100% fully generated track means that Belle Isle can be placed in the same bracket as tracks such as Circuit Gilles Villeneuve which already exists on the service.
I think the track can suit all styles of racing too, proving fit for overtaking and more importantly fit for strengthening the bond between iRacing and INDYCAR as shown being the first simulator to get the updated Dallara IR-18. The ability to sure up your home territory often comes with a lot of criticism and I myself in the past have been quite vocal on the issue. However when many companies around the world see INDYCAR as a very viable second to Formula One if Formula E isn’t already, then with the heritage and commercial ability INDYCAR have, getting Belle Isle in now is probably the right time to do so.
However for me this doesn’t mean that iRacing are incapable of doing no wrong. I still believe iRacing are a couple tracks away from making a fully fledged World Championship calendar not just on the European side of things. Barcelona and Hockenheim are vital picks for the future while Circuit Paul-Ricard, Mangy Cours or even the Bugatti Layout of Le Mans would be a brilliant way to tap further into the French market as well as the endurance market. Meanwhile there is a need to break into the Asian markets which clearly exists from the Gran Turismo franchise so circuits such as Fuji Speedway, Shanghai International and Korea International need to be considered along with trying to break into India with the Buddh International Circuit.
While Belle Isle showcases a great deal of fresh air into iRacing’s track selections, it is also worth noting the amount of work that is being done and is being speculated on at this point. It is no secret that it was announced on the iRacing forums that in the next month, iRacing had plans to scan the modern layout of Silverstone which desperately needed to be done to consider some legitimacy from the world championships while it is thought that Lydden Hill could be added soon to the rallycross selections along with the possibility of a Brands Hatch rallycross layout. This also conjoins with Steve Meyers being in the United Kingdom at the start of 2018.
It is also rumoured that Charlotte Motor Speedway is to get an updated infield section after iRacing scanned The Dirt Track at Charlotte just across the road. It is safe to say that iRacing are incredibly busy, especially with the efforts of trying to kick-start three new world championships in their dirt formats which they have needed to pay attention to with tracks such as the Chilli Bowl getting scanned. Now though they need to consider how to get the most amount of people into their sim for the future, which will come from generating hype around the esport and the world championships. A lot of pressure has been lifted from getting both the Nurburgring and Le Mans finished so a project several miles in length won’t need to be considered in a very long time.
There is that freedom to do more and as such, that is why dirt is being thoroughly explored at the moment in order to conquer another market that they need to on home soil. Yes I think that an international company like iRacing is running the risk of becoming too Americanized and does need to think about drawing in support especially of the Spanish and French bases in Europe along with pushes into Japan and China. At the same time, iRacing is taking on a lot of responsibility at the moment and with the amount of personnel they have in comparison to what they have created, I think that it has been a phenomenal amount of effort to be so revered and to get to where they are right now.
Will Belle Isle change the game for iRacing? No I don’t think it will. Is it the biggest track they have got on the service? Again, no I don’t think it is, but I do think that Belle Isle, like Snetterton in the back end of last year, could very quickly become a cult classic track in iRacing and I do think it will hold a lot of affection in certain iRacing communities that have been looking for an angle towards street track layouts.