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Driving Guide | Improvement

Discussion in 'RACE 07 - Official WTCC Game' started by Jamie Wilson, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. Jamie Wilson

    Jamie Wilson

    Oh dear, a rambling Jamie essay again!


    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]A phrase often used in commentary is “he ran out of talent.”[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif]Talent is as much a requirement in simulated motorsport as it is in the real world; and getting to know exactly how you can expoit that talent is a very long-term, difficult and sometimes frustrating path to follow. Practice is the basis upon this process of 'enlightenment' so to speak is achieved, but it is somewhat disappointing that the majority of individuals aiming to improve themselves go about it by non-optimal means.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] Practice isn't a universal concept; indeed there are many different ways in which you can go about improving yourself and one individual will get more out of the same type of practice than another. However; during my experience here at RaceDepartment and in the wider sim world, I've seen plenty of people focus solely on lap times as if that is the only criteria on which their performance will be judged.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] Clearly, this is not the case – being able to go quickly around the track fast is of course an advantage, but it's not necessarily going to help you cope when you're stuck in a 8-car bumper-to-bumper snake going through a complicated corner sequence; and unless you've got the skills to cope in a vast plethora of racing situations, you will be at a disadvantage to those that have.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] People that come to RaceDepartment generally conform to certain stereotypes – there are those that come in with perhaps real-world racing experience that drive at the top of the field with a certain kind of aggression; there are those that generally sit in the midfield quietly and hope for the best; there are those that join TeamSpeak for their first race and make everyone laugh instantaneously; and there are those that may be very badly struggling for pace on day 1 but possess exactly the right approach and are willing to put the time in to improve themselves to the level of those that they find themselves with.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] I have the utmost respect for that last group; they should be an example to us all because despite whatever scraps they manage to get involved in on-track, despite the fact that they're 30 seconds down on the car in front, they soldier on because they recognize that so long as they're on track with other drivers, there is always something for them to learn from the experience; and it is those people that I have in mind when writing this.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] These people have a headstart on others when it comes to what is required for improvement – they have the correct mental approach already, but in addition to that, certain other things are necessary – You need to be willing to spend the time researching and studying the car you're in as well as driving it, and you need to be in a network of individuals that are willing to assist each other such that they can all learn from driving with one another.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] First of all, though, you need to be able to get around a track reasonably reliably in the first place. Speed is very low in the priority list at this stage; but so long as you're able to lap comfortably at your own pace without incident, you're already doing better than most people on public servers seem to be able to do. This is the skill that benefits from simple every-day solo lapping practice that most people solely associate with the term 'practice'. I'll come on to other practice methods shortly.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] On the matter of off-track research, I firmly believe that how comfortable you feel in a car is of much greater importance than how fast your laptimes are in it. The world of car setup is very daunting for the unfamiliar; pages of numbers and graphs, alien terminology and physics; but I assure you that none of it is beyond the reach of the mere mortal. More important than the setup itself is your skill of setup diagnosis – that is, the identification of handling problems. Only once you know what is wrong can you do something about it. One problem I had in the 2008 RD WTCC league was that in the Leon, to me the car generally felt 'meh' as opposed to any particular trait; and it was only at the last round at Macau that thanks to one of my teammates doing some research on dampers, we had a setup that suited the car, the track, and our driving style.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] Once you can diagnose what you think is wrong with the car, you can take steps to address it, and this is where doing the homework will pay dividends. Trawl the sim-racing communities looking for scraps of information; read the guides that are available out there, and ask other people that already have a solid grasp – when you have a car that is set up to suit you, the confidence it brings you is not to be underestimated.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] My own grasp of car setups, although still incomplete, stems from a lapping session with my teammate Anthony at Okayama in the Toledo. After some educated experimentation we had both ends of the car absolutely wedged into the ground, and in the event following, I knew exactly how it would react in all situations, and it gave me a massive amount of extra confidence.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] Having others willing to help you is also important; as well as the fact that two heads are better than one when it comes to car setups, it opens up a number of practice techniques that will teach you elements of racecraft – the ability to follow, the ability to defend wisely, the ability to judge the driving of someone else and become comfortable with them - These are the skills that you will rely in the world of simracing; these are the skills that seperate those that can lap fast to those that can race well – only a very small number fit into the middle ground.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] Once you're happy lapping the track and are reasonably comfortable within the car, go out on-track with a friend (or teammate, I use friend to mean both here) and ask him to lap at his own pace. Then, follow him as closely as you can, intending to pass but not actually passing; the friend should not attempt to defend but instead largely ignore you as much as he can, slowing down to allow you to catch up if required.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] This will teach you several things. Firstly, it will teach you a new element to track knowledge – where the opportunities are. There are certain corners at every track where passing just isn't an option, and there are other corners that you may feel the need to 'have a look' before you get to the braking zone – and because your friend shouldn't be deviating from the racing line, you'll be trying out new lines on potentially dirty parts of the track; a very valuable addition to your knowledge when it gets to crunch time in a race.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] Then, repeat but don't intend to pass at all – wedge yourself on the back of your friends car without contact and try and maintain it there. Being this close for a great length of time is a very difficult skill to master, but by being able to stay close behind a rival in a race, perhaps through one of the corner complexes where it is difficult to pass, you will give yourself the chance to get a run on him into a corner where an opportunity lies. The pressure alone of having a car behind you for such a length of time is often enough to force a mistake, giving you the position.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] In addition to that, you will (if you haven't already) gain an element of trust between you – and if you can form this level of trust with your rivals also, by following them for a lap or two, then you will find yourself much better poised to cope with whatever situation arises.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] Next, swap positions with you in front and your friend behind; this time though, go defensive – see what works and what doesn't; and study how your friend copes with your actions. Going defensive at the right time is another skill that takes time to master, but get it right and you'll not only keep your position without endangering anyones race, but you'll earn the respect of your rivals.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] Then, with the two of you or perhaps more, go all-out and have a practice-race (not an actual race but one held in a practice session); when one person falls behind slow down to allow them to regroup; deliberately swap positions so that everyone gets a chance to be in all positions within the snake; it'll test all of the skills that you will have picked up, and one side-effect is that it's great fun as well. Expect crashes and mistakes of course, but since these are your friends/teammates and hopefully damage is off, it doesn't matter – unlike in an event, of course. One side effect of this practice method of course is the fact that it's massive fun. :)[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] This type of practice is so much more valuable than solo lapping, or even indeed participating in events – being able to hone your racing skills in a sandbox-like environment with people you know well is a massive advantage to being part of a team, and I implore those that are are solo runners currently to go out and join (or form) teams with those that they enjoy racing with because you'll all get so much out of being together.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] However, from my experience at RD, most people turn up at events having done either very little or no practice at all, or simply hotlapping practice which simply does not adequately prepare them for what they're about to do, unless they're fast enough to run away on their own at the front which to my mind is missing out on what racing here at RD is all about.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, sans-serif] So; a summary - In order to improve, you need to have the right attitude, the will to invest time in studying the technicals behind car behaviour and how to react to it, and a friend or group of friends that are willing to invest the time in group practice outside of events. If you have all three, then you're well on your way up the timing screens and up the points tables. [/FONT]
  2. Warren Dawes

    Warren Dawes

    What a great and helpful post, well done Jamie. Excellent advice here.

    Just to add something similar from my experience. When I first started, I tried to spend some time learning to match alien hotlaps and borrowing alien drivers setups. This helped a lot initially, but I soon found what worked better for me.
    I still look at the top drivers hotlaps, and study them to see the best lines and braking points. Then my practice sessions are all spent getting a comfortable race setup, one that feels stable to me. I spend very little time before a race practicing for qualifying hotlaps. Even during "official" practice for an event, I use my race setup, including fuel load. For qualy, I may reduce my fuel load and make a couple of minor adjustments. Usually, the end result for me is a modest, mid field, qualy performance, but often my race performance is better. Endlessly practicing hotlap / qualy driving often leads to drivers over-driving the first lap or two of the race, causing mistakes or "incidents".

    I finally learned how the various setup changes affect my car. Now I do my own setups, to suit myself (for stability rather than outright speed). Most of the "alien" setups are made to suit very skilled drivers and won't work for many others. By putting the effort into learning what setup changes do, I now know fairly quickly what suits me.

    Lastly, there is a lot to be learned from driving in the pack, even if you are one of the very quick drivers who are used to running up front. Too often, I see very quick drivers getting into trouble when they end up in heavy traffic. This mostly comes from impatience. I have often deliberately started at the back in Racing Club events, and this teaches you the value of patience in the long run. I'm not normally a front runner anyway, but the pack driving experience is worth gold. I'd reccommend to our normal front runners, get some experience in the pack occasionally, it will pay off handsomely one day.

    I don't want to take the focus off Jamie's great post, but hope this adds a little to the "theme". :clap:
  3. Rob Goldthorpe

    Rob Goldthorpe

    Reading what you said about the "Snaking"; I think it would be a good idea to get 2 or 3 people on a RD (Private) Server and Practice being in close quarters. Say like, start at low speed for a few laps then slowly build the speed up, swapping positions every so often.

    I think this could massively help the RD community! No, I'm not saying we should do it because we all suck at driving close together, but it will help people understand and gain confidence in what it really takes to have good CLEAN battles in close quarters.

    (or not, it's up to you :p)
  4. Bram Hengeveld

    Bram Hengeveld
    RaceDepartment Founder Staff Premium

    Talking about talent? Thanks Jamie, great article!
  5. Dan Coldrick

    Dan Coldrick

    Agree with you Rob, I struggle when I'm in a pack be it at the front or the back trying to get through, it's difficult to react to driver mistakes by the guys in front and to keep a fair racing line when driving defensively.
  6. Yoeri Gijsen

    Yoeri Gijsen

    A fine pice indeed. This should give lots of people ideas about how to prepare for races and addtionally it encourages them to focus on one of the most important aspects of racing, namely coping with the competition.

    Well written. I hope the masses will read it. :good:
  7. Adam Vaughan

    Adam Vaughan

    I think this is brilliant. Simliar idea to keith barricks and both posts have me thinking of a different way to race and different way to practice. Thank you.
  8. Ries Notenboom

    Ries Notenboom

    Great read there mate, well done. Touches each aspect of 'how to improve into the simracing basics' and how to actually go about it, hope alot of people get to read this.
  9. Quintin Shinault

    Quintin Shinault

    Spot on guys great read!
  10. Dave Stephenson

    Dave Stephenson
    RaceDepartment Technical Administrator Staff Premium

    I agree completely with all the above, excellent piece. The steady no mistakes approach has always been my prefered way, even though I do lose the cool sometimes.

    The snaking thing is a top idea, its the thing I lack the most from my race prep and genera practice. There's not so much opportunity for it without the team system behind you, which has got to be one of its best benefits and offerings to its members.

    I have found however that there are a quite a few drivers around who don't mind going a few laps at it with you in the official practices, which is good, this does however rely on trust between the 2 of you.

    Rob and Dan if you're interested in getting together sometime and giving some of this a go just let me know I'm for it if you guys are. :)
  11. Rob Goldthorpe

    Rob Goldthorpe

    Yeah I'm up for it Dave :good:
  12. Dan Coldrick

    Dan Coldrick

    Yeah go for it, grab me on steam one night this week.
  13. Jim Cole

    Jim Cole

    Excellent post :)
    Had I read this when I had all that time on my hands, I would be a much better driver than I am now. The setup part I have done tons of research into, especially dampers, but actually getting into a field of cars to learn how to cope with that environment is something I never did. When I can actually get time to get back into racing, I will be looking forward to this type of practice. There are a couple of folks I used to race with on a regular basis that I am sure will assist me, and I hope that when I have the time I will be able to assist others as well.

    Thanks for posting this, awesome read.
  14. Nick Jones

    Nick Jones

    Thanks for the post!

    Im just curious, as a complete noob I have no experience of racing online and wonder if its best to practice these points with the AI before I ruin peoples races? Or is there no substitute for human competition? Is there such a thing as 'private server practice' or is that why public servers have such a bad rap.

    I've been playing on GTR Evo for about a month now (no other sim racing experience) and very hesitant to race online, because most sim racers have probably forgot more than I know. When and where does someone like me start racing online?

    Thanks again for a great article?
  15. Toni Talvitie

    Toni Talvitie

    great post!
    and indeed that one hotlap is not important what comes to the race itself.
    i have 3 golden rules to start with:

    1st you have to finish to get result
    this is where many hotlappers fail in races, they crash out or make too many mistakes.

    2nd you have to keep your pace.
    that beein sayed, if you drive hour - 90minute race and
    hit every lap inside half a sec-sec marginal, i promise, you will rise up in field lots compared to where you started from.

    3rd well lil speed wont damage you either :)

    and successfull race, good drive so to speak, will boost you motivation ofc so no matter
    what, allways finish your race!
  16. Jamie R

    Jamie R

    Very good read! I've learnt a lot from just reading! Completely changed my attitude now, thank you :D. I shall wake up my Australian friend and tell him to get on track now :D
  17. Christian Lyngbye

    Christian Lyngbye

    AI can help to some extent. I find though that they have some weird driving lines (like half braking mid corner).

    For some reason I also react differently when I know there is someone human behind the wheel of the other cars and take things more seriously.

    It's probably best to start with WTCC cars or minis and then move up.

    Thanks for the write up OP.
  18. Erik Aalbers

    Erik Aalbers

    Great article, really. I did try some close racing on public servers. Not passing, only put pressure on the car in front of me, so he would made a mistake :') So rewarding really, or more funny, the road just opens up in front of u again, all yours :p

    If anyone could use an extra racer on his practicing team, I'm your man! Can't wait :D
  19. Luis Lynce

    Luis Lynce

    Great, Great piece. I agree with you 100%. Very nice work.
  20. Jarrod Keen

    Jarrod Keen

    This is a great read. I've been a part of a group that does this type of practice and it is very very valuable. It makes you a better driver very quickly.
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