AutoSimSport Magazine - Volume 6, Issue 2

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April 2012

Volume 6 Number 2

IRACING WITH KAEMMER PCARS WITH BELL Volume 5 Number 1

EXCLUSIVE FIRST DRIVE …

ASSETTO CORSA

OUR FINAL FREE ISSUE! SEE INSIDE FOR EXCITING DETAILS



AUTOSIMSPORT 6.2

Credits

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Editor‐In‐Chief Lx Martini@MartiniAlex Executive Editors Jon Denton@shrapnel1977 Bob Simmerman@Smokinbob123 Business/Website/Advertising Lou Magyar Technical Editor Simon Croft@spamsac Editors‐at‐Large Andrew Tyler@AndrewMTyler/Sergio Bustamante Contributing Editors Steve Smith Corporate Relations Jon Denton Community Relations Bob Simmerman

Art/Layout/Design Lx Martini Contributors Fabrice Offranc/Andrew Tyler/ Björn Erik Hagen/Magnus Tellbom/Jiminee Smith/ Gary Poon/Luisa Ghibaudo/ Spadge Fromley/Simon Croft/Selena Horrell/Sandeep Banerjee Photo Editors Bob Simmerman/Oliver Day Logos/Design www.graphical‐dream.com Contributor Relations Alex Martini/Jon Denton Merchandising Lou Magyar French Editor/Christophe Galleron Italian Editor/DrivingItalia.net

AUTOSIMSPORT Media is an independent online magazine, produced quarterly, that covers the exciting sport and hobby of simulated racing. AUTOSIMSPORT Media covers sim‐racing by focusing on every area that defines the sport/hobby including hardware, software, and competition. AUTOSIMSPORT Media maintains an equal distance to every entity with which it conducts relationships including developers, software and hardware producers, and the “community”. AUTOSIMSPORT Media will always defend and claim the right to free speech, and will also include editorials which some may deem to be controversial

or even offensive, provided that there is a factual basis that underpins the content. AUTOSIMSPORT Media believes and will conduct itself within two defining concepts: • Integrity • Independence Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the writers/contributors or other affiliates, and all content is copyright AUTOSIMSPORT Media unless otherwise stated. All photos are used by permission. Should you feel your rights have been violated, please feel free to contact AUTOSIMSPORT Media through its website at: www.autosimsport.net., or email autosimsport. Not responsible for contents of linked sites …

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Volume 6 Number 2


AUTOSIMSPORT 6.2

ASSETTO CORSA

COVER STORY 12

Jon Denton gets a world exclusive first‐look

DAVE KAEMMER

CONTENT

SPECIAL FEATURES 21

INTERVIEWS 40 Jon Denton sits with inRacingNews’ C. Hall to talk World Champs MAKING TRACKS 55 ARE YOU WATCHING?

Simon Croft builds tracks with Bjorn Klaassen and his clever program

COLUMNS 66

Jon Denton sits with the The Godfather

AUTOSIMSORT get the latest on pCARS with IAN BELL

5th Column

ALMOST LEGENDS 47

Bob Simmerman survives the snowpopalypse

Simon Croft on the legend of Racing Legends

GPLegacy

FORZA 4 62

Sergio Bustamante

Bob decides not to review it

The Dent

WEAPONS OF MASS HOPE

HeadOpEd As The Wheels Turn Tale Of Two Cities By Taffy Yamamoto Force‐Feedback Odds & Ends

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REGULAR FEATURES 5 6 7

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Jon Denton’s vodka diaries

Magnus Opus

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Magnus Tellbom wears his helmet and steps into the minefield

Checkered Flag

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The ones that missed the cut

Kunos Simulazion’s new sim, Assetto Corsa. It shares two things with this magazine: its first three letters (yes) and NY plates … oh, and we also got the world’s first drive—inside!

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Volume 6 Number 2


AUTOSIMSPORT 6.2

HeadOpEd LxMartini Follow us @ Like us on

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The Thing About Quarters Releasing every three months has made this a far more enjoyable enterprise for all concerned. Which doesn’t mean that, three days before due date, we’re not scrambling around trying to put all the little pieces together. It is quite a job producing a magazine, particularly when there are only five of us actually doing … everything. Those five are, Simon Croft, Jon Denton, Bob Simmerman, and Andrew Tyler. So if what you see here is good or bad, blame the one of those five who wasn’t named—the four named ones are ace. The Big 5 While we were all having a chat the other day about sim‐racing, one thing led to another, and soon we had broken down— being lizards—the entire sim‐racing universe into the Big 5. The Big 5 are: Crammond, Kaemmer, Casillo, Bell, Camaj. Between them, they have led the creation of the best simulators since the 1980s. Crammond is gone, Bell hasn’t come close to recreating the magic of GTR2 (mostly because, we suspect, he’s found that making a living and making sims are not mutually beneficial), Casillo is yet to convert all his obvious talent into one complete package, Camaj is on the cusp of recreating rFactor (for better or worse), and Kaemmer is, as he has been for twenty years, sitting pretty on top of the hill. Though we do wonder what Kaemmer would do, given a budget and no marketing oversight. With that said, we’re extremely excited to feature three of the Big 5 in this month’s issue. They have a lot in common, as you’ll soon discover, but what surprised us a bit was the one thing they all mentioned in one way or the other while speaking to us; commercial considerations. It seems we have indeed grown up as an industry. Which proves Hunter S. Thompson right; when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Turning Pro One million downloads since January of ’05, and 24 donations in all that time. Incredible as that sounds, it doesn’t match the insanity of our decision—we too are turning pro. Yes, dear readers, AutoSimSport, from our next issue, will go mobile, app, PDF, and … pay‐to‐read.

What? You heard right—from our next issue, you will pay $2 to read our magazine. What? Why would we want to do that? We have no idea. All the same, here are the reasons why we have no choice but to charge—or close down the whole operation. —We want to get rich —We want to save for a Bob Simmerman Prison Fund —We want to pay our writers —We have to pay to create apps that will run on Windows, Google, and Apple phones —We have to pay for our server —We have to pay our debts —We no longer want to review ‘free’ products. Free products are not free; they cost impartiality. We want to give you the integrity we have always prided ourselves around. —We want to pay for additional content. This month, Jon Denton flew to Rome to secure the world’s first Assetto Corsa test‐drive He paid for it out of his own pocket. And we know you, our readers, want to know about the latest and greatest— and in order to fund this magazine’s ability to get the job done, we need revenue. —Ads don’t pay. Last month we had over 35,000 readers. This month we sold one ad. Ninety percent of all ads that have ever appeared in this magazine were given away freely—either to provide marketing for start‐ups, or to promote cottage industries within this hobby of ours. We’d like to continue doing that; we can’t if we are broke. —We are broke. We’ve been broke since day one. We have always been broke. This magazine has been funded by the 5 chaps you read about earlier (no, not those chaps, the other ones, along with Lou Magyar, our 6th muskateer!); virtually every review was paid for, by us, out of pocket. We’re not complaining either, we loved doing it, we love this magazine, love contributing. But times have changed, our situations have changed, and our needs and aspirations have changed in the seven years since we released our first issue. We hope you will join us, in June, as we begin our next adventure with AutoSimSport.

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Volume 6 Number 2


AS THE WHEELS TURN

AUTOSIMSPORT 6.2

INTENTION IS JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR … NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE

I will now attempt to thrill you with my vast knowledge of nonsense and incorporate Bobby McGee, Derrida, Searle, Jon Denton, Nim Cross, and a philosophical debate into the nature of intentionality—all in less than 600 words. A few weeks back, dear Jon Denton was rear‐ended in a race. The chap behind him, perhaps deciding, during the course of the race, that just because he and everyone else had been braking at the ‘2’ board was no reason why he shouldn’t try and brake at the ‘1’ board. The result was, as expected, an accident. Denton, furious, sent off a complaint to Nim Cross at iRacing. The reply was short in coming; Cross could see no basis to penalize the driver involved since he believed the chap had not acted with ‘intent’. Intent. Derrida and Searle, two philosophers divided by an ocean and a generation, debated intentionality for nigh on a decade back in the 70s. In case you missed this riveting episode, it was the American Searle’s contention that an author’s intent was paramount when investigating a text; Derrida, being French, thought the opposite—it was the text, alone and anchorless, that consigned meaning and, if anything, meaning was not for the author to impart on the text, but for the text to impart on the reader. These two went at it for quite some time—and not, it should be said, with the usual good humor one imagines from such distinguished luminaries—their increasingly hostile thoughts encapsulated within several books and dozens of articles. Of course, that was before the Internet; nowadays, I’m sure they’d have settled the whole matter on Twitter in 769 words (700 of them containing the words you @suck). But let’s get back to iRacing. And intent. If a driver decides that the forces of gravity and Newton don’t apply to him, and goes careening into the car ahead of him with zero chance of making the pass stick, did he intentionally seek to smash his fellow competitor out of the race? Probably not. But on the other hand, was there ever going to be any other result other than him smashing someone out of the race? Definetely not. How then can we use ‘intent’ as the only punishable offense in iRacing? Kaemmer, in these pages, seems to distance himself from that stance, but Cross’s reply to Denton remains, and in it, he clearly states that he saw no intent behind the chap’s attempt at ‘passing’ Denton. That would make it a ‘racing incident’. But racing incidents happen when two or more drivers are ‘racing’; when one decides to disrespect the laws of gravity, and disrespect the law of racing, and disrespect, by so doing, his fellow competitor, he may not intend to cause an accident—but he also has absolutely no intent of not causing an accident. Indeed, he doesn’t care one way or the other; his intent, in short, is to either get past or crash. And since we know there was no way he could ever have taken the turn without spinning out, crashing, while not his intent, was the only inevitable result of his action. We cannot penalise intent, in the end, because Derrida was right; it is in the eye of the beholder. But sure’s hell we should be penalizing stupidity!

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EVER HEARD OF VALENTINO BALBONI? YOU’RE ABOUT TO …

Valentino Balboni left quite a legacy. Test driver at Lamborghini for 40 years, this man’s predilection for a car to be a challenging drive helped shape the legend that is the raging bull. Upon his retirement in 2008, Lamborghini chose to honour Balboni and his long service to the marque by creating a special edition, rear wheel drive only, Gallardo. Thus, the ‘Lamborghini Gallardo LP550‐2 Valentino Balboni’ was born. Heaving 543 horsepower through the rear wheels, this mid‐engined sportscar is the only Gallardo model that is not four wheel drive, and as a result weighs in at a spritely 1380kg, almost 200kg less than a stock Gallardo. Why am I telling you all this? Well, last week, under the radar, the Radiator Springs Racing mod team quietly released a download that was the first of its kind. This mod team, famous for producing add‐on tracks for netKar Pro from scratch (with considerably higher quality levels than many an rFactor conversion), have finally released a new add‐on car for netKar Pro. The first full car mod for nKPRO since its release five years ago. An online‐only sim, netKarPro has slowly grown in the community as websites have developed to support more structured racing. As of now, the superb GPOS system that takes race data directly from netKar Pro and places it into a web based results and statistics system, is in use at Radiator Springs Racing’s (RSR) site, and Jaap Wagenvoort’s GPChampionship site, both reporting back to nKRank where all‐ time fastest laps are recorded. These sites run some major events in the netKar world, along with others such as IronSimRacing, and the RaceDepartment netKar Pro club, and some of the fastest sim‐racers in the world compete in, what is, a stunningly accurate simulator. The Lamborghini Gallardo from RSR gives everyone a new challenge, but also marks a new age in mod development of netKar Pro. It might not be as straightforward to put a new car into this sim as it is with some others, but the RSR team have a focus and attention to detail that has produced a car that is superb fun to drive, if tricky on the limit. A road car at the top end of the scale, this Lambo, with its 43/57 rearward weight bias, can be tricky on heavy brakes, and ABS has been implemented into the sim to accurately represent the real world car. A deft touch keeps the back end in order on a heavy brake pedal and good front end grip can launch you into a corner cleanly, but when 540nM of torque is thrown to the back wheels, be prepared for a potentially wild ride on exit. Smoothness brings best times, as ever, but this car can be managed, and even drifted beautifully on the throttle. With the online component in much better order since V1.3, racing this car could be a huge amount of fun. Hats off to RSR for keeping netKar Pro fresh and giving so much of their time to the community with their mod projects. Long may it continue!

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Volume 6 Number 2


AUTOSIMSPORT 6.2

A Tale of Two Cities

COMMENT BY TAFFY YAMAMOTO There are two WIPs in the pipeline for sim fans ... and they couldn’t be more unalike than the two cities where they’re presently being birthed: London (England), and Ann Arbor (Michigan). Which is to say, pCARS (formerly C.A.R.S.) from Slightly Mad Studios under the watchful eye of Ian Bell in the UK, and rFactor 2 from Gjon Camaj’s Image Space Incorporated in the US. Stormy weather in pCARS Neither of these standalone sims (that is, they’re not mods, not upgrades) is revolutionary; both are evolutions of older sims: SMS’s distantly related GTR2 and ISI's venerable rFactor. However, both outfits are employing revolutionary development/marketing schemata. Instead of beavering away in secrecy and not revealing anything more than is absolutely neccessary until such time as the game goes ‘gold’ (i.e., is sent to the DVD‐stamping facility) to be ‘shrink‐wrapped’, from whence it ‘ships’ to brick‐and‐mortar ‘storefronts’ to be sold ‘retail’. jewel‐boxed disc to display on a shelf, what’s the best way As you may have guessed, none of the tired old to get the word out? Traditional advertising (in game terminology in quotes above applies any more. The idea magazines) has pretty much gone the way of the 8‐inch nowadays is to do the whole deal digitally and skip all the floppy, and while TV advertising may work for mega‐games traditional molecular stuff by selling more‐or‐less directly (like Sony’s Gran Turismo), it’s far too expensive for the online to the end‐user. So far, so good ... but without a relatively tiny studios that develop PC racing simulations.

Great minds think alike. Both SMS and ISI hit upon the same idea: open up the ‘beta’ process to the public ... for a fee. There is some argument whether or not this constitutes a traditional ‘open’ beta (if you have to pay for it), but it really is open to the public: anybody who has the price of a ‘membership’ can join the club and get in on the

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AUTOSIMSPORT 6.2

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doesn’t begin to cover it. Its weak point, at this juncture, is the force feedback, which is great in one build (and/or one car) and all pear‐shaped in the next. This sim has the potential to be the greatest sim ever … if they ever get it right … and if they ever get it finished. They’ve already spent a couple million (of the team members’ and outside investors’ money) and hope to have it ready by next year. * ISI, on the other hand, seems to be hooked on Lithium. The rF2 builds are few and far between and, like SMS, feature one step backwards for every two steps forward. Unlike SMS’s Art Center user‐interfaces (beautiful if somewhat clumsy), the ISI menus are just plain clumsy. Installing new mods is a separate, tortuous process, but at least it’s possible. (So far, the only user‐ created content in pCARS is new paint jobs for existing cars; with rF2 you can add new tracks … or convert old ones … as well.) rFactor 2 is also heavily into vintage

racing (much appreciated!), the first release including not only Spa way back when, but also a wonderful rendition of Monaco circa 1967, with pits as narrow as Don Knott’s shoulders. So far, ISI seems to have forgotten everything they’ve ever learned about physics and force feedback. The Formula 2 car in rF2 has the polar moment of a 1948 Buick Roadmaster and the should‐be agile Megane handles more like a double‐decker London omnibus. The force feedback can be numb at best and gelatinous at worst. With the latest build ... and despite the ministrations of Tim Wheatley (the most helpful among the ISI crew) ... many users had trouble with the install (pre‐owned DLC sometimes vanishing in the process). My install went perfectly, but my frame rate turned into a show‐&‐tell at my daughter’s Middle School (must remember to update those drivers!). All of which is to be expected at this stage of development. SMS calls their offering ‘pre‐Alpha’ and ISI describes theirs as a ‘Beta’. My point here is ... why bother? Renato Simioni’s Reiza Studios has a fully developed standalone sim that is better than either the current rF2 or pCARS ... maybe better than both of them will ever be. It’s called Game Stock Car and the only thing really wrong with it is that I don’t speak Portuguese. Yes, it was developed in Brazil and based upon that country’s version of NASCAR. But rather than the cast‐iron mastodons raced by Good Ol’ Boys in Dixie, GSC pits Chevrolet Sonic and AudiR18 408 ‘spec’ road‐racers (tube frames, 500‐hp V8s, Brazil’s signature ethanol fuel, 6‐speed trannies, sophisticated suspensions and ‘funnycar’ bodywork) against a rag‐tag collection of Brazilian club tracks (huge exception: the big track at Interlagos where the Formula 1 boys finish their season). What’s good about this sim is just about everything. The cars are a blast to drive (combining as they do my two favorite elements: the horsepower of the gods with the grip of mere mortals); totally immersive physics, and—

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Volume 6 Number 2

Off‐road excursion for a AudiR18‐lookalike in pCARS

action. The fees vary: there’s a more‐or‐less fixed price to buy a copy of rFactor 2 (after which there will be an annual fee to play online), while pCARS has escalating levels of involvement (the more you pay, the greater the perks). But that’s where the similarities end. SMS seems to be mainlining 5‐Hour Energy Drink, updating pCARS at least once a week (sometimes more), each requiring several hours to d/l a complete reinstall, sometimes fixing niggling little trifles, and other times including a bounty of new cars and new tracks (as of this writing, there are several historic single‐seaters and minutely‐detailed historic tracks, like a Spa 1967 which is a hundred times better than the version we all busted our cherry on in Grand Prix Legends), not to mention pCARS’s modern GT and Prototype cars and modern tracks which— temporarily, at least—have ‘blind’ names pending official licensing. pCARS’s strong suit is its graphics; ‘photorealistic’

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Up the hill at Monaco in rFactor 2

best of all—the most believable force feedback (and the best sound) of any sim I’ve driven to date. GSC is about like rFactor 1.98; sharing its DNA with ISI’s ancient and honorable gMotor2 engine—fully licensed, of course—and tuned and tweaked within an inch of its life by Renato and his elves. While the physics feels like a whole new ballgame, the graphics remain largely untouched, so the game looks like a regular mod for rFactor. (For that matter, rF2’s graphics, in some respects, look worse than some of the original rFactor mods; particularly the cockpits.) Neither one will ever come close to pCARS’ graphics, though, which are beautiful beyond belief. One advantage of GSC’s rFactor heritage is the ability to quickly convert old tracks to the new game. The tracks developed by Reiza Studios themselves are meticulously

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done (curves are curves, not a jagged series of short, straight lines), but some of the third‐party mods aren’t so well crafted. I’ve downloaded Interlagos (A‐), Donington (B‐), Kyalami ‘79 (C), Monza (C+), Suzuka (C‐), Jerez (A‐), Portland (B ... but only because I don’t like the RW track) and Mid‐Ohio (converted from Virtua_LM’s ver; A) so far, and am looking forward to many more. Reiza didn’t just stop at the Brazilian stock cars; you can also download Formula 2 and Formula 3 carsets. Trucks (like the monsters that run Paris‐Dakar) are on the way. A 2012 update of the ‘Stock Car Brasil’ (official name) series is also in the works—free—as is a whole new standalone game based on the late, great Ayrton Senna’s career (presumably including a lot of early 1990s Formula 1 machinery and period‐correct venues).

www.autosimsport.net

The thing I like best about GSC is that it’s ready to go, right out of the vitual box. You don’t have to twist in the wind of the development phase—as in pCARS and rF2—GSC is online this very minute. Literally. You download the game (it’s hundreds of gigabytes), try it for 30 minutes for free to see if you like it, and, if you do, you’re behind the wheel as soon as you settle up with PayPal ($30; cheaper than either pCARS or rF2.). The multiplayer menu brings up a gaggle of servers ... and with it, the ‘problem’ I alluded to earlier: the beautiful Portuguese language. Within the hour, however, I ran across some very friendly guys (at www.phoenixracingteam.com), who spoke the Queen’s English and who pointed me to the site where I could d/l their league’s team cars. I was racing with them within another few minutes and thoroughly enjoyed the experience ... and their help. Saúde! * As we go to press, SMS has announced that it will no longer be accepting new applications for membership on the beta team. Sixty percent of the SMS subsidiary that has been developing pCARS, WMD (don’t ask) has been sold to a Dutch company. This could either be a Good Thing (unlimited development funds) or a Bad Thing (need I raise the spectre of Vivendi's “investment’ in Papyrus?). Sigh. I suppose we’ll find out soon enough.

—pCARS (pray for it): http://www.wmdportal.com/ —rFactor 2 (to be determined): http://rfactor.net/web/category/rf2/ —Game Stock Car (highly recommended): http://www.game‐stockcar.com.br/Home.aspx

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Jacques had a go in Brazil too!

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AUTOSIMSPORT 6.2

FORCE-FEEDBACK LETTER OF THE MONTH Dear AutoSimSport, I read Jon Denton's rf2 beta preview. I agree with him on most things but I'm afraid we part company when it comes to the historic f1. No doubt rf2 sports a serious physics engine under the bonnet, but whoever designed the 60‐era f1 cars has created a fantasy cartoon version of what these cars were like. They did not go in a 4‐wheel drift down the straightaways!!! We will have to wait for some serious modders to get hold of this new engine before we can say for certain if rf2 is a big step forward. Let's hope we don't have wait too long. Todd Savage Dear Sirs, Thank you for the article on gRally! I'm desperate for new rally sim (RBR is brilliant, but something new would be nice), and was shocked to learn about new rally sim in development. I follow closely, and hope you feature again when it has developed more. Albert Onder Hey Guys, May I just say how great it is to see you back in action after so much time away, your articles have always been fascinating and I have a complete collection of back issues that I still peruse to this day. Keep up the good work! Yours, Tony Hunter

AutoSimSport, Thanks, as ever, for a great publication. I found Andrew Tyler’s write up on Project CARS in the previous issue interesting in many ways, but I couldn’t help feeling that the author felt a little negative towards this sim. I am an investor in pCARS, and I love driving it almost every day. It is a joy to behold graphically and the physics are really coming on. So if you haven’t already Mr Tyler, give it another go, you won’t regret it! Regards, Anon Jon & guys, I am so glad to see you back! Thanks for the round up on the top sims coming in 2012. It really strikes me that we are coming to the real “next gen” here. The big question for me is whether iRacing will keep up with the pack, they have been top dog too long! Terry Falkirk Dear AutoSimSport, When I told my wife how happy I was to see that ass was back she braced for the worst. Imagine her happiness when it turns out I actually meant that my favourite simracing magazine was back in action. How we laughed. Jerome Nisbett, FL .

If you have something to say, send us a letter: letters@autosimsport.net

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ASSETTO CORSA

Kunos Simulazioni have grown up in the public eye; starting with their first sim, ‘namie’ (freely available), they went on to code the highly respected and deeply flawed masterpiece that was netKarPro (their first commercial sim), before maturing with the official Ferrari F1 Sim (Ferrari Virtual Academy). Now they’re back with their second commercial product, Assetto Corsa. Will they deliver on their talent this time? Jon Denton was invited to take a sneak peak at development …

JONDENTON

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Jon Denton, centre, keeps his cool as he realizes the invitation to test this year’s most anticipated sim may have been a ruse (Aris Vasilakos, on the left, Marco Massaruto, and, looking calm, Stefano Casillo)

Campagnano di Roma is a peaceful Roman town in the Latium region of Italy. Dating back over a thousand years, it’s sleepy, confined streets reflect a calm solitude that must echo the distant, catastrophic wars of antiquity when the race fans roll into town. For this town is but a few short miles from the Autodromo Vallelunga Piero Taruffi, the sand oval track built back in the 50s and now, homologated by the FIA and expanded, scene of many an F1‐test and where, this sunny spring time morning, I find myself ensconced in the offices of Kunos Simulazioni for a test‐drive of my very own.

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Kunos Simulazioni (Kunos) have been around the sim‐ racing world for quite a while now, and regular readers of AutoSimSport will need no introduction. Most famous for netKarPro—regarded by many as the finest commercial simulator currently available (if by that one means driving feel and accuracy of the tyre model)—that was developed on a shoestring and a diet of boiled rice back in 2005. Kunos’ involvement with sim‐racing can be traced further back than that—all the way back to the turn of the century and the original, free netKar (namie) which Kunos founder Stefano Casillo had developed out of his shed (metaphorically speaking) and on top of which sat the core of nKPro. netKarPro was not well received on its release back in 2006, primarily due to problems with netcode, but not helped by a community that, at the time, felt that the moon

on a stick should just be the beginning of what they deserved from a racing sim. Kunos was, and still is, a small team (but not, I add, just one man), and the reaction at the time came as quite a shock. Now, moving on to their new sim Assetto Corsa, meaning essentially ‘race setup’, they are moving forward with their eyes open much wider, buoyed no doubt by their professional advancement that has seen them swap the cold windy flats of Trieste for the more gentle climes of Southern Italy and now far more aware of what sim‐racers might want from a title. HAVING A CHAT ‘When I was making netKarPro, I used to look around on forums and I would see people talking so much about this or that feature, but the reality was different,” Stefano tells me in his clean, Italian‐modern office. ‘We put in things such as the “full mode” where drivers would have to wait for repairs, or the pitboard being the only information for a driver in a race. These things were nice, but when it came down to it, maybe only twenty percent of players would use them.’ Does this hint at a lower focus on ‘hard core’ simulation elements in AC? ‘No, I don’t think so,’ Stefano says, ‘we are building the physics and graphics engines from the ground‐up from scratch, and we are aiming for as much realism as possible in tyre behaviour and fundamental vehicle dynamics. Using an evolution of the existing netKarPro engine would have involved too much fudging, a ground up rebuild also helps us take more advantage of new technology, both in software and hardware.’ Aristotelis Vasilakos (Aris) joined the Kunos team last year to assist on working with the physics of AC, (you may know him from his work on the P&G mod for GTR2), and he felt this an opportune time to air his thoughts. ‘The first thing, for us, when we started to work, is that we need a physics engine that is workable across as many platforms as possible, and I mean car platforms. In netKarPro, the base physics were focussed on single‐seater race cars, which pull high G‐ratings and are very light, often using slick tyres with

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‘We want to make it so that modders don’t find it

too hard to implement what they need. In the past, this was difficult as netKar was not built with any of this in mind. With AC, we want to introduce something that people can enjoy both as a racing sim and also as a launch pad for their creativity.’

Access to Vallelunga means access, unfiltered, to race cars ….

stiff sidewall construction. This meant that, when we started to introduce heavier cars that had more bodywork and overall inertia, we could not make them feel as good to drive as the original, single‐seater cars.’ This was something discussed in last issue’s piece on Ferrari Virtual Academy 2011 Adrenaline Pack, where the newly introduced Ferrari 458 Trofeo Cup car did not feel like a solid, planted GT car, but a little more spongy, like a road car. ‘Yes, as I said to you at the time,’ confirms Aris, ‘it was a balancing act to set that car up, {and} this is just the sort of thing we want to avoid. AC is an open platform for

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modders,’ he reveals, ‘and we hope, over time, to see a wide variety of cars being created in the community, but also, we plan to release a variety of different machinery in the core release. Every sim‐racer has a different opinion on what is the finest race car or road car to drive—not everyone wants to race F1 cars or Formula Fords—so we want to offer a selection on initial release that will offer something to everyone’s tastes.’ Already then we can see a wholesome departure from the naivety of nKPro. So how, I ask, have they got around this limitation, what is the starting point?

‘The first thing we wanted to get right is a simple car,’ explains Aris, ‘a road‐going, front wheel drive hatchback that can generate about 1‐G in cornering forces on road tyres. If we started at this point, it should be relatively straightforward to move up the scale to cars with more power and grip.’ Aris turns with a grin to Stefano, who chirps up, ‘So we used my car! The Fiat 500 Abarth.’ At 165BHP and 1,035KG, the 500, or Cinquecento, will represent a vehicle quite close to what many of us may have sampled on the road. In my experience, this is often where many sims fall down. There are sims on the market that can

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Fanatec CEO Thomas Jackermeier made a surprise appearance—and found hs wheel ready to go!

do a great job with lower speed road cars, but their physics model stumbles when presented with beastly race cars on slicks and with tons of aero grip. At the same time, other sims do the race cars well and come to pieces with softer sprung, road cars equipped with tyres more suited to comfort than speed. Arguably, from the sim‐racer’s perspective, both are race‐able, and both require very different driving styles. ‘Going back to what we were saying earlier, about the hardcore sim part,’ Stefano says watching me sip my fourth espresso of the morning (it was a 6AM flight out of London that had brought me here!), ‘what I came to realise with netKarPro is that there is a group of people in the community who want things as hardcore and realistic as they can get. They want to replicate what it is like to race cars in real life; but there are many who want a more open and free experience. Many don’t want to be penalised for a white line infringement, or made to wait

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patiently for a rear wing adjustment, and even among those who do, not all of them have the time to indulge in it. When you have to spend hours making a setup for a race, and practicing a track to have it perfect, sometimes sim‐racing becomes a bit like work.’ A sentiment to which I can only agree, having spent enough hours on setup pages myself. ‘I am not saying that this is not something some people enjoy, but there should be a choice, and there is no reason not to make a sim with a hardcore physics model, but with gameplay elements that don’t force the driver into being an engineer, or having to take the whole thing so seriously; this is our hobby, our passion, it should be fun!’ Experience talking, and I can’t say I disagree; I remember talking to Stefano about such things in 2005, and thinking that making a sim as close to real life as possible was exactly what I wanted, but I can say that in my netKarPro ‘career’, I have raced using ‘full mode’

precisely twice. Both times I had to work on setups for hours and hours outside of full mode, and practice the circuit in question for hours to ensure I would not crash in the race. It was a challenge, but was it fun? The key, for me, is a sim with balance, where I can give myself that challenge if I so choose it, but if I want a more casual experience then it should be there as an option. It’s generally regarded in the community that the best realisations of race tracks in modern sim‐racing are the laser scanned efforts by iRacing, and Kunos have embraced this technology for AC. Marco Massarutto, production director for Kunos, feels that, for AC to compete in the marketplace, they need to invest in this area. ‘Really, aside from the driving feel and physics, the areas we want to improve over previous titles are the racing environments. We are working with an all‐new DX11‐based graphics engine, and so we really want to do justice to the circuits we have in AC.’ Those circuits that have been confirmed currently include Magione, Monza, Imola, and the slightly less Italian Silverstone. ‘We had to go with laser scanning, the bar for circuit quality was pushed forward when this technology was introduced, and we are very happy with the results so far,’ Marco tells me. Big name licences such as Silverstone and Monza surely don’t come easily, and I ask him about the challenges involved. ‘Silverstone and Monza were great to work with, but you call up some circuits, and there can be someone on the end of the line who really has no idea what you are talking about, these people are motorsports people, they don’t know anything about video games. We’ve had people thinking we want to put on a race at their circuit, people thinking I want to paint pictures of their circuit, and on one occasion I had the phone slammed down on me!’ Some absolutely stunning WIP pictures have been posted around on the AC Facebook page, and the standard of graphical artistry being put into these tracks belies a deep passion for the pursuit.

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‘We are very proud of some of the circuits we have, going to Monza for the laser scan was a special time for all of us, it is a cathedral to motor racing’s history, and while it may sometimes seem like a boring circuit, especially in a Fiat 500, when you are inside the circuit there is such a feeling of history and passion for the sport.’ Nuvolari, Caracciola, Rosemeyer, Ascari, Fangio, Moss, Hill, Clark, Surtees, Stewart, Fittipaldi, Andretti, Lauda, Piquet, Prost, Senna, Schumacher, Alonso, Vettel—since 1922, this place has crowned kings. ‘We really want to do it justice—if we can put just a piece of that special feeling into our simulator, then I will die a happy man.’ The Italian feel of the circuits on offer may not be a big surprise given that Kunos is a largely Italian concern, but the announcement of Silverstone hints that, as the development moves along, we may see more of an international feel to the sim. ‘I am working very hard on securing a good selection of circuits,’ confirms Marco. ‘It’s still early days, but it’s important for us to go to release with enough circuits to present drivers with a wide enough selection to keep them occupied.’ What about the flexibility of the racing environment? Can we expect a dynamic surface, wet weather, marble build up, maybe some leaves floating majestically in the breeze? ‘We’re not really committing to a massive feature set at this stage,’ Stefano replies, ‘we want to walk before we can run, {and} we are so early in the development process that the importance, for us, at this stage, is getting the basics right. It all depends on how things go with the implementation of the base, core simulator, and the solidity of components such as the physics, graphics and multiplayer components as well as AI that will determine what features we look at later in the development cycle.’ AI? So this won’t just be an online sim? ‘Not at all. I’m not sure I believe in going down only one route nowadays,’ Stefano muses. ‘People sometimes just want to have a bit of a drive around for fun against AI, where they can pause the game and setup things to their

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Once more into the breach: Jon Denton dons gloves and gets behind the sim’ we’re all waiting for …

preference. The more serious online racer is not the only sim‐racer out there, and we want AC to be enjoyed by as many people as possible.’ So, online serious simmer, offline casual simmer, what about the car nuts? ‘Well, we hope to have a good spread of cars in the initial release, hopefully something for everyone,’ Aris chirps, brightly. ‘We’re still working on many licences, but cars like the KTM X‐Bow, Formula Abarth, Fiat 500, and Ferrari P4/5 Competizione already bring a good spread of differing

machinery to the sim, and a vintage singleseater is something we’re working on too. The important thing, for us, is that they feel right, and so with the licences we have acquired, we have ensured full access to the machines in question, as well as all the data available on the setup and overall design of the cars.’ This bodes well for those seeking an authentic ride; unfettered access to the car in question is a must for accurate simulation, and Stefano confirms my thought when he says, ‘We don’t see ourselves making the sort of

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sim that comes out with three of four hundred cars, because with the size of team we have, and the attention to detail we want to give these vehicles, that could take years and years. Aris and I have recently spent an entire day just talking about and working on the vintage single‐seater’s suspension. It was a good, productive day, but at the same time, we want to get the feel of these cars as good as we can get them, and for that we’re focussing on the details.’ There has been clear indication on the AC website that this sim will be open for modders to work on their own

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content for the sim—how much focus, I ask, eyeing another espresso, is being given to this area of the sim? ‘Because from the start we knew we wanted the sim to be moddable, we have built the software like a framework,’ explains Aris. ‘This means that we should be able to release some relatively simple tools that will let mod teams work on new content, or modifications to the sim or GUI. We want to make it so that modders don’t find it too hard to implement what they need. In the past, this was difficult as netKar was not built with any of this in mind. With AC, we

want to introduce something that people can enjoy both as a racing sim and also as a launch pad for their creativity.’ It all sounds jolly grand, doesn’t it? The enthusiasm this small team have to create a simulator that is not just about racing, but also about driving, enamours me greatly. The, sheer, visceral joy of piloting a motor car is something they want to deliver to the home driver, and with their pedigree, you feel that they can do it. Perhaps sensing that another espresso may have been a little too much, the lads from Kunos suggest I occupy my mind with something other than caffeine—do you, they inquire, want to have a go? HAVING A GO No sooner was it said than done, and I was thrown into their handy bucket seat and presented with a choice of cars and tracks. Now, being something of a veteran at trying sims for the first time with an audience, my focus was to pick up something with a manageable power‐to‐weight ratio and basic handling that I could easily relate to. Hmm, Fiat 500 Abarth, or Formula Abarth? After insulting anyone in the room that might own a Fiat 500, I promptly opted for the single‐ seater, at Imola. After a brief (rather impressively so) loading sequence, the car was dropped on the track, and immediately the rawness of this pre‐alpha version of the sim was apparent. Modifications to the seat position and controller configuration had to be done via a ‘console’ within the sim, similar to that seen in first‐person‐shooters, and the car was positioned on the startline, rather than in a pit garage. Clutch modelling had not been implemented yet, so it was just me and two pedals. I clonked the sequential shifter into

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first, and set forth on my way, the first‐ever test‐drive of Assetto Corsa. Gingerly arriving at Traguardo, the first thing to hit me was the solidity of the steering, the firmness of grip that feels so ‘connected’. There is no discernible controller lag and the force feedback presents the firm feel of a tyre contact patch reacting to the change of direction cleanly

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and decisively. This firm feedback gives me confidence, and I try to up the speed. Then, at Acque Minerali (named for a botanical park in nearby Bologna, and not Italian for mineral water as is commonly, and incorrectly, inferred), I fly into the gravel. My first experience with the Fanatec Clubsport pedals is granting me the first chance to try a load‐cell brake pedal, and being used to a standard spring‐based

system (albeit a firm spring on my BRD Speed 7s at home), I was not hitting the pedal hard enough. Ok, something else to think about; ‘act like its real life’I tell myself as I scramble out of the gravel in front of my expectant crowd. In these early stages, there is no damage turned on in the sim, which is a godsend as I take a few laps to get used to the feel of the load‐cell brake pedal. When I start to arrive at corners at the right speed and push a little with the car, I find a trance‐like feeling taking me over as I start to process the way this car works. The steering feedback is simply stunning; under hard braking, the car jiggles and squirms in a very natural way, but not in a way as to be unpredictable. The planted feel of the car keeps surprising me as I come to expect ‘sim‐like’ motions or snap oversteer on braking or heavy throttle. The car behaves, full stop. It is a racing car and should not be sliding and flying about the place, and this is what happens. The Formula Abarth has more downforce than it does power, and this shows. Admittedly, the early setup is understeery, not unlike what you might expect on a real car, and this means in the faster turns the back end stays well planted on heavier throttle and can be driven hard without necessarily kicking back. It takes me some laps to trust in this—many sims over the years have taught me to be wary of a sim‐car’s behaviour, never quite trusting in the

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early laps what the back end might do. For AC, I had to train myself out of this behaviour, until you really start pushing; it is not tricky to keep the car on the track. The feel of the contact patch on the front tyres, directly through the steering, became my opiate as I built up more and more speed with this little gem of a single‐seater. Feeling the front tyres slip through my hands becoming more and more natural, I could easily initiate understeer by breaking the traction with a heavy steering input, then bring it back by releasing lock on the wheel, no hunting for grip, it could be felt directly through the wheel‐rim, making small corrections to trajectory feel intuitive. In fact, they are so intuitive they are barely ‘felt’ at all, they just happen! What this gives the driver is a remarkable feel for the car on entry, the weighting of the front tyres under brakes, the yaw on turn in, and deftness on controlling longitudinal

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weight transfer. Understeering towards the apex at Tosa or lasering into Piratella at high speed, with each passing lap this sim feels more and more glorious. As Marco proceeds to post a few pictures to Facebook of my ‘concentrating face’, I decide to try something else. Slipping neatly into the P4/5 Competizione, a race‐prepared and heavily modified Ferrari 430 in GT3 spec, and much heavier than the Abarth, I do so anticipating that it will feel quite different from the driver’s seat. The same, clean, decisive feedback could be felt instantly in the P4/5, but the weight of the car meant a tidier hand needed to be applied on entries, and care taken not to overwhelm the chassis. Again, the load cell caused me problems, the extra weight of the car needing an even harder stamp on the pedal, especially as I took the car to Monza, where there are some seriously big stops. Starting

to push in the P4/5, there was a clear feeling of much more weight in the car, and with it the added respect you have to give the controls. Smoothness was rewarded, and driving it like a Formula Abarth in the early laps mainly led to me having big slides on entry through being too aggressive with the steering. As I began to settle down and let the car have its head, rather than wrestle it, that trance started to come back, and the feel from the car began to become more and more intuitive. Provided I could get it stopped in time! The chassis would soak up kerbs with minimal fuss and started to feel like a very nice drive, if far more serene than the Formula Abarth. Pushing more and more made the car bite back, and sometimes quite hard. But a smooth hand on the steering wheel ensured no big surprises, and as the laps ticked away, I started to get a great feel for the slip of the front and rear tyres, diving deep on brakes into Parabolica, then hard on the throttle, no surprises, and gently drifting to the outside edge of the circuit for a full speed drag to the Variante del Rettifilo. It was time for the big one—the vintage single seater. And yes, you know exactly what it is. The single‐seater that shan’t be named (for about a week!) seems to be making a major comeback in sim‐racing recently (iRacing, rFactor2, and pCARS). Boasting 410BHP and weighing in at 600KG, I actually sense a mild trepidation when selecting this car; whilst everything so far has felt natural enough to drive for me, they all bear relation to cars I have driven in real life. This is a step beyond. I take it to Monza figuring there are less corners to kill myself on. Initially it feels ... fine. Very stable, connected to the road and manageable. A reasonable foot on the throttle keeps the back‐end in check, and once the speed loads up, you can be fairly heavy with the throttle and not expect wild, lurid slides. This is more like it. And the sound, woah, it sounds tremendous, the induction note on throttle so throaty and full of beef, while the off throttle wheeze makes me grin uncontrollably. I turn to Aris: ‘This is great!’

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Again, the car is setup for understeer, and you can feel it through Curva Grande as the fronts scrub. But instead of ploughing off the circuit, the tyre model responds more deftly. Break of peak grip does not mean no grip, and so when the fronts break traction, they drag at the nose and skip over the track, slowing the car all the time. Let off a little and let the front grip come back in, and she responds, the steering comes back, and once again that glorious force feedback let’s me feel the grip available as I start to push on with this fine motor car. Maintaining a healthy fear on the throttle on exits, I keep hearing Aris in my ear saying, ‘give it more throttle, go on.’ But with limited laps, whilst I started to get a feel for the way this car can be driven on the throttle, it will take many more for my confidence to build to really get to grips with the vehicle. Aris duly leaps into the seat and shows me how it is done, driving the car confidently on the throttle, braking deep and letting the car yaw mildly, then getting on the throttle and deftly controlling the oversteer.

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The feeling I get from AC is that each car is a very, very detailed model, and as such, one learns more and more about the machine with each passing lap. Cars like the VSS could bring surprises even after 2000KMs of running, the depth of the simulation is so remarkable that I get the feeling this could steal a lot of my time, even before any AI or online racing comes into it. Curiously, though, this is not through having to learn to drive the sim. The cars feel stable and usable easily at lower speeds, as they should. No one flies off the road in the pitlane in normal conditions, and most of us manage to drive a car from place to place on the road without having big slides or end‐over‐end crashes. But when you start to push in AC, the feedback from the car takes you in, and as you find yourself braking deeper and deeper into Rivazza, you gain a flush of endorphins as the car hooks into the apex. Getting it right and being quick is a challenge, but not an impossible one—the car is never unpredictable in its responses, it behaves itself, provided its driver does. Most of my early ‘moments’ with AC saw me driving it as if it were a ‘sim’ and not like it was a ‘car’. A curious response, but over years of sim‐racing, we build pathways in our brain that tell us what a virtual car will do in given situations, and it hasn’t always been the same as a real car, even in the best sims on the market. AC requires you to train your brain out of this, and look at your own performance as a driver to analyse what could be causing

the car to behave certain ways. As I found more and more pace in the Formula Abarth, after lunch and wine, I started to recognise problems with my driving that were causing me to lose speed, and they were the same problems that affect my real life performance. My style translated across and, well, rather annoyingly, I developed the same habits that cause me to not always find the sharp end in real life racing. My tidy, smooth inputs in high speed stuff reflected in a glorious feeling through Piratella. But my tendency to overwhelm front grip and take more than one ‘bite’ at a corner in the slower stuff blighted me through Acque Minerali. I had to sit back and tell myself those fateful words that Alonso said to Massa at the Nürburgring in 2007: ‘You need to learn!’ Stepping out into the Mediterranean sun for lunch, I began to enthuse gently (whilst keeping my cool, you understand!) with Aris, but the information was still setting it, slowly, about this sim and what I had just tried out. Things were coming to me as I ate my Pappardelle at the Ristorante da Righetto (con ragu di cinghiale o di lepre, and yes, it was delightful, and yes, it was the boar not the hare), things kept coming to me as we drove back to the airport, and the damn thing was still stuck in my head when I was finally walking back through the door at 23.30 that evening. Assetto Corsa, at this early stage, feels superb to drive, and the team admit that this was their first mission. The potential in, what is, a very early alpha of the software, is remarkable, and truly reflects to me the next generation of racing simulators that will come our way. There is a long way to go, and potential for this sim to get even better. As it stands, the laser scanned tracks in full DX11 glory look stunning, and run smoothly on hardware that is far from top‐end. The driving experience, for me, represents the beginnings of a sim that could go on to great things. For now, we must all sit back and wait, and watch those tantilising shots appear on the AC facebook page as the weeks tick by. For me, it will be even more difficult as I contemplate that hot Italian summer and the warm Autumn until finally I will be able to embrace it again …

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An Offer You Can’t Refuse

iRacing

JONDENTON

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Someone once called Dave Kaemmer The Godfather of sim−racing; the name stuck because there’s something undeniable in that. It’s been almost 25 years since his debut with Indianapolis 500: The Simulation. One quarter of a century. In that time, legends came (Crammond) and went (Crammond), bubbles inflated (SimBin) and burst (Papyrus), reputations made (Grand Prix Legends) and lost (RACE Injection), and yet, through it all, Kaemmer just kept getting better. And then came the (ahem) ‘ne plus ultra of PC racing’, iRacing … Jon Denton sat with Dave Kaemmer to talk physics, new and old tyres, and what the future holds for our little niche planet in the outer reaches of cyberspace … www.autosimsport.net

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iRacing has been successful; we can say this today, four years after the pay‐to‐play service went live amidst much hand‐wringing, complaining, threats of boycotts, suings, and trepidation. And as always with these things, we look back at the fury that was spilled on forums throughout the internet (many on sites no longer even open), and wonder what the hell the fuss was all about. Not only has it become the dominant simulator within the sim‐racing community (a quick glance at the number of racers on the service at any moment in time—which reflects, too, on its international pedigree—will confirm this), it has also welcomed thousands of new sim‐racers and rookies into our community. And it did so using a business model that had never been tested in our little niche world at the fringes of the ‘video game’ market. Dave Kaemmer’s vision, then, extending back to 2004, has been vindicated. Not too shabby for a man who copied his first sim‐racing title (Indianapolis 500) on a single floppy disk before many of current iRacers were even born. I began my interview with Dave by asking whether the project he started up with John Henry and that saw the light of day August 26, 2008, has grown the way he anticipated. ‘On day one, we had zero members, and today we have well over 32,000 active members. That is a huge accomplishment, and everyone at iRacing has worked extremely hard to get us there. Our recent listing in PC Gamer’s Top 100 of all time is a testament to the commitment we have made to sim‐racing.’ Commitment, yes. iRacing was not born in a barn in someone’s back yard. From the very outset, they were well‐funded, had a business model that was well researched, and employed professionals in every key department; when they released their simulator, every part of the iRacing universe was functioning seamlessly. And yet, despite what must have been a tempting business leap, they did not succumb to the profitable temptations of the world of semi‐sim titles like Gran Turismo or Forza; instead, they remained steadfast to their goal of building a viable community all dedicated to running a top‐notch simulator with a hard‐core edge. You can therefore begin to understand, I think, what it means to Dave and co. to be recognised in the mainstream alongside more accessible, mass market racing games. Over the years, the sim itself has evolved not only in terms of its physics and tyre model, but also—crucially—with the constant addition of new features such as racing circuits, cars, and series. The active, and sometimes rather bellicose, user community have never shied away from putting forward their feelings on how they feel the sim should develop, and I asked Dave whether the development of the simulator has been shaped by their base, or whether he has typically stuck to a planned path? ‘The community has played a large part in shaping what iRacing has become,’ Dave replies. ‘Back when we started, we had an idea and plan, and we have largely stuck to it, but we (the iRacing staff) are not the only ones with good ideas. We listen to what our members ask for and have incorporated many of their ideas. Overall, iRacing has stuck to the original vision but we have certainly made adjustments along the way.’

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‘To have a viable product, business wise, you always have to weigh these things up. We are a sim after all, and realism is paramount. But we also have to be realistic about what we do— if it isn’t fun, people won’t race on iRacing. Every feature we consider gets looked at from multiple angles—what will it take resource−wise to implement, what does it add to the user experience, does the community want it, what other feature would we have to delay in order to execute? A lot goes into every decision we make.’

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The plan. When you invest upward of what some claim to be twenty million dollars in creating a simulator for a niche market, you’d best have a good one if you’re hoping to recoup that initial investment—and pay for the service to keep running. iRacing is not your grandad’s simulator; just imagine, for a moment, the server farm required to host the 1,500 official race sessions a week (and that’s not including the qualifying, practice, league, and other sessions every single day). So yes, while it’s encouraging that Dave and co. listen to their user base, I don’t think we can ever expect that community to override what iRacing see as their business model and plan. It can and often is immensely frustrating, but, on the other hand, this is their meal ticket, and 0‐ 32,000 in less than four years does not come from making it up as you go along. There is, in iRacing, a corporate structure in place, but one, I think, that most users do not see as faceless or, indeed, smile‐less. Having said that, it’s become a bit of a running joke in the forums that iRacing staff often dodge questions with that now fateful (and fatal!)

‘soon’, or, worse still, complete silence. In recent times, though, it has become clear to me that this is changing, with iRacing President Tony Gardner often wading in to busy topics and settling the bigger question marks. It’s a busy and, no doubt, thankless task, but with such a big community, there are only so many fires that can be quashed, and the rate at which topics can launch out of control in the general forum makes a degree of apathy inevitable. One of the topics that often crops up in the forums is the focus of the simulator. Whether iRacing is hard core enough can get many a member excited; some regard it as the pinnacle of ultimate realism, whereas some look at aspects such as the mandatory anti‐stall on all cars, or the lack of dirt build‐up on windshields/visors, and question why these features are not in place on a sim that claims to focus on the hard core end of the marketplace. Dave is pragmatic on the subject. ‘To have a viable product, business wise, you always have to weigh these things up. We are a sim after all, and realism is paramount. But we also have to be realistic about what we do—if it isn’t fun, people won’t race on iRacing. Every feature we consider gets looked at from multiple angles—what will it take resource‐wise to implement, what does it add to the user experience, does the community want it, what other feature would we have to delay in order to execute? A lot goes into every decision we make.’ We are back to the business plan again. Back to the investment, back to what it takes to keep iRacing going. It’s a good discussion, but still, I think cars should stall. Paradoxically, however, I also agree with Dave’s point that the service has to keep focussed on fun. In this vein, some of the more hard core elements of the sim, such as the recent developments in gearbox modeling and the adoption of the new tyre model (NTM.) on a number of cars, have shown that the Dave of old (the man who taught a generation of sim‐racers how to race sims with Grand Prix Legends) still wants to ram in as much ‘purity’ as he can, and much of these developments were pushed into the

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First official look at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit in Japan, soon to feature in iRacing’s ever‐increasing international circuit roster. The track was built by Honda in the late 90s, and features two tracks—a 1.5mile oval, and a cracking 3mile road course …

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advance to higher level racing, but having fun when they first join is very important. If someone joins iRacing and leaves after a month, we haven’t done our job.’ Part of that, of course, is the subscription model. But it also reflects the need for rookie drivers to expand their skill‐set, and embrace the host of new tracks and cars available to them as The crossover bridge at Suzuka caused problems with building the track. they improve. This, of course, has financial But they are nothing compared to finding a solution to building a street ramifications for iRacing; no‐one knows what the track … four years on, we still wait for iRacing’s first such cicrcuit, with percentage of turn‐over is between subscriptions Long Beach—scanned in 08—yet to make its debut. and in‐game purchases (cars and tracks), but I’d take a bet it is the latter that keeps the business profitable. And if a rookie leaves within the first month, he has used free cars and tracks and his one month subscription doesn’t pay a lot of wages. And we also know, as Dave himself once acknowledged, that the traditional sim‐racing community is simply not large enough to warrant a service like iRacing. New blood is crucial. Getting a write‐up in the top 100 games on PC Gamer is crucial. And when a racer comes to iRacing because he was a hotshoe in Gran Turismo or Forza, he will need to be gently encouraged into the service without the simulator despite the ‘flaming torches’ of many of iRacing’s users. I want to ask Dave immediate and crushing humiliation we all endured with Grand Prix Legends. The how much that resembles the debates he has with his marketing colleagues when he driving school lessons can only do so much (and if you haven’t heard of that iRacing pushes for more realism in the simulator, but suspect I already know the answer (and so features, you make my point for me); a balance, ultimately, must be found because not do you, because iRacing are, as we know, professional to their very bone), and so, everyone has been a sim‐racer their whole life. Indeed, a kid born when Dave unleashed instead, I ask how much is iRacing’s development‐bias aimed at satisfying the hard core GPL is now fifteen years old and probably just embarking on his love of cars and a simmers versus the desires of the pick‐ up and ‐play racer, in the hope that the reply potential sim‐racing career … will, at least, give us some insight into what Dave is probably told by said marketing When iRacing first opened its doors, cars and tracks were understandably thin on the ground; guys every time he brings this up! it worked though, because back then there was no insta‐promotion to higher series with a ‘Again, this is a balancing act. We, and the community, want and expect realism, season, which meant everyone spent a season racing Pontiac Solstices. Like me, I imagine that, which is why we continue to work on the NTM, for example. We have also introduced every time you see one now, you’re enveloped with a fragrance of depression and suicidal some features that can help get the more casual race‐gamer involved—the driving line, thoughts. Nowadays, though, iRacing sports choices galore, and nearly every brand of circuit brake assist and throttle assist, to name a few. These driver assists are not available in motorsport is gorgeously represented. Back then, too, iRacing was about one‐make spec’ series, upper level racing, but are pretty useful for a new member who has just crossed over where everyone raced the same machinery, but this too has evolved, and I wonder how thin the from a console title. They will have to learn to race without them if they want to

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player base is spread across the many series, and whether Dave sees mixing car classes as the future to ensure full‐sized grids? ‘The plan is to continue to grow the membership,’ is his reply. ‘The more people racing, the better the racing is. More series, more splits, etc. I am sure we will see more mixed class racing, but not as a means to create larger fields, but rather to emulate what happens in the real world. I don’t think we’ll ever see mixed class NASCAR racing, for example—unless it is simply mixing car manufacturers like Ford and Chevrolet.’ So, with this in mind, where do upcoming cars such as the Cadillac CTS‐V and Lotus 49 fit in with existing series? ‘The Lotus 49 is a really special car and will run in its own series. We don’t see it fitting in with other cars at this point. The CTS‐V will initially run in a special stand alone series that will be co‐promoted by Cadillac. I could see it moving to a mixed class series in the future though.’ iRacing, from day one, has not sought licenses in the traditional sense of the word, but rather partnerships with car manufacturers and racing series. These now include some blue‐chip manufacturers and series such as IZOD Indycar, Grand‐Am, V8 Supercars, and most notably, NASCAR. With developments in the real world affiliated series, how difficult, I asked, is it for iRacing to keep up with implementations of new cars such as the Dallara DW12, the updated Riley Daytona Prototype, or the upcoming Aussie V8 ‘Car of the Future’? How much pressure is in place from the series organisers to update to modern vehicles within the simulator? After all, when a real‐world racer moves from one series to another, iRacing is generally his or her first port of call for learning new tracks; Rubens Barrichello, we note, was a new addition to the community about a week after signing up for his debut in the Indycar series. ‘Of course everyone always wants the latest version of their race car. New iterations of vehicles we already have are handled on a case‐by‐case basis. We look at the same things we look at when considering a brand new vehicle—resources, cost, time, demand—and base our decision to build the new version on these factors.’ How many people would rather drive a Dallara DW12 over a Dallara IR4? It’s a tough call, isn’t it ... and getting it wrong has significant implications for iRacing. How much consideration is given to a car’s relative performance with regards to mixed racing, though, I want to know. And in the future, could there be car classes such as GT3, GT2, LMP2, etc., rather than class‐based purely on car model? ‘We do look at any “gaps” we might have in a car line up when considering adding a new car. We also have to work with car constructors to get licenses, so it isn’t as simple as deciding we want a XYZ class car. Remember, everything iRacing offers is licensed and requires a contract from the constructor. We could certainly add more cars of the same class but it seems to make more sense to fill in some additional classes first.’

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‘We’ve had to change the physical model of several of the cars to get them to work well with the new tyres. The new tyres have actually helped us to isolate some issues—the Spec Racer, for example, had too little travel in its rear suspension that had been masked by the previous tyre model. We’ve also found that we’ve had to move the brake bias forward on most of the cars. Some of the cars have been as easy as, we put on the new tyres, and they’re almost good to go as−is. The NTM has allowed us to begin looking at other enhancements as well; the brake temperature modelling is a good example of that.’ www.autosimsport.net

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The Godfather Born and raised in Indiana and, in common with AutoSimSport, doesn’t have a Wiki entry either!

A tantalising prospect, with more cars in the GT3 class coming into the service, and with a RUF licence just signed and announced, we could find more action as certain cars favour certain tracks, presenting unique challenges to iRacing members. This could help, say, in the GT and Prototype series, where too many players choose the LMP2 Acura, leaving the lower class cars less populated. But what about the historics? Are there any plans afoot to introduce other 1979 Grand Prix cars to run alongside the Lotus 79? Or 1967 contemporaries alongside the Lotus 49? Could a GPL‐like field come to us in iRacing? ‘Sadly,’ says Dave, ‘there are no plans for that at the moment.’ Perhaps I’m reading something there, but I wonder about the ‘sadly’ part and how hard Dave pushed for that … I try to hide my disappointment while harping back to the GPL days and battling for points in a mediocre Ferrari against the powerful Lotii—was that one of sim‐racing’s greatest challenges? How about other historic cars, I ask. With half the community students of motorsport history, has any thought been given to cars such as those modelled in the great Papyrus sim NASCAR Legends, or even historic Aussie V8s, World Sports Cars, or Indycars? Sensing my mild desperation, Dave replies, ‘we’ll tackle the Lotus 49 first and see what the community thinks of it before adding more historic cars.’

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The community. Yes, the plan, the business. Thing is, as Stefano Casillo has also noted, the community, by and large, prefer tin‐toppers—nKPro got a significant boost when it added a few to its open‐wheel‐only roster—and you’ll notice that iRacing has become biased toward these cars, while plans for new open wheelers have become far and few between. This happened, I think, after the release of the Lotus 79 which proved to be a disappointment, in terms of users. Indeed, the Lotus has pretty much been consigned to private leagues, and I sense iRacing are throwing in the 49 to see if there is any marketability and ‘stick’ within the community for historic formula cars. It will, I think, be a hard sell; but on the other hand, it may just ensnare a good chunk of the European and non‐American sim‐racers who have been sitting this out. Mixed class racing, meanwhile, is still a relatively new part of the service—it debuted just over a year ago—but there’s still plenty of ‘amateur hour’ driving on display as cars with notable speed differentials hit the road (and each other). As it stands, a driver with a licence level strong enough to drive the slowest car in the series can step right into the fastest. Would it not make more sense to have mixed licence levels in mixed class racing, to prevent below‐par drivers making a fast track into cars they may not have the ability to handle? ‘I don’t think that is the issue,’ says Dave. ‘If it was, we could simply raise the overall license level for the series. I think the bigger issue is that mixed class racing offers new challenges. Closing speeds on cars and things like that. Having mixed license levels in mixed class racing might contribute to larger race fields by opening a series up to more people. We don’t have any immediate plans to work on this though.’ Perhaps it is an issue of driver education, but at times this season, LMP drivers have ended both their and fellow competitors’ races by over‐enthusiastic passing attempts. Patience is not always the first thing on many an iRacer’s mind. In this sense, it is clear that driver etiquette is not at the level typically seen in real life racing. An hour cannot pass without a few forum threads being opened decrying the poor driving seen in various races. The existing protest system seems to only punish intentional contact, yet, for example, a driver re‐joining the circuit when it is not safe do so can go unpunished. Should there be more focus in iRacing to encourage clean racing? Either in the protest system, driver training, or increasing the difficulty in attaining license levels? ‘Racing is an emotion‐filled sport. Almost everyone feels they have been wronged if they are involved in an incident. Ninety‐nine percent of the time there is an incident in iRacing or in the real world, someone made a mistake. If you were rear ended in a braking zone, odds are the guy who hit you didn’t mean to do it. Safety rating takes care of this. We don’t need to further punish drivers for mistakes. Most of us are not professional racers so we should expect to see mistakes from everyone at some point. Your statement that a driver who enters the track unsafely causing an incident goes unpunished is simply not true. Incident points add up if there is a recurring problem. If it is a recurring problem we do take action. Even on the first offense, if the incident is protested, we would offer coaching to the driver involved. Should we kick out a member for doing this once? I don’t think that is the right atmosphere we want here at iRacing.’

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‘Variable weather or track surface is complicated on many levels. Not just the technical side of actually implementing it, but also the competition side. If we were to introduce rain for example, all qualifying sessions in a series for that week would need to be in the same condition(s) in order to make it fair. Knowing what the variable conditions are going to be ahead of time takes a bit of the strategy away. That said, varying weather and track conditions are things we’d like to add eventually. We can’t promise soon, though.’

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Maybe not once, no, but there is a gap here: Yes, a driver rejoining unsafely that is involved in contact takes an SR hit, but so does the innocent driver that hits them. At the same time, whilst a mistake may not be intentional, sometimes it is damn stupid. In real world races, drivers are punished for making mistakes, and ‘advantage by contact’ is regularly punished. It’s a complex subject, for me, with no obvious answers. Even the SR part of it is debatable; yes, the innocent is punished, but in the real world, I suppose, when some dunce takes you out, his insurance doesn’t pay for your costs. You do. In the end, I think I speak for most users when I say that, once the flash rage subsides, I tell myself that it’s just a video game. However, there is one other small point to clear up: do iRacing factor in the marketing angle in all of this? That is, too much focus on serious and clean racing could turn some drivers away from iRacing if they are seeking a more ‘rule free’ sim experience? How much of a balance needs to be struck to make sure racers are not turned away either by the lack of clean racing or the over‐ abundance of rules? ‘Sure, there is a balance to be struck, but overall we think the system works pretty well,’ Dave insists, clearly tiring of the subject. ‘We have seen a pretty consistent growth in membership since we opened the doors back in 2008, so we must,’ he adds, ‘be doing something right.’ You can’t argue with figures, I suppose. Racing in any other sim‐community is fraught with the same issues of driver behaviour and rule enforcement; this is an issue that spans not only the entire sim‐racing world, but also since the first day Alison Hine and friends got on line to test GPL’s netcode. If numbers are going up, then perhaps most figure that iRacing’s more structured approach works best. And there is structure. Take, for instance, the way drivers are put together in races using iRating, along with SR rating, to establish licence levels. This is seen as overly (and perhaps unnecessarily) complicated by many, but the system has largely remained the same since day one (with the exception of the licence fast‐track). Have these systems worked in the longer term to ensure that drivers are placed with other drivers of equal ability? I have seen many examples of faster drivers that crash too often being placed with drivers of non‐equivalent pace due to their low iRating. Should overall lap time pace be included into the matchmaking equation? ‘iRating is more of a measurement of how you race,’ explains Dave. ‘That includes speed, but also how well you drive, because you can’t increase your iRating by sitting on pole every race but not finishing. The ability to lay down one really good lap is only a small part of racing, so yes, we think the system is working as designed. That said, we are always talking about ideas and ways to make it better.’ It’s another balancing act; a cleaner driver who may be two seconds from ‘alien’ pace, but with a high iRating, could end up racing for years against opposition that is stronger and thereby never getting the chance to win races. On the flipside, a driver than can pull ‘alien’ pace from the car, but is prone to accidents and thus has a low iRating, can end up racing against drivers of much lower performance. It aids their win statistics and their ego, but are either of the above getting the best out of the service? Would it reflect a better ‘matchmaking’ system should the clean

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driver get into races with drivers of his speed which would therefore allow him or her to actually win races? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that the reflection to real life racing ends when a driver can ‘shift+R’. Should, I ask Dave, iRacers get more or a punishment for crashes? In real life racing, crashes, though part of the game, are generally avoided at all costs. It’s not a matter of ‘trusting’ that the guy in front will give room when you dive inside and claim the turn; it’s more about ‘if you don’t, you’re going to have an accident, and it’s probably going to hurt a lot’. Do you think that something stronger than the SR drop and licence system should be in place to encourage drivers to stay out of the walls and actually concede a corner when the guy behind has made a passing move? ‘No, we think it works pretty well,’ Dave insists. ‘Most people don’t like to be seen making mistakes in public, so there’s already more than just SR and license levels at work. One of the things that makes iRacing great is that you don’t get hurt while making the inevitable mistakes that beginners make while learning. We’d like to keep it a place that welcomes beginners. In addition, if a pattern of crashing emerges for a particular driver, we will and do take action. We keep a record of every single protest for each driver. We are also working on some things in regard to the system and process.’ But what of the drivers that are not protested? That crash on their own? Personally, I think that Alex Martini’s bill for written off Acura chassis this season should be charged to his credit card! Another area that makes the forums red hot with mega‐post rampages is any suggestion of cheating. This, of course, is a tricky area, and one that needs to be waded into fully aware that under the still waters roam man‐eating … things. It has always been assumed that people cheat. But in iRacing, where you spend every single lap of your sim‐racing life on a server sitting on a farm somewhere, cheating was meant to be nigh on impossible. And yet … The ‘Q circle’ phenomenon has now been widely reported, and this, frankly, surprised me. (You can read all about it here— http://www.iracing.com/q‐circles‐the‐crop‐circles‐of‐iracing/ ) How did anyone even find that exploit? It goes to show that players will look for any way to gain performance, even in the most unlikely of places. Though there is gaining performance and plain cheating. The above is cheating. What comes next, though, falls into a more shaded area … The gearbox modelling in iRacing has presented a difficult situation with regards to ‘pre‐ selecting’ gears as a result of the way in which contemporary controllers work. Briefly, am iRacer can use a shifter device to throw the next gear into the slot (or downshift) but not actually have the gear engage until the throttle is lifted or clutch depressed. Obviously, this is not how people drive cars in real life; it allows drivers to minimise time spent with one hand on the wheel and therefore, in theory anyway, will probably gain a driver time. In real life, the gearstick is actually linked to the drivetrain and thus doing such a thing would be impossible. In other words, as I come into a second gear turn, I can shift, in iRacing, into second but the sim itself will only ‘realise’ I am in second when I lift the throttle or hit the clutch. So barring force feedback in gear selection controllers, is there any way to prevent this chea—style of driving?

‘We have some ideas to make this a bit better,’ says Dave. ‘The “selection” of a gear is actually a signal to the simulation that the driver is applying some force to the shifter. We wanted to get away from the more game‐like situation where putting an H‐pattern shifter in gear forced the gear to be selected, instantly. The “pre‐selection” occurs when the gearbox won’t easily shift out of gear (because you’re at full throttle, loading the gear teeth), and the ‘pressure’ you are then applying causes the shift to occur somewhat later, when you lift, or de‐clutch to take the load off the gear teeth. It is difficult to get completely lifelike results from most current controllers—they don’t generally have force feedback for the shifters.’ And even if a force feedback shifter was introduced, how widely adopted would it be? Would anyone pay money for a piece of hardware that reduces their laptime? Sadly, the competitive element of sim‐racing can often stymie the quest for pure simulation. Another topic that causes furore in the community is the use of ‘throttle braking’, a curious stabilisation aid whereby a driver maintains high throttle inputs during braking and corner entry. It acts like an odd traction control, and if done to such a level in real life, would add significant reliability concerns to any vehicle. Putting aside the ‘tooth and nail’ debate on whether this is faster or not in the simulator, what is it in the differential and drivetrain modelling that allows this to take place? Will better modelling of mechanical failure (through abuse of vehicle components) and brake temperature and wear modelling help to reduce this phenomenon? ‘What allows this to take place is that applying throttle while braking gives the driver direct control over the instantaneous brake bias (allowing for shorter braking distances, paradoxically, if the car is set up right and the driver is skilled at it), as well as reducing the time it takes to get back to throttle. We will soon have the brakes’ effectiveness changing with temperature, and that might make this technique a bit trickier, but there is some evidence that it works in real life. If something like that works in real life, the engineers will quickly make it so that mechanical failure won’t happen because of it.’ Well, within reason, of course. In some cases this happens in real life, but it is rare to see seventy‐five percent brakes along with sixty‐five percent throttle, as I have seen on iRacing telemetry. Dave, I think (and hope!) is alluding to a hard core element that many have been clamouring for since time immemorial: Brake fade, and brake temperature, the cause of more real‐world racing issues than any other I can think of. The other interesting point to take from this is that this throttle‐brake process has not caught on with many drivers struggling to make it work for them while for some it feels extremely unnatural. It is also evident, from my own tests along with the assistance of other AutoSimSport staffers, that it is not always quicker. Indeed, a telemetry comparison (yes, telemetry is of great help in iRacing, you cannot hide anything anymore!) of a lap of Suzuka between Alex Martini and I showed that Alex was slower in some corners where he was throttle‐braking the most. Though there was no conclusive rule that suggested either way, it seems to come down to that old adage—whatever a driver is comfortable with.

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With that taken care of, it was time to broach the tricky subject of the NTM, the new tyre model. Many members saw this as the Holy Grail when it was first announced, and once it was released, there was, predictably, a split in the community; some loved it, some hated it. Few, though, is should be said, were in the middle. It wasn’t the Holy Grail, of course, and issues were noticeable from the off. Now, three iterations later, issues remain, though not quite as obvious as before. Using Dave’s ‘theoretical model’, the tyre model is hugely dynamic and tries to replicate— or predict—real world tyre behaviour in every given situation. So how close does Dave believe he is to getting it ‘right’?

What have been the key challenges that have affected development of the NTM, in terms of how it relates to a tyre in real life? Have there been any major surprises during the development that had to be worked around? ‘The key challenge is that tyres are not well understood. There are a lot of theories, many of which turn out to be somewhat in contradiction with each other in different situations. The most surprising thing is how few work‐arounds are required at this point with the NTM. There are so many pieces—you just have no idea—and they all fit together and work together amazingly well.’ It strikes me that, in the real world, understanding a tyre’s behaviour under normal loads, and

‘Most of the development of the NTM has been based around pure numbers. The more correct we get the numbers, the better they feel to just about everyone. We don’t have plans at the moment to introduce multiple tyres for a given series, although that could certainly be interesting.’ ‘The theoretical model handles situations outside the norm much more realistically than the previous model. The dynamic behaviour of the tyre as it heats up, wears, and is generally thrashed about the track is much more in line with reality. Plus, it takes less time for us to come up with workable tyres for each car. It can take some re‐learning on the driver’s part, and the cars do need to be adjusted at times to handle well with the new tyres, but as we get things sorted the experience is getting better and better.’ The NTM is a constantly developing work in progress, as essentially each new season greets the cars that have transitioned to the NTM cars with ‘new tyres’ and differing performance. The first cars to sport the initial NTM, such as the Acura ARX and Ford GT, seem be more developed as they, too, are on their ‘third version’. At the same time, it seems that some cars, such as the Riley, feel quite well sorted on their first iteration. How has the NTM developed since release, and how much effect has the feedback of the community been in sculpting its development, I ask. Also, how much of what has been learned with the early NTM cars can translate to the newer cars? ‘It is a work in progress,’ Dave confirms, ‘although it is quite far along at this point. Feedback from the community each season is invaluable, just as driver feedback to the tyre companies in the real world is invaluable. The tyres are very complex elements, and it will inevitably take some time to perfect them. A lot of what is learned can be applied to newer cars; generally improvements to the tyre model have helped all the cars.’

up to peak of adhesion, is fairly well known; what we really don’t know about is how a tyre behaves ‘over the limit’—this remains something of a black art both in real life and simulation, does it not? ‘It’s becoming less of an art every day,’ Dave says. ‘It’s much more math than art at this point, I’m happy to say.’ Has the switch to the NTM brought about modifications in other areas of the physics model, such as weight transfer, body control, and steering or braking systems? ‘We’ve had to change the physical model of several of the cars to get them to work well with the new tyres,’ Dave reveals. ‘The new tyres have actually helped us to isolate some issues—the Spec Racer, for example, had too little travel in its rear suspension that had been masked by the previous tyre model. We’ve also found that we’ve had to move the brake bias forward on most of the cars. Some of the cars have been as easy; we put on the new tyres, and they’re almost good to go as‐is. The NTM has allowed us to begin looking at other enhancements as well; the brake temperature modelling is a good example of that.’ Tyres are subtle things with many particular nuances. Where some tyres are better at sustaining combined lateral and longitudinal loads, favouring a driver that likes to brake very deep into a corner, another tyre manufacturer’s product may be less tolerant of such loads and favour braking in a straight line and a smoother driving. Thus, a given driver’s style can determine if they ‘like’ a tyre or not. This translates into simulation in an odd way; where one driver may say

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what a sim tyre is doing is not ‘right’ or ‘normal’ is only based largely on their real world experience. How much of the development of the NTM has been based around a particular favoured driving style? And are there any plans to develop multiple tyre types for the same car so that drivers of all styles can choose the ‘manufacturer’ they are more comfortable with, perhaps adding in differing performance levels under certain conditions? ‘We find ourselves in a peculiar situation where everything that might be right or wrong with a particular car is attributed to the tyres. It’s interesting, but not surprising, that if we put the exact same tyres and wheels on one car vs. another, those two cars can be entirely different beasts, with the same driver loving one car and hating the other. So I would say it’s difficult to say simply by driving a car whether the tyres feel right. The car has a lot to do with it as well. Most of the development of the NTM has been based around pure numbers. The more correct we get the numbers, the better they feel to just about everyone. We don’t have plans at the moment to introduce multiple tyres for a given series, although that could certainly be interesting.’ With that in mind, are there plans to introduce differing tyre compounds, adding a strategy element for races, perhaps with a given compound working better at certain tracks or racing surfaces and under certain temperatures? ‘Our only plans are for series where they get that choice in real life. We currently do have different compounds and tyre constructions for the NASCAR oval vehicles, although they are fixed at any particular track.’ Car setup within iRacing have typically differed somewhat to their real life counterparts too; but it is notable that, since the inception of the NTM, this situation is changing, forcing drivers to make setups that bear a closer resemblance to those used in real life. ‘They are getting much closer,’ Dave agrees. ‘There are a few issues that keep us from having completely correct numbers. Some of that is compliance (bending of suspension components), but there are a couple of things I’m still not one hundred percent happy with on the tyres.” Speaking of which, many members will have noticed that the NTM seems to give back bizarre grip in accordance with tyre temperature, causing best splits to be hit on outlaps, with optimum tyre temperature generally being lower and the tyre performance dropping off as surface heat rises. I ask Dave whether he can explain the cause of ‘fast outlaps’ on the new tyre model, and how this can be combatted in future releases. ‘There are a few issues remaining with the tyre compound modelling that account for the generally increased lower temperature grip. I’m optimistic that I’ll have that sorted out soon. That said, there are tyres for which the current behaviour is accurate; but it’s still not quite there on the softer road compounds.’ The NTM is a fascinating subject, and, from what we hear from other developers, is something of a game‐changer in the sim‐racing development community. Has any consideration been given to releasing a technical white paper detailing the design and implementation of the NTM that may describe its revolutionary approach to the sim‐tyre?

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‘I would like to (it’d be more than one paper, I think), but we are in a competitive business, and we’ve spent a fair amount of time and money doing this research. It’s hard to justify giving information such as this away.’ There’s that competition and business thing again! Maybe we’ll have to wait another decade to truly understand the design of the NTM. By which time it may well be the V(ery) O(ld)TM! Game‐changers, though, for iRacing, are nothing new; their tracks have redefined what we have come to expect from virtual tracks. The laser‐scanned surfaces are wonderfully tactile to drive, and texture detail run to the clock on the wall in Silverstone’s media centre. That one doesn’t move, but the scoring tower in Daytona will give you an indication of what position you’re in—in real time. That said, they do come across as a little clinical and staid; not helped by the static nature of their surface that build‐up neither temperature, grime, marbles, or—dare we mention it—rain. Are there any plans in motion to introduce a more dynamic track surface in iRacing, one where grip levels change more dynamically based on surface changes, rubber build‐ up, or temperature variance? In the real world, a track can vary in performance based on a relatively small temperature change; is there a way this can be introduced without unduly affecting the competition element?

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‘Variable weather or track surface is complicated on many levels. Not just the technical side of actually implementing it, but also the competition side. If we were to introduce rain for example, all qualifying sessions in a series for that week would need to be in the same condition(s) in order to make it fair. Knowing what the variable conditions are going to be ahead of time takes a bit of the strategy away. That said, varying weather and track conditions are things we’d like to add eventually. We can’t promise soon, though.’ For me this is an odd balancing act that iRacing are attempting, this concept of ‘fairness’. Real life motor racing is not fair. In the times of single lap qualifying in F1, there were times when the fastest drivers had to contend with a much wetter track than the slower guys. In almost all disciplines, the edict is generally that you have to get on with what you have, and if someone else gets better luck, then so be it. Under my personal iron fist regime, the track’s real weather would come into play. If you qualified when it was raining, tough luck! But this, of course, is negated by the concept of matchmaking in iRacing which means that we all compete for the championship but, unlike in the real world, you may race on Saturday afternoon and I on Tuesday morning. And yet our points will be tallied, and we will be competing against each other for an entire season without, quite possibly, ever meeting on the track. That’s where it differs from the real world and even leagues set up by our friends, and I suppose I have to begrudgingly accede to Dave’s point. Barely … and through gritted teeth. A lot has been made of iRacing’s laser‐scanned track data and the millimetre accuracy this provides. Whilst for features like the track outline, elevation changes, and track‐side objects this is obviously usable and helpful data, how exactly does this accuracy translate when it comes to track‐surface detail? At speeds above 100MPH, with a physics engine running at 500Hz, you’re talking of the order of 100mm horizontal displacement per time step. This means if the tyre/track‐surface contact is just taken into account at each time step, details in the region of a few millimetres horizontally will often be ‘skipped’ or missed out. What sort of resolution is actually being used for the track surface, and are they using some sort of algorithm to account for this (be it averaging over the previous time‐step’s height map or something more complicated), or will there be, on each lap, some degree of pot‐luck as to whether or not you ‘hit’ a given detail? ‘There are very few bumps at a typical racetrack that are shorter than 30cm in length. To the extent there are, we would model those as macrotexture of the particular surface type. We do have pretty high scan resolution for the track surface—on average, it’s probably around 1cm. Some areas a bit more, some a bit less. The accuracy of each scanned point is around 1‐2mm. We fit curves to within a centimetre or so of the laser scan, then use a bump map table to correct the heights to match the laser scan. The bump map table has about 30cm horizontal resolution, with interpolation between entries. This has been more than sufficient for any of the tracks we’ve scanned.’ The track portfolio of iRacing has grown considerably over the years, now including some of the finest tracks in the world. No longer can users complain about a heavy North American bias. Which circuits have presented the biggest headaches to implement?

‘Sao Paulo is at the top of the list for sure,’ responds Dave immediately. ‘We went to scan the track and the equipment never cleared customs so we were not able to gather the data we needed. We haven’t given up on it though, so I expect we’ll add the track at some point. Long Beach is another track that has proved challenging with so many trackside objects. We do plan to finish it eventually though.’ Good news, Long Beach has been a long time coming—indeed, it was announced pretty much at the debut of the service and it is also noteworthy that iRacing does not feature a single street circuit to this day. Odd, and odder still when you consider that, in North America, street tracks form a large part of non‐oval race series. Is the difficulty encountered with rendering Long Beach a problem that will be mirrored when it comes to creating other street tracks in iRacing? ‘Pretty much any street track will have the same challenges as Long Beach,’ confirms Dave. ‘Once we tackle Long Beach, we can start to think about others.’ Have certain tracks brought an influx of new players into the simulator, I ask. How much of a ‘pull’ are world class tracks like Spa‐Francorchamps, or Suzuka? ‘Both Spa and Suzuka have helped open the doors to the ‘international market’. We began iRacing by focusing on our home tracks here in the US, but with the addition of some premier tracks from around the world, we have definitely seen more members from outside the US.’ And is there a point where iRacing will contain too many tracks, leaving some circuits lying by the wayside as the desires of the community focus on the more favoured tracks? ‘I don’t think so,’ replies Dave. ‘We can rotate through them during the four seasons we have each year, not to mention the hundreds of leagues that run on iRacing. We get dozens of emails every week requesting new tracks, so I think the demand is out there for more tracks.’ Yes, a pretty stupid question … the rFactor community alone has around forty five billion tracks available, and the community has always felt that there can never be enough until every track on earth is there to race on. But what of older tracks? With the arrival of historic cars such as the Lotus 79 and 49, are there any thoughts towards depicting historic circuits to race them on? ‘Sure, we have thought about it, but we have no plans to do that now. There are too many great tracks around that we haven’t modelled yet to go that route.’ A shame, for some. The F1 cars of old really get to stretch their legs on the circuits of the time. Too many chicanes and hairpins blight modern circuits for these old beasts. Still, a Lotus 49 at modern Spa or Suzuka will still work for me! Laser‐scanning, which iRacing introduced into the market, has become a ‘must‐have’ on any serious sim’s checklist, but I wonder how much has the process of laser‐scanning a circuit, building a car, and the implementation of both from scratch, come along since the early days of iRacing? ‘We are a lot more practiced at it now, so it generally goes a lot faster. We’ve added many ways to interpret and use the data more effectively. There was quite a bit of work involved in doing Suzuka, for example, since it has a crossover bridge. Same thing with building the

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Williams—there were a number of new force components we had to implement, like the inerters. Our processes are much more well‐defined, so it’s definitely getting easier.’ Going back to the sim at the core of all this. iRacing as a whole is now nearly four years old, and whilst it has been updated in almost every area since the early days, will there come a point when the existing software cannot be updated to match modern standards and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up to take advantage of modern advances in hardware and OS software such as DirectX? ‘It’s very rare that you have to rebuild completely from the ground up. More often, we need to restructure pieces of our codebase to, for example, move to 64 bit, add support for DirectX11, or to take advantage of more parallel processing capability on newer CPUs. All of these things are in the works right now by the way.’ Excellent news for top of the line PC owners, but as the sim moves forward, not all of us keep up (glances mopingly at four year old sim PC in the corner). As and when the time comes for an ‘all new iRacing’, that is taking advantage of DirectX 11, multi‐core and 64 bit processors, how will they deal with existing users that have paid twelve month subscriptions and who suddenly find their PC hardware not up to scratch to run iRacing? ‘We will cross that bridge if and when we need to, but taking care of our loyal customers will be a priority,’ says Dave. In February, the 2012 Drivers World championship series start for both NASCAR and Grand Prix series. How much of a success has the online broadcasting of these events been? And do iRacing have plans to market the events to a wider audience of motorsport fans? ‘Our members seem to really enjoy the broadcasts; we typically get a few thousand people to watch a race on the oval side. What was really successful for an outside audience was the Pro Race of Champions broadcast last December. We had nearly 8,000 people watch the broadcast. I think non‐members got into this because the people racing were names they know. We’ll definitely do more of these types of events this year.’ Dave Kaemmer has seen it all and been at the cutting edge of sim‐racing for twenty years now, so I couldn’t end without asking him about the future; for iRacing, yes, but also this sport. ‘The sky is the limit. We have made great strides since we started this project in 2004, but the reality is we have barely scratched the surface. There are so many people that don’t know about sim‐racing, and what they are missing. We’ll continue to promote iRacing and sim‐racing in general to new people so that we can grow the community. The more sim‐racers out there the better it is for everyone. Hardware will get better, new technology and software will make the racing better, and hopefully we can grow the sport to a point where everyone who wants to give it a shot can do so.’

‘It’s very rare that you have to rebuild completely from the ground up. More often, we need to restructure pieces of our codebase to, for example, move to 64 bit, add support for DirectX11, or to take advantage of more parallel processing capability on newer CPUs. All of these things are in the works right now by the way.’

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WEAPONS OF MASS HOPE

PCARS

AUTOSIMSPORT

pCARS is evolving. For the newbie—or ‘Junior Member’—we will try and bulldoze our way through the acronyms and buy-outs to bring you up to speed with this fascinating development in the sim-racing world. If you’re already up to speed, the interview with SMS CEO Ian Bell begins two pages below … off you go.

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it’s complicated, and we’ve barely skimmed the surface. It’s also a first‐of‐its‐kind mission, so evolution is not entirely unexpected, and this month has seen some defined paradigm shifts on where the first WMD project, CARS, is headed (CARS, by the way, is an acronym for Community Assisted Racing Simulation. It doesn’t, we believe, have anything to do with geriatrics). SMS have now raised €2,077,100 for the making of p(roject)CARS; €582,100 of that comes directly from the community, while the rest—some €1,495,000—comes from the studio itself. As we go live with this issue, there has also been an announcement that further ‘investors’ will not be entertained for much longer, suggesting that either the funding is in place (which is odd, because they haven’t raised the revenue

many argue is needed to fund the development of pCARS), or they have found a significant source of funds elsewhere. Where, you ask? Hang on a second … The project, in November last year, was slated to be released as a free‐to‐play (F2P) PC game that would be funded by micro‐transactions (MCs). That all changed this month when SMS announced pCARS would go down the traditional game‐in‐a‐box channel with a publisher and a place on a shelf at a game shop near you. With that announcement came further news: In February of this year, MyLoadBase N.V. (CLI as they’re listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange), a Dutch company, purchased a majority stake in Slightly Mad Studios Automotive GmbH (SMSAGH), headquartered in Berlin, Germany. MyLoadBase N.V. is described on Google Finance as a ‘consulting and investment company engaged in the support of growth‐orientated businesses through the implementation of financing concepts … The Company allows its shareholders to participate in business models with high value growth potential, employing a number of criteria in order to determine participation, such as solid client structures and experienced management’. In the press release that ran with the acquisition of majority shares in SMSAGH, MyLoadBase N.V. was described as a company that ‘develops and markets online games for computers, game consoles and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet PC’. With us so far? SMS are going into the social/mobile gaming business. It should be noted that Slightly Mad Studios Automotive GmbH is not Slightly Mad Studios of Tower Bridge, London. So why would SMSAGH that is not SMS sell out to CLI who distribute the interest accrued from companies with growth potential in the form of dividends in kind to existing CLI shareholders? In an attempt to find out something—anything at all— AutoSimSport decided to call SMS CEO Ian Bell. What we discovered will shock you. But worse still, if we used another acronym, we’d simply KOAD.

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There should be no doubt that, graphically, Ian Bell and co. are ahead of the game in sim‐racing …

Ian Bell’s Slightly Mad Studios (SMS) have been funding—along with 40,000‐odd members (don’t call them investors!)—their first ‘World of Mass Development’ (WMD) project funded entirely by the studio and you (YOU). YOU being the person who shells out a certain amount of cash (there are tiers ranging from ‘Junior’ and ending with ‘Senior Manager’—your assignation depends on your cash contribution, and your contribution has a direct impact on how much weight your ideas carry) to become part of the process of creating a new SMS game. That in itself should be reason enough for many to participate; however, there is also the promise of a percentage of revenue to certain tier ‘investors’ who are, as we’re about to discover, not investors at all. As the man says,

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THE INTERVIEW—Ian Bell

Before we get into the sim itself, Ian, the financial model is really intriguing. I struggle to think of a comparable model, particularly in sim‐racing so … where did the idea come from? I recall us speaking some years ago at the onset of the iRacing model when you suggested that your studio could conceivably get into the pay‐to‐play model if iRacing proved viable. Was that the start of it, or did the idea come later? Well, what we're doing isn't pay‐to‐play. The intention of pCARs is to make it a full boxed game now. The funding mechanism is unique though. It's quite a few steps beyond standard crowd sourcing as the ‘members’ are providing us funding, LOC, QA, marketing, and design input and more, for which they get paid at the end based on their tool pack level. It's something that came to mind in a dream actually. I failed to see why no one else had thought of it, and quickly put the wheels in motion to make it a reality. A dream? Yeah, I dreamed the whole structure … woke up and wrote it down in rough form, then spent three months with lawyers ensuring we weren't contravening public offering laws. In a roundabout way, your customers are also your investors—would that be an accurate appraisal? Not investors—that would make it a public offering. They are independent contractors working for us, who purchase tools to enable them to do their work. This is what we pay them for at the end. I can imagine that is still leads to certain odd situations in which customers' desires (realism, for instance) may be

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offset by their financial desire (making a profit). Has this been the case? Yes absolutely, but that's a good thing. Making a game with no sense of commercial reality would be suicide. It’s a very important piece of the whole—two secs, phone … While he’s away, let’s take a look at pCARS. ‘An authentic and visceral racing experience that allows players to carve out a career starting in the karting world and progress to a specialization of their choice (rally, touring cars, drifting, open wheels, GT, Le Mans). Pursue that career either solo or with friends via co‐op and full team management and share your

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experience via a suite of tightly‐integrated social features.’ Graphically, meanwhile, pCARS has been at a level unseen in sim‐racing world. Plenty to look at, although, as Andrew Tyler makes clear in the issue, the physics are headed into a strange direction … Okay, back … Elsewhere, Ian, it’s been noted that you’re anticipating three million users in the pCARS universe. Can you explain the rationale behind these numbers? Is the three million the bare essential for having a viable product? And have you managed to secure the funding from the 'independent contractors'?

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We have been in talks with a number of good publishers and are arranging a distribution‐only deal with them where we take the lion’s share of the revenues. Mate, there's been an announcement of tax relief for games and my phone is ringing off the hook—give me ten and I'll keep going— While we wait, let’s take a quick look at Slighty Mad Studios. According to Develop 100’s 2010 edition (available at Issuu in case you’re interested), Slightly Mad Studios was ranked as the 17th most successful developer in ‘10. They have developed three games thus far: 2009’s Need for Speed: Shift which, according to VGChartz, has sold 2.5 million units on the PS3 alone: Need for Speed: Shift 2: Unleashed: and the upcoming Test Drive: Ferrari Legends slated for a summer of this year release. Back. Okay—so pCARS is built on the Shift platform. You have noted elsewhere that Shift came with compromises—were the compromises based around making Shift accessible to the console market, and is it simply a matter of turning a few elements off … or are we talking— It isn’t. Again, we've changed that. We had a poll on the forum and the members voted to change to a full boxed product. So now the aim is one million‐plus sales across all platforms. We're approaching half a million Euros in funding from the team members now. We also have a series of investors ready to commit but we’re ensuring we work with the right people. Can I ask why the change in focus? I'm not sure F2P works so well with racing games. Our quality was also approaching a level where we felt we

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could outdo the big established brands and that gave us some confidence to move to a standard AAA system. The voting was roughly ninety‐five percent in favor of the change.

Based on Shift? No.

So if I understand: the focus now is to build a simulator on all major platforms that will be boxed and published. Yup. Published by ...? To be decided or self?

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But creative director Andy Tudor was quoted in Eurogamer as saying, ‘We’re using the same engine, but we’re adding to it. It’s supposed to be modular, so there are things like weather, streaming and all that stuff that is being added to this game. We didn’t need to start from scratch again.’

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'Well, what we're doing isn't pay-toplay. The intention of pCARS is to make it a full boxed game now. The funding mechanism is unique though. It's quite a few steps beyond standard crowd sourcing as the ‘members’ are providing us funding, LOC, QA, marketing, and design input and more, for which they get paid at the end based on their tool pack level. It's something that came to mind in a dream actually. I failed to see why no one else had thought of it, and quickly put the wheels in motion to make it a reality.’ 38

He's wrong. We've written the DX render from scratch, the FFB from scratch, the tyre model is new and has made a big difference, the physics are new also, the input code is new, new input threaded in such a way to eliminate input lag, etc., etc. Some parts that aren’t critical are carried forward, but when you write a DX11 render, you can’t use the DX9 stuff. So what is the underlying engine? Is this your engine?

Rumor has it that that Eero had been bagged and dumped into the Thames after he finished up with you—is that about accurate? Not true, we filled it with concrete and poisoned him first. We're not cruel. Right. But he has left, is that true? Yes. He might come back later to work on some of the rally based extensions.

Yes So how far in its evolution—engine first—are you? And how far away are you from completion of the game itself? The bases are all there, it’s all polish from here on in. The game is about twenty‐five percent complete at the moment. We need mainly content and features now. The cars that are currently in are licensed? Tracks too? Some yes, and again some yes. We’re chasing finalising the licensing for everything though, and chasing more interesting licenses. Okay, so can I ask about visions since we've had dreams: what are we looking at, in your vision, as a final product? A series of cars and tracks randomly thrown in like GT5— or a simulated series of series like F1? A series of racing series: Start as a rookie in karts or another junior series and work your way up to the best machines and series in the world. And can I ask who wrote the physics engine? Steve Dunn, Eero Piitulainen, Peter Arbet, and our new chap, Andrew Webber.

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That would be heaven. So we will see this on console— and will the PC version allow the end user to make it as 'simmy' as they desire? Or are you committed to entertaining the console crowd? Yes, the game will be full sim, no compromises— —because you said of Shift that it came with compromises— We weren't in control, things changed in Shift towards the end. Understood—but you feel as if you're more in control of this product? Are you the benevolent dictator—or are the 'contractors' having a sway in your decisions? Phone, sec— So while we wait, let’s take a look at WMD. Not the ones that were apparently imported to Iran from Iraq and will feature in every war for the next hundred years, but the other WMD—the ‘World of Mass Development’ or, as it’s commonly referred to, crowd‐funding. That is, you get a crowd, and they fund you; sort of like playing the sax on the subway. But WMD is also a platform. So what does

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that mean? In Bell‐speak, ‘A new way to AAA’. That’s not a triple XXX brand of alcoholics anonymous brethren either; AAA is, erm, yeah—it’s three times better than A, but not two times better than A+. Or is it? Ian Bell has gone on the record as stating that, ‘It's nothing less than a revolutionary new approach to game development and funding. It allows developers to make the game they want to make, without undue publisher pressure. The concept of WMD allows developers to submit design ideas to an active gaming community, raise the funds needed to develop them, and get continual feedback from community team members that test work‐in‐progress builds. They can also use the WMD Portal to promote their project, get help from other developers, and ultimately successfully launch their game.’

No, we plan to support for some years. Do you see yourself in the same field as iRacing, ISI, and Simraceway—or are you playing on a different field altogether? We're a more realistic GT5 and Forza 4 for the masses and multiplatform.

Okay, so as a way of closing—how are the sales of that Ferrari game? I can't find it anywhere!

Right ... can you elaborate on that? Probably because it's not released yet, so give it a chance. In what way?

Back, where were we? We were talking about dictators. The team members have input in pretty much every important decision and most of the less important decisions that we make. We put it up as a poll and let the members decide. Their voting is weighted so the more expensive the tool pack they purchase, the more votes they get. So it’s exactly like a democracy—the richer you are, the more your vote ‘counts’. Moving on, and speaking about money, MyLoadBase N.V. bought sixty percent of SMS, yes?

In a way that explains why MyLoadBase N.V. bought your holding company? And does this in any way impact development of pCARS? None whatsoever. There's no relationship: it was a business deal unrelated to what we have. The game will include free and paid features, yes? Can you explain what will be free and what will be for purchase? Nope, it will all be stock AAA‐boxed and digital download product; we will most likely have a series of DLC post release on top with add‐ons at a future date.

No. Like the RACE series …

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Coffee is tasty. Excellent, I will use that in our scoop of the month. When will the actual news break? Are we talking weeks or days? I'm not sure, I think in two to three weeks. And no way you're giving me a hint right?

Ah. MyLoadBase N.V bought sixty percent of SMS Automotive GMBH. That's a holding company I set up with some investor friends to possibly use in future. You'll notice it’s SMS Automotive GMBH. That's not ‘us’.

Ah, right, that would have an impact on sales for sure! And finally, you announced last week (mid‐March) that it was, ‘about ninety‐five percent certain at this point that SMS will be changing company structure in the sense that we will become part of something bigger and better … This is generally “a very good thing” and will most likely make it such that we will have all funding in place for pCARs and thus will most likely close off investment for members in the very near future.’ Anything you want to add to that?

Much better than that … We think rally will be one, the rest are to be decided by the members.

Right

Will this will be an ongoing thing—as in, it's not Shift where it's released and you move on to next project?

If you were delaying getting into pCARS, now would probably be an opportune time

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JONDENTON

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ARE YOU WATCHING? The iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series (iWCGPS) entered its third season at Watkins Glen at the beginning of March, and will be three races deep by the time you read this. Running the Williams Toyota FW31 with the NTM this season, the series is the pinnacle of road racing within the iRacing service, and, arguably (though I can’t think of one), the premiere sim‐racing series on the planet. Those who are good enough to earn a PRO licence in iRacing must battle to the peak of their skills to become one of the top fifty road racers who qualify to run against the best sim‐racers in the business to claim the grand prize of $10,000 and the title— World Champion. Open to all, but attainable by just a few. Jon Denton sat down with inRacingNews’ iWCGPS correspondent, Chris Hall, to discuss this season’s prospects. www.autosimsport.net

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With 2011 champion Hugo Luis of My3id Gaming Team back to defend his title alongside a bolstered group of five team mates, and Team Redline’s 2010 champion Greger Huttu keen to reclaim his throne, this is poised to be one hell of a season, particularly with the animosity that grew between Redline and My3id last season. I began by asking inRacingNews’ Chris Hall whether the rise of My3ID last year is an indicator that we will see any new teams make an impact on this season. “My3id’s ‘safety in numbers’ approach last year certainly reaped benefits for them, and with so many of them being front runners, Greger Huttu really did have his work cut out. This year, on the face of things, it looks like it’s going to be similar, but the Signing of Atze Kerkhof to Team Redline for this season means My3id will have a bigger fight on their hands. ‘It's possible that Team Podium Assault will break through and take some of the glory, but I think they might struggle from a lack of ‘strength in numbers’ to be consistent enough to be the top team by the end of the year.’ My3id are entering six cars in the series this year, with André Böttcher and Martin Krönke joining incumbent members Jesse Nieminen, David Williams, Aleksi Elomaa, and 2011 champion Hugo Luis. Strength in numbers indeed. Only two teams won races last year, and with Team Redline fielding a line‐up of Huttu, Ben Cornett, Dom Duhan, Luke McLean, Darren Marsh, and promising newcomer Atze Kerkhof (dominant winner of last year’s iRacing.com Pro Series Road Racing), it will indeed be difficult for other teams to get a look in. I ask Chris if he thinks there will be any surprises this year,or is iRacing’s premiere series mirroring the FIA’s premiere series, F1, where certain teams just keep dominating the team year in year out? ‘At the moment, it looks like they're the most likely teams to be fielding the winning driver for each race, but you can't write off the likes of Radicals Racing, CST Ajira, and Team Podium Assault. They all have their share of quality drivers who, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, and with a bit of luck, could find them taking race wins.

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‘Just look at Luke McLean last year. Although he’s a Redline driver, he was still able to take an “unexpected” win at his “home” circuit of Phillip Island when the front‐runners all had dramas. ‘Last season, the relationship between Redline and My3id got a bit tense at times, and if the arrival of Kerkhof adds to the competition at the front, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see some shenanigans that’ll give some higher finishes to the “second tier” of racers.’ A lot of that tense atmosphere was borne out of the suspicion that one team was exploiting a setup tweak that brought extra speed. This year the NTM has come to the Williams FW31, meaning most setup sheets need to be scrapped, and all the DWC drivers will have been hard at work trying to find an edge on setup. Could this not, in itself, bring a potential shake up of the order as the banning of the blown diffusers has done to F1 this season?

‘It might do. But I think there was a lot of smoke and mirrors last year. There were claims that My3id had “found” something in car setup that gave them the edge, but in a season that lasted over eighteen races, I believe that proved to be wrong. Over all the hours of testing, practice and racing, if My3id did have something extra, then other teams and drivers would have found it. Plain and simple, I put down My3id’s 2011 success down to talent, teamwork, and strength in depth. ‘We may see some surprises in the opening rounds, but I think the usual names will be rising to the top, because everyone has been dealt the same raft of changes—setup can get a car so far, but its talent that makes a winner.’ Yes, the larger the team the more setup directions they can test at once to find the optimum solutions sooner. In the earlier stages of last season, it seemed that certain My3id drivers were benefitting more from the team’s setup direction than others. Hugo Luis, arguably, did not look like their main challenger from day one. While Jesse Nieminen looked to be the fastest ‘out of the box’ what went wrong with Nieminen's season? And can he reverse it this year? ‘A lot of Jesses’ issues were technical. Several times he was dropped from races due to connection issues, and to be fighting for a championship, you just can’t afford have such failures. His issue was compounded by the fact his opening races were plagued with disconnections, which resulted in him chasing the points and pushing harder to get results.’ The ‘mechanical issues’ of virtual racing, Nieminen dropped out of the lead of more than one race because his ADSL router failed. It’s galling enough when it happens in

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any race, to drop out of a World Championship event for such issues must bring a ferocious rage. If he’s got everything fixed for this year, then it could certainly make the championship more interesting. To my mind, Nieminen looked like the fastest driver out there last season, though I did not see all the races due to the late Saturday night timing and my affliction of a social life. Many of the non‐US based competitors complained about the 22.00 GMT start time. ‘The start time is still the same, yes, with the green flag dropping at 22.00 UK time. It can be a late start for some of the drivers on the continent, but unfortunately, I believe no matter what time the racing was scheduled for, it’s going to affect someone.’ So what of Greger Huttu? Has his talent faded. or does he remain the strongest all‐round driver in the field? ‘I think Greger's talent is embedded in his DNA. Over the past ten‐twelve years, he’s raised the bar of sim‐racing to an astronomical high. If you consider how long he’s dominated online‐racing, it's amazing that it’s taken this long for the rest to catch up. And that’s what I think has happened; Greger hasn’t lost any of his sheen, it’s just the rest of the world has finally got to his level. It’s so difficult to judge if he’s the strongest all‐round driver in the field now, his record does speak for itself, but 2011 saw him beaten to the chequered flag, and the championship, so the stats say he’s not.” Having raced him a few times online I am fairly sure he is a machine. ‘Me too!’ says Chris. Does he think, though, that drivers like Ray Alfalla and R. Towler, who compete in both the iWCGPS and the NASCAR iRacing Series World Championship (NiDWC), give themselves a handicap? Focus has to end up in one place, eventually, and Alfalla, who has a NASCAR title to his name, boasts but a few isolated top 5s in the iWCGPS. ‘That's an interesting point. I think Towler returning to defend his title in the NASCAR sanctioned series at the cost of his F1 racing was the right thing to do; that win earned

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him a job a Eutechnyx to help develop ‘NASCAR 2011 The Game’ for consoles. But then in 2011, his NASCAR season fell to pieces, with too many DNFs and incidents, so hopefully he’ll switch to focusing on the iWCGPS this season, although he can be a divisive character, he adds colour to the series. ‘As for Ray Alfalla, his consistent finishes last year earned him huge kudos, and I thought he balanced both series very well, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose to focus more on defending his newly earned NASCAR title this year, whilst dropping sporadic F1 races, especially if the oval results don’t start arriving early in the season. He does, after all, have the chance of becoming the first sim‐racer to retain the NASCAR crown, and making iRacing history.’ As for Hugo Luis, I think he was a silent charger that made relatively little fireworks in the series but got on with a very fast and solid job throughout the season. If you had asked me after the opening round in 2011 who would win the series, I would not have chosen Luis, but he always kept the car going and took five wins and the title. Do you think he can do it again this year? ‘He certainly did ‘stalk’ his way to the title. It was the consistent high finishes, whilst others fell by the wayside that proved to be most beneficial for him. This season, I think it’ll be a tougher job to do it again, but he can still do it, and with the 2011 title to his name, he’ll be buoyant with confidence. To be honest, this year it’s so difficult to call who will be at the top.’ Yes, I agree, but the same could be said last year and in the end it came down to three men. Klaus Kivekas also came through as a quiet contender, with some very strong races in 2011. Do you think he can step up to the plate this year? ‘Klaus has the speed, although he did struggle at a couple of the circuits last year, I think 2011 was a valuable experience to him, and will be a front runner once again. He's certainly going to add to the ever growing pack of front runners this year.’

THE SCHEDULE: BROADCAST LIVE

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—3/3/12 – WATKINS GLEN —3/17/12 – ZANDVOORT —3/31/12 – INDIANANAPOLIS ROAD COURSE —4/14/12 – SEBRING INTERNATIONAL —4/28/12 – OKAYAMA INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT —5/12/12 – ROAD AMERICA —5/26/12 – INFINEON RACEWAY LONG —6/9/12 – VIRGINIA INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY —7/7/12 – SILVERSTONE GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT —7/21/12 – PHILLIP ISLAND CIRCUIT —8/4/12 – MID‐OHIO SPORTS CAR COURSE —8/18/12 – ROAD ATLANTA —9/1/12 – CIRCUIT DE SPA FRANCORCHAMPS —9/15/12 – SUZUKA CIRCUIT —9/29/12 – TBA —10/13/12 – TBA Alas, two races in, it seems Klaus has opted to stick with racing LMP sportscars, with the number 3 car not starting either at Watkins Glen or Zandvoort. So, to the crunch. Will you put your balls on the line and make a call on who your tip is for the title this year? ‘After following his progress through the Pro Series Championship at the end of last year, I'd have to say Atze


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Kerkhof would be my selection. If you look at his dominant win at Indianapolis in the Pro Series last year, his average lap and total race time, in the same spec F1 car, were way faster than Huttu's World Championship winning times at the same circuit. If Atze can hold his nerve, stay patient, and not feel obliged to let his team principle have the advantage, then I feel he’s going to be the man to beat. That said, I tipped Luca Masier at the start of the 2011 season, and I think he only competed in two races, so what do I know.’ That raises another question—does he think team orders could start playing a part over the season if one team driver looks to have an edge? ‘I’ve asked drivers and managers this myself. They wholeheartedly say there are no team orders, and I pretty much believe that. I think Redline actually have it easier, because it’ll likely be Greger and Atze who will be fighting it out, so there’s less permutations than My3id, who have four to five drivers who could be fighting for the title as the season reaches its twilight, which means, they’re less likely to help each other out. You notice I say “help out” there, because I think that’s a better phrase than team orders—I don’t see it working as orders per se, more like the team talking and agreeing that they should help a particular driver out.’ Maybe one day team management will come to the fore, and there will be raging accusations and fierce intra‐team rivalry. For now, in these early stages, it’s every man for himself. As I write this, the drivers will be preparing for the third round of the series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this evening. In the two races run so far, Huttu has taken one win, at Watkins Glen, with Luis taking the second race at Zandvoort. Two races, two world champions taking wins, but with a third place in the dunes, Huttu leads the championship. After all these years, sim‐racing finally has a competition that challenges its best drivers. Are you watching?

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Odd’n’Ends

An irreverent look at the world of digital motor‐sports …

ANDREWTYLER

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THE FUTURE So here we are, standing triumphantly on the verge, gazing into the gleaming future of sim‐racing with set jaws and sparklAing eyes. Assetto Corsa, pCARS, and rFactor2 are the Trylon and Perisphere rising majestically out of the brushed‐steel and gleaming‐white concrete landscape of Tomorrow—a tomorrow where racing sims are indistinguishable from reality in every way, everyone agrees, and an enlightened peace settles gently onto the websites and message boards around the world like a blanket of freshly fallen snow. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s all bullshit. I’m going to not merely be the Devil’s Advocate, but I’ve taken full control of

the peanut gallery won’t find new and increasingly creative ways to totally misunderstand the mechanics of racing cars. So, here’s what the future has in store: First, two years of unauthorized conversions and infighting, a brief golden age of brilliant mods that nobody uses (preferring to race whatever is easiest to drive), and then a slow decline while everyone waits for rFactor3. This is, of course, assuming the sometimes wonky graphics and questionable performance of the current beta are indeed just artifacts that will be sorted out as development continues—otherwise, it will just be Meganes at Essington forever. The Devil never saw that one coming!

those are actually sims but glorified arcade games. Well, whatever crazy crap they’re thinking up next at Slightly Mad, at least they’ve given up on the Pay2Win job. That’s a winner right there. Because even the Devil doesn’t like micro‐purchases AKA nickel‐and‐diming scumbags. As for what engine is actually powering their sim, the current one has some problems, particularly in the input and FFB department, but they’ve still got a while to sort that out. If they manage to figure out what Eero left them with for physics and can improve upon that, it could be something one day. Incidentally, by the time you read this, they probably won’t be taking donations (investments? down payments? deposits?) anymore for some reason or

The press release has Henrik quoted as saying the usual executive parting—it has been a pleasure and I need to spend time with the family just as soon as I can get married and get a kid bla bla—but we naturally have to wonder what’s really going on there, and if GTR3 will ever actually happen in anything like the form we want it to (they simultaneously announced a new, unnamed, free2play ‘game platform’). Perhaps it’ll be Race Insemination? the trial on the grounds that the Devil clearly isn’t competent enough to look after his own interests. So, take that for what it is, even though you won’t, because you are blessedly ignorant and judge the physics of a racing sim based solely on the version of DirectX it uses and how fast you can drive with your gamepad. I would therefore appreciate it if you try not to take offense, but I know you’re really too dimwitted to know better anyway. That won’t stop you from bitching though, because that is all you ever do. RFACTOR2 Oh great, in five years we’ll have six good mods, two‐ hundred half‐assed mods, and another thousand mods poorly ported without permission from F1C or whatever. At least ISI had the sense to take a lot of the control of the tyre model away from the Notepad wielding lunatics, and even the devil himself was saying that the FFB was pretty good before I brained him with a shovel and buried him up to his neck in my basement. Don’t think for a minute though that

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PCARS It’s already pretty and has lots of shiny, so I know you like it based on just that alone, and being the simple‐minded trusting sort, you think someone actually read your four page dissertation on their message board about why animated windshield wipers are at the heart of a good physics engine. Well, assuming half of the donations (investments? down payment? deposit?) haven’t already been converted into mountains of cocaine to keep everyone up while they figure out how to get the other half down into a Panamanian safety deposit box while drip‐feeding you the leftover content cut from Shift2, you might actually get what GTR3 would have been minus the license had SimBin not exploded five or whatever years ago. Naturally being the sweetheart that you are with your pink glasses and cheap mug of beer, you probably thought the recent additions of open road courses along the California and French coastlines point more towards a ‘driving sim’ to compete with GT5 and Forza, and forgot that neither of

another (and in case you haven’t quite figured it out yet, ask yourself—why wouldn’t they, as it pretty much just amounts to a down‐payment on a pre‐order?), so if you haven’t gotten in on that yet, you’ll have to wait until it’s done … or whatever. GTR3 So, GTR2 was great for its time and a lot of people still love it and mods like Power & Glory keep it feeling fresh. Well, GTR2 was developed by Blimey Games under contract to SimBin in its current (apparently third but who’s counting) incarnation. What’s more, Blimey itself is dead and gone, its ashes sucked into Slightly Mad Studios that rose like a Phoenix with Shift, and none of this has anything to do with the SimBin of today and GTR3. So why am I talking about it? Because the SimBin of today made RACE and its god‐ knows‐how‐many addons—including titles named for people just like you, like Race On, and, yes, Race Injection (which I bet you have framed in your race room). RACE, and

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particularly the GTR Evolution addon, was okay for its time, but hasn’t been relevant for a while. You can only milk the same tired simulation engine so far, and they milked that thing down to skin and bones and whatever’s coming out now, it isn’t milk. And it don’t smell too good either. They did at one point have this Lizard engine they were trying to market to third parties, but for some reason they never mention that anymore. It was used, once, in their crappy Xbox360 title RACE Pro which even our own Bob Simmerman didn’t like, and that guy loves everything. Actually you may be Bob Simmerman! It was also recently announced that Henrik Roos has left SimBin. But being a know‐nothing, you probably don’t know that Ian Bell founded SimBin, and Roos funded development of GTR The Game, and GTR2 which is about the time Ian Bell left to found Blimey leaving behind Roos and whoever didn’t follow Bell back to London. Now Roos has also left, and SimBin has been left to its current owners and operators, KW Motorsports (who make shock absorbers). The press release has Henrik quoted as saying the usual executive parting, it has been a pleasure and I need to spend time with the family just as soon as I can get married and get a kid bla bla, but we naturally have to wonder what’s really going on there, and if GTR3 will ever actually happen in anything like the form we want it to (they simultaneously announced a new, unnamed, free2play ‘game platform’). Perhaps it’ll be Race Insemination? So, in case you hadn’t picked up on it, I have my doubts about GTR3. Of course, you see a lot of people about various message boards psyched up because it’s named after a once great sim developed by nearly an entirely different company, but even you aren’t that gullible … are you? My advice to you: take a wait and see on that. Just because it’s called GTR3 doesn’t mean it will be good, and just because it’s a few degrees removed from those who made Race Injection, doesn’t mean it will be bad. That all

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means precisely nothing. It will be what it is, and we’ll see about that anyway. One day. Maybe. ASSETTO CORSA Ah, the Italians, so much passion, such strong espresso (those two are probably related). Kunos Simulazioni, apart from being hard to spell for someone more used to Germanic languages, gave us Netkar Pro. Netkar Pro still is, of course, the benchmark for physics against which all others are measured. You wouldn’t know that because you’re a xenophobe and like everyone else, you hated it. And you know what? You were right, despite the fact that you never bought it or tried it. Yes, the netcode was abysmal, you were lucky to get more than thirty frames per second in a race on even the most badass hardware of the time, and the developers just up and disappeared for two years. Running nKPro was tantamount to being that fella in the Clockwork Orange movie, forced to endure thirty‐seven straight days of Fellini movies without subtitles, on a loop, starting with 8½ … Four years later and the netcode is still nothing like that of rFactor or iRacing, but it’s at least raceable (if not too closely), the physics have gotten even better, and I’m told Roger Moore is somehow responsible for framerates being solid, but he was a terrible James Bond so I don’t believe it, though it is anyway. So, these guys are going to bring us a brand new sim. One does worry because the last time that happened, it took four years post‐release to make it work properly. Stefano AKA Kunos is a pretty intelligent guy though, and even after much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the community, it has to be said he learned from his mistakes. Actually, he may have been the first guy to ever have learnt anything from a message board on the internet. So maybe someone did read your four page post after all. But you don’t actually believe that, do you? Bottom line, even the Devil is pretty positive about this one. Me? I say take a wait and see. An Italian and a car in the same package should never be trusted.

IRACING More. The same. I guess. Expect to get punted off a lot but apologized to (or, alternatively, get blamed for having the audacity to be in front of your punter in the first place) but with the personal tenacity that comes from having paid for the privilege. It’s the weird nether‐region between clean, respectful league racing and getting rammed by 13‐ year‐old kids tending towards the shouty, racist side of the autism spectrum in a public server. In the cars where they have it sorted, the New Tyre Model is actually pretty impressive. Of course, it’s only actually truly sorted in a couple cars. Hopefully it will be sorted out of the box in new cars. Speaking of, people are excited about the upcoming Lotus 49—a car that is threatening to become the slut of sim‐racing, and about to feature in iRacing, rFactor2 (sorta), pCARS (kinda), GPL (when she was young and full of bite), and Assetto Corsa. It would be in more but that’s all the sims there are. As for the iRacing version, if we’ve learned anything from the Lotus 79, it’s that it will be too hard for most people to race properly, and after the honeymoon period, you’ll have trouble finding a race when you want one. Of course, the Lotus 49 will probably be an order of magnitude or so harder to drive than the 79 as well, so you won’t be racing that, will you? No, you’ll probably opt for the Jetta (not even the Devil saw that one dominating the iRacing schedule) or, just for you, the Cadillac GT car (with no turn‐signal to leave on indefinitely) and a Porsche named RUF whose bark isn’t quite as bad as its bite. LIVE FOR SPEED S3 Just kidding. Presumably even you aren’t expecting anything but another annual re‐wording of the same old tire‐model announcement. IN CONCLUSION Until such time as all this crap gets released, provided that ever happens, I’m waiting for Racing Legends.

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Simon Croft thinks the community’s reaction to the rF2 beta release was damaging, as he explains below—and recalls a time when the community and a developer ate at each other’s nerves … remember when they were …

ALMOST LEGENDS

SIMONCROFT

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RFACTOR2 POLEMICS A fairly major event occurred within the sim world since last we met: the rFactor2 beta release. Whilst `only’ a beta release, it can be considered, with its buy‐in nature, a full blown release of an evolving product (a term we’ve pretty much grown accustomed to). Indeed, despite the economic downturn (who knows, perhaps in a round‐about way, partly because of it), sim‐racing itself appears to be in fairly rude health right now, and in what seems a continuous cycle of fertile periods and barren spells, recent and upcoming releases would suggests that we are very much in the midst of another golden era for our hobby. But the release of the rF2 beta, sadly, did not fill me with happiness. Was I disappointed with the release? No, it wasn’t that. Was I wishing it wasn’t rF2 heading down the phone line to my hard‐drive, but something else? No, not that either. No, what I found thoroughly disappointing about the release was the way some in the community decided to behave. I tend to shield myself away from forums these days but, even so, it was hard to avoid the furore brewing as the release neared. What, you ask, had ISI done that was so abhorrent? Had they taken people’s money in advance and not delivered? Had they somehow presented a steaming digital beta‐turd for users to download? No, none of that, the supposed crime ISI had committed was … to not have already released it. Anger was flowing over because people were actually having to wait for something to be released. Forced to wait for a beta release … Shock, horror and all the rest. Some of what I read, I have to admit, was simply embarrassing. Embarrassing in the way that someone else’s stupidity makes you feel bad. It didn’t matter how many personal Tweets, forum posts/threads or news site posts I saw Tim Wheatley read and individually respond to (I’m sure next time he’s in such a position he will have a pre‐ typed list of replies and have his fingers hovering over the Ctrl, c and v keys of his keyboard), the same questions kept coming the and fury grew. “Why don’t you just release it now?”, “Why don’t you give us an exact release time/date?”, “Why are you making us wait?” ... The answers were there, and they made perfect sense, but that just wasn’t enough for some; the idea that they were forced to wait seemed, somehow, a personal slight that no amount of calm, rational explanation could soothe. Now, I’m not tarring the whole community with the same brush here; I’m not saying everyone behaved like this. It was just a sad reminder of the old vocal minority. I say old because this of course isn’t a new occurrence. Sure, the proliferation and uptake of social media and faster, easier net access means that news reaches people faster than ever. Similarly, it’s quicker and easier than ever to get yourself heard and, as in this case, heard directly by the dev’ team. But I found it dis‐heartening watching Wheatley repeatedly forced to make the same statements over and over (a quick tip for some out there: read more than you say‐ it will save a lot of people a lot of time), and the incessant flow of vitriol with which they were too

often met. Today’s online social age puts people closer than ever to the coal face of software development (SMS’s pCARS is perhaps the logical extension of the user/developer relationship), and offers previously unrivalled access to members of the teams. What some fail to realise, however, is that this is a privilege and –as those of us who remember the days when games came in boxes and playing the game was the only interaction one had (or rather didn’t) with the developers‐ something I am sure I am not alone in appreciating and enjoying. But it also comes with a flip side, and that is, we, as customers and consumers, have a greater responsibility. Our words are no longer just digital trees falling in the woods with no‐one but a few close e‐acquaintances to check if it makes a sound or not. When your words can and do get put directly to the people you want them to, you need to be a bit more careful about what you’re actually saying. Before you say it, this isn’t some `poor devs’ sympathy piece; it‘s merely intended as a word of caution to those who type before they think or, in a worryingly alarming number of cases, don’t seem capable of thinking at all. We currently enjoy a good deal of exposure and interaction with people in all areas of sim development. Whilst it’s true that in the past there have been teams (the LFS developers being a prime example) who have partaken in a healthy level of community interaction, this is usually under the umbrella of their own forums surrounded with a certain degree of, shall we say, boyish fanaticism. Forums are also, of course, moderated. As mentioned earlier, I’m in no doubt that a vocal minority are making the most noise‐ it has been this way for a long time and likely always will be, and is representative of human nature. However, just as the old adage states that it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, it won’t take a huge amount of idiotic behaviour and outbursts to spoil for every one the rich level of dev’ interaction we are all currently privy to. I’m far from advising that communication should be reserved solely for positivity and praise‐ that would render our exposure to the developers somewhat irrelevant; rather, I’m suggesting that our comments should be reserved for reasoned, rational, and intelligent discourse. Pondering this situation, I found myself looking back to the past and thinking of occurrences of dev’/customer relations souring within our sim world. I thought of the LFS community, and how previously they had been the envy of the sim community for their relationship with the dev’ team and how they are now increasingly left in the dark as to what is happening behind the scenes; I thought of nK‐Pro, too, and how relationships between the community and the dev’ team became strained and quickly deteriorated following the initial release, thankfully to then recover again. When a happy, solid relationship is there you can enjoy and appreciate it, but only when it’s gone do you realise how valuable it can be. And then I got onto thinking about one instance that stands out for me far more than any other…

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RACING LEGENDS POLEMICS To some in the community, these words will rouse many a mixed emotion. To others, especially those who are younger or relatively new to the community, they will likely mean very little at all. This perhaps goes some way to reflecting on the fate of Racing Legends; what is was, and what it would never be. Turn back the clocks, and a small development team (West Racing) were working on the title World Sports Cars. Unveiled at the 2000 E3 convention, WSC began to gather attention within the community. At the time, GPL was but a couple of years old and still very much the sim‐benchmark, but WSC seemed to be promising features that previously sim racers could only have dreamt of; hell, some of those features are still missing from some of today’s cutting edge sims. It seemed the real deal; from the fully‐modelled suspension, component wear, damage and sophisticated tyre model to the dynamic sound engine, beautiful graphics and acute attention to detail, it looked set to shift sim‐racing onto a whole new level of realism. What’s more, Chris and Tony West were clearly passionate, driven individuals, and it was difficult not to get swept up by their enthusiasm. With big‐time publisher Empire Interactive backing the project, there seemed no reason why the sim‐ racing world wouldn’t soon be presented with a very special simulator. So why is there a good chance you haven’t heard of WSC? GPL, even to this day, still enjoys attention and use, but where is WSC? Let’s just say things went a bit wrong. Exactly what happened has never been openly discussed, but it soon became apparent that a project like WSC, under development by a small team of conscientious perfectionists, was not compatible with the typical developer/publisher model of the day. The net result was that West Racing and Empire went their separate ways, and WSC was never to see the light of day. Or, more specifically, it was reborn in the form of Total Immersion Racing, developed by Razorworks and released in late 2002. I’m not sure if it was ever officially confirmed, but it is widely known (amongst those who know such things anyway!) that some of what was developed for WSC had been reworked into TIR. The game enjoyed mediocre reviews, and both publisher and developer are no more‐ Razorworks shut down after 12 years on the back of Empire going into administration in 2008. And what became of the West Brothers? Jump forward a few months after the split with Empire, and it became apparent that Chris and Tony were once again working on something, a new project named Racing Legends. Some in the community observed a few changes on the West Racing website, specifically what seemed to be a daily countdown. Upon the site `launching’ it wasn’t long before someone tacked “/forum” on the end of the address and

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found… I’m sure you can guess. News of this spread quickly, and before they knew it, West Racing had an active forum on their hands. This wasn’t planned. It later transpired that the website was changed in preparation for a trip to the Goodwood Festival of Speed where info’ packs were to be handed out to real world car owners, teams and drivers. The website and forums were simply an extension of this. With this unexpected and unintended series of events, a community quickly grew over on the West Racing forums. Many had been avid followers of WSC and simply brought their enthusiasm and passion over to this new project. Others, like myself, began their journey with the WR story at this point. Yes, there were the odd troll and the usual forum pricks that plague any site, but on the whole the forums were a happy place with a highly enthusiastic and supportive crowd. This was no doubt helped by Chris and Tony being thoroughly nice guys. Some forums members met them at the GFOS and brought back stories of conversations and observation to the forums, and it all helped to feed a real sense of unity with WR and what they were trying to achieve. And this was the crux of the support and enthusiasm: what they were trying to achieve was so far beyond anything seen at that point in time that it was difficult not to be drawn in. The Wests reciprocated, too. Although a small team and very busy, they posted on the forums and joined in conversations, and news and updates were posted on the homepage. They even went as far as to set up a webcam where you could see them working on RL in real time, where Spooky the cat (R.I.P.) became a kind of unofficial mascot. Sitting here ten years later (Jesus!...) with the Racing Legends website open in front of me, looking at the development images and reading the news posts, it’s difficult to put into words what it felt like when I first saw these things; this isn’t because all those feelings have gone ‐Racing Legends, after all this time, still stirs my sim‐soul‐ but rather because they are inert, intangible feelings. The best way I can describe the feeling each image and update gave me was similar to what I feel when I see a really fine piece of engineering; that sense you get when you see a meticulously prepared race car, a beautifully formed piece of carbon fibre, or a fine piece of milled billeted aluminium. I’m aware I can be a bit weird so perhaps this isn’t a step forwards in explaining myself … For me, Racing Legends always had an air and aura of perfection about it. It was as though everything was perfectly honed and crafted, and it wasn’t just the screenshots that exuded this quality. Reading plans for the product, and also Chris and Tony’s attitudes and explanations of what they were doing and why, Racing Legends seemed

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a well‐ formed and ‐oiled machine, with every component working in unison, smoothly integrating into the whole to create an unrivalled structure. Little things that sound trivial now and have been ridiculed and mocked repeatedly over the years‐ those were a big part of what made RL so appealing to me. Special leather bound manuals and brochures for the program; each car coming on its own mini‐CD with accompanying documentation; the Team Lotus transporter bus (perhaps the largest single source of derision and piss‐taking in sim‐racing history) to carefully unload your car from; the barn door garage from which you could wheel your car out and listen to the tyres crunch on the gravel underfoot … little touches that would have made little or no difference to the experience of driving a car on track, but that would have had unknown levels of impact on the immersion of car ownership and all that it entails. Whilst a lot of this might sound fanciful, or self‐indulgent and pointless to some, they formed the backdrop for things that could really have had a massive effect on the realism of the product and sim‐racing itself. Whilst it is an open and ultimately endless debate to say which is the most `realistic’ sim available today (inverted commas since even something as seemingly objective as realism is ultimately a highly subjective thing when it comes down to individual opinion), let’s choose iRacing as a case in point. iRacing pitches itself not as a game, not even `just’ a sim, but as a training tool. Its claims to realism, from its New Tyre Model through to laser‐scanned tracks, arguably make it an invaluable training and development tool to real world drivers looking for that extra edge. But just how realistic is it? To begin with, I’ll right away dismiss issues of G‐forces, fear, field of view, and anything else related to the physicality and psychology of sitting behind a PC monitor versus heading towards a wall at 200mph in a real car. Multi‐monitor setups and motion platforms move things along the realism spectrum, but these `issues’ plague every simulation alike, and RL would have been no different. The tracks are unquestionably highly accurate and well‐conceived (albeit slightly dead and lifeless). The bumps, cambers, layout, elevation changes and trackside scenery are all lovingly and wonderfully recreated. The car models look very much like their real‐world versions, and there’s no reason to doubt that information about component weights, geometry and performance are much like their real‐world counterparts. Whilst elements like aerodynamic and tyre modelling are always going to be constantly developing with our (or rather, developers’) understanding and the available computational resources, again, I think it’s reasonable to suggest that they are in the right ball park and, perhaps just as importantly, constantly evolving and heading in the right direction. The NTM is not perfect and has its faults, but it also does a pretty good job of simulating the interaction between rubber and the black stuff.

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World Sports Cars ended with this; and the only thing that was immersed was WSC …

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Racing itself, meanwhile, is governed by a sporting code that bears a resemblance to real‐world rule books, and incidents and disputes are watched over by a complaints panel. Just how well the latter functions is another discussion for another day, but the point is that, along with the computer code to ensure a realistic driving model, there are also steps in place to (attempt to) ensure a realistic driving/racing experience. All of this forms a pretty compelling case for saying iRacing is a solid piece of software when it comes to simulating motor vehicles and motorsport. Indeed, these arguments are exactly why iRacing is right up there with the cream of today’s sim crop. So where am I going with this? iRacing is an abstraction of reality. All PC simulations are to some degree, and iRacing less than most if not all (nK‐Pro perhaps earning the Hard(est) Core badge from me). Even any attempts made right now to eschew any semblance of usability or fun in a pursuit of absolute, pure realism in a PC simulation would be such an abstraction by the very nature of the platform. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of room for improvement. Nearly all of the AutoSimSport staffers run iRacing. Some more than others, but we all have/do run it. What happens when Denton goes and posts a quicker time than Martini, and the mid‐life crisis and ego kick in again? Usually Martini declares Denton is mistaken and hasn’t actually run that time. Then it must be that Denton has changed setup whilst Martini is running fixed setup. Then Martini asserts that Denton must be cheating by some means or other. Then after a few angry, profanity strewn emails Martini will either come back saying “Just ran a X.XX.XXX, I am better” or “You’re a cheating ****, **** off!”. Regardless of the time achieved though, there is something that is almost without fail true: Martini will have written off a few million pounds worth of machinery. He’ll have (countless times) binned it into a barrier and reset to the pits. The covers will be taken off of another virtual car and the process started again. And this brings us back to Racing Legends. One thing that was suggested in RL is that you would have actually owned your car. I don’t just mean you’ll hand over your money and receive a download/CD and there it is for you to race like any other DLC works. No, your car would have come with its very own and unique chassis codes and numbers. You would have painted it, tuned it, even maintained it‐ it would have been your own car. It would have had a place in your garage where it would have lived‐ yes, it would have been just a collection of folders sitting on your hard drive, a digital representation made up of vertices and polygons, textures and some physics files like every sim car before and since‐ but, it would have had a soul because it would, ultimately, have been yours. It would have been different to everyone else’s, it would have been unique. It would have been your car. Looking back at the renders and shots that were released, it’s hard even now not to be impressed. You can see a few places where the poly’ count is constraining a curve or feature (indeed, I’m quite sure the poly count is nothing like many assumed it was; Tony is not only a brilliant modeller, he’s also a fantastic texture artist), but the level of detail has only relatively recently been surpassed. Well, sort of … SMS have been releasing increasingly beautiful and detailed renders and shots of their content for pCARS. A quick look at their Lotus 49 shots shows a meticulous attention to detail

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(and an eye‐watering poly’ count to boot), but ultimately it’s a purely aesthetic feature. Look back at the RL updates‐ particularly the one detailing the work that had continued on the modelling of the Ford DFV unit that is found bolted to the back of the 49 tub‐ and you discover that this wasn’t just an empty shell, a textured black box with unknown inner workings. When Tony said he had been working on modelling the DFV, he meant modelling practically every single piece of it. All internals were modelled and textured, and linked in a physical system where by each individual piece would wear with use and abuse. The engine could then be dismantled in the aforementioned garage for wannabe mechanics and engineers to inspect the parts and check for fatigue. If all of this sounds like your worst nightmare, and all you want to do is drive, then it was all planned to be optional. But it was the kind of option I would have loved. The detail and passion displayed and conveyed by the West brothers was infectious, and you could sense many felt a similar level of affinity with the drive for the ultimate that they were pursuing. The simple inclusion of a working odometer in Shift made a car feel so much more personal to me. When today you look

at the various sims we regard as being at the pinnacle, and in one or more they don’t properly model transmissions or brake temperatures and wear, allow you to stall or flat spot your tyres, you begin to realise just how much room remains for improvement, and how ambitious and ground breaking RL could have been across the board. So, as with WSC, the question has to be asked: what happened? Whilst many, like myself, were hugely excited and positive about RL and everything the Wests were trying to achieve, there was a strange air of hostility that was always simmering away, often in the background, but every now and then it came to the fore. It’s a bit difficult to explain now as I never really understood it at the time. Certainly on the WR forums it was a few vocal individuals (some of whom were quite well known in the community for somewhat less than exemplary conduct) who, with every update, aimed derision and animosity towards RL and the Wests themselves. A few rifts brewed away on the forums, often between just a few members, but it regularly permeated further and tainted the mood and the forums as a whole. Some seemed angry at the Wests for posting news. There were accusations of hype building and thunder‐stealing from other sims that were actually available or imminent. But this was how things had been since the beginning. What went wrong from where things were? Initially, it’s quite simple: the updates slowed and the feed of info dried up, and people grew impatient. Some, as is always the case, grew impatient if it had literally been a day over a month since the last update. Others demonstrated more patience, but by the time five months or so had passed since the last update, restlessness reached a peak. Some offered reasonable arguments as to why it would be in the Wests’ (own) interests to improve their communication with the community. Others spouted vitriol and personal insults. The forums I had spent so much time on (I hold the perhaps dubious honour of top poster over on the WR forums), where I had met and chatted with so many people, some of whom I am in contact with to this day (I first met Mr. Denton and Mr. Simmerman over there), fell apart. Many people just drifted away, others decided to vent their anger and frustrations in less than diplomatic ways, whilst some of us tried to keep things calm in the face of growing unrest. But it became increasingly futile, and even the most ardent of followers slowly saw their resolve fade. In hindsight, it was all a bit of a shambles. Chris and Tony (joined by physics guru Dr Gregor Vebles) were a small team working on a highly ambitious project. They had invested a lot of time, money, and energy into RL, going so far as to sell their house and cars. They really did put everything on the line to pursue the dream that WSC sadly hadn’t turned in to. As with probably every software release in history, but especially in this case, no one had more reason to want to see the product ship and be successful than the devs themselves (sounds an obvious thing to say, but you see the comments some people make and you have to wonder sometimes …). They were also perhaps somewhat naïve. The website and forums broke cover prematurely and unplanned. To their credit‐ though ultimately probably to their own detriment‐ instead of just shutting it all down, they let it remain up and running. The problem was that as soon as a community had formed, it demanded info, content and news for sustenance to survive and maintain itself.

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The RL forums were a place where people hung out and discussed much more beyond just RL itself (I guess we kind of had to!); it was here where I first learned of NetKar, for example, and we talked about all other sims, real racing, irreverent subjects … It really was a mini motorsport and sim forum and community, not just a RL forum. However, RL was the reason that everyone was there, and it wasn’t going to sustain itself without RL info. Whilst some of us said we were happy for there to be no/fewer updates as long as we just had a little heads up to say all was well and there would be news when they were ready to share something, we were met, instead, with resolute silence. At the same time, others were getting increasingly irate and angry. The forums descended from a largely peaceful, friendly arena for like‐minded individuals to discuss all and sundry into an aggressive, hostile place. The irony was that, apart from the odd dicktard, this was borne almost exclusively from a desire and passion for RL. Ultimately though, it must have just made the forums an increasingly unwelcoming place, and the desire for Chris and Tony to enter the discussion, regardless of intentions, must have dwindled quickly. The community, and its desperation in the clamour for news and info, effectively destroyed itself. The last official news from the Wests on RL is the now infamous `Sorry’ thread posted on the forums. Pinned at the top of the `General’ forum board, it has now had the best part of 20,000 views. In it, Chris posted a lengthy, thoughtful apology and explanation for why the info had dried up. It addressed some of the issues that were becoming prominent in the forum, and generally tried to calm things down a bit. It reiterated the unplanned beginning to the forum’s life, the decision to leave them open, and also the lose‐lose situation reactions to updates had put them in. For many, this was absolutely fine. They read, understood, and accepted what was being said, and there wasn’t really an issue any more. For others, it was too little too late. They had either already burnt their bridges and walked away, or seemed somewhat insulted by the post. Whilst Chris’ words went some way to diffusing the situation and dissipating some of the ill‐feeling, it ultimately was the end of the story. Had it come earlier … I don’t know, and no one can say, if it would have made any difference. After that, nothing else was heard from WR on RL. Nothing official anyway. A couple of times I caught Chris on MSN and asked how things were; genuinely meaning that, and not just asking about RL. I always got a positive reply, and I always just assumed things were ticking away behind the scenes. Given everything that had happened up until that point, asking `So, are you still working on Racing Legends?’ seemed a little crass, and accordingly I declined to do so. But these events were a long time ago now. It has been nearly ten years since the site went live, and the `Sorry’ thread, the last official word on RL, was posted over eight years ago! So is Racing Legends quite obviously dead and buried? Is anyone who still holds onto a hope that RL will one day see the light of day a deluded fool who needs to wake up and familiarise themselves with reality? Whilst there has been no official news on RL since January 2004, there have been the odd tidbits, tiny slivers of info to hold onto. Both Chris and Tony have worked on numerous projects in the years since all went quiet with RL. Tony’s modelling and art work has found its way into a number of other projects, and similarly Chris has been busy and seems to be making good progress and enjoying

success these days on a set of Unity plugins. Whilst that confirms they are alive and kicking, it doesn’t clarify anything about RL’s development. But amongst this other stuff, there are a few hints that appear. The odd bit of art work that unmistakably has its origins in RL cropping up in YouTube videos, little hints that certain things might be destined for implication within a sim environment. The problem is, when you have so much passion and hope riding on something, it’s easy to join the dots and draw whatever picture you want. The fact that the RL forums and website are still up in place and the odd glimpse of some RL related artwork do not provide a particularly convincing or compelling argument that development is on‐going. It’s the desperate speculation of someone who would love for it to be true. But what about a reliable source repeatedly confirming, year after year, that it is still in development? Todd Wasson (physics genius, all‐round sim community nice guy and fountain of knowledge) has repeatedly said, quite openly on forums, that RL is still being worked on. Not only is he trustworthy, but Todd is about as well placed as anyone to know seeing as his VRC/VRC‐Pro project is one of those which the Wests have, between them, contributed towards, with Tony’s typically rich graphics work providing the visual content for VRC. Whatever is or isn’t happening with RL behind the scenes, many might ask: until it is released, does Racing Legends matter? To many, the answer is `no’. To me, even if RL never developed beyond whatever state it was in eight years ago, the answer is a very big `yes’. RL has had a massive impact on me. In many ways it has made and conversely destroyed sim racing for me. It stoked my passion for simming in a way which no other title has before or since. It made me see simming in a different light. For all the developments that have happened over the years, and for all the effort by the likes of iRacing to turn simming from a dark‐bedroom hobby into a respected, serious pursuit, for me it was RL that really shifted my attitude. I was already highly passionate about simming and very much hooked, but RL changed my perceptions of sims from simply being realistic computer games to something much more. It provided me with the drive and desire to be totally submerged in the virtual world, to really allow the boundaries between the virtual and real worlds to be blurred. The problem was it didn’t come! And nothing else since has lived up to the expectations that RL allowed me to set. When you look at the hyper realism, detail and immersion that WR were aiming for with RL, and then you look at today’s sims, there is a massive, massive disparity. In iRacing you can’t stall and there is no dirt build up on the screen?!? Today’s sims do a lot of things very well, but it’s sometimes hard to not find everything a little … disappointing. Of course there is a huge difference between any of the other titles mentioned above and RL: they exist, they are available, and for any faults they have, you can actually use them and enjoy the things they do well. The RL I am comparing them to is not a real, usable product; it is an idea, a fantasy. It is worth stressing Chris and Tony never made claims like `RL will blow everything out of the water’, they never blew their own trumpets. Similarly, they never slagged off or dismissed other titles; quite the opposite, a number of times I saw them speak very favourably of others’ work, and even put links to other projects on the main page. They were also modest, and seemingly quite uncomfortable at times with the stature they seemed to hold among a good chunk of their

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followers. They were just two guys with a lot of passion who aimed big and risked a lot to pursue their dream. Whilst they are undoubtedly highly talented individuals (Tony’s work speaks for itself, and a number of others have attested to Chris’s abilities), I think it was this uncompromising approach to their work that really snagged others and myself on the idea, the philosophy of RL. Whilst some aimed animosity at them tied to the accusation they were simply hyping themselves and their work with little to back it up, I really think this is wide of the mark. It wasn’t they who provided the hype. They simply explained what they were working on and planning, and what they were hoping to achieve. The hype was provided by the community. People saw something special in WSC, and even more so in RL. It was a new and fresh approach. It oozed passion, love, and attention to detail. Just like each of those individually numbered cars and their leather bound packs, Racing Legends had soul. It is arguably a stupid and pointless exercise to compare a piece of software that potentially doesn’t even exist with others that do, but it is an exercise I simply can’t help but indulge in. Every time a new title is announced, or whenever there is a `feature request’ or a `describe your dream sim’ discussion, the simple fact is that it is always RL that comes to mind. This is fruitless for many reasons. Ultimately I’m comparing real, tangible, usable products to an idea of perfection that RL itself, let alone any other sim, could probably never live up to. I’m quite aware of this. It just always was, and continues to be, hard to shake the feeling that if anyone or anything were going to get close, it was West Racing and Racing Legends. So there you have it: a self‐indulgent trip down memory lane. Seeing the community once again whip itself up into frenzy as patience began to wear over the rF2 beta release reminded me of the journey that was Racing Legends and the West Racing forums. And quite a journey it’s been. To those unfamiliar with Racing Legends and its story, get yourself on Google, dig out the site and have a little look around. I don’t know whether new eyes will be pleasantly surprised or underwhelmed, but either way it’s worth a ten minute look. And to those who get their knickers in a twist because it has been three minutes since a dev’ last personally responded to your Tweet, or you’ve had to wait half an hour to get a download link: get a grip. You don’t know how good you’ve got it and, believe me, if the tides turn and the updates and interaction dry up, you’ll soon realise what you’ve lost. So call me deluded and out of touch, but still I hold on to hope. Racing Legends remains my dream sim because, for me, it is just that: a dream. In short: I wait it!

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Making Tracks

SIMONCROFT

Sim‐racing has long held a large debt to the efforts of modders; they have prolonged the life of many a sim with streams of new and fresh content. Any mod (done well, at least) requires a lot of time, skill and dedication, and while we know it’s a steep learning curve for the beginner, it can also be an infuriating struggle for even the most experienced. With his ‘trackMaker’ project, Bjorn Klaassen hopes to make the process of track building much quicker and less frustrating. Simon Croft sat down with Bjorn to get a sense of Klaasen’s project.

BJORN’S BLOG: HTTP://TRACKMAKER.WORDPRESS.COM/

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WHO IS BJORN KLAASEN? I’m thirty years old and from the Netherlands, and work as an environment artist in a game studio in Amsterdam, which means I do all kinds of stuff (modelling, texturing, animations, tech‐work etc.). My interest in the sim world started mainly with multiplayer sessions in F1 2002, F1 CC,. and rFactor. Every day tweaking the setup, fine tuning every aspect for victory ... and then flying off track in the first lap on a Sunday! In 2009 I started working in the game industry and decided I needed to put more effort in to my skills to quickly get up on the same level as the experienced guys. That’s where the Eifel and Autobahnfahrt tracks started; as learning projects. WHAT IS TRACKMAKER? I started my third fantasy track for rFactor in the beginning of 2011. It began to become more frustrating every time I wanted to make an iteration of the layout. For instance, {if} I wanted the change a corner, {it} meant I need{ed} to recreate the landscape around it and all other meshes. All by hand, so that’s time consuming and I found it difficult to maintain a clean source‐scene while heavily iterating. And then I’m not even mentioning the part after the mock‐up is done ... start over to create by hand the optimised meshes for in‐game. That’s when the idea for a unified toolset started which became trackMaker. HOW FAR ALONG IS THE PROJECT? Right now the tools need testing and bug‐fixing, and the first documentation completing. Lots of work. It’ll probably take some more months before releasing a beta version. All kinds of ideas are running through my head to implement, like bank controls, and there are some tools which aren’t finished yet, like a complete camera setup for rFactor, AI stuff, export assists between Maya and other applications, etcetera. So much to do, so little time! WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE PROJECT? For now the plan is to get a first version of the documentation done. I don’t think all features can be properly used without a proper how‐to. Parallel to this, I’m looking into professional feedback which should level‐up the quality of the plugin in terms of features and user friendliness. After that, it’s bug‐ fixing, trying to get support for other Maya versions (all up from Maya 2009, 32 and 64bit) and releasing a beta version for the community. The feedback from that goes into another round of bug‐ fixing (yay!) and iterations on the workflow. I’m aiming for a release before summer. Oh, I’ll be doing my own share of bug‐fixing with a fictional racetrack project, initially for Rfactor2 (a dessert setting in Morocco). Right now my head is already exploding again with new features which I really shouldn't create just yet …otherwise it really becomes a story without end. ANY CHANCE TRACKMAKER WILL BECOME A PROFESSIONAL PROJECT? If someone comes {along} with a bag of money to sell it exclusively, I think I would be interested, sure, but the intention still is to release it for free before summer. I learned to write more efficient and clean code and pushed Maya further than I expected with the normally offered package. I think, all in all, I did benefit a lot from it and since it’s not that commercially interesting because of the niche market ...why not give it away? It still should be under a certain creative common license though, which at least still should make me the owner of the code. I need to figure that out before release.

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IS IT DESTINED TO REMAIN A MAYA‐BOUND PRODUCT OR CAN IT BE IMPLEMENTED IN 3D MAX, ZMODELER, AND SO ON? For now the release remains Maya bound, it’s all based on Maya specific commands. The design philosophies can be ported though, so anyone who is a skilled developer for another package can contact me. One day I hope to get this into a more custom standalone program, but that’s just a generic idea for now. The quality bar gets raised higher and higher these days, and it’s really difficult without an army of programmers to stay up to par with industry packages like Max or Maya (feature wise). I think, for now, it’s better to just develop a small plugin which is more manageable for the individual, or small companies for that matter. HAVE YOU TRIED OR FOLLOWEDBRENDON PYWELL’S ‘BOB'S TRACK BUILDER’ TOOL?— IS IT A DAUNTING TASK TO START A FRESH IN A NICHE AREA WHERE ONE PERSON HAD ALREADY SPENT A LOT OF TIME AND ENERGY WORKING ON A PRODUCT?

Absolutely! I have followed this project for years, and have tried a very early version back in the day. Great project and he has built up quite a following in the sim community. Inspiring stuff. The creators of programs like Maya and Max could learn quite a bit from the user friendliness of this tool. But then again, the feature list of programs like this is more complete then BTB and there is no way that one person {can} match up to an army of programmers and tens of thousands of users who give feedback. One of the main reasons I didn’t go for BTB is that it is a niche project. To become more of an industry standard, BTB maybe has to look into features that make it one hundred percent compatible with Max, Maya, or some other all‐round package I think. At work we use Maya too and there is always a possibility to re‐use some of the tools in the professional pipeline ... and I want to learn to develop in C++, which Maya has native support for.

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THE NORMAL PROCEDURE FOR TRACK BUILDING IN AN APPLICATION LIKE MAYA OR 3D MAX IS TO PRODUCE A MASTER‐SPINE FOR THE CIRCUIT LAYOUT, THEN LOFT A ROAD PROFILE ALONG THE SPLINE TO CREATE THE TRACK SURFACE, THEN BUILD UP DETAIL AROUND THE CIRCUIT. ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS WITH THIS WORK‐FLOW IS THAT CHANGES FURTHER DOWN THE LINE OFTEN REQUIRE A LOT OF BACK‐TRACKING AND REPETITION. CAN YOU GIVE A BRIEF OUTLINE OF THE TRACK CREATION PROCESS WITHIN TRACKMAKER, AND HOW THE ‘NON‐DESTRUCTIVE’ EDITING WORKS? Exactly! The process you mentioned isn’t a dynamic one, and the creativity gets pushed back by construction constraints which really slow down the process. I hope to break that with trackMaker someday, to have more than ninety percent of the toolset dynamically linked. trackMaker works with splines too. Every spline you draw dictates a certain system which gets expanded with every new mesh in it. All attributes which dictate resolution, width, texture placements {and so forth} keep getting linked to each other. When you delete an element, the system just reconnects itself properly. I included an example of a small track. It shows the node network that keeps updating itself (see image above). One big feature is the tweak window. When you run it from a selected mesh it checks out the whole connected system and builds a menu for you to tweak the system with values, sliders and the profile curve at the bottom. That way you can tweak the systems to your needs while also tweaking the profile curves which define the general flow of your circuit. The process in summary is in general (for instance for designers who just want to iterate on a fictional track layout): Draw main curve, generate meshes around it, bake, export, drive.

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Delete the baked stuff, tweak the layout/variables and again bake, export, drive. When you’re satisfied in general, add terrain, side‐roads, sand‐traps, bake the race line, bake etc. WITH EACH NODE IN THE NETWORK BEING A ‘NODE’ ON THE CIRCUIT—BE IT A NODE WITHIN THE TRACK SPLINE OR A CONTROL POINT, WITH CONNECTIONS REPRESENTING DEPENDENCIES—A CHANGE AFFECTING ONE NODE WILL HAVE KNOCK‐ON EFFECTS THROUGHOUT THE NETWORK ACCORDING TO THE LINKS? The last one. It’s a network with the begin‐node at the left of the network. Each node through the network has an effect on the rest of the nodes after it. It begins with a couple of nodes dictating the base setup of the first meshes in the network, then goes on with texture placement, horizontal and vertical alignments on the next meshes compared to the first one {and so on} until at the end of each branch there’s the final mesh IT IS OBVIOUSLY A WORK IN PROGRESS, BUT CAN YOU SHED SOME LIGHT ONTO THE DEVELOPMENT PATH AND FEATURE DEVELOPMENT? HAVE YOU CHOSEN FEATURES YOU KNOW WOULD BE HELPFUL FROM YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE, OR HAVE YOU TAKEN INSPIRATION FROM ELSEWHERE? OF THE FEATURES IMPLEMENTED SO FAR, WHAT HAS PROVIDED THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE, AND WHAT ARE YOU MOST PLEASED WITH? Well, the development path right now is on hold for a week... I needed a break! Especially the CutMeshByMesh tool (where one mesh cuts out another mesh with some options) dragged me for weeks, really complicated, wrote four different code systems which weren’t good enough. But I’m quite proud that I pulled it off. Still, I know of two situations where it can go wrong so I still have to go back to it and fix it before release ... Can’t wait, haha. For the next couple of weeks, the code finally gets a check in a project in which I try to build a track with it on a near‐production quality. It should help to see the weaknesses and strengths. There were a couple of moments I was most pleased with: seeing the tweak menu building itself dynamically the first time, the cutting of a mesh by a mesh for the first time, the first time I created a mock‐up track and had it running in rFactor within a total of a couple of minutes, actually driving the thing ... very awesome. A lot of stuff I write on the train to and from my work. To have these win‐moments where I just bounce around on my music with another achievement code‐wise, with a grin from ear to ear, in rush hour in the morning when everyone around is in a bad mood because it’s so early ... you get the picture. A PROGRAM LIKE TRACKMAKER CAN OBVIOUSLY MAKE LIFE A LOT EASIER FOR THE END USER. AS WELL AS SPEEDING UP CERTAIN PROCESSES VIA AUTOMATING CERTAIN ROUTINES, THE BIGGEST ADVANTAGE IS, I ASSUME, THE LINKING OF COMPONENTS TO ENABLE NON‐DESTRUCTIVE EDITING. WHILST THESE ARE NO SMALL THINGS IN THEMSELVES, ARE THERE ANY FEATURES AND/OR ACTIONS THAT TRACKMAKER ENABLES THAT WOULD BE REALLY VERY DIFFICULT OR IMPRACTICAL TO ACHIEVE IN NORMAL USE, OR DOES IT ‘SIMPLY’ PROVIDE A STREAMLINING OF NORMAL PROCEDURES? Good question. Mostly it’s just streamlining of normal procedures which you would do by hand. Unfortunately, doing stuff by hand in a repetitive way would be {1} Pretty tedious, {2} slow, and, {3} introduce errors at some point. PCs are much better at doing stuff over and over again! Using trackMaker ensures that all vertices are aligned properly out of the box, just as with the texture alignment, resolution, relative texture size {and so on}. I really hope the workflow gets a shift from mainly fixing stuff to a focus on creativity.

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TRACKMAKER IN ACTION—CREATING A TRACK

ALTHOUGH THERE ARE OBVIOUS DIFFERENCES, IT IS DIFFICULT TO AVOID COMPARISONS WITH BTB SINCE IT IS THE ONLY OTHER PURPOSE SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEMS OF TRACK BUILDING. HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO

BRENDON AT ALL? ARE THERE FEATURES IMPLEMENTED/PLANNED THAT SETS TRACKMAKER APART FROM BTB, OR AREAS WHERE YOU THINK BTB IS PARTICULARLY STRONG WHICH YOU ASPIRE TO MATCH? No, I haven’t spoken to him. I’m not even that familiar with the program, I only took some brief glances at it to see if I missed some obvious stuff but that’s about it. A strong part of BTB is that it uses custom compiled stuff which should make it faster than trackMaker in evaluating code. I’m not a programmer, and I do need to learn a lot before I can finally compile custom stuff for trackMaker. I’ll be releasing a new video in April with some new features, like generate your circuit from an image, rFactor specific stuff like animated cameras and create your circuit from prefab pieces (like Stunts back in the days). BTB AS A STANDALONE PROGRAM DOES LACK SOME OF THE MORE TECHNICAL FEATURES CONTAINED WITHIN THE LIKES OF 3D MAX AND MAYA, AND ON FORUMS IT IS OFTEN APPARENT THAT TRACK MAKERS WHO HAVE USED BTB HAVE USED IT IN CONJUNCTION WITH OTHER SOFTWARE. ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR FEATURES OR STRENGTHS AVAILABLE IN TRACKMAKER THAT ARE FACILITATED BY ITS IMPLEMENTATION WITHIN MAYA? Well since it’s in Maya and the code is open after release, everyone can change it according to their wishes. If animation is required, for instance, it can be implemented in various ways, since a 3D package like Maya already has a pretty strong base for it. Coming back at the code side, everyone who wants to have his/her stuff included is free to contact me. This way the plugin could expand pretty rapidly. Furthermore, since Maya is used in such a large variety of projects (film, games, etc.), it has options for rendering lightmaps, controlling UVs, deform the terrain with dynamics. {and so on}. All of these systems can be manipulated with its built‐ in script and programming support. Not that this is unique for 3D packages (Blender, Max, etc., all have this), but it made the decision at least easier between an all‐round package and a relatively more niche product. All the luck to Brendon though, and I hope he can (remain too) be successful with BTB. It would be an interesting idea to combine forces one day when I learn to code more ably. HOW ARE TEXTURING AND MATERIALS HANDLED WITHIN TRACKMAKER; ARE THERE CUSTOM FEATURES BUILT IN OR DOES THE USER UTILISE MAYA'S INHERENT TEXTURING TOOLS? No custom features, Maya features a nice node set of stuff like multiply, average, plus/minus, clamp, etc. All nodes in {themselves} are very basic and simple, but used together the user gets loads of control. On a side note, there are some hacks in it. For instance, when you want to export to 3D Max (since there is no GMT exporter for Maya) for rFactor, trackMaker has a hack to force material assignments on your export meshes. This way Max always imports the material IDs in the same order, ensuring you don’t have to do them over and over again when you import.

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FORZA MOTORSPORT4

NOREVIEW

BOBSIMMERMAN

Bob Simmerman doesn’t review Forza 4 because reviews are just so 1986. And besides, we already know Simmerman’s score—196%.

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Bob had a dream … XXX Autovista mode with the truck …

Bob figures the 4‐wheel drive tranny on the GT is an improvement

The highly anticipated XBOX 360 driving game Forza Motorsport 4 was let out of the gate in October, 2011 to a general consensus of ‘awesome’. Turn 10 Studio’s answer to Polyphony’s Gran Turismo series promised more, better, bigger, bester, and all of the below. And above. In addition, a new relationship with the bloke‐mates at Top Gear forged a relationship not even an ocean could stop. Germany‐based hardware manufacturers Fanatec once again redefined the console wheel race with their CSR and CSR Elite models, both highly functional and, when used with the XBOX 360 console, designed with Forza in mind. Translation—there will be bowling with cars… A cursory perusal of the press release filled in the cursory blanks—this many cars, that many tracks, and a special edition contained goodies above and beyond the call of sixty dollars. With hundreds of cars brought over from Forza 3, ninety brand new cars, and dozens of tracks, the loss of the Porsche license (until May of 2012) stung a bit less. Translation—more costs more… Autovista Mode … designed with the Kinect accessory in mind, will allow the user to virtually examine a massively rendered—in terms of detail—car as if it was sitting in their living room. That is, by using appropriate body and limb motions, you can open car trunks, hoods, doors, and, by moving just so, the user can actually enter the car itself, turn the key and listen to the glorious engine sounds. Translation—the XXX market just got a lot more interesting …

As a fan of the Forza series I was, of course, interested in seeing what all the fuss was about. There were some very bold claims being made in terms of physics, polygon count, and game play, but what got my attention right off the bat was the new relationship with Pirelli … and implementation of said tyre manufacturer’s input into the game world. Translation—I hope these new tyres last until the first corner… IT COMES IN … DISKS! CONSOLE KIDS SURE LOVE RETRO! Shipping on two disks, we are once again reminded that, perhaps, just maybe, Sony might have been right—Bluray is a bit bigger. And more convenient. And you have one less disk to break and so much less plastic to fill the landfills later on. Regardless, the folks at Turn 10 have managed to jam hundreds of cars, dozens of tracks, and some of the best car simulation to ever grace a console system … on only two disks. As an added bonus, Turn 10 rewards your loyalty to the series by giving you some tasty cars right off the bat given your Forza 3 exploits. To be honest, I sort of missed this as I was in such a hurry to get going, but I am going to assume that those cars were awarded … Slick. Suave. Sophisticated. The user interface is all of the above and more—functional, attractive, and nary a giant button or ‘bonk’ noise in sight. (Yes, ISI, I’m looking at you!) Granted, the front‐end has little to do with rubber meeting a road, but even in today’s throwaway world, appearances still count for something and the user interface of Forza 4 is

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well thought out and clean as a whistle. ‘I don't often buy Ferraris, but when I do, I prefer that the salesman wears Armani.’ PC Sim Designer Guys take note—no more giant buttons and bonk noises, okay? It's so 1986 ... really, it’s beyond lame in this day and age. Hell, it was lame back then. Not only that, but it makes me feel as if I have a special ‘older fella’ edition, the kind with big print and pictures. And one more thing—it isn’t retro unless you stopped doing it for like—a decade. I had decided before so much as removing a disk that I was going to use the gamepad exclusively. Fact is, approximately one‐hundred and forty five percent of users will be gamepad users so ... I’ll see how it goes. I don’t have a Kinect at this time and Microsoft’s new ‘wheel’ is, uh, yeah, it’s sort of round. I made it as far as a test drive at LeMans (old layout) in a Bentley Speed 8 before I gave up that ridiculous notion. I am an old man who can barely see any more, and any motor skills I had I lost signing the last check to my accountant. With minimal effort, I moved the console into the gaming, I mean office room, and got down to business. Thankfully, my Fanatec Porsche 911 GTS Turbo wheel is still going strong despite my best efforts to destroy it with a mounting screw much too long and, to be quite honest and blunt about it, Forza 4, like previous iterations, transforms from a mere game to an ‘authentic driving experience’ when you stop being a child and actually fix a wheel to it. On the other hand, I recently noticed that iRacing is gamepad compatible. For when they get done laser scanning the Men In Black II movie car no doubt ... Fanatec once again has a wheel with Forza in mind, be it the CSR or CSR Elite, and both wheels are fully supported by the game. Wheel and dead zone adjustments we take for granted in PC land are all present and accounted for, but for those of you using an older Fanatec like me, the clutch pedal is most likely going to be a moot point. I am using the adapter that allows my wheel to work with Logitech G25 or G27 pedals and, for whatever reason, the clutch appears to be non‐functional. No matter, the cars don’t stall anyway ... stalling cars is also 1986, isn’t it? THE GAME Several game modes are available, and fans of the series will find no surprise here, but there have been a few additions. In addition to a new ‘Rivals’ mode (come on), there is a new car affinity system in place that tracks how often you drive a certain type of car. Similar in nature to previous Forza editions car leveling system, if you drive a certain brand often enough, you begin to get discounts on parts for that car. Your loyalty will be rewarded—unlike mine at the corner of Maine and Line where I hook up with my girlfriends. As always, however, the career mode is the meat and potatoes of the game, and this time around does a good job of avoiding the feeling of The Grind. In your career, of course, you will visit the same track multiple times, but more often than not in a different car, under different circumstances. You won’t start off in the Viper, but you will progress to more advanced and difficult‐to‐drive cars much faster than in previous Forza editions.

The inclusion of Top Gear provides for some interesting content and puts Turn 10 firmly in the grips of global allure. My favorite of the Top Gear events is, without question, the car bowling. Finally, we have a use for trucks in a car driving game!! And you fans of Jeremy Clarkson will be pleased as punch (in the face???) as his voice is the voice of the game. Isn’t that awesome? Now you can hear him being a windbag anytime you want by just playing Forza 4. Excellent. And if I am not mistaken, he sort of bashes one of the Ferrari Cars in the Autovista mode, too. No, no, I have that wrong—he actually likes the car, but bashes previous models, something about a ‘grille design’. It’s the sort of honesty you rarely see these days, and I can’t help but wonder if he was wearing those stone washed jeans of his so stylish with the in‐crowd in 1986. Speaking of the Autovista mode, you are in for quite a treat. Initially, only a few cars are unlocked for viewing, but as you view cars, more are unlocked to be, well, viewed. The car detail in this mode is nothing short of astonishing, with features such as tiny words and grains in wood modeled to millimeter perfection. If you have a Kinect device, you can ‘walk’ around the car, opening virtual hoods, trunks, doors and even get in and start it up. Further, significant statistics and details about each car appear as holographic looking layovers. It is an incredible mode and no doubt has the attention of every car manufacturer on the planet as it makes showing off a car a lot more convenient since you don’t need the actual car to

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No longer content just to be Bob’sfavorite male pinup on TV, Jeremy Clarkson makes his debut in the digital world … now Bob has Jeremy’s stonewashed jeans any time he desires …

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show it off. Gimmicky, for sure, but the logical conclusion of such a mode is intriguing. I wonder how long before we have an Autovista salesman pitching you for your hard‐earned cash digitally. User stats are voluminous and profuse as is often the case with console offerings. Driving time, miles driven, hours played, money earned, etc. etc., are but a smattering of the statistics to pore over. In addition, the time you have spent in the menus is tracked—that’s going the extra mile for sure. Multiplayer has been enhanced this time around allowing more cars on the track—an astonishing twelve versus previous versions eight (because we know if more than a dozen kids get online simultaneously, they will revert to type and begin shooting at each other and stuff)—but, as I don’t have an XBOX Live account, I was not allowed to play online. The nerve—expecting someone to pay to race online! Oh. Of special note in this edition of Forza is the switch by the developer to Pirelli for tyre data. In addition, the way the entire tyre modeling is handled is significantly different. Dan Greenwalt of Turn 10 Studios explains in an installment of “Under the Hood”; ‘For Forza 4, we took an entirely new approach to our tyre simulation. This time, we threw all of the old data away and asked Pirelli to provide us with an all‐new data for everything. Pirelli did custom tests on a huge variety of tyres to cover all of our cases— including width and height, compound, inflation pressure, heat, wear, sidewall height, load, angle, etc. We then changed our system to accept the real world data directly and without any fix‐up from us at all. This means that the tyres in Forza 4 behave exactly as the Pirelli test tyres did, even in complex situations where multiple parameters are changing rapidly.’ Risky Business (1983)? Certainly—the Forza series has been long regarded as having a rather decent tyre model and the move to toss it all out and start afresh must have been a decision long in the making. Was the result worth it? Yes. Driving any of the cars in Forza 4 will attest to the rather surprising fact that the‘feel through the wheel’ is superb, and your sense of what the tyre is doing at any given time is very well done. With nearly 900 cars available, it would take quite some time to drive and asses them all in precise fashion, but the ones I did manage to get around to during my on track exploits were fantastic … further blurring the line between simulator and ‘game’. Why anyone would want 900 cars, though, is a bit of a mystery … In addition to the new tyre modeling, the steering and suspension workings have been fiddled with and, to top it all off, there is a new layer for the tracks meaning that they have bumps now! And it wouldn’t be Forza without MASSIVE garage and tweaking options. For example, I was driving a Ford GT at Road America and was not happy with my times as I kept spinning out, so I took the car to the garage, slapped on an all wheel drive drivetrain, and went back out.

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Nine hundred cars, 26 tracks (featuring so many configurations no‐one is quite sure how many actual tracks are available), and an engineering treasure waiting to be discovered …

Much better, thank you. As is often the case with Triple A Big Production Budget Franchise titles, the fit and finish of Forza Motorsport 4 are as you would expect and the on‐track experience has done nothing but benefit from the click of another iteration. If you are a fan of the series, this one is a no brainer—buy it. Then again, you probably already have. On the fence until the price comes down? Buy it, it probably has! I’m a wheel guy through and through, as such, I can only recommend this one if you have a proper wheel and pedal set; the gamepad just didn’t do it for me, and if that was the only option. I would certainly pass on this, and any other driving game for the consoles. On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to own a wheel, Forza 4 is absolutely worth your time. SCORE—TWO THUMBS UP.

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Volume 6 Number 2


STILL BREATHIN', STILL 5 Column HOPE. (NEEDS TITLE CHANGE?)

th

BOBSIMMERMAN

Bob Simmerman comes face‐to‐face with fear

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The last issue of AutoSimSport Magazine was, for me, a bittersweet event. Sweet in that it was great to see the magazine back on the virtual stands after a nearly two year hiatus, bitter in that my contribution to said issue was ... non‐existent. Oh, sure, I looked a few things up here and there behind the scenes, but the truth is that missing out on that ‘We're Back!’ issue was, in all honesty, a very painful thing. Chock‐full of the typical AutoSimSport relevant content, it was plain for all to see that we hadn’t lost a step

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and any rust on the edge had been relegated to the cutting room floor. The Lads were brilliant, as usual. And all who made the issue possible performed above and beyond in typical AutoSimSport fashion. Dammit. So what happened? What? You didn’t ask? Never mind I’ll tell you anyway—life happened. Funny thing about life, it does seem to have a mind of its own. How does that old Jewish proverb go? ‘Man plans, God laughs?’

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Let the hilarity ensue. The issue had been in the tentative planning stages for quite some time, and from there, the planning stages became pillars of concrete—the band was getting back together. We divvied up assignments and tasks and, in typical behind the scenes fashion, passed much of our time on one virtual track or another—you can’t have a magazine about racing simulators without actually racing them! If I am not mistaken, things began to get hot and heavy around September of 2011, and once the momentum of a magazine production schedule gets a push in the right direction, there is, literally, no stopping it. As I was in possession of the outstanding Fanatec Porsche 911 Turbo S wheel, and an XBOX 360, the Forza Motorsport 4 review fell squarely in my lap and I couldn’t have been happier about it. rFactor2 release rumors were flying around like hummingbirds on crack, we all seemed to catch an iRacing addiction at the same time, and, amidst the madness, cries of ‘Trento Bondone!!’ came through loud and clear. To make things even better, (or is that worse?), it was tough to look at an Assetto Corsa press release or screenshot without ruining a keyboard, monitor, or new pair of jeans. Long story short—we were going to come out guns a‐blazin’ to wrap up 2011 just in time for the year 2012 which was shaping up to be the most exciting year for racing simulators in nearly a decade—and also, the end of the world. But that’s in the future—and as we know, life keeps doing stuff even while we’re sleeping … Big stuff, Daddy‐O. Big. The excitement was palpable and it was a great feeling to be headed down the road toward a new issue of the magazine. Temper tantrums, arguments, rage fests, group hugs—and that was just Alex! And to top it all off, my seventy‐fourth non‐paying job—freelance photographer— was gathering more than a bit of steam, and the blessings were coming so fast I needed a bucket. And then ... God laughed. Not the booming, deep, Creator of the Universe earth shattering plague of locusts laugh we’ve all heard about. No, nothing as obvious as that. More like the kind of

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laugh you hear when you are slightly bent over removing the cover on your computer to install a Bluray player and the next thing you know, somehow, part of your lower back has been carved out and a fragmentation grenade inserted. That kind of laugh. Of course, I joke—it was, in fact, more like a nuclear device. The pain was immediate, intense, and all but debilitating. I couldn’t breathe, I could barely move, and in the space of a few seconds, life had transformed into a seething mass of, well, pain and stuff. I gathered myself together as best I could and thought to myself, ‘This will pass in no time, just a random back pain, you’ll be fine.’ I was partially correct—normal breathing resumed rather rapidly, but the pain only intensified and, odd as it sounds, only seemed to abate when I was standing up or walking. Sitting, lying down, or some other body configuration that didn’t tempt the allure of gravity only seemed to make things worse. A year previous I had been broadsided by a young fella who thought that a blinking red traffic light meant, ‘slow down a bit and go if it’s clear’ and walked away relatively unscathed ... and here I was, reduced to putty while lifting a three cent case screw. I knew that Bluray technology was dangerous, I knew it from day one. I did a lot of standing up that weekend and was encouraged when I called a buddy and heard his words of wisdom ‘It’s probably just a pinched nerve, a chiropractor can take care of that in no time’. I saw the chiropractor on Tuesday of that next week and went through the whole procedure—X‐rays, fluoroscopes, nausea inducing charts of spine shapes and, of course ... pain, massive, massive, pain. A pain that nearly vanished when I saw the X‐rays of my spine and neck because, as we all know, once you die of a heart attack, you don't feel a lot of pain. I won’t go into the gruesome details as it is beyond the scope of my ability to recount properly, but I will say this—some serious damage had been done and we surmised that some of it may have been the result of the car accident the previous year and some of it may have been years

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and years in the past and only now was the body at the end of its rope screaming ‘enough!’ The good news? The sawbones told me that lots of folks come in with back pain and their X‐rays look just fine and it makes his job tough, but in my case he knew exactly what to do. It would take time, but, thankfully, I was not ready to be put out to pasture just yet. He put me on that crazy table and did some adjustments and I’ll be damned if I didn't feel better, a lot better, right away. A miracle! The treatments continued, soon tapering off from three a week to once every three weeks or so. The pain didn’t disappear entirely, but it was nothing like the raging insanity of nerve ending fire‐offs that drove me to seek professional help—aches, pains, limited movements. All this conspired to do two things—put a halt on pretty much everything but going to my day job, and taking it easy when that was done. In short, no burgeoning freelance photography pursuits, no‐sim racing, and no contribution to the Return of AutoSimSport Magazine. But, within a few weeks of treatments ... I began to turn some laps and before I knew it I was racing the iRacing Acura in the fixed setup series and having the time of my life. I wasn’t burning up the track like Jon, or destroying a chassis per second like Alex, but I was back to racing! More importantly, I was on track for the next issue of AutoSimSport Magazine ... this one you now hold in your hands. Remember that laugh I was talking about earlier? ... Turns out it wasn't a laugh I had heard from on high, it was a throat clearing. ********************************************* Snowzilla. Snowpocalypse. Call it what you will, but, for all intents and purposes, this part of Northern Michigan got an entire winter in approximately six hours. Mind‐bending. I left work on March 2nd at 5:00PM amid reports of a huge snowstorm headed our way—watch out folks, it's the big one! Sure it is, and I’ll be winning the Spa race by thirty‐ eight seconds with my eyes closed. Nevertheless, something about the mass of ‘red’ on the radar screen got

me to the gas station, and as I left with a full tank and an empty wallet, the snow was coming down quite profusely. Pulling into my driveway forty‐five minutes later, I could still see dirt on the ground, remnants of our relatively mild winter to this point. At around 8:30PM, the lights began to flicker. At around 9:00PM, the power was out. Everywhere. At around 11:00PM, I measured approximately a foot of snow on the roof of my car as I smoked my last cigarette on the porch, somewhat amazed at the ferocity of the snowfall—sort of like a rainstorm but with snow. The good news? No wind to speak of. The bad news? No wind to speak of. At exactly 12:30AM, as I was huddled in the dark reminiscing about some not‐so‐proper shenanigans from my college days, I heard a massive ruckus outside. The kind of ruckus a tree makes as it falls on your car. A nice wind would have kept that heavy wet snow off that old tree, but, alas, the poor thing was forced to bear the burden and, unfortunately, was not up to the task. I knew what had happened but had to look, just to make sure. Yep, the car was completely engulfed by a hefty limb that, thankfully, only saw fit to fiddle with the car and not the house. It was late, I was tired, a proper damage assessment could wait until morning. As it turned out, there didn’t appear to be much damage to the car. All of that snow had cushioned the blow, and a cursory examination revealed that the windshield was intact. On the other hand, no way was I getting in that car any time soon as the tree limb engulfed the car much like a spider might pounce on a bug—the driver’s side door was out of the question in terms of entry as the limb had wedged there pretty good, but the passenger side was definitely an option ... provided I could break a limb or two and get it open far enough to crawl in. Later. I felt like some coffee, so I boiled some water on the stove—electrically lit but propane fueled—ahhhh, nothing like a fresh cup of Nescafe Classico instant coffee to get the

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blood flowing. And clotting. And so it went. As the temperature dropped in the house, I put on more layers of clothing and prepared for the power to come back on and get back to the business at hand—racing that Acura on the New Tyre Model! Except, the power didn't come back on. My house is a small two‐bedroom job that doesn’t take much to heat and, consequently, it doesn't take much to cool it down either. By now, Saturday evening, it was around 50F and dropping. While it is true I could have used the stove to keep things warm, it was not true that I had any clue how much propane gas was in the tank outside. I dare not risk it—the Classico must flow. I slept in my ‘zero degree’ sleeping bag fully clothed and coated, with an additional three blankets to round out the package and stayed quite warm. Upon waking up Sunday, I noticed it had dropped to 40F inside the house ... the time had obviously come to start thinking seriously about survival. One more night of this and, well, I didn't want to think about it. I had ‘phone service, barely, but the unknown was the roads—four counties had been declared emergency areas, and while a plow had been through the day before to make way for an ambulance, the fact remained that the roads were treacherous, at best. With the ‘phone nearly out of juice and the very real threat of freezing to death facing me, I decided it was probably a good time to get outside and break some limbs and climb in that damn car and get warm. I made it about fifteen minutes before breaking the limb. Not the tree. My wrist. Snap. I had grabbed a limb that was a bit too big for anything but some sort of saw, and driven by survival instinct—and a 9F outside temperature‐‐I pushed it a bit too far. Grabbing the limb with my right hand, I began to pull it back and back and back and, as it bent, I could hear it crackling—any second now it would be one less hindrance to the glorious warmth of a Subaru four cylinder motor. When the limb finally gave way to my masculine charms, so did my wrist—the scaphoid bone, to be exact. I knew

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instantly I had broken my wrist, the pain was quite intense and, although a fleeting thought of ‘it’s just a sprain’ flew through my brain, I knew better. Nevertheless, I had to get in that damn car so I kept breaking limbs—smaller ones, mind you—and before I knew it I was in! Time for a smoke break from the pack in the car, time to wrap my head around this pain and get warm. Right about then my neighbor pulled up with his quad runner, a chainsaw, and a willingness to help—he hadn't planned on coming up from his family’s place downstate due to the storm but did, saw the tree and the foot of snow in my driveway, and came right over. A dog wasn’t barking in the distance but I could have sworn I heard some sort of laughter ... The neighbor got me sorted with a propane heater and a twenty pound tank of propane and before long I was napping away, stress draining away by the moment. I woke up and headed into the small town nearby for some provisions and was amazed at the damage. It was as if a tornado had touched down on every possible point. Power lines were down all over, the roads were a mess, and years of tree growth were reduced to splinters. A few hours later I drove myself to the ER and my diagnosis was confirmed; I had broken my wrist. They put on a temporary cast, gave me some painkillers and sent me on my way. I can count on one finger (which is good because I can’t move any of them at the moment!) the amount of times I regret that my Subaru is a manual transmission; that day was it. A few days later, a permanent cast was put on and, as I type this, I am about halfway through the healing process. I had to stop racing as the cast has severely limited my mobility. but I am able to slog through Time Trial events and so I have. At last check I was leading my division but there are a few more venues to visit so I will keep it modest for now. The bright side? Easy. You’re reading it, the latest issue of AutoSimSport Magazine! Still breathin', still hope...

Beginning with our next issue, AutoSimSport will become a pay‐for‐ content magazine. For $2, you will get your AutoSimSport digitally delivered on any platform—mobile or otherwise—along with all the content you have always found in these pages. Why you ask? Because creating an app—and keeping up with the passing of time (we are now in year 7 of production)— costs money. And we don’t make any. Ads you suggest? We tried that: 90% of all ads in these pages throughout our history were free, given away in order to promote start‐ ups and cottage industries within our community. Providing content, meanwhile, keeps getting more expensive as the community becomes more and more professional; just this month, we flew Jon out to Rome to get the Assetto Corsa story, and we would have broken a few others if we had some available cash. Additionally,reviewing ‘freebies’ comes at a cost—to you, the reader, in terms of our impartiality. What does this all mean? It means we have paid in advance for the creation of 3 digital editions, and we hope and believe that you will keep with us and that you have seen enough in these pages over the last 7 years to deserve and warrant your $2 every quarter. Thanks for reading and see you, we hope, in our next issue.

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Volume 6 Number 2


Keep The Dream

GPLEGACY enters its fourth year with their A1GP Mexico License and sim still in development … and the Mexican round of A1GP in disarray …

GPLEGACY

SERGIOBUSTAMANTE

SERGIO IS AWAY …

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Vodka Diaries

The Dent

Jon Denton on iGP …

JONDENTON

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Wednesday evenings have taken on a new meaning for me in the last few months, not because of Champions League football, or the midweek lottery draw, but for an altogether more exciting prospect: iGP Manager. Yes, I said exciting, picture the scene: I sit in the dining room, hunched over a laptop studying the performance of little purple dots going round a top‐down realisation of a grand prix circuit. Sipping gently/gulping gratuitously on a can of Stella Artois, battling in the League of Rooks. How can this be exciting? I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t quite figured that out yet. But since the beginning of December, our little weekly league has got together at 7pm every Wednesday night to do battle, and I have come to relish it. Last month, when I flew to Barcelona on Wednesday night and missed a race, I had to get text updates sent to me! When the league started, over three months ago, we all agreed that the daily races that many in the iGP service were running was too much for us, and a weekly event was something we could fit into our social calendar. So we started up with our first race in the Java‐ realised Albert Park on the 14th December. My guys qualified 13th and 25th, and this was the first indication that I had no idea what I was doing! As I watched Simon Croft’s Team Spamsac run to their first victory, I managed to creatively use strategy to move both my cars into points scoring positions and felt vindicated (and a bit drunk). I have watched real F1 for long enough to understand most race strategies, and so I felt gently smug that, knowing what I was doing on this end would help me to slowly move towards the front through the season. How wrong I was … I had grossly underestimated the complexity of the simulation that lies behind the pretty pictures, and after results in the Chinese GP (16th and 21st) and Bahrain (16th and 19th), it became quite apparent that a number of the guys in our league had put in a bit more time with actually understanding the game mechanics. Still, not to fret, my team would live on, and the good news so far was that I had a lot of money to work with, all

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was not lost. I started thinking I was sussing things out, going down the right path, but at no point was I actually putting enough time into working out what I should be doing. I focussed on the financials, and ensuring stability, when I should have been putting much more focus and attention on development. I continued falling behind, but remained confused as to what I was doing wrong. I didn’t pay enough attention in races to drivers’ relative pace to tyre temperature. I continued reversing through the pack in races from good qualifying runs and failing to score points. This probably reflected co‐incidences between things I was doing right versus things other teams were doing wrong; 8th place in Monaco was scant reward, I was still falling behind the leading teams at a rapid rate. All was not lost; alas very little was being gained. Part of this confusion could be laid at the feet of the software and its lack of documentation, but is this right? The more I think about it, the more I think the reverse actually holds. The beauty of this game is that I have learned slowly, organically, what I should be doing. Some others have learned faster, and some still haven’t learned at all. If, when I started out, I understood every part of the game right away, would it still be fun? Should an MMO game that I could potentially be playing for years to come not be a continual learning process? The key here, for the wider world, is that people often play these games to win, and if they do not win in the first ten minutes of playing, walk away dissatisfied. But this is an immature response to what it is a very complex simulator, and you cannot always be a winner right away in grand prix racing. Still, some points would be nice! After the mid‐season point, my cars started to regularly finish close to each other, and battle throughout the race for positions 11th to 14th; it felt like our little spot for a while, but still there was something I was missing. By now my strategies in a race situation and understanding of tyre performance was coming together, even through a very harsh winter in Europe gave us all some tyre heat‐up headaches (real‐world

weather is used, and at the time, we were seeing heavy snow and minus figures in Budapest, among other places!), but fundamentally, my car was not fast enough. So I looked for some help. It’s not always easy to get help in sim‐racing from people you are technically in competition with, but by the end of the European Grand Prix, in a chilly Valencia, I spoke to my good friend Simon Croft, whose cars were typically finishing a lap ahead of mine, about where I was missing the point. It’s lucky that I have such friends, because the parts I was missing on, that now seem obvious, could have taken me another season to work out! Simon is a clever chap, as evidenced by his resounding dominance of our season so far. Suffice to say I had completely misunderstood how car development worked, so as every race passed, I had dropped further and further back! Accepting that I had been a massive tool, I proceeded to try to make amends. And so things got better, my spies went out into the paddock and found me performance, people were sacked and new, better people hired and the results got better and as Monza dawned (and dusked), I scored my first points since Monaco—9th and 10th feels so good when you have spent so many weeks battling for 14th. 10th in Singapore and a positively euphoric 7th and 8th at Suzuka rallied the team on, and now the focus is on next season, which starts in four weeks. The beauty of this battle through adversity, with an initial casual disinterest at the start of the season, followed by a mid‐season run where I was simply not able to understand how to make my team work, and this late season upturn in results has led me to feel much more for my team than I think I ever could if this had been an easy ride. Running an F1 team should be hard, the fight through the field and continual efforts to bring my humble team to the front of the grid have given me an odd kinship with my ‘guys’. I love my team, they have worked so hard all season and they deserve success, here’s to next season, and maybe a top five finish?

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Magnus Opus

Feeling The Heat ... Magnus Tellbom wants gearboxes and clutches for real …

MAGNUSTELLBOM

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REALITY Something is missing the world of sim‐racing. Something really important—and obvious at that. What you ask. Simple really. I miss the last piece of reality. On the server side. you can turn off the use of any aids whatsoever (clutch, traction control, etc.), but you cannot prohibit the use of sequential gearboxes (or force it for that matter), and you can not force (to the best of my knowledge) missed gears as a result of this. So what am I missing? That's right. I miss the option to be able to set my server to force

implement in, for example, a logitech G‐series shifter, but I would welcome it, and I would pay for it. And ... I would welcome it if all the sims on the market would have an option to support this too. It should be a server side option to force people as close to real as possible. I understand that this is not for everyone, but a few of us hardcore drivers out there really like this kind of stuff, and it would be very welcome to have a series that enforces these kinds of things. Forced gears would, in turn, force you to use heel‐toe breaking techniques and other inventive driving, and

realise that this would keep many drivers away from such servers, but to me, that is pretty much for the best, as any pick‐up race I've been doing lately has spawned at least one immature wrecker with a Need for Speed attitude to online racing. And there we are, we have arrived at my last wish for this column. Every server out there should be equipped with a kick and ban tool that goes something like this: Three kicks equals a 24 hour ban. Three 24 hour bans in a month equals permanent ban. All done by voting and all

‘An H‐Pattern gearbox should force the stick to remain in gear until the clutch is pressed. Or at the very least, offer resistance before letting you force it into neutral, and even more resistance before forcing it into the next gear. Ever tried to shift your own car without using the clutch? Yeah I know it's possible if you match the revs exactly right, but it ain't no picnic and it costs you time, every time you shift, and it hurts the gearbox a lot. I don't know how hard this would be to implement in, for example, a logitech G‐series shifter, but I would welcome it, and I would pay for it’ people to drive realistically. No aids? Check. Forced cockpit view? Check. Damage at one hundred percent? Check. Now, anyone connected to my server will have to use the clutch on the startline, and for getting out of the pits. But does this stop them from just slamming in the next gear, even in a low‐level street car? Nope, ‘cause there just ain't support for such. Not in the sim and not in the hardware. LFS and iRacing are closer to this than any other, but not close enough. And with no support for this on the hardware side, there's almost no way of properly preventing this from happening. So what am I looking for? That's right. Take the force feedback technology to the next level. An H‐Pattern gearbox should force the stick to remain in gear until the clutch is pressed. Or at the very least, offer resistance before letting you force it into neutral, and even more resistance before forcing it into the next gear. Ever tried to shift your own car without using the clutch? Yeah I know it's possible if you match the revs exactly right, but it ain't no picnic and it costs you time, every time you shift, and it hurts the gearbox a lot. I don't know how hard this would be to

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you would be able to translate anything you do (and really have to do) in a real car into what you do in a sim. Now, since we're at it and, we may just as well go for broke and ask for more server side settings, too. I would like to be able to override pitstop settings when I create a server. If I set the nominal pitstop time to five seconds (DTM for example), this would be the nominal time, but should vary slightly from stop to stop to emulate that sometimes your pitcrew is not as its best, and sometimes they are almost super human in their ability to change a tyre. There should also be a setting that would activate the ‘one time out of every 200’ (or something) they mess up completely and don't screw on the tyre properly. Race over. Now, the tyre falling off is just an example, and I'm sure many people out there could come up with several of these little reality settings. I realize, also, that this kind of reality is not a mainstream wish, but let's face it, stuff like that really makes real life racing even more exciting, and I bet that it would spice up many leagues and even pick‐up races if used with moderation. I also

tied to IP rather than name. My guess is that if such an option existed, we would soon see much better pick‐up racing, even on public LFS and Race '07 servers. It should take a sincere email with apologies to the server owner to get out of such a banlist, and I can't see a fourteen year old Need for Speed junkie going trough the trouble. Now, I usually don't ask for reactions on my column, as they tend to come anyway. But this time, I feel that it's ok to ask. Are you a reality junkie or do you think these thoughts are crap? Do you have any more reality extreme ideas that I've missed? Go ahead and visit our facebook page and leave a suggestion. Are you all for kicking and banning non‐serious pick‐up drivers, or do you think ‘the more the merrier’? Let's hear about it. Perhaps we can get all these stuff as options in future sims, if enough people ask for them. All the best and happy sim‐racing until the next time. Drop Magnus a line: Magnus@autosimsport.net

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