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.
Cordoba is very much like a South American version of NOLA Motorsports Park, or Palm Beach International Raceway. The track takes place in a huge wide-open field, features no elevation changes, and huge kerbs that you should probably stay away from. This is by far my favorite track on the schedule, as the track is nothing but medium speed corners. Unlike Taruma, which features a very challenging hairpin and shoddy track surface, or Cascavel, which has massive elevation changes, Cordoba is a very noob-friendly track that still allows for some really great racing. Throughout the week, lap times were consistently in the 69 second range.
But before we even went on the air for Qualifying, drama was brewing behind the scenes.
Teammate Risto Kappet, who had already been penalized once this season for not adhering to track limits during the pre-season qualifying event, was seven tenths faster than anybody else in practice with 30 minutes left in the session. Kappet’s 69.1 destroyed Jake Cooper’s 69.7 and Cooper became very vocal about it. Sitting third in points, behind Risto’s teammate Guus Verver and Brazilian Neto Nascimento, Cooper believed Risto had to have been violating the rules in some fashion to achieve lap times that the rest of the field had no shot of matching. Cooper initially believed Kappet was violating the track limits in Turn 1, which indeed featured a very large concrete runoff that could be exploited, and Risto’s sector one time indicated he had found an excessive amount of speed where others had not.
After a lengthy exchange inside the chat box, Cooper then accused Risto of using third party hacks to achieve lap times that were virtually impossible during race sessions. In high caliber leagues, such as iRacing’s NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series, RAM Hacks are sometimes used to gain an advantage over competitors by running a small program alongside the software to edit tire wear and fuel consumption in a way that benefits the user. Touring Pro Series driver Tim Heineman, who raced alongside Kappet in the Virtual Carrera Cup, was discovered to be using RAM Hacks and promptly removed from the series. It’s not a stretch by any means to assume a program has been developed for Game Stock Car Extreme, as it’s basically rFactor.
Cooper neglected to file a formal complaint with RaceDepartment administration, opting to outright leave the series before Qualifying began while saying RD was not doing enough to prevent cheating. During the fifteen minute qualifying session, Kappet secured the pole by going even faster than his controversial practice time, posting a blazing 68.9, while I managed to pull off my best qualifying result of the season – third- with a 69.3. Late in the session, I was on pace for a 68.6 by using the draft of a GhostSpeed Racing car, but had to compromise my line in sector two as the sheer speed of the lap caused me to catch an opponent in a tight section of the track. I guess this dismisses any theory that Risto was using a RAM Hack, since if the car moved out of the way, I would have had the pole, and I’m terrible. Teammate Guus Verver started fourth, and Walk Racing as a whole took up three of the first four grid spots.
Neto Nascimento struggled in qualifying and started 14th. This would have huge implications in the points battle between himself and Verver.
The width of the track prevented any serious incidents from occurring at the start, though I was promptly passed by two GhostSpeed cars and fell down to fifth at the end of the first lap. The field spread out at a rapid rate, Kappet driving in an entirely different zipcode mere minutes into the race. I made attempts to get around the 9 of Fabio Assucano and start climbing through the field with the Push-To-Pass system, but he countered with a textbook bump and run in turn two that moved me up the race track like I had done to him at Cascavel a few weeks prior.
I love shit like this; far too often people whine about moves like this and consider it dirty driving, but you have no idea how awesome this is when both guys know what they’re doing and understand it’s just part of the game.
During the early stages of the race, it became apparent how setup dependent these cars are. The top five cars were separated by huge gaps and it seemed impossible for people to gain on each other – even with my extremely conservative driving, I was pulling away from the dudes behind me with relative ease.
But keeping an eye on the leaderboard, things started to get weird.
About fifteen minutes into the race, a yellow flag popped up in sector three, and I moved up from fifth to fourth as Idrove by GhostSpeed driver Sergio Junior parked on the side of the track. The gap to Guus Verver had also been eradicated, as he was now directly in front of me. Sergio had been running second when he and Verver had made incidental contact that wrecked both of the cars. Junior’s momentum was lost, but Verver drove away with light damage from the incident. Despite Verver’s compromised car, I still couldn’t catch the guy.
And it seemed like nobody could catch anybody, Even after a slip up that saw the two GhostSpeed cars behind me reel me in by two seconds, I cooled myself down and slowly but surely drove away from them again. These cars are really loose when directly behind somebody, but this was a whole new level of setup dependency that we hadn’t seen all season.
As the picture shows, pitting was pretty hectic. For the past three races, I’d been lucky and would find myself on an empty pit road by starting the race with 68 liters. Today, not so much. Not only would I barely avoid the 39 of Miguel Lopes, but I’d also rub fenders with Guus Verver, pulling out directly in front of him and squeezing him into the wall. Exiting the pits, we were thrown into a mess of backmarkers, lapped cars, and lead lap cars – although in typical RaceDepartment fashion, all of them were extremely kind to the front runners and pulled off to the side at the earliest opportunity.
Not everyone managed to keep their cool as the final minutes of the race approached, as the 74 of Jon Hicken, who was not on the lead lap, blew the braking point into turn three and nearly totaled Verver. Thankfully, the 86 was able to drive away from the incident unharmed, and once again easily pulled away from me. Each lap, Verver was able to extend the gap by about two tenths of a second.
While Risto Kappet easily drove off into the sunset for the victory, holding on to fourth place proved to be more difficult that I’d imagined it would be. The 39 of Miguel Lopes used up as much Push-To-Pass as he could in order to reel me in, but just couldn’t get the job done, even with a really great divebomb attempt in turn three. In order to fend him off, I made a risky move and activated Push-To-Pass coming out of the hairpin, giving me some extra torque as we went up through the gears. This worked, and I held on for my highest finish of the season: fourth.
With Cooper gone and Nascimento having an uncharacteristically poor race where he failed to crack the top ten in points, this might move me up to third in the standings.
The setup we used this week was primarily developed by Risto Kappet, and since the track is not very challenging for the driver or hard on equipment, what he ran is what I ran. I think the only change I made was to the brake bias, but that’s a change everybody should be making anyways as it’s 100% user preference. I run 63:37, whereas Risto uses 60:40. This has been my favorite setup I’ve driven all year and is exactly what I want out of this car – it’s either loose or neutral in every corner, and really twitchy when making fast direction changes or on exit.
Just don’t drive behind other people because the lack of airflow over the car makes it super loose. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.