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Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back. — Heraclitus
Below is some Time Attack data from iRacing. The car is the MX-5 and the track is Laguna Seca. 281 drivers have taken part in this particular challenge. That’s actually a small number compared to the number of people who race weekly in the MX-5 series (the last race week at Laguna Seca saw 3,148 drivers). Time Attack isn’t as popular as racing right now because it’s part of a beta UI (and maybe other reasons). But the data for fast laps is easier to mine from TA than races so that’s where the histogram comes from.
Following Heraclitus, the top 10% are the real fighters. This corresponds roughly to the 1:39-1:41 segment (actually only half of the 1:41s). The bottom 10%, who shouldn’t even be here, are lapping at 1:50 and above. Only the top 3 drivers are his warriors. If you’re looking at these lap times and comparing them to your own iRacing lap times, make sure that you’re using the exact same weather conditions (78°, late afternoon, partly cloudy, 55% humidity, wind 2 mph N) and setup (baseline, just like in the MX-5 rookie series with fixed setup). Otherwise you may conclude you’re slower or faster than you really are.
In the world of racing, we don’t call the best drivers warriors, we call them aliens. In 2009, Colin Edwards used that term to describe Rossi, Lorenzo, Stoner, and Pedrosa, the 4 riders with a strangle hold on MotoGP. Since then, the term has spread well beyond MotoGP and it’s one of the more common accolades in virtual racing. As long as we’re labeling driver skill, let’s put labels on various levels of driving because Heraclitus’ targets isn’t a very descriptive term for the 80% of the drivers in the middle.
- Alien: top 1% of drivers, the benchmark
- Expert: top 5% of drivers, around 1% slower than aliens
- Advanced: top 10% of drivers, around 2% slower than aliens
- High Intermediate: top 50% of drivers, 4-5% slower than aliens
- Low Intermediate: top 75% of drivers, 7-10% slower than aliens
- Novice: bottom 25% of drivers
So how does one become an alien? Not being one, I can only say so much. My best time under these time attack conditions is 1:40.3. While I’ve been an iRacing member for 5 years, I haven’t used it much for the last 3 years. So I’m actually pretty pleased that I was able to pull out a 1:40.3 after a few sessions back from a long hiatus. I know I lack the precision and consistency to be an alien. I might be able to get there one day, but it would be a lot of hard work and I’m not sure that takes priority in my life. More importantly, I generally understand how to drive a car fast. But what about those people who have been on iRacing for 10 years and still haven’t figured out why they are 3 seconds off pace? What are they doing wrong? How can they fix it? These are two very different questions, and something we will be exploring in detail via telemetry analysis as we finish out 2018 (and we’ll continue in 2019 as well).