After months of waiting in limbo for Kunos to add several requested features and functionality to the Multiplayer side of Assetto Corsa, RaceDepartment began their inaugural season of the BMW M235i Series last Wednesday at the short layout of Silverstone. 24 of the fastest drivers from several different countries and prestigious Sim Racing teams arrived for a trek into the unknown, with alien Hany Al-Sabti taking the victory. The race was a rather dull affair, as Al-Sabti began pulling away from the competition mere minutes into the 28-lap shootout with the help of his teammate to shuffle the polesitter back to third place.
After the race, however, a firestorm erupted in the official forums where over eight and a half minutes of penalties were handed out to the top drivers, giving the win to Akis Kevrekidis and relegating Al-Sabti, Keithley, and Paul Patrick to Division 2.
Reading through the entire thread, it appears RaceDepartment’s approach to track limits in the BMW M235i league was the same approach NASCAR took to the yellow line rule in 2001 – where any driver who dared to even sneeze near a white line was instantly hit with a penalty that took them out of the race. As someone who personally watched the race on the site’s Livestream (I was home from work sick), there were zero instances of intentional cutting among the penalized drivers. Most drivers flirted with the white line boundaries unintentionally when battling with an opponent, but that’s to be expected. Also to be expected were lapses in concentration where one or two drivers ran wide in a corner, because that happens and usually it’s okay because it doesn’t provide any competitive advantage.
However, these instances were all seen by race stewards as intentional violations, and the drivers were given monstrous penalties that effectively ruined their chances at a championship before the season had really even began. Al-Sabti and Keithley’s penalties combined for a total of four minutes, and Paul Patrick’s penalties put him four laps down.
The penalties, as explained in detail:
In the post race thread, many drivers, even ones who were not penalized and actually benefited from the revised finishing order, spoke out against these strange penalties. Some teams completely withdrew from the series altogether, and others brought up that 200-second penalties for running a bit wide and putting one tire on a white line had never been an issue in all previous RaceDepartment leagues:
What’s crazy is that RaceDepartment’s stance on track limit enforcement seems to change with each passing moment. In the official rules, drivers are told to keep two tires on the racing surface at all times:
In the Stock Car Brazil series I participated in over the past month, track limits were clearly defined and nobody was ever penalized for track limit violations during the course of the regular season. Accidental off-track adventures were always seen as genuine driver error and an acceptable amount of flexibility was given to track limit violations, as is done in real life. However, in the BMW M235i league, this flexibility has been completely disregarded in favor of tennis-like rules:
With RaceDepartment already having expressed concerns about the stability of Assetto Corsa’s online component, now with people dropping out of the league after the first race due to absurd penalties, it remains to be seen how the rest of the season will play out.