No Hotlaps: Practicing for Endurance Races and the Right Approach

No Hotlaps - Endurance Practice Approach.jpg
Practice is everything - this is a core phrase to keep in mind when it comes to sim racing. Nothing will help your race craft and track knowledge like a ton of laps in a certain car/track combo, but not all races are the same: The differences already start in practice, and endurance racing in particular takes a different approach to those vital testing laps.

It is easy to get into the habit of trying to set the fastest time lap after lap - you are in a race car, albeit a virtual one, and in one of those, you want to go fast, after all. As speed is far from the only thing needed to succeed in longe races, focusing on raw pace would not help too much during the actual event if you cannot keep the car on track consistently.

Instead, practicing in longer sessions is usually more beneficial. Cars in sim racing as well as real endurance races are permanently changing, be it tire wear, fuel usage, or other circumstances like the weather. Because of this, knowing your car inside and out is absolutely vital, meaning a few hotlaps on the event's track will not yield much of a productive result. From my own experience, trying to do practice in full race stints is much more effective, as you get to experience how the car changes as the tires wear and fuel load lessens.

Consistency is key in this case, meaning hunting the fastest lap of the race all race will make most sim racers more error prone, losing them the time they might have gained by going faster over the course of a certain amount of laps. Getting into that zone where you are comfortable with your pace and, most importantly, always in control of the car, is where you want to be. You can still push if needed, for example in a battle for position towards the end of the race, but in the end, it comes down to doing your pace and not be bothered by what the competition does.

It sounds counterintutitive and is the complete opposite of a sprint race approach, but by just being consistent will go a long way - that is how I managed to drag a Nissan GT-R to second place overall in an ACC league in early 2021, even though I only won a single race.

If your endurance league or event provides a practice server, it is advisable to use it to prepare for the upcoming race as they usually run the weather conditions expected in the race. Getting ready in perfect conditions will not help too much either if the track is damp or even significantly cooler once the light turns green.

Of course, no amount of practice can prepare sim racers for the crazy things that tend to happen during the races themselves - those are just experiences that they have to gain on the track. However, practicing in a way that is close to what is required in the actual event might help with avoiding those scenarios as well - at least to an extent.

What are your go-to practice techniques? Do you vary them for sprint and endurance races? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter at @RaceDepartment or in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

Good artice.

Empty Box made a video many moons ago covering this topic as well. It basically is what you are saying in the article: Practice for what you want to do. For sprints, learn to go fast in traffic. For endurance, learn to keep the car alive and practice racing at night and in the rain. And so on.
 
Good artice.

Empty Box made a video many moons ago covering this topic as well. It basically is what you are saying in the article: Practice for what you want to do. For sprints, learn to go fast in traffic. For endurance, learn to keep the car alive and practice racing at night and in the rain. And so on.
So don't practice but practice? that's a really confused video lol
 
Conserning practicing the consistency thing then I can remember from my iRacing days that I was near being killed in their forum because I mentioned that people unable to get a reasonable position on iRacings TT LBs shouldnt be allowed into an official race.
Be aware that the special thing with iRacings TT sessions that they demanded that you was able to drive 4-6 laps in a row without errors.
And when this consistency thing was combined with speed to get a position on the TT LB then a lot of people considered it to be an impossible demand.:rolleyes:

CatsAreTheWorstDogs: I survived the threats - almost:roflmao:
 
For multi-class races it's good to practice with AI traffic. That way you can learn the corners that overtaking is just not worth it. It may also be beneficial to run few laps in other class cars too just to see how differently they behave and find rough braking points for them. Knowing and understanding your car is one thing, but knowing how other cars are doing is also important and can win or lose the race.

And I wouldn't discourage from hotlapping - it's essential to find the max pace to qualify high. It's also part of the race weekend!

The way to do it is to set a practice session and run a long stint (your predicted race stint length in laps) with traffic. What you're looking at is the total amount of time you covered it in. The less the better. A 5s error can be rectified by 10 following laps with 0.5s faster delta. It's all about the total times and like the article mentions - consistency is essential.
 
Yes indeed practicing full race distances do a difference on the final result. Maybe not so much in short 20-25 min sprint runs, but markantly on full GP distances and especially on endurance racing.

And especially regarding my personal key sim hobby for the last couple of decades; offline racing unreliable classic race cars/formula cars with the challenge and stimulating excitement being found in nursing the beauties safely home to the checkered flag without mecanicals combined with "best possible total time/position". Adding close battle backmarker race on the limit of the materials is a wow-feeling, even offline in case of quality AI mods.

When time was on my side, and when I was focusing on the competitive aspect, especially during a couple of years, nearly 20 years ago, participating online formula racing, full race distance practise sessions I regarded as a deemed necessity in order to catch up on the fun part on the grid.
Most likely more full GP sessions due to the high amount of DOFs/free parameters of especially formula cars.

But typically my approach for practice was devided in more tempi.

1) Shorter stints finetuning pure speed parameters. I.e. first attempt at softest tyres 'qualify' if available, and in first row vehicle parameters as aerodynamics front/rear for my personal driving style, engine parameters (rev. limit, power, preload, boost mapping, etc), and suspension parameters, in first row front toe angle + front anti-roll bar, ride hight, camber/bump parameters.
Just for driving out a couple of laps a time, sensing speed and car stability, giving me a clue if I was on the right direction.

2) When pure speed was obtained then focussing quite more on suspension and car stability, since a more stable car is far more gentle to the tyres on the long run. As well as focussing on engine stability with a bit more conservative setup, mostly based on 'best guess' with prime goal in mind just bringning the engine home without overheating.
By this time maybe 3-5 laps, driving back to pit when I was able to identify if my setup was too conservative, too unstable, etc.

3) When I was roughly satisfied with base speed and car stability, I went on the long runs.
In first row in order to have a clue on pit stop strategy based on fuel and tyres.
Depending on the car and fragility of the engine this could be very different depending on preload/boost mapping, and on many occasions it was a pure bet, especially for the online series being at the best half on the grid (reflecting very well previous decades of real world racing implying high frequency of engine breakdown/overheating, each team often on the wrong side on the limit).

4) If time was availabe I for grand prix events did more full race distances in practice to finetune tyre pressure and engine parameters even more, maybe added with just tiny adjustments on aero/suspension part.

I think it was during a Formula SimRacing season in 2004 I was able to make a quick setup, but where either the engine blew up or the tyres blew on the cool down lap, just past checkered flag. Not necessarily the quicest total time, but having the feeling of being close to optimal was rewarding beyond the skies :D

1-4 not neccessarily strictly that approach every time AFAIR, depending on both the venue and my time available. But roughly that was my general approch when having endless time for practice sessions.

The online seasons of LFRS and Formula SimRacing Series made me keen of classic formula racing, and when GTR2 and rFactor 1 entered the scene with high quality mods of 70ies to start 90ies formula cars as well as classic endurance race car mods, it became a habit to me to drive very unstable backmarker cars, setting the challenge of nursing those cars home.
I think you get the idea that this kind of challenge demands full race distance practice sessions were crucial.

And even more focus on practice sessions when I during a decade did alot of offline endurance racing in GTR2 as well as a handfull of 2-6 hours online endurance racing in rF1 and GTR2 (6hours ment to be teams/substitute, but I took it as single player challenge, doing nature calls during pitstops).

For the last decade I've had near zero time for full online sessions with goal of being on top of the grid.

So, today when I enter online racing, it's typically just as drop-in, often from pitlane with quick'N'dirty car setup, purely based on my typical most tuned parameters, and starting with reluctant driving just going out seeing where it will bring me.

Regarding my typical parameters, my habits for the last decade or more has become really silly; Even for new sims, new mods, never driven before, as the first thing even before entering track, I lower front toe angle (i.e. increase negative value) and anti-roll bar. Yes stupid, I know, but these habits are ingrained in my spinal cord:D

Btw and half off-topic:

Regarding all those fine classic mods so beautifully reflecting the difference on the grid, teams between, speaking both pure speed and stability it could be a pleasure with some online events. Just requiring simmers with same passion of hunting the authentic immersion, nomatter if first or last on the grid, just focussing on most optimal result for the car driven.
As I wrote, I sadfully don't have the time in general, but just 1-2 online events with full practice sessions, classic 1 hr qual format and full GP distances would be a thill for me. No problem me taking one of the backmarkers, that would be my greatest pleasure for such an online event!

But requiring a full day of practice ensuring to nurse the backmarker car safely home with most optimal result, i.e. fastest possible total time without breakdown, or maybe just passed the finish line, maybe even hard battle for not getting last. Have had so much fun in different mods offline, but online with likewise enthusiastic simmers on that field would be :inlove:
 
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Thank you, stenovitz.
A very nice reading. . :thumbsup:
My pleasure :)

Ofcouse I forgot to mention an important link in the chain with often quite different aero/tyre pressure/chassis parameters for qual vs. long distance, and especially for 80ies 1st gen turbo formula race cars which are two total different worlds here. And then add mixed weather during a full race weekend with e.g. totally dry qual session and (best part) race sessions with mixed and surprising weather shifts requiring quick in-race decisions on changed pit stop strategies.

If time available for simulating through practice more shifting weather scenaries here, your are on top of the situation in-race, but ofcourse impossible to simulate every kind of weather outcome here when 'random' weather is chosen (my personal first choice in offline racing, putting extra spice on the total challenge here).
 
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To summarize Yannick's fantastic article: consistency and experience trumps.

Two additional thoughts:
  1. As someone who's had to drive with a gamepad for the last while, the biggest benefit of a FFB wheel and pedals (as well as higher end gear) is consistency. Not necessarily raw speed over a hotlap... which is what makes many of those YouTube videos you see about "which is faster?" seem kinda silly. Anyway, you can be somewhat consistent with a gamepad with practice, but IMO it takes wayyy more time and effort than it would with force feedback, a wheel, a load cell brake, and so on.
  2. Yannick's article applies as much or more to long distance 'endurance' oval racing like NASCAR or Indycar as well. Consistency is king. Tyre saving is often king. And understanding the (often massive) way the car changes over a fuel and tyre run is super important. The sim that might show this best IMO is Papyrus' Indycar Racing II from 1995... the car understeers like a frickin' boat on full fuel :roflmao: whereas it's maneuverable but nervous on low fuel (even with somewhat worn tyres), and you need to understand how to use the adjustable anti roll bars to get the most out of the car at each stage of the green flag run. And that requires extensive practice and experience.
 
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I recently purchased a full cockpit for sim racing. I took the opportunity to breakdown everything I do when I am driving. As a result, I have basically "started over". I do 20 lap sessions on a track I am not good at. The only change to the car setup is making sure the tires are in the right temp window. I also have changed my FOV and FFB settings. The seat view in the car has changed.

With the 20 laps I do this. Turn on MoTec. Do nothing but hit apexes, do not look at time. After the 20 laps, look at the replay and note how many apexes I hit per lap. Once I can hit all apexes consistently, I take note of the average time. I then look at Motec to find any things that jump out as flaws. I go back and correct them. Then note the time again. Go back to Motec. Verify.

Once I am consistent doing that, then I do 20 laps seeing what happens if I shoot for a specific time. If I hit the time once, back to Motec for comparison. Is it an outlier ? If so, ignore it. Once I find a time that I can consistently do, I do what I was told when I played competitive sports.

Good players practice until they get it right. Great players practice until they can't get it wrong.
 
With the 20 laps I do this. Turn on MoTec.
() I then look at Motec to find any things that jump out as flaws.
() Go back to Motec. Verify.
()If I hit the time once, back to Motec for comparison.
Hey just to be sure I understand you correctly.
When you does refer to "Turn on MoTec" or "back to Motec" are you then talking about using the real professional telemetry tool MoteC?
Because I often hear people using the brand name MoteC as a pseudonym for one of the other more simple socalled telemetry apps.;)

CatsAreTheWorstDogs: Im asking because Im so unfortunate that my goto sim AMS2 doesnt support the real MoteC:(
 
Hey just to be sure I understand you correctly.
When you does refer to "Turn on MoTec" or "back to Motec" are you then talking about using the real professional telemetry tool MoteC?
Because I often hear people using the brand name MoteC as a pseudonym for one of the other more simple socalled telemetry apps.;)

CatsAreTheWorstDogs: Im asking because Im so unfortunate that my goto sim AMS2 doesnt support the real MoteC:(
If I am in Assetto Corsa/Assetto Corsa Competizione/Rfactor 2, I use Motec the actual product. It is free and downloadable at their website. Those games have native support for it.

If I am in AMS2/Project Cars 2/F1 2019-20, I use Race Sim Tools. https://racingsimtools.com/. This has subscription model, but you don't have to subscribe to use it.
 
Hey just to be sure I understand you correctly.
When you does refer to "Turn on MoTec" or "back to Motec" are you then talking about using the real professional telemetry tool MoteC?
Because I often hear people using the brand name MoteC as a pseudonym for one of the other more simple socalled telemetry apps.;)

CatsAreTheWorstDogs: Im asking because Im so unfortunate that my goto sim AMS2 doesnt support the real MoteC:(
For AMS2, use Second Monitor: https://gitlab.com/winzarten/SecondMonitor
 
I find practicing for hotlaps, no matter if it's just a sprint race, quite a chore. I can do lots of stints in practice, no matter if short or long, and iron out details. But practicing hotlaps, after 4 or 5 tries I get irritated.
 
Frank
Premium
I almost exclusively do endurance racing, for me it's actually more effective to focus 60 - 80% of my time to "going as fast as I can". It teaches me to be fast and consistent while quickly learning when I am going over the limit of the tires.
Doing long runs helps for sure, but if you really focus on endurance the consistency will already be there. You just need to learn quickly what the limit of grip is and how far you can push going as fast as you can.
 

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