Thought it hasn’t been officially announced on the parent website – only mentioned casually on the brand’s Facebook page – the gang at RaceDepartment appear to be working on putting together one last grand finale for GTR 2 – the critically acclaimed FIA GT simulator which marked the end of sim racing’s golden age, in which developers pushed out incredible feature-complete packages focused around one specific auto racing series. Details are obviously scant at the moment, but RaceDepartment rarely tease these things without following through to completion, so it appears we will soon see a lot of sim racers dust off their copy of GTR 2 – or nick it from the Steam marketplace for a mere $8 USD to avoid obvious Starforce bullshit – to partake in a throwback series of sorts.
In my opinion, it’s a great move for the website to host such a championship, as many modern sim racers we see currently clogging up the message boards were simply not around during the title’s original heyday in the late 2000’s, or were just too young at the time to become heavily involved in the competitive side of the GTR 2 community. Rather than telling these sim racers how things used to be in the world of sim racing and hoping they’ll understand the rants of veteran sim racers dissatisfied with the current crop of eternal science projects, they’ll be shown what a complete racing simulator offered in a setting where these elements are made use of, such as a 24 hour day/night cycle, fully animated pit stops, and even wet-weather racing. While it’s an extremely bold move for any website to start an online championship with such an old product, there are certainly enough people chilling out on RaceDepartment on a daily basis to guarantee a large field of cars for the first event on the schedule.
However, as with every older simulator running on modern hardware and operating system combinations, there are of course mammoth potential problems that could dismantle the whole thing before it even starts. Facebook user Jim D. notes that he had tried to administrate an online league for himself and his acquaintances using the excellent Power & Glory mod for GTR 2 – a package focusing on historic GT vehicles from the 1960’s and 1970’s – but was eventually forced to give up due to the massive amounts of technical issues relating to mismatches. This is something RaceDepartment will have to figure out long before initial qualifying rounds begin, as the website traditionally only allows paying premium members to enter in multi-race championships.
Also throwing a dastardly curve ball into the mix would be the Prodrive-backed Ferrari F550 GTC – which drastically altered the online playing field when GTR 2 was once a prominent player in the sim racing landscape. While Slightly Mad Studios had done their absolute best to faithfully re-create every single vehicle entered in the FIA GT Championship, as well as some of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa entry list, the Ferrari F550 GTC as constructed by Prodrive exhibited Mercedes-like dominance throughout the 2003 and 2004 campaigns, with this ridiculous performance accurately being reflected in GTR 2’s virtual counterpart. If RaceDepartment don’t attempt to neuter the F550 GTC for league play, 95% of the grid will be running this car, defeating the purpose of the very diverse vehicle roster.
As RaceDepartment are known to have somewhat close ties with Sector 3 Studios and the SimBin operation as a whole, my own personal speculation is that drivers who finish well at the end of the GTR 2 RaceDepartment championship will receive some sort of advanced access to the allegedly upcoming GTR 3, provided the recent announcement is set to materialize in the distant future and not what appears to be a subtle attempt at securing funds for the project behind the scenes. As the CEO of SimBin, Chris Speed, has revealed in a prior interview with RaceDepartment, they intend to have a rough draft of the game ready in only six months time, so I can see a GTR 2 league on none other than RaceDepartment contested throughout the spring being the perfect pre-game meal into an onslaught of promotional material.
We hope to see a more official announcement about this online championship in the coming days.