PlayStation generation on race track? Why not!
This article is orginally written on the end of my debut season 2016 in national racing championship, where I've achieved Vicechampion title with uncompetitive car. Some thing has changed - mainly my experience, which I have it much more after season 2017. But the content of the article is still accurate to my feelings, experience and intuition. I hope you'll enjoy this text. Also, feel free to comment! :)
The topic mentioned in this article could be a little bit controversial in the environment of the professional motorsport. A lot of people disregard possibilities which racing games and simulators can give into a real racing. With monitor and PC or console, there can be used a simple steering wheel, without actuators, RIG’s, full dashboards, triple-screens, monocoques, which needn’t have to practice before real circuit experience. In this article, I want to show how simulators and racing games can be used for preparations to real racing, and inversely – how to analyze mistakes from real track and eliminate them. I invite you to the lecture!
My experience from real racing
In the season 2016, which is already finished, I was driving with BMW E36 318is in Polish Hour Race Championship, and when the season has finished, I was invited by Audi to TT Cup 2017 scouting tests in Germany. For my preparation I’ve practiced on Assetto Corsa on PC. Before I had a possibility of starting in Polish Hour Race Championship, I have competed in local time attack contests with a lot of cars, but mainly with Fiat Cinquecento. I’ve especially chosen this car, because in Cinquecento, even smallest mistake results the time gap which you will never improve at the same lap is perfect for the learning in my opinion. The power of the engine was around 54HP, hopeless weight balance and street tires weren’t helpful for fast driving, but it was very good for training.
About what this topic will be?
I want to say I will focus on the comparison of my racing experience with Assetto Corsa, omitting the another simulators which are available on the stores e.g. rFactor, iRacing and these are “more difficult” according to the opinions of other people. In the examples I’ve used my own experience, because a lot of drivers don’t use simulators as I do. Despite that, I want to invite the fans of another simulators or racing games to my lecture. I reckon my experience from two different worlds will allow you to find your personal opinions and own conclusions.
Why Assetto Corsa?
For me, this is the best racing simulator available on the stores worldwide and it connects the simplicity of configurations for steering wheels, easy readable interface, wide options of car setup adjustment and advanced car physics where a player can practice with them using a laser-scanned tracks. For me, Assetto Corsa is the most “naturally” and trusty in the field of feeling and car racing experience, comparing to another games and simulators which are also available on the stores. I’ve skipped the disadvantages like deficiency of advanced brake physics (honestly, it should be obligatory) or more advanced dynamic grip including graining and trash on the circuit, but I know how can it be difficult to implement. Assetto Corsa isn’t and probably will never be perfect (but which one is?), but it’s still my favorite tool to practice because of very good feeling in your hands (thanks to the advanced force feedback system) which proves correct also in real car – I just know that I’m sitting on the car, feel the tires and have control of them.
I practice with games, I drive on the real circuit
So, how my preparations for debut season in Polish Hour Race Championship in BMW E36 have looked like? In the field of practice, I was on very good situation. Krzysztof Szymikowski (a.k.a. Szymik) has made a perfect laser-scanned conversion of “Tor Poznań” which is available for Assetto Corsa and I want to honestly recommend this mod. I am saying that as a driver, who has drove more than a maybe one session on the TrackDay. There is a car left, to choose for training. In the game, comparing to speed on the corners, allover feeling, performance and achieved times the best car was BMW E30 M3. Now I have to say about the differences about my real car and car from Assetto Corsa.
Similarities and differences between both BMW: in real life and in game
This part will be mainly for the maniacs of setup adjustment and if you aren’t interested in technical subjects, you can go into next paragraph.
- BMW E30 (in AC has semi-slicks, the tyre overheats but still have nice grip comparing with our full slicks and even Federal from IS Cup)
- BMW E30 has different rear suspension than E36 Coupe. E30 have more tendention for oversteering, comparing to E36 Coupe/Sedan. E36 Compact has the same rear suspension like E30.
- E30 in AC don’t have a lot of options for setup adjustment like in our car. We’ve got more to adjust, like more camber, or damping force of the coilovers
- E30 in AC has too weak LSD and car has got tendentions for understeer in fast corners. Our LSD was much better.
- Adjustment of rear spoiler in E30 from AC were almost imperceptible in my opinion, if you drive properly. We also don’t have any spoiler like from M3 or GT Class 2.
- E30 M3 in AC have around 230HP, but it weights about 1200kgs
- E30 M3 in AC isn’t stiffened and you can feel it on your hands (honestly, trust me). Another versions of E30 M3, like Gr. A or DTM gives another feeling, with more stiffness of the body.
And some technical facts about my E36 318is:
- we have driven on full 17” slick, and we didn’t have any problem with tires overheating, but we’ve had longer final gear ratio in about 25% (bigger wheel)
- Car was neutral in driving with a very small tendention to oversteering, which is for me, the perfect suspension setup for our spec.
- Full adjustment of the camber and coilovers
- Roll cage: much bigger stiffness + better weight balance
- Our E36 have around 150HP but it weights ~1000kg
The benefits of both worlds
…And a lot of another things in both cars, which I have encoded in my brain and I know how to analyze it all. I want to say that, despite the amount of the differences in car, speed achieved on straights and corners, braking points and mainly lap times were very common in Assetto Corsa and real racing. Now there remains to find these similarities and differences and to use all of that.
A lot of opinions and feelings about my car (real one, BMW E36 318is) after discussion with my team principal were correct. If the car was sometimes oversteery, I suggested to soften rear dampers. Whole team has got similar feeling. We’ve reduced damping force by two “clikcs” and our car drove much better. This is just only one example of the feeling which everybody can observe on virtual track and use it in real track. I’ve had the same feeling on my hands in Assetto Corsa, like in our BMW on Tor Poznań.
Invitation from Audi
At the end of season, I got invitation from Audi to the TT Cup Scouting Tests – probably one of the best chances in my life. The possibility to show myself, my skills, talent and speed under the eye of pro drivers like Markus Winkelhock (former F1 driver, FIA GT1 World Champion) or Marco Werner (3-time Le Mans 24h winner with Audi) - our instructors. Excellent! But how can I prepare for it, if last year my only option in motorsport was touge racing in mountain passes with Fiat Cinquecento or time attack contests, when I have to drive with newest Audi R8 V10 and conquer with another drivers who are just after German Formula 4?
I practice in VR, again
Despite the analysis of the track, onboards from cars and motorcycles, the only thing I could do was… practice in Assetto Corsa with older R8 V10 as original car in “AC” and TT Cup available as a mod (content made by fans, not by developers). I couldn’t even find a version of the track which I’ve had to drive later, it was important for me. So, the only thing which left for me was driving on the random circuits. I’ve tested a lot of sequences of the corners, how the car behaves in simple way, etc. What is more, I’ve also tried to unstabilized the car to initiate drift, e.g. interia drift or braking drift. I just had fun with hotlapping and drifting/powersliding. I’ve just wanted to observe how this car drives in slide and how reactions on the gas or brake look like.
Tests in Germany and difficult challenge
In the circuit expect trailbraking/drift challenge in Audi R8 on the wet plate, another challenges were driving with TTS on the race track – one with counted time and with instructor inside, and second one without counted time and alone in the cockpit, but another instructor – Winkelhock was driving behind of us to observe our driving style, speed, etc… If I have to be honest – I’ve just got into the one and later second car, adjusted my seat for perfect feeling and comfort and after all – I have driven naturally. I didn’t feel any discomfort because I’ve never drove cars like these before. I drove with unfamiliar cars like I would do with every one or in Assetto Corsa. Things I had to do over the steering wheel I have encoded like I’m changing the car in Assetto Corsa and I had to drive for World Record. The method of braking, footwork, driving style or searching for the limits – I have never known more than I practiced in simracing. The only problem was to find this feeling and use it in real car.
Synergy – connecting the experiences
So, how does it look like in the background of effective usage of skills improved in simracing to real race track? Personally, in big way it’s just about the intuition and connecting the experience from real and virtual world. Earlier training with using exact circuit in simulator allows us for better accommodation on track we have to race and compete with another drivers. We already know the things like corner sequences, movement on the steering wheel, how to press gas or brake pedals. If we have enough knowledge about vehicle dynamics and car construction – it also can help us to adjust better our car. Proper and analytic attitude for on-boards, finding the perfect mod for us to practice on track (if we haven’t got original or laser-scanned version), eventually the usage of data logging system and comparison all our experiences with ourselves allow us to search for provisional braking points in enough good field, that we won’t have to search for them from nothing – we will know all provisional places of them. The last is attitude to the tires grip, track grip and weather conditions. Everything comes to the comparison of experience: from simracing (onboards, telemetry analysis) and real racing (real track and tyre grip, temperature, conditions, etc).
Do Pro drivers use simulators?
A lot of professional drivers who I have the opportunity to talk with have a problem to use simulators as their training. They just don’t feel G-Force on their body, which they are accustomed with them. They can’t find the feeling to search for better setup adjustment, how to drive in another way or especially to find the limit of car (in the simulator of course). This is not common with they won’t drive fast in the real car, because a lot of them have got excellent results from the competitions in their motorsport discipline. They’ve just raised in another way as drivers and simracing would be education “from zero” for them. Despite that in simracing it’s about the same – turning the steering wheel and pressing the pedals in this way is the best to drive every lap as smooth and fast as it is possible.
However - experience is useful!
In conclusion, I want to thank you for attention. I’m very glad of that and I hope I’ve interested you with this article and maybe with my person, and mainly – with the described topic. The influence of games and virtual world on the real experience is often controversial, especially for people who don’t use simulators. I wanted to prove you can use tools and software available on stores for the schooling in high level of racing. At the end, I want to mark in which method you will practice – nothing will replace you every single kilometre in real car on real circuit. I invite you to discussion, marking it’s not only about comparison to the exact simulator and discussion which game is better!
You can feel free to contact with me. I willingly reply on the Facebook or you can find my Steam Community profile (DamianL) or via forum SimRace.pl where I drive actually in Assetto Corsa.
My website: www.damianlempart.pl
Below there is a video, I’ve prepared it to compare the conditions, hand and footwork, driving line etc., between the real and virtual world. Onboard from September’s round of Polish Hour Race Championship 2017, connected with FIA CEZ Endurance. In real world, Lamborghini was driven by Teodor Myszkowski and virtual one (Assetto Corsa) was driven by me (Damian Lempart, if you have forgotten :) ).
If you are in this place, feel free to comment. If you enjoy this text, I'd be very grateful, if you could bump or share it further, through your friends, cars and motorsports community! Soon there will be another texts! :)
Original text: Damian Lempart
Amendments: Rauf (Simrace.pl)
Translation: Daria Szczepańska
Photos from Tor Poznań: Tomasz Kubiak, Filip Flisek, Jakub Kaczyński
Photos from TT Cup 2017 Scouting: Dirk Pommert