A title once relegated to the depths of a sim racer’s Steam Library, the team over at Sector 3 Studios have been tirelessly working away to improve their flagship Free to Play simulator in an effort to rejuvenate what was a disastrous initial launch back in 2013. While we’ve neglected to review the game’s most recent update, as well as the laser-scanned Nurburgring Nordschleife which earned the highest of praise from many virtual drivers around the world, we can’t exactly ignore the newest addition to the game – the IMSA GTO bundle. Light on content but heavy on boost, the Audi Quattro, Nissan 300ZX, and Ford Mustang clearly display the fine craftsmanship sim racers have come to expect from Sector 3, however there are still a few aspects of this purchase you’ll need to be aware of.
I didn’t get to try these cars until a few days after launch, as I had been busy rolling around town with a fellow sim racer, so the only preview of these vehicles I received beforehand was from the InsideSimRacing demonstration video featuring Sprint Car driver Billy Strange behind the wheel. As he struggled to put the power to the ground in a controlled manner, corner after corner, the impression I received was one of frustration and dismay – Strange couldn’t keep the car in a straight line on corner exit because the turbo boost would basically try and kill him. Going into my time spent with the three cars tonight, I expected to be met with a similar fate; the cars would be too powerful, I’d struggle to get around the track, and limp around wondering how the IMSA drivers of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s drove these beasts at locations such as Long Beach.
Instead, I bring only good news – if you see someone struggling with these cars, they’ve either neglected to touch the setup at all, or they’re just really bad and shouldn’t be talking about these cars to begin with. Yes, these engines send an absolutely insane amount of power to the rear wheels, and it can get kind of hectic on corner exit. I won’t deny that. However, you can dial this out almost completely in the garage menu with a super stiff front anti-roll bar setting, and a super soft rear anti-roll bar value. Pretty much everything else from our universal R3E tuning guide applies to these cars as well. The end result is a car that drives like a cross between a McLaren Mp4-12C GT3 entry, and a V8 Supercar. They’re a couple seconds slower than a GT3 car, and there’s just a teeny bit more concentration required in regards to throttle management, but they sound cool as fuck, and aren’t as difficult as the engine specifications make them out to be.
Laguna Seca – 1:24.014
The slowest of the bunch is the Ford Mustang, a car I initially took to Mid-Ohio before messing around with at Laguna Seca. In terms of cockpit visibility, the Mustang is the best choice for newcomers, as you’ve got this massive cabin with no intrusive roll cage elements or windshield banners. Messing with the anti-roll bars to ensure a neutral-handling ride, it felt like I was driving a V8 Supercar that had lightning-quick acceleration. However, unlike a V8 Supercar, and something that’s been magnified by the changes to R3E’s physics over the past few months, if you’re wrong on the timing of your braking and throttle points, you’ll basically understeer off the track. There isn’t as much mechanical grip compared to what you’d find in modern race cars. I prefer the feel of this one the best, it’s just… slow…
Norisring – 50.315
The Nissan 300ZX sits in the middle of the field, a vehicle that has fallen prey to the minimum downforce exploit which plagued GT3 cars in the previous build of Race Room Racing Experience. Even when you drop the rear wing setting to the minimum value, the car’s handling isn’t affected at all, and you’re instantly gifted a free 17 km/h. The cockpit view is extremely restricted thanks to the rising hood and massive windshield banner, but if you can configure your shit in a way where you can see out the slit of a front windshield, this car is no more difficult than a front engine GT3 entry. The turbo lag is minimal, and although the brakes are definitely from the 1980’s, if you’re going to buy this pack, start here.
Audi 90 Quattro
Mid Ohio – 1:23.061
Of course, the Audi 90 Quattro eventually comes along and breaks the whole goddamn game. This car dominated the real world IMSA GTO series, so obviously it’s realistic to be decimating current leaderboard times by almost a full second, but I genuinely wonder how competitive rooms will play out once the IMSA pack gains traction, as this car is basically in a league of it’s own. Driving the Quattro requires a much different approach to each track’s unique driving line, as the four-wheel-drive system exhibits simultaneous oversteer and understeer characteristics. You can throw the car into a corner like a genuine idiot who’s being silly with braking points, roll on the throttle to kick the back end out ever so slightly, and then mash the accelerator to the floor to generate understeer as if you’re in a touring car. In short, if you get loose under power on corner exit, the solution is to apply more power.
It’s all sorts of fucked up, and you’ll realize just how unbalanced things are about to be online when you look in your mirror and see your previous ghost a full second behind you. When you’ve got your foot to the floor during the majority of the corner, and every other car in the class is forced to feather the throttle, it’s one of those deals where you almost don’t want realism because it’s straight up unfair. I know Sector 3 have attempted to balance the Daytona Prototype with the traditional open-cockpit vehicles in the P2 class, so maybe this is another area where things will be artificially tweaked to prevent the Audi from running away with things.
Am I happy with these cars? I think it’s tough to answer that. On a personal level, I’ve already found balance issues that are going to severely mess things up online – which means I’ll be running the Audi online whether I want to or not. The poor default setup will also cause some problems, as these cars require a bit of tweaking by feel rather than us throwing a picture of the setup screen at our readers and saying “here’s or magic setup that fixes this car.” So I think the online following for these cars will mirror the Group 5 pack released last year; everyone wants to drive them for a day, realize they can’t handle the turbo lag without being four seconds off pace, and never touch them again.
Personal opinions pushed off to the side, the IMSA GTO pack is definitely a great example of Sector 3’s new development ideology, which is to simply build quality sim racing content and hope people come check it out. If you’ve been satisfied with previous content releases, you’ll probably be satisfied with this one as well.