In the past, I’ve talked about the importance of people like myself and EmptyBox participating in competitive online leagues to increase our credibility as mouthpieces in the greater driving game community. Far too often, sites like InsideSimRacing, VVV Automotive, and VirtualR are run by guys who aren’t all that good at the games they’re covering, and it becomes hard to trust what they have to say about a certain game – you never know if that ten second difference on track changes a game from feeling great to absymal because the fast guys found out all the little tricks that push the physics engine to its limit. The same thing happens in yearly EA Sports games; often avid sports gamers can find glitch goals or money plays that your average review site like Gamespot and IGN miss out on.
I’ve been driving in Season 3 of RaceDepartment’s Virtual Stock Car Championship for Walk Racing. The five round season takes place in Reiza Studio’s Game Stock Car Extreme, and save for the Brazilian league that sees many real-world drivers competing, this is basically the top Stock Car V8 online league you can join.
Today, we went to Goiana for the third round of the season.
Goiana is the first long track we’ve visited this season, with lap times in the 82 second range, a whole 20 seconds longer compared to Taruma and Cascavel. Teammate Risto Kappet again captured the pole with an 81. 3, and I found myself sitting sixth on the grid with an 81.8. Goiana is much less challenging than the previous tracks on the schedule, with less hairpins, less bumps, and less run-off areas to abuse. I just couldn’t find the speed that Verver and Kappet were able to achieve during the week, so my goal was to instead build myself a comfortable setup. As a result, I made a few changes to what Risto and Guus had experimented with setup-wise throughout the week. I was happy that while I couldn’t shave off the extra four tenths needed, I could at least drive the car consistently without it jumping out on me.
Again, I expected many crashes due to the track’s lack of runoff areas, but the field thinned out quickly. However, it became difficult to pull away from anybody. The track’s monstrous front stretch allowed for NASCAR-style tandem drafting, and the long, sweeping corners with a bit of banking meant anyone getting passed could put up a fight on corner exit. The end result was that, aside from the front two or three cars pulling away, everyone was on top of each other.
At the start, I dropped from sixth to eighth because I’m a pansy and didn’t want to wreck the car during the chaotic start, and slowly clawed my way up through the field. I commented early on to some friends on Teamspeak that the car drove really good, it just wasn’t as fast as it could be. Taking advantage of the car’s handling through sector 2, as well as using the Push-2-Pass system more than I wanted to, I was able to give myself a front row seat for the incredible battle between Miguel Lopez and Jake Cooper – one that had championship implications – as they fought for fifth place.
The battle between Cooper and Lopez will undoubtedly be scrutinized by RaceDepartment administrators – the drivers fought each other equally and threw roughly the same amount of cheeky moves at each other, and given how much of an asshole I can be on ovals, I’m going to refrain from commenting exactly what moves I considered dirty, and what moves I considered clean. Regardless, the battle was insane to watch, lasted for several minutes, and on several occasions the pair were merely inches from crossing into territory that would get them penalized by the stewards.
I tried to insert myself into this battle as well, considering that Cooper was third in points and I was sitting in fourth, and passing him on-track would greatly benefit me in the overall standings. The running order at the time allowed for me to take a gamble and go for it.
Watching this dogfight unfold, you could tangibly see both drivers lose concentration – there is only so much of this racing you can take before you either lose focus and stuff it into the barrier, or admit defeat and back off. Lopez had the faster car, and when Cooper was at an advantage, you could see it get to Lopez. I commented to my buddies watching that the #39 was loose on exit in many spots, and they were able to point that out on the broadcast as well. On two or three occasions, Lopez scrubbed off so much speed trying to save the car that I was faced with a choice to lift and save both of us, or keep my foot in it and try to execute a narrow overtake that would wreck us if I messed up.
After several laps of this insane battle, Cooper emerged victorious and was able to pull away from the #39. Lifting to save myself and Lopez caused me to lose a few spots, as again, the field was on top of each other. Again, I fell to eighth or ninth, but clawed my way back up into the top five. Later in the race, after cycling through pitstops, I caught up to and was eventually able to overtake Lopez after he broke loose in the left-handed hairpin in sector two.
The setup for today was heavily modified from what a few teammates were working on during the week. They had the car almost as stiff as it could go, and I just couldn’t hold on for the long run. I threw in some of the values I liked from preseason testing in 4Chan’s Game Stock Car series, and it made the car nice and stable for the long run. Wasn’t fast enough to compete for the win, but another fifth place finish kept me fourth in points with two races remaining.