Back when a Fiat Punto GT was a dream car for me (don't ask), I entered into a competition for Sega GT 2002, the Sonic creator's attempt at Gran Turismo. At least, I think that was the game.
Anyway, I spent hours upon hours zinging around in one of two cars that were playable in the demo, realised I was fastest in one particular car and then sent my best time to the magazine. As you did before online leaderboards existed.
I then waited for what felt like an excruciatingly long time until the next issue. Lo and behold, my name was in print. Not in first place, though, as I had hoped but second by a comically miniscule amount. It was my first taste of racing defeat (one of many, as it turns out).
Obviously I was a little gutted, but it taught me a valid life lesson. That, as good as you think you are, there is usually someone better, which is why those who want to get on the podium need to do everything they can. Because every miniscule advantage counts.
Having written about a recent Porsche 911 Forza Motorsport 7 challenge, the top 48 players of which go through to the next round, I thought it was time to bring out my digital driving gloves once more. To see if I could still cut the mustard.
As it turns out, the answer is 'sort of' and it will take serious practice to get anywhere near the best of the best. But I knocked a fair few seconds off my best times. Here are some Forza 7 tips I learned along the way that may just help you.
1) Switch everything off (except the Xbox, obviously)
There are times when the odd assist can help secure a fast lap time, but taking full control of the car lets you get the most from it. If you want proof, just look at the top times on the Forza 7 leaderboards.
Why is that the case? Because doing so enables later braking, faster gear changes and the ability to make the car do exactly what you want it to, without any digital hand-holding slowing you down.
Easing yourself into an assist-less world may be better for some, but I think taking the sink or swim approach works out better in the long run. It will frustrate (and you may throw a controller or two out the window out of sheer rage), but you will learn faster because of the extra feedback from the car.
You should also ensure the braking deadzone settings are 0-100 so you have the maximum amount of control for your trigger or brake pedal. With ABS off, around 80 per cent braking locks the wheels, which increases your braking distance and makes turning impossible.
Just below that is the sweetspot. While some people swear by adjusting the brake pressure settings to 75-85 per cent, I prefer to use the trigger's vibration as the wheels lock up and then back off a tad. Doing this lets muscle memory have an easier time (and you can learn to brake hardest in all vehicles).
Get used to life without ABS and you can also use advanced techniques, such as trail braking (going into a corner with the brakes on and easing them off mid-corner), a technique favoured by front-wheel drive cars that can benefit from the extra weight being shifted forwards.
As for the steering type, Simulator seems to favour oversteer but saving a slide is considerably harder than if you use Normal. In some cars, it is actually nigh-on impossible. Neither is better or worse so use what feels right. As for damage. Simulator damage can harm your performance so avoid it.
It is worth pointing out that what works for one person may not work for you, so try everything and ignore anyone who tries to discredit one technique or another. After all, video games are meant to be enjoyable.
2) Learn the circuits (and then learn them again)
There comes a point where every circuit layout ends up etched into your head. But this takes time, something you may not have a lot of if you are a mum or dad.
To really improve quickly, I would suggest you stick to one or two circuits and a car you like, then practice and practice some more. Then practice again until you start to get within a few seconds of the very best time.
Mastering a circuit and car you enjoy using makes you better faster, because it helps make life less a chore. If you are really struggling to improve beyond a certain point, take a break and come back tomorrow. Sometimes stepping away is key.
It is worth noting that when the Forza 7 August update kicks in, all circuit boundaries will be set in stone and all previous lap times wiped (but also archived). So what used to work for you may not cut it anymore, as a 'dirty lap' no longer counts.
3) Use the new Training Ghost (or be haunted by slow times)
A new feature in Forza 7 will make a huge difference to learning how to be a fast driver. Because the Training Ghost feature lets you choose who to race as a ghost.
Simply load up the circuit you want in the Rivals mode and head to the leaderboard. Select numero uno or someone a few positions down if you are feeling less brave and then select Rival or Training Ghost (both seem to work in the same way).
Inevitably you will feel rubbish at the start, as they blast off into the distance. But as you start to keep up, you will see where the pros make up so time, how late you can brake (assuming the same car is being used), where to turn in and when to put the power back on.
Because although a four second lead seems massive, over the course of 20-odd corners it works out only fractional for each corner.
Another valid tip is to adjust the Drivatar difficulty setting. If you are always coming in first place, make things tougher. By coming third or second instead, you will have to drive better to compete, which will make your more competitive.
Lastly, you can tune a car to make it behave in a different way. This is a slow process, though, especially if you are unfamiliar with all the types of adjustment and what they do. So consider downloading another player's tuning setup (preferably someone who has a proven time) and then fettle with that.
4) Master manual w/ clutch gears (really)
Though often debated heavily, the use of the manual w/ clutch setting is used for the fastest times. Because in Forza Motorsport 7 it makes you accelerate faster in most (but not all) cars.
Yes, it can be a pain in terms of getting used to it. And can be somewhat painful after a few hours of gameplay if the clutch button is in an awkward place. But practice will alleviate the former issue, while the latter is done by mapping the clutch to A. Then you only need to press A + B together to upshift.
Swapping the layout also works for those using a steering wheel as, for example, reaching for the A button on the Thrustmaster TS-XW P310 Competition Mod means your hand is in an awkward place.
For downshifts, you will need to either learn the rev sound for the appropriate time to do it or watch the rev meter, although that means taking your eyes off the road. A blip of the revs can help like in real life, because downshifting too early can unweight the car.
What I would say is that using an actual clutch pedal to go into neutral is, although realistic, a bad idea. The time it takes to depress the clutch pedal and then let off is far longer. Speaking of which...
5) Consider ditching the wheel entirely (sorry)
As sad as it sounds for those who love the closest thing to actual racing, maybe go back to a controller Preferably the superior (and more expensive) Elite variant. Because, let's face it, most professionals use them when in a competition and not a steering wheel.
There will be exceptions to the rule, yes. Some drivers really do make a wheel work for them to great success. But really it boils down to time and pressing the brake button down is easier, faster and less tiring than it is for a brake pedal.
The same goes for turning, how much longer does it take to rotate a wheel? It is unlikely to be a faster process, no matter how 'leet' you are and how high you have the steering sensitivity setting.
If, of course, you are hellbent on mastering a steering wheel, go for it. That it how I race and I find it considerably more rewarding. But, as it is for me, it is the pursuit of authenticity that is probably slowing you down.
Got any tips of your own? Let us know!