Many people struggle to understand how to achieve an alien’s laptimes, or to be as consistent as the people who are escaping from them up the road. The answer is not entirely clear, but there are certain things you can do to help yourself be more competitive in online simracing. Firstly, you need to understand what actually makes a car go fast. This is relatively simple to break down and clarify – actually doing it is an entirely different matter. For me, there are four stages: PREPARATION and PRACTICE. CAR SETUP and TESTING. Understanding the LIMITS of the car, track and your ability. Tweaking your DRIVING STYLE to match all of the above. If you think you are a quick driving a default setup in a newly downloaded mod on a public server, then Racedepartment.com races always make you realise that you aren’t actually the next Lewis Hamilton. Most people in fact think that they can just rock up to an event and be right on the pace – never is this actually the case. You need to be methodical and PREPARED, and that means PRACTICE. If you don’t know the cars, and you don’t know the track, you haven’t got a hope of competing with someone who has been racing for a while, even in the clubs. That doesn’t mean they are any less inaccessible, or elitist, it just means that if you want to win, then you need to be prepared. Even if you are just familiarising yourself with a new track, learning the braking points and so forth, then you are more likely to do well. Next comes CAR SETUP. In almost all cases, the default car setup will not be the fastest one. This is where TESTING comes in. You have familiarised yourself with the track layout and the basic workings of the car by now, so you need to try setup changes to see whether they improve the matter. You cannot make any changes until you have at least tried the track for a few laps – I always run a default setup for 10 laps whilst learning the track if it’s my first time in a mod, or I run with a setup that I know worked before if it’s a mod I am used to. Take WTM for example – I have saved a collection of setups, but I always start from a base point – I have 3 different setups that I have created with different tendencies (oversteer and sharp turn in, neutral mid-corner and good traction, initial understeer but soft on tyres). I then test each one and see which provides the fastest lap time, and work from there. However, I suggest that you make 1 change at a time, test it for 3 laps, then make another change, test it for 3 laps, and so on. If something doesn’t work, then go in the opposite direction. I will talk about basic setups in a future article. Next up comes understanding the LIMITS. This means a longer run. By now you have got a pretty good, stable setup underneath you. This doesn’t mean your setup is set in stone, but you have a pretty good feel for what each change does to the vehicle. When I talk about limits in this respect, I mean the car’s usable tyre life, pushing the braking zones and memorising them perfectly, and making sure you have figured out how to keep momentum going. Remember, a race circuit is more than just 1 corner, and low laptimes = high average speed. Flying into a corner sideways might give you a good initial entry speed, but your exit speed will be severely compromised. Finally comes DRIVING STYLE. After you have done your long run, maybe tweaking the setup here and there to make sure your tyre’s limits are kept in check and the car is easier to keep good momentum up and look after itself, then you can look at your driving style. I recommend trying lots of different lines in this situation, as well as braking points, turn in points and gear ratios. Gears are actually fairly critical – you might think you just gear for top speed, but actually, most of your laptime is made up in the corners, so the right gear for a corner might help your laptime, even if your car is just about revving out in a straight line. You might need to analyse whether your brake bias is allowing you to be fully committed to corners, or whether you are locking the fronts or rears too often. You might find that you need to be more progressive on the throttle to look after the rear tyres (or fronts if you are driving a FWD car), for example. I advise you to get a program that gives you something called a “delta,” which will show you how your laptime is progressing compared to your overall personal best. This is useful as you can see not only how consistent you are being, but also whether a certain line is better than others, and so on. 95% of laptime is found from the driver in an identical car – the rest is setup. Remember that if you practice lots, look at other people’s styles, make sure you are prepared and have tweaked your setup then you will be faster than you were before. It requires effort, but it’s more than rewarding when it pays off.