“Come on Sev, we’ve almost got a full grid! You should totally sign up for this”
“Nah, that mod is garbage. It floats around when you’re on a straight. Like a wheel is loose or something.”
Released to a near-unanimous level of fanfare, the first EnduRacers mod for rFactor 2, the Flat 6 Series, was considered to be a turning point in the lifespan of ISI’s flagship racing sim. Until the launch of the mod three short weeks ago, diehard rFactor 2 players struggled to find a mod they could use as an example of how good their favorite racing sim can be when it’s firing on all cylinders. With MakCorp amounting to little more than fancy render showcases on VirtualR, ISI’s official releases inconsistent at best, and URD’s fantastic Endurance GT cars locked behind a paywall, the lack of one really good mod that everyone could download and race together caused rFactor 2 to become a shadow of the game that preceded it. There was simply no must-have third party content for the game, when the original title could offer sim racers everything from the 1979 Formula One Season to Off-Road Trucks at this point in its lifespan. As a result, rFactor 2’s popularity dwindled, something that can be seen in all its embarrassing glory via the use of SteamCharts.
Suddenly, one late December evening, EnduRacers dropped the Flat 6 Series on us. You didn’t have to look at the screenshots, read the release notes, or watch videos from people like EmptyBox showing off the car in all its glory. Chances are, if you had rFactor 2 installed, you’d already clicked the download button. Used by countless competitive online leagues offering real cash prizes, the EnduRacers Flat 6 Mod is regarded as one of the best and most accurate rFactor mods ever. And now it was available for rFactor 2.
But is it really all it’s cracked up to be?
Restricting a majority of the setup options and offering you over 50 different liveries to choose from, these cars both in real life and within rFactor 2 are essentially a spec series. You’re allowed to change minor shit like the ride height, steering lock, brake bias, and rear wing angle of attack, but how successful you are during each race depends a large part on your driving skills. This plays a large role in the popularity of the Flat 6 mod: you don’t need to be a setup whiz, or even familiar with the garage menu at all to be competitive in most online servers. But with so much of your success relying on sheer driving skill, it only makes the flaws in the Flat 6 mod for rFactor 2 stick out that much worse. You can’t dial out certain unwanted characteristics by running fucked up values, because there aren’t really any values to adjust in the first place.
A couple weeks ago, there was a public lobby run by REVS SimRacing UK featuring the full Silverstone layout. During this open session, I was able to refine the baseline setup I’d built, and had an extremely satisfying battle with the top three drivers until I was taken out by a guy re-joining the track at the wrong time. To my surprise, I was more disappointed at how the car drove, than having my race ruined when I was on pace to catch the leader.
In a straight line, the car floats and wanders around as if I’m playing Need for Speed Shift 2: Unleashed. That’s not good. In the corners, I’m able to hold the most ridiculous of slip angles with ease. That’s also not good. Spending time putting in additional laps at both Lime Rock and Sepang, I just couldn’t figure out what people saw in this car. How people slammed Shift 2 Unleashed for handling like “Boats on Ice”, yet praised the Flat 6 mod for being one of the most realistic mods ever… Dude, these people are completely and utterly clueless
Yet the racing was so good, I signed up for an event with the car on Race2Play at Mid-Ohio. Even though the physics were nowhere close to realistic or even logical, the racing a semi-fixed setup not-quite-GT3 sports car produced was out of this world. An hour prior to the start of the event, we had 33 entries. As we progressed to Qualifying, we indeed retained the maximum of 28 allotted participants. This doesn’t normally happen on Race2Play.
There were at least four or five aliens in the room, which lead to some seriously extra-terrestrial lap times being recorded in Qualifying. Running the chicane layout of Mid-Ohio, polesitter Ricardo Ferreia dropped a blistering 1:20.9xx on the field, while I was able to click off a 1:21.0xx and found myself second on the grid. Maciej Bekas and Nico Barclay were starting behind me, turning this race into something iRacing have given the nickname of “Top Split.” Every good road racer on Race2Play was in this race, and actively trying to beat the shit out of every other good road racer.
And that’s the best possible environment to find the shortcomings of any third party mod. Not when clicking off laps by yourself for a fancy YouTube video, but when competing at the highest level. If you’d like to try the exact setups I used for the event and see if you can match the low 1:21 pace required to be competitive in Qualifying, here you go.
While I can’t sit here and make a snide self-masturbatory remark over ownership of the track record, being only a tenth off means I was more likely than not running the optimal line at maximum attack. Here’s turn one at Mid-Ohio from my vantage point during Qualifying, with the footage of a real life Porsche Cup Car at Mid-Ohio chilling out in the top corner of the screenshot. See a problem? While we’re both in the same gear and traveling at roughly the same speed, I’m literally turning right to go left.
Yo, that’s like, not good. Oh well, maybe I just did one of those crazy, balls-out entries and drove it in as deep as I could? Plus, the track is slick as fuck from almost 30 cars actively running practice laps for almost two hours prior to the qualifying session. Maybe it’s just really slick on that section.
Oh, I’m turning right to go left again? Well, maybe I was really flying and had to counter-steer? I mean, I did just come over the crest of a hill while under power, and catch a portion of the concrete patch. Maybe the car broke loose, right? And I mean, maybe it’s hot out? And the track is super slick. And maybe it’s because of my sway bar settings?
Okay, no, this is a problem. You’re literally driving this car sideways for a good portion of the lap, as if we’re on iRacing’s notorious Old Tire Model. It bares no resemblance to any competitive in-car footage on YouTube, under the exact same race weekend conditions. The rFactor 2 Flat 6 mod is just not accurate, driving like a cross between Shift 2 Unleashed and Grand Prix Legends. I mean, it’s fun as hell because it’s this really weird controlled semi-drift, but after seeing countless sim racers praise this mod for it’s realism… Yeah, no. This isn’t even close. If y’all like this kind of driving models, Shift 2 goes for like ten bucks and there’s a shitload of wild street tracks and car customization. Just look at this shit: I’m so fucking sideways, the inside front tire is picking up off the ground while I’m counter-steering.
However, despite driving like the bastard offspring of Slightly Mad Studios and Electronic Arts, a beautiful thing happens when you put a bunch of talented sim racers into a car that handles like ass: The racing is absolutely fucking awesome.
Maciej Bekas snatched away the lead from polesitter Ricardo Ferreia only a handful of laps into the event. Ferreia would be out of contention from the race on lap four after a botched entry to turn nine, reducing the list of potential winners to three aliens. For the first ten minutes, Bekas, myself and Nico Barclay ran nose-to-tail, never more than a second or two apart from each other. If somebody hit a rumble strip at the wrong angle, you immediately picked up a few tenths and saw the gap disappear.
When a lapped car plowed into Barclay, running in third place at the time, the stage was set for a battle between myself and Bekas. Over the span of 30 minutes, I knocked the gap between usdown from 1.5 seconds multiple times, but could never complete the pass when I got alongside him. The cars were too evenly matched. And even though we were sliding around like a poor Slightly Mad Studios game, it was controllable enough to allow for a moment where mere pixels separated us. If anything, this is a testament to the superior netcode of rFactor 2 compared to other, more popular racing sims.
Of course, before being forced to take up road racing due to the permanent ban from iRacing, I was a short track oval racing guy, so you start digging into the bag of tricks you’ve developed over there when rFactor 2 displays the five minute warning.
And I took a page from our lord and savior Risto Kappet on the final lap.
It didn’t work. Maciej Bekas took home the win in what was probably the greatest race ever held on Race2Play. All hail Maciej.
So we get to that part in the article where I’m supposed to offer some sort of conclusion on what was discussed, but determining how to wrap this all up is a bit difficult.
This is one of the worst, most unrealistic cars available for rFactor 2. From a pure physics standpoint, you’re not going to learn anything from driving this, and it’ll probably fuck up your technique if you’re racing several different cars at once. It is downright hilarious to see these so-called hardcore sim racers praising the EnduRacers Flat 6 mod, because this car is no different than something you’d find in Shift 2 Unleashed. In some corners, you’re turning right to go left – sometimes manually inducing these mammoth nonsensical slip angles. On straights, the car floats around as if you have genuine wheel damage. My rusted-out Dodge Dakota with front shocks that desperately need replacing has more composure if I take my hands off the wheel – and that’s on the notoriously messy Alberta roads.
But by some act of God, the racing this car produces is absolutely phenomenal. The first four drivers were separated by two tenths in qualifying. You don’t have to be a genius to build a setup, because there’s basically nothing to adjust. And since everyone is playing by the same awkward set of physics, a scenario doesn’t arise where one guy with karting experience walks away from the field. Had Barclay and Ferreia not received heavy damage, we’re looking at a situation where four cars could have potentially finished within two seconds of each other after 45 minutes of racing. That’s fucking crazy.
As a result, the EnduRacers Flat 6 Series mod is not only the best mod you can possibly download for rFactor 2, it’s also the worst.