This is a 01:52:7xx lap around COTA (Circuit of the Americas), racing with Alain Prost’s 1986 McLaren F1, against other F1s, from the 1986 and 1996 seasons. This lap is only ~1 second slower than the best lap the more modern 1996 cars were achieving.
After having had a good time racing an Aston Martin GT3 on COTA (Circuit of the Americas), against Formula 1 cars from the 1988 and 1996 seasons, I took Alain Prost’s 1986 F1 McLaren TAG Porsche out of its rFactor2 garage. For extra fun, I set the contestants from the 1986 championship against their 1996 evolutions.
The day before, a virtual Michael Schumacher had set the best time @COTA, in his 1996 Ferrari, with a time of 01:52:xxx, with a virtual Alain Prost lagging the German by just 2 seconds, in an 8-years older machine – check this post. Inspired by Prost’s achievement, I stepped-up the challenge, and tried the same feat, but racing an even older car: the 1986 McLaren F1.
The 1986 McLaren F1 is a true “monster”, with 1000+ bhp, no driving aids, and a constant bomb waiting for detonation upon throttle pressure. It is an amazingly hard to race vehicle, requiring permanent steering input and attention to pedals, physically demanding – this in a game! I cannot begin to imagine what it was in real life! -, which is exactly what I was looking for: to sweat.
I was fortunate to endure a fight with Damon Hill’s 1996 William F1, which pursuited me for some laps. I recorded one of those laps, timed at 01:53:xxx, so just ~1 second adrift Schumacher’s yesterday best. I would improve on that time and also enter the 01:52:xxx, but in a clear lap. There is also a post+video with the improved lap.
Here is a video, with two halves: first half is from an inside-car camera, second half is a “TV” perspective.
I think that many people in the computer-based racing community have stopped playing alone and quit the single-player experience that most games, fortunately, still provide. I am not one of those people. With time, I have shifted my preferences from online/multiplayer to offline/single-player.
I was an early adopter of iRacing, joining the service short after it started. I paid my subscription for 2+ years. Then, I returned to self-set single-player challenges, now mostly racing alone in rFactor2, which does have a strong online/multiplayer mode.
I feel that the online multiplayer races are extremely bipolar: one goes either through a very enjoyable experience, or through a tremendously frustrating and irritating event. Odds are that, on any given day, you will meet a too aggressive player, or someone who uses unpleasant language, or something else that you just did NOT need. Most services provide tools and actively fight these situations, but it is only human nature.
I can get an enough dosage of human nature in all the other moments of the day, so when I find time to play, I usually opt for single-player events against A.I. adversaries.
Today I had a tremendous good time with rFactor2, racing on “Circuit of Americas” (the U.S.A. circuit that is part of the official Formula 1 calendar). I decided to deviate from the standard formula and went to challenge Formula 1 cars with an Aston Martin GT3.
I chose to race against other GT3 cars, some GT2 and GT1 machines too, but – and this was the most fun thing I did – I also configured the race session to allow drivers from the 1988 and 1996 F1 championships.
I got to race Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost, in the same event! In the first practice session, I achieved P4, with a time of 02:10:xxx (two minutes, 10 seconds, something more), and was the fastest of the non-F1 cars! Quite reasonable, for someone who has been neglecting his race craft for too long.
Schumacher was the fastest, with a 01:52:7xx, but Prost, with an 8-years older car, was only 2 seconds away. Pedro Lamy also did amazingly well, close to Prost, although driving a Minardi. I very much doubt the Minardi could get that close, and that a 1988 F1 would only be 2 seconds slower than a 1996 machine, but such is irrelevant. What is relevant is that every lap was big fun. It was hilarious to be pedal-to-the-metal with one of the most modern, powerful, and expensive GT3 cars in the world, only to feel stuck in first gear, against 30+ years-old F1 monsters.
I video-recorded my 02:10:xxx lap. The video’s first half is from an inside-car camera; then from a “TV” camera. Unfortunately, it was a rather clean lap, with no F1s on view, still with other cars causing some trouble.
Studio397 is now selling “Circuit d’Azur” for rFactor 2. That is the “Monaco / Monte Carlo” circuit, 2019 layout.
I decided to invest 30 minutes in it, driving the “Audi R8 LMS GT3”, one of the best GT3 cars ever built, against other GT3 machines, namely the McLaren 720S GT3, the Aston Martin Vintage GT3, and others.
I managed P1 in practice, with a time of 01:35:5xx. It was fun, enough to sweat.
I recorded the hot lap, first from an outside camera, then from the inside.
Virtual racing in rFactor2. The track is “Monaco”, in its 1966 F1 layout. The car is a Gen2 #FormulaE. This is I at the wheel, completing the lap in under 01:27. The main reason I play rFactor2 is because of how physically demanding it is. It makes me sweat :). These Formula E cars seem quite hard to race on the limit.
If there is one gaming genre that can be unfair to those really pushing ahead, it is the “racing” genre. Regular gamers are used to absurdly unrealistic software, where vehicles respond like they’ve done since the ZX Spectrum days, meaning like indestructible spaceships that make good use of the surrounding structures to stay on course. The average gamer can’t be bothered to learn about precision driving and delicate handling, using proper input devices. Surprisingly, professional game critics usually adhere to the same shallow standards: the “F1” series from CodeMasters is a very good example of how ridiculously deceiving ratings and scores can be. The “F1” games score high in most specialized publications and have been celebrated in BAFTA events (!), but they are less interactive than playing with a toy train in rails.
CodeMasters’ “F1” looks wonderful, but plays horribly, tricking the user to think that he/she is in control, when in fact, the player’s freedom is severely limited; it is literally like driving on rails with narrow margins for anything creative. It is disgusting because for casual racers and other outsiders it appears a worthy experience. It is not a worthy experience, and it is unfair that the true racing simulators must flourish in niches, under the shadow of such miserable titles.
From my experience, one of the “true” simulators available today is “rFactor 2” (RF2). RF2 is fun, demanding and reasonably realistic. If you ever drove a competition car, you’ll probably notice the extra care: for example, tires start cold, then get warmer; tires will get flat spots if you lock them under braking; and the car will get damaged, and respond accordingly, even if in very subtle ways, if & when you hit obstacles.
RF2 tires’ physics is unique. I am not writing about different temperatures for each tire – I am writing about different temperatures across different regions of every tire! It feels “organic”, it feels true! The vehicles are responsive and the pedals truly analogue. It is literally a physical exercise to put consistent fast laps against 100% strong computer opponents: in fact, you’ll probably sweat and burn a significant amount of calories. For real!