For a five week span on PretendRaceCars.net, I’ve posted an article every Saturday chronicling my season driving for Walk Racing in Season 3 of the Virtual Stock Car Championship over on RaceDepartment. Now that the season’s over and I’ve taken home fourth place in the overall standings, behind teammates Risto Kappet and Guus Verver, as well as Brazilian Neto Nascimento, it’s obviously time to reflect on the season and give all you readers some insight into how a person approaches a league like this – not many people have the talent to compete in a prestigious online league, and you might be surprised at how some things are done at the top.
I’ve won two championships and several special events on iRacing, had a pretty successful career driving Monster Trucks over in Rigs of Rods with several event wins, and have recently been tearing up the leaderboards in DiRT Rally, but nothing could prepare me for Brazilian Stock Cars. Built in Europe to be a heavy-duty DTM-like car, powered by an engine you’d see in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and featuring a push-to-pass system that causes all kinds of chaos, Brazilian Touring Car racing is something so bizarre and foreign that at least some of my skills I’ve picked up over the years might have transfered over.
Guus Verver was the one to really get me into Game Stock Car Extreme, and pushed for me to get into running Brazilian Touring Cars on RaceDepartment. We met through 4Chan’s automotive board and participated regularly in the weekly rFactor events the various users held. After two seasons running GT cars, the group switched over to Game Stock Car Extreme and announced the next 4Chan season would be held with the Stock Car Brazil cars. My two championships over on 4Chan, and the close racing the Brazilian cars were providing out of the box that I didn’t seem to struggle with, made Guus ask me if I wanted to compete alongside him in a league that was much more serious than guys hosting races on a Chinese cartoon imageboard.
I did. I hadn’t league raced around good people since iRacing a few years prior, and I knew I could hold my own to some extent because the only guys faster than me on 4Chan were Risto and Guus – both of whom already drove for Walk Racing. Maybe a day or two later, a couple weeks before 4Chan’s league would start, and a full month before the RaceDepartment league would hold its pre-season qualifying event, I was a part of Walk Racing as well.
Moral of the story: Always drive your ass off, because you have no idea who’s watching.
People who are familiar with me from other racing sims know I have a habit for running absolutely ridiculous liveries that are intentionally designed to offend and distract everyone around me. For the past few years, across a multitude of different racing sims, I’ve swapped between a crazy leopard print design, and a straight-up softcore pornography livery. At one point, I even had my actual cell phone number on the back of my car so people could text or call me under caution to shout profanities or complain about my driving – and you’d be surprised at how many people followed through with this. I’ve had several protests, suspensions, and angry fathers with teenage daughters come after me in a variety of ways, and it provides some cheap entertainment when we’re at a track that doesn’t provide the most competitive racing. The voice and text chat is absolute comedy gold when someone takes a closer look at my car.
Unfortunately, driving for a team in a serious online league usually means you’ll have no control over your own livery aside from small contingencies. This was the contingency sheet I sent over to the graphics designer when I got the message that work had begun on this season’s liveries:
If you look closely, you can see the black & white JBG.com logo next to the exhaust. We went the entire season without anybody noticing, and for good measure I stuck a polaroid photo of Ariel from The Little Mermaid on the dash to mess with the commentators during in-car shots because Reiza lets you paint the dash in these cars and oh my god you can paint the dash. Again, nobody seemed to notice this:
You have to understand, for someone who prides themselves on how retarded of a livery they can create, having to run a boring team livery is like telling a kid he’ll be forced to wear mandatory uniforms once high school starts. It’s demoralizing, but at this point I have embraced my eternal quest for attention.
As I stated earlier, once I got on-board with Walk Racing, the 4Chan GSCX league actually started a few weeks before the pre-qualification event for RaceDepartment’s league. From what I remember, we had about three weeks to learn absolutely everything we could about the car before the RD league started, from what common values for each setting worked across all tracks, to what fuel strategies worked in race conditions, and the exact amount of time you could drive on worn tires before you began scrubbing off speed. Risto was insane at cold hard calculations, sometimes throwing a setup at us that had values we hadn’t even thought of, and able to explain precisely what adjustments each setup might need based on how the car performed. Myself, Guus, and Severin Austerschmidt used the three 4Chan events and the open practice servers throughout the week to build a literal library of setups that we could consult once the season began. I think, going into the first race at Cascavel, I myself had seven or eight different setups to choose from developed from our time spent messing around in the 4Chan leagues, and even had specific Qualifying/Race setups developed if by some chance the RD admins forgot to enable the parc ferme rule.
Guus ended up using a setup I developed for Laguna Seca as a baseline. Severin, who would be sticking primarily to the 4Chan league and wouldn’t be racing with us at RD, modified a setup I made for the A1-Ring as his baseline. Info was exchanged almost daily, and I ran way too many practice laps throughout each week that definitely ate into my free time. The whole process of using one league to prepare for another was really interesting – during 4Chan’s trip to Laguna Seca, the entire purpose of the 80 minute race was to test sway bar settings – more specifically, how much ARB was too much. Another race, at Cascavel, I wanted to see how long I could make a full tank of fuel last compared to Guus running a set value at the start. The race at the Red Bull Ring was a test to see if my CPU would run into any performance difficulties.
Once the season started, Mr. C, the owner of Walk Racing, set up a private LiveRacers server for all of us. LiveRacers is a stat tracking application for gMotor sims that is essentially a heavily customizable rFactor leaderboard. The current interface is slightly different to what’s displayed in the picture below, but in short, this allowed us to monitor each others performance all throughout the week leading up to the race on Saturday.
Which usually wasn’t a lot.
As the season wore on, finding the time for practicing got more and more difficult. Racing sims are a hell of a lot of fun, but sometimes there are days where you’re either too tired to drive, simply not home to run laps, or want to play an entirely different game. Learning to manage this is essential to your performance over the course of a championship.
Alien is slang within driving game communities for ridiculously fast drivers. Guus and Risto were both aliens. And spending a season with them, it’s amazing how neither of them fit the stereotype. On iRacing, guys like Greger Huttu and Ray Alfalla have achieved almost god-like status for their accomplishments in iRacing’s pro leagues, and both of them have their own small fanbase which sometimes makes it seem as if they live solely to play video games and nothing else. It was nice to get a dose of reality – Guus was a student in the Netherlands, and Risto a kart racer from Estonia. Both were incredibly humble about their skill level, and their skill level didn’t define their online personality. It was refreshing to be around people who were good at a video game because they enjoyed it and pushed themselves to get better, and didn’t constantly spam their sponsors in the chat box on the grid. Maybe it’s because Walk Racing was a half-step below the top teams like Radicals Online and Team Redline, and Guus/Risto hadn’t gotten a taste of the spotlight yet, but it was very nice to be around friendly guys who just happened to be really damn good at
rFactor Game Stock Car.
And they were also really damn good at breaking the gMotor physics engine.
Above is a lap Risto ran for our 4Chan league eight months ago. ISI-based sims lets you do some wild pedal management bullshit that you simply can’t do in real life or you’ll kill yourself. Pay special attention to how he works both the throttle and brake simultaneously in the corners. This is a shortcoming of the gMotor physics engine and there’s no way to police this in leagues. Fellow driver Jake Cooper drew attention to this unconventional driving style during practice at Cordoba, but unfortunately things like this are why you’ll see guys obsess over small physics changes in newer titles like Assetto Corsa – failing to dial this stuff out ruins the top leagues in any ISI-based sim.
By mid season, we had a pretty predictable way of developing setups. Guus was using one of the preseason setups I’d made with minor adjustments, Risto was pumping out his own setups for himself, and I was using what Risto would develop, often only changing the brake bias and bump/rebound settings so it wasn’t as twitchy in the corners over a long period of time. All of Risto’s setups were developed to take advantage of his crazy braking technique, and two weekends in a row, both at Cordoba and Jacarepagua, most of my time in practice was spent finding the absolute perfect brake bias for how I drove the car. Risto always had his set at 60:40, and sometimes that just wasn’t logical if you weren’t trying to break the game’s physics. After a few races, I learned 63:37 was a pretty good universal value.
We almost always ran the rear wing at 0 and had really crazy differential settings. The steering lock was always at 18, and the front sway bar was always softer than the rear sway bar. With no spring rate adjustments and a fixed gear ratio, a lot of people when setting these cars up do it primarily by feel. In general, the stiffer the better.
When you’re constantly practicing with aliens, and only a tenth or two off their quickest times without breaking the game’s physics, and able to deliver on race day, you begin to develop an unavoidable sense of elitism. We all watch sim racing videos on YouTube, whether it be from popular personalities or random hotlap videos. When competing in a league like RaceDepartment’s, where you’re getting as much out of the car as you physically can and maximizing every inch of the track, you start to realize that a huge portion of sim racers totally suck. Watching almost any video after my time spent driving in VSCC, you can instantly pick out people’s mistakes, and often after one or two turns in a video, you simply turn it off.
This unavoidable elitism turns you into a pretty big cunt – I’d often find myself browsing places like the Assetto Corsa forum, the iRacing member forum, the WMD forum for Project CARS, VirtualR for news, and even some RaceDepartment threads.. just to see guys talking about sim racing in general. And anytime someone would post a hotlap video or talk about their driving skills, I’d approach what they had to say with a ton of cynicism. It put me in state of emotion very reminiscent of high school gym class, where even the slightest mistake, dumb observation, or off-pace lap would cause me to shout haha you’re a fucking bum as if I watched my buddy whiff on a shot in floor hockey and turn off whatever YouTube video I was watching.
There’s no better example of this than the 80+ minute direct drive wheel comparison video we posted a few weeks ago. I remember skipping to footage of the actual driving portion, seeing the guys wiggle in a few corners, and being like “nope you’re shit”. Again, when there are only a handful of people better than you in a competitive environment over the course of an entire season, you start to acquire the ego of Eddie Van Halen.
Getting through a qualifying session is crazy as hell; it’s probably more stressful than the race. During the first round at Cascavel, the top seventeen drivers were separated by a single second. On track, this works out to a two car length gap. You essentially had to run a perfect lap, with several other cars on the track also trying to run a perfect lap. So ideally, the goal would be to stay away from all those other cars. In each session, I always tried to leave the pits right as the session started. This would guarantee a clear track ahead, and maybe three laps to myself where I wouldn’t have to deal with traffic. It was really important to take advantage of these clean laps, because hotlapping in traffic is hard for obvious reasons. People don’t just move over for you.
I almost had the pole at Cascavel, but had to back off just before sector three started to prevent from running another dude over who was on his outlap. At Cordoba, I was on pace to break the track record because I’d used the draft from another car so well in the first two sectors, but the insane speed I’d gained behind the “host car” meant I’d caught him at a part of the track where I had to compromise my line to get around him. Part of the strategy in qualifying is purposely hanging back from the guy in front of you long enough so you don’t run him over. This is trickier than it sounds, since sometimes the guy in front isn’t very good, and with only a handful of minutes to run a fast lap, you don’t have all day to just sit and wait for the perfect opening.
With so many good cars in the field, you never knew if your fastest lap would have you starting 3rd or 13th. Now from my time over on iRacing, I can safely say your starting position on an oval doesn’t mean shit, because in some cases you can pass multiple cars in a single turn – or just outright move them out of the way yourself. Not here. The BR Stock Cars were so reliant on clean air to the point where starting in heavy traffic meant imminent death. And if people didn’t want you to pass them, they could simply counter your efforts with a use of the temporary boost system on the car.
You aren’t going to be exerting yourself physically when driving a pretend race car at your computer desk, but before every major online race you participate in there’s a few things you can do to improve your chances of not messing shit up.
Don’t eat McDonalds the night before. Depending on the country you live in, a proper diet before the race goes a long way. The last thing you want to have happen is to practice for a big race all week, only to contemplate shitting yourself while playing rFactor so you stay in the top ten in points or whatever. What sounds like a good idea at the time won’t mean much ten minutes after the race ends, and you’ll have to explain to your flatmates why a computer game took priority over your bodily functions, who will eventually let that story circulate among your female colleagues. I know guys who had legit piss bottles for the iRacing Daytona 500 because those races could last up to four hours, but it’s better to just avoid this issue altogether and don’t eat stuff that’ll cause you to shit yourself during the race. Ditto for fluids. You pee your pants playing rFactor, I’m publicly shaming you.
Get the lighting in your room right. I have a window right above my PC monitor, and any moderately sunny day causes lighting issues in my room. It’s not a problem during daytime races because there’s enough contrast on screen to see where you’re going, but sometimes races, not just in GSCX but in other sims as well, would have some form of time acceleration. If you know the race will carry on into the night, make sure your room is dark before the race starts. That way your eyes won’t get fucked up when the in-game world begins to get darker.
Ensure there will be no FPS drops. You don’t need special effects so turn them off. Shadows in ISI sims can be set to “medium” with no tangible drop in how the game looks. Set your visible opponents setting to 20 or so, you don’t need to render cars on the other side of the circuit. There are guys who run everything at low or off because they think it reduces input lag – newsflash, it doesn’t. But you should at least prepare yourself for FPS drops, because that’s the last thing you want happening in a long, tense online event.
Our races were 50 minutes long, which guaranteed we’d have to make at least one pit stop for fuel. Since each team shared a pitbox, myself and Razvan would have to coordinate when our pit windows would be, always being careful to start the race with differing amounts of fuel. Had we messed up and entered the pits at the same time, one of us would have to awkwardly wait behind the other, ruining someone’s race in the process which isn’t cool.
As for how I approached each race, the goal was simple – don’t damage the car. Push-to-pass was used once every five minutes or so, spread out evenly throughout the race. I mapped the black box controls to buttons on my DFGT so I could easily make pit adjustments and scroll through the different information boxes at will. Once the field spread out, I spent a large portion of each race monitoring the standings and manually calculating the points on the fly. I knew that one fifth place finish would be merely average, but a whole season of nothing but fifth place finishes would skyrocket me to the top of the points standings as more and more people struggled with consistency. I drove with as little aggression as possible unless the situation called for it. With no poles, wins, or podiums, I finished the season fourth out of nearly 50 drivers just by not putting myself in stupid situations.
Throughout your career in online racing, you will come across a wide variety of different drivers who all have their own ideas on how a race should play out. If you spend a lot of time oval racing, you’ll learn quickly that contact is as commonplace in a NASCAR race as it is in hockey or American football. Venture over to road racing, and you’ll get a mixed set of rules and opinions that differ from series to series. Some leagues have strict rules about blocking, and others don’t allow any contact at all. You’ll also come across some drivers who throw bitchfits if you merely sneeze near them, whereas other drivers will buy right into the natural aggression that comes with auto racing and dish it right back at you.
The RaceDepartment VSCC league was very liberal in how we treated each other on-track. On several different occasions people were taking pretty heavy shots at each other, moving each other out of the way, or flat-out door slamming people, and this was all seen as acceptable. As someone who’s spent a fair bit of time oval racing online, I felt right at home, and this is how it should be. Everyone in the series was more than capable of keeping their cars under control while driving aggressively, and even if you were on the receiving end of someone’s aggression, it never escalated to a point where it felt unfair. It was a lot of fun to race in this sort of environment because the stewards respected the skill level of all drivers involved and let the race play out as it should.
I have to say though, if you were someone who couldn’t handle a proper on-track dogfight or believed auto racing is governed by an unwritten set of gentleman’s rules, you’d probably have your shit stomped. Early in the season I moved Fabio Assucano out of the way using nothing but my bumper, and he promptly returned the favor four weeks later at Cordoba. During another race at Goiana, I caught up to Jake Cooper and Miguel Lopez who had been trading paint for several laps in a pretty dramatic fashion. When I tried to poke my nose into the fray, Lopez slammed the door in my face. This is part of what made the racing in VSCC a lot of fun, but guys who weren’t ready for this level of aggression would be in for a rude awakening.
In conclusion, the series was a lot of fun, I enjoyed the challenge of having to learn a bunch of new tracks that I’ve never heard of before, but the car was too reliant on clean air, and the season was too short. As a gift for the new guys who have no idea where to start with Game Stock Car Extreme, here are all the setups I ran this season. I remember what it’s like to be new at games like iRacing and see all the fast guys hoarding setups, so I’ll do the opposite: