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 Jacarepaguá for the fifth and final round of the season. My goal was to lock up third place in the championship standings.
Jacarepagua is the longest and most technical track on the schedule. With laptimes in the 1:47 range, slippery kerbs, and numerous camber & elevation changes, this track was guaranteed to produce chaos. Because I was lazy, tired, and lacked motivation, I didn’t start practicing for the event until Friday night, and boy what a mistake that turned out to be. While most tracks featured laptimes in the 60 second bracket, Jacarepagua was difficult to memorize, punished even the slightest mistakes, and changed personality with every sector. The layout itself was as if Road America and the road course configuration for New Hampshire International Speedway had a love child. The long, sweeping bends and slippery kerbs of Road America would intersect with the roval characteristics of NHIS – the car sometimes violently bouncing off the tarmac where the road and oval sections of Jacarepagua would intersect.
Even after memorizing the layout, my performance was still not where I wanted it to be. Teammates Risto Kappet and Guus Verver were clicking off 1:47.5‘s in practice, where I seemed to be stuck at a 1:49.3. Eventually, I brought this down into the low 1:48’s, but I was still worried for the race – I had no idea where I’d be on the grid, or if I’d even be competitive, considering I’d always managed to be within a tenth or two of Risto and Guus at all other tracks we visited. It felt fast, but I’d never been this far off pace.
Eventually Risto merged the replay of my best lap with the replay of his best lap, and even he struggled to see where I could improve – commenting that your lines are good, you just need to be faster. We chalked it up to his radical braking technique that abuses the gMotor physics engine and is something that would kill you if you tried it in real life, but that’s a story for another time.
Surprisingly enough, when I finally got onto the RaceDepartment server and ran some practice laps, I was fifth leaderboard – a place I’ve grown accustomed to over the season. The guys in front of me were the usual suspects: Kappet, Verver, Nascimento, and Sergio Junior.
I was happy with my performance in qualifying, but not happy where I landed on the grid. I was able to do a good job of staying in clean air and making sure I always had an open race track ahead of me to push – strategically lifting in traffic and waiting for the absolute best moment to run a fast lap, but despite my best efforts, I landed seventh on the grid once the session ended.
The start of the race was an incredible spectacle to watch – lots of friendly contact, but no wrecking whatsoever. Whoever won the race between Nascimento (75), Verver (86), and Kappet (88) would win the championship, and nobody was holding back. If you’re the type of person who believes road racing is governed by a set of unwritten gentleman’s rules, the first lap alone would have sent you into an autistic fit of rage. People who weren’t assertive about protecting their spot on the race track promptly had their shit slapped, and as I’ve said before, in a series where the talent level is so high, everyone understands that it’s just a part of the game. Beginning lap two, all of these little aero pieces were scattered around the track in sector one and it was pretty funny to weave through them all.
But unlike the first four rounds of the season where the focus was solely on the drivers, today the track fought back.
Not even three laps into the race, I passed points leader and teammate Guus Verver parked on the side of the track. In a hard fought battle with Risto Kappet, Guus had clipped the grass on the exit of turn three, and looped the car. Two laps later, another championship contender, Neto Nascimento, blew the braking point in turn six and went flying off the track.
Taking away a spot from Verver and Nascimento landed me in fifth place – a familiar spot, and given how we’d already seen two of the front runners make huge mistakes less than ten minutes into the hour-long race, I figured the entire race would be about survival. There was a chance I could see my first podium finish of the season if I simply didn’t wreck.
Nascimento caught up to me and began his drive back through the field, and just as he was taking a spot away from GhostSpeed driver Miguel Lopes, Lopes put the car in the sand. Two laps later, as Verver began to catch me and make his way back through the field in a quest to defend his championship lead with a pack of cars in tow, I looped the car as well.
Not wanting to let my emotions get the best of me, I threw the car in neutral and held the brake. The car never fully rotated and I dropped back to tenth place, frustrated that I may lose third place in points to one of the GhostSpeed cars that had slowly been improving throughout the season, Sergio Junior. Three turns later, I saw Nascimento parked along the wall. His day was done, and the championship battle was now between Verver and Kappet alone.
All of the above spanned the first ten minutes of the race. I began to work my own way up through the field, slowly picking off cars that I’d never raced around before, because I’d never been lower than fifth or six at any point in time during the season until today.
During the hours leading up to the race, Risto advised me that with my smooth driving style, I’d probably be able to go the entire race on a single set of tires, whereas Kappet and Verver would have to change tires due to how aggressive they are. Even though my tires were a bit shot from the spin earlier, I opted to take Risto’s advice anyway and neglect to change tires. The decision was a smart one in the end, as my teammate Razvan Aricuic and I shared a pitstall, and I left just as he was pulling into the pits. Couldn’t have timed it any better.
The second half of the race was much less eventful. Pit stops cycled around, I led a lap, and found myself in sixth with five minutes left to go, swapping places with Miguel Lopes by using the Push-to-Pass system. While it seemed like I was going to take home fifth place for the third time this season, a well-timed boost by the 39 car left me in the dust. However, not all hope was lost, as Sergio Junior did not finish far enough ahead of me to steal third place in points. Rounding the final corner, I noticed Fabio Assucano, who had been riding in fourth place, made a comical screw-up and looped the car a few hundred feet from the finish line. I had already began backing off, thinking I wouldn’t catch the 39 of Lopes and to just enjoy the final few corners in the car, but Assucano’s spin was so detrimental to his momentum that I missed finishing in the top five by about a car and a half. If only I drove it a bit harder during the final minute and selfishly tried to chase down Lopes…
The setup I ran this week was again a hybrid between something Risto created, and my own values I learned throughout this season and pre-season testing. It wasn’t fast by any means for me, but its what got me through the day. Again, it was designed to be neutral and comfortable for the long haul, just be careful on the throttle.
If it doesn’t load for you, open the setup file with notepad and change reiza51 to reiza14.