Is a $100-an-hour iRacing coach worthwhile?

Sure, telemetry helps, but how much can you learn on your own compared with what you can learn from a pro? That's what we find out in this installment of Getting Faster.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
5 min read

Welcome to another round of Getting Faster in iRacing, which follows my continuing attempt to elevate my iRating to a respectable level. In the first installment, I made some serious hardware upgrades in the interest of spending more time behind my (fancier) wheel. Next up, I tried out Virtual Racing School, diving deep on the wealth of telemetry and setups, helping me get up to speed more quickly, mostly by finding what I was doing wrong. I gained huge time but was left wondering whether some more direct, hands-on instruction might be even better.

To find out, I sampled a little one-on-one coaching.

The coach

Driver coaching is common (and expensive) in motorsport, particularly among the various one-make exotic GT series populated mostly by well-heeled amateurs. As sim racing attempts to replicate every other aspect of real-world motorsports, so too has sim coaching become a thing. And if you're going to get a virtual coach, you might as well get the best.

Josh Rogers is a pro sim racer for Coanda Simsport and the current Porsche Esports Supercup Champion. Suffice to say he knows his way around a virtual GT car, which is perfect because that's where I needed help.

The Ford GT, specifically. The iRacing Le Mans series recently visited Spa and, in a few weeks, the Roush World Tour Enduro series I'm running will race there as well. Spa is a track I know well but it's safe to say that I've never mastered the place.

Few have. At nearly four and a half miles in length, it's one of the biggest and most challenging circuits still on the active Formula One calendar -- or, usually on the Formula One calendar, anyway. It's one of my favorite tracks in the world and, when VRS offered me a coaching session to see if I could take my skills up another notch, it was the natural choice. The regular cost? $100 an hour.

No pressure

With an impending iRacing downtime window (go figure) and conflicting time zones, Josh and I settled on a bright and early 7 a.m. for my session. Life and everything else kept me out of iRacing in the days before, but you can be sure I was up early that morning, striving for a few quality laps before my 60-minute session.

Josh and I met up on Discord and he started by pulling up my telemetry from the session I'd just completed, in which I'd only managed to get down to a 2:17.6 lap with full tanks. That compared rather unfavorably to Josh's best full-fuel lap, a 2:13.9. Worse, I was struggling to stay within track boundaries, penalties flying like so many bugs on the windshield.

Josh projected his telemetry over mine and proceeded to tell me everything I was doing wrong. Yes, dear reader, this was every bit as disheartening as you might expect. I was dropping tenths all over the place, and over a half-second through the Les Combs complex that comes after the long Kemmel straight.

iracing telemetry les combes

Lost time in Les Combes. 

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

I was braking too early for one thing, but also braking too long, not carrying enough speed through the subsequent left-right complex. Conversely, I was actually getting on the throttle too early between the corners, creating understeer. This meant I was steering too much to compensate, further losing time and adding unnecessary tire wear. That latter bit wasn't hurting my lap times, but in a full race I'd suffer later.

We spent nearly half the session going through every corner like this until my head was swimming with pointers and corrections. Josh was great about mixing in encouragement, telling me when I was doing things right, but clearly I had a lot to work on.

Then it was time to boot up iRacing and the pressure only got higher. We hopped into a private session and Josh told me to hit the track. He'd stay in the pits, watching the live feed, becoming the all-seeing, all-knowing voice of god in my ear calling out every missed apex.

Intimidating? Hugely. I don't know whether it was that pressure or the clouded vision I was suffering thanks to the the dozens of pointers and tips he'd handed me. Either way, I was struggling with both my pace and consistency. I was running 2:18s, a half-second slower than before! Was this coaching making me worse?

I knew I was trying to do too much, experimenting with different lines through every corner while desperately struggling to not make a fool of myself in front of one of the world's best. Meanwhile, the clock was running out. For the final stint I decided to focus on just two corner complexes, Les Combes I described above and the screaming fast downhill run around Pouhon.

Finally, things started to come together. I ran a 2:16.7, a full second quicker than my morning session. Josh and I headed back to the telemetry analysis to take a quick look at that last lap. This time he called out my areas of improvement and those spots that still needed work.

And then my time was up, leaving me with pages of hastily jotted down notes. That night, I took those notes and went back to Spa, running more laps and focusing on specific sets of corners in each stint. After a few sessions of methodical progress I eventually got down to a 2:15.7, two seconds faster than before and about 1.5% off from Josh's time. Yes, I know plenty of you out there are much quicker, but given my usual level of performance that's a huge improvement for me.

But was it worth the cost? That depends how serious you are about all this. While much of Josh's feedback was focused on Spa, I took a lot of useful pointers away that will benefit me on every track to come. Crucially, many of those pointers focused on minor details, spots I'd seen on the telemetry but had previously ignored. I certainly won't going forward.

There are plenty of sim coaches online offering their services through plenty of channels. From the reviews I've read in various forums and Reddit threads, not all are equal. That VRS is a known quantity is reassuring. The site makes it easy to book and leaves you without a doubt about who you're going to get and just how good they are. Yes, the cost is extreme -- a year's worth of iRacing service fees gone in an hour -- but as ever with this sort of thing it comes down to one question: How much is your time worth to you?