Tuesday marked the release of Assetto Corsa’s substantial Version 1.11 update, and by Thursday evening, we had an article up on PRC.net ripping apart the tenth iteration of the game’s continuously evolving tire model. A driving experience that seemingly aimed to replicate the classic nonsensical ice skating behavior of early iRacing builds rather than the high-downforce European sports cars featured within the simulator, the talented Assetto Corsa drivers among us were bewildered at what was occurring on their computer screens. No on-board footage matched up with the handling characteristics exhibited by GT3 cars in Assetto Corsa – they were floating all over the place, as if their tires had been yanked straight out of Grand Prix Legends. It made absolutely no sense, and on top of the bizarre car performance, some of the guys I talk to on a regular basis were notifying me of irregular heat cycles they’d discovered during simple lapping sessions. It made me speculate that Kunos had either botched a line or two deep within the tires.ini file, or they were merely firing blindly – allowing the rabid fanbase to bury valid criticism of the update under a sea of pathetic ass-kissing.
I let Assetto Corsa re-install through Steam overnight, determined to replicate the oddities for myself and possibly put up a lengthy article about it, which would center around questioning how a developer with real world data could spend a number of years constructing several different tire models for their racing simulator and never managing to get it right – as well as elaborating on what exactly is an eternal science project. I tend to drop that phrase around here a lot, and it’s more than just the Assetto Corsa community who swoon at otherwise redundant patch notes, so I figured that would be the article people came back to after the Christmas break.
I had Ethan fire me the exact Mercedes AMG GT3 setup he was using to produce the ice skating-like tire behavior on corner exit, but upon booting up the game, I noticed Steam had recently downloaded a small eight megabyte patch for Assetto Corsa, dubbed Version 1.11.3. Flipping through the garage area tabs, the numbers were what I deemed to be acceptable for a baseline setup, the tire pressures seemed reasonable, and I think the only adjustment I made was sending the brake balance towards the rear at 58% from whatever his stock value was. I also turned off Traction Control entirely, intentionally creating a situation that would see the rear end slide all over the place and magnify Ethan’s complaints about the car’s behavior.
Unloading the AMG GT3 at the Nurburgring GP circuit after the obligatory calibration period, I honestly thought the setup he’d spent the previous few days complaining about was instead absolutely wonderful
The car was phenomenal. Once the soft compound tires began to lose a bit of their composure, the old Assetto Corsa feeling – one I hadn’t experienced since the spring of 2014 when the RSR Live Timing leaderboards were the only source of competition – had returned. You could go out and drive at 92% attack without much trouble, and in my opinion it felt very similar to RaceRoom Racing Experience in that focusing on your fundamentals – much like Women’s basketball – was the key to clean, consistent laps. But as you pushed for that extra tenth or two out of each corner, the grip/slip/re-grip behavior exhibited by the outside rear tire demanded a level of throttle control and subtle steering inputs that only skilled sim racers posses. There was no longer an invisible hand of God keeping the car pointed in the proper direction, even with worn tires and a heavy right foot. Assetto Corsa, the Assetto Corsa that a lot of us fell in love with many years ago, has been resurrected from the grave.
So I urged Ethan to jump in a relatively empty pickup server at Silverstone, and turn some laps under racing conditions with the exact same setup which once frustrated him, just to confirm that hotfix released earlier this morning indeed rectified something within the tire model since the article shitting on it went live a few nights ago. The quote I received was “night and day.” While the Assetto Corsa fanboys immediately took to our comments section and blamed Ethan’s frustrations with the car on failing to use the proper traction control setting or incorrectly adjusting the setup to compensate for the new tire behavior – mistakes a driver as competent as Ethan wouldn’t make under any circumstances – behind the scenes, it appears Kunos did make some sort of error with the tire update deep within the game’s code. The exact same setup for the Mercedes AMG GT3 went from being atrocious on Tuesday evening, to bloody brilliant after a simple hotfix found its way into our Steam update queue.
This is the absolute best Assetto Corsa has felt in years.
In past articles discussing Assetto Corsa, both myself and our boy Sev have commented that there are certain turns in the default roster of tracks where you could just crank the wheel, plant the throttle, and the car would effortlessly navigate through the corner. One of these corners is Luffield at Silverstone International Raceway – a giant hairpin that should in theory require a lot of patience and delicate throttle control to prevent from melting off the left rear tire. Prior versions of Assetto Corsa have allowed you to lazily navigate this corner with little regard to any sort of skilled pedal inputs, and this was basically our ultimate test when it came to finding out what Kunos had done to the tire model after each update. Version 1.11.3 finally forces us to roll on the throttle and carefully manage the state of the left rear – a welcome change of pace from the hand of God keeping us perfectly balanced and letting us mat the throttle far before we could see the AstroTurf at the exit of the corner.
My stance on Assetto Corsa as a complete package won’t change, because quite frankly there are other simulators out there with a higher level of customization and functionality built into the vanilla package than what Kunos Simulazioni offer with Assetto Corsa. However, a major complaint I’ve had with this game is the team’s endless pursuit of tire model perfection, especially after getting it right so long ago, and then pointlessly wandering off in another direction for multiple years. With the 1.11.3 hotfix, I feel Kunos have finally achieved what made the GT3 entries feel so special when we first started becoming obsessed with the game, and on top of that, the numbers used in the garage screen directly correlate with what real life GT3 teams are running.
I’m extremely happy with the driving experience conveyed by Assetto Corsa Version 1.11.3, but I’m also very concerned. If the next major Assetto Corsa update brings with it Tire Model Version 11, and the handling characteristics of popular cars change all over again, it’s a surefire sign that modern racing simulator developers are taking shots in the dark and relying on the praise of overzealous fanboys to shout louder than the critics.
This one gets our stamp of approval. Please, for the love of God, don’t change it. The numbers are correct, and the behavior is right in line with that old school Assetto Corsa feel. Put this tire model in a glass display case for all to see, lock it up, and flush the key down the toilet. It’s been a long time since Assetto Corsa has felt this good, and it would be a shame if it was only temporary.