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Is Classic Content Overlooked in Simracing?

Davide Nativo

Columnist for RaceDepartment
Lotus 49_Monza66.jpg

“The past is never dead. It's not even past.” (William Faulkner)

Looking at the recent trend in simracing, it seems like the GT3/GTE class is the most popular among both the developers and the simracers themselves. Basically every sim out in the market at the time of writing of this article, is either focused on these cars or making them its focus by releasing more category vehicles and massively updating the one already present in the roster.

Surely, this is great news for all the GT lovers out there, but it casts a long shadow over the future for classic and vintage cars enthusiasts, which doubt that any more content will come their way, at least officially. Not always of course, with occasional vehicles being made available every now and then, but in most cases these are all one-offs, one or two cars for you to enjoy more while hot lapping rather than racing. What is in fact the point of racing 20 or 60 clones? How should I feel immersed, while mimicking a full F1 or GT line-up of the time made but of just a single vehicle endlessly repeated, in merely a couple historical venues?


Gone are the days when a studio like Papyrus went ahead and released not only seven cars from the 1967 F1 season, but the full track list too (except for Bugatti that was conveniently replaced by Rouen). A timid attempt was made years later by Simbin, with GT Legends, that brought an impressive number of classic vehicles, however coupled with modern tracks. ISI was maybe on the right track, with the Spark, Eve and Howston cars, and the Monaco, Monza and Spa tracks in their 60es look and layouts. It went on to release the Brabham BT20 and secure more licenses too, but then it all went suddenly quiet and the progress on that front stopped.

Now, I am obviously aware that there is no scheme or secret behind the lack of a more massive presence of vintage cars and tracks in sims, or even of a full-dedicated sim to any vintage series. They simply do not sell well enough. They are good for some brief appearances in a DLC or a Free Update, but that is it.

Reasons can be many. First, people, me included, like to get in the same cars they are watching on TV or on stream and drive them after the real race. Maybe it is a desire to emulate their drivers and to feel a bit closer to the motorsport world we love so much. Maybe, it is a challenge we pose to ourselves, to see if we have what it gets to be on the same levels of professional racing drivers.

Another reason that was told me is that classic racecars are “hard to drive”. To be honest, I was frankly surprised by this statement. I never looked at it this way, and the more I think about it, the more it seems to me difficult to believe. Jump in any car from the early 30es to the late 70es, and all you have to do is push it to the absolute limit while managing understeer on corner entry and oversteer on corner exit, while not over-revving the engine. That’s it. Modern F1 cars, GTs or LMPs on the other hand, require you to manage a rainbow of different tyres and compounds, sometimes even their wear levels since you have to use a limited set per race, to start with. Then there are the ABS settings, the Traction Control settings, the Hybrid settings, which open a plethora more options for energy harvesting, recovery, deploy and battery usage. If you are just content with driving these cars around, sure you can ignore them, but if you want to be competitive, these are all things that you need to be playing with while racing! Last but not least, modern racecars are heavily influenced by aero, which means that they are trickier to setup and require a less intuitive driving technique, since braking and downshifting basically at corner entry, sometimes all the way through mid-corner, is the only way to properly drive a contemporary F1. Try that in a classic racecar! Which, all considering, is much more similar in its reactions to your daily ride, and so to the way you are used to drive already. Therefore, when people say that GTs for example are easy, I do not get it. Either you are not driving the car the way it is supposed to be driven, or you truly have a passion for knots, knobs and switches, in which case it is absolutely fine.


Moreover, modern tracks, with all their chicanes and hairpins, are surely harder to learn compared to old tracks layouts, which were much plainer and focused on high speeds. In this case, a common complaint is that they are boring. This one I can get, but still, it depends on what you are driving on them. Usually, people making this kind of claim have been racing a Pagani Huayra on the 1967 version of Silverstone. You do not really need me to explain what is wrong there. Those tracks are meant for a specific kind of racecars, and only by making the right combo you can get the right level of enjoyment. Classic tracks are boring with modern racecars, just as classic racecars are hard to have fun with on modern tracks full of chicanes, for which they were not meant to be.

Now, going back to the main discussion, I understand that a sim focusing entirely on a vintage racing series will probably never happen anymore. Making a sim based on a motor racing championship of the past is no easy task, I get it. Acquiring licenses for brands that do not exist anymore, manufacturers that have been sold or shut, and drivers that may unfortunately not be around anymore… Not to count properly modelling cars and tracks. It is too easy, and very much wrong, to model a car after its restored counterpart. You have to look at photos, footage and documents from the time to get it proper right.

What I want to say however is that, maybe, besides rightful reasons, there are also some misconceptions and prejudices that keep simracers away from classic content and from enjoying it the way it is supposed to be. Which is then stopping any developer from being more confident in approaching this subject for their sims.

I’d like to end also by saying that the past, meant as heritage, needs to be preserved. In a world digitally evolving, where technologies matter more and more every day, simulations, in my opinion, will need to take an important role at some point. To be a mean to keep and save history. In our specific case, that of the motorsport and of all the humanity, with its emotions, sacrifices and hopes, that has been behind it. Because that is what the motorsport is made of, many human stories adding up in a quest of technological perfection, which should not and cannot be forgotten.


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Classic cars are the best to have fun driving them.
Love this kind of articles and all the articles related to old times motorsport. :thumbsup:
See RD, you do a great job when nobody pays you to rate games ;) lol :whistling::D:p
I like to highlight parts of the text I find to be the most important with the use of bold.

Starting the post with a vague and forgettable quote is also my cup of tea.

Finally, I like to make use of a question mark on the post title, to try and convince people I want a varied and diverse discussion, when really I just like to complain about why the things i like the most aren't being catered to enough.

I disagree with "it is easy and too much wrong to model a car after it's restored counterpart" it seems to me like quite a good way to get accurate classic race cars if teams running in modern historics give access to their machinery. Not that it matters really as there is not much chance of a game that focuses on either in the near future.

I've seen comments like "these are golden times for sim racing" of late, I hope those, presumably modern GT fans, spare a thought for those of us who can't stand driving modern GT, LMP or F1 machinery. I understand why the focus is on them of course but shed a tear for us luddites :cry:
Yes, yes are super ugly and super slow, just like this, no?:


Try to convince me that those two are ugly!
The first one is not that ugly, the second one is horrible.

This is MUCH better.


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I know, most of the people does. For me they are ugly and slow.

Lol, slow :D

In the 1930s racing cars were allready reaching 300kph or more depending on the aero kit and why the hell would anyone call vintage cars ugly? I mean, there are a few excpetions, but atleast cars didn't look like transformers. So how is the 917 for example not a freaking timeless and sexy looking car? At a time when cars had character and weren't just copy and paste concepts. Today you would never ever see something like this again:


And Porsche copying all their classic paint schemes to their new cars just shows that.

Denis Betty

The older I get, the better I was.
No accounting for taste Bruno.
Nice article. I'm sure it'll get a conversation going. :thumbsup:
I really enjoyed GT Legends and think maybe you've been a bit rough on it. IIRC it was based on a modern day, RL series, which raced classic cars (with roll cages etc.) on.... well... modern tracks - but I felt that was fair enough. Just my opinion OC.
I like some classic cars, depends which ones. I do find them harder to drive, but that's my problem! I am simply not talented enough, I guess! ;)

My question is: isn't it harder to do a proper simulation of these cars, given that the data is probably harder to get? Simulating modern cars must surely be easier, given that many racing series grant some level of access to the developpers. But how can you properly simulate a formula one from 1970? I'd be curious to hear from the people who do the programming.

I often prefer the old tracks, which are often faster and have a nice flow. The old Kyalami from the seventies is a favorite of mine. Classic Silverstone is also a blast. Modern tracks like the ones designed by Tilke have too many tight corners and can be boring. Yas Marina, Singapore or Shanghai come to mind... But, again, there's the problem of simulating tracks that no longer exist (Riverside , Rouen) or have modified their layout (Silverstone, Kyalami). If you want to play on a laser scanned track, it's a problem.
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Nick Gregory

iRating is just a number
I enjoy history, especially motorsports history. Any chance I get to (virtually) drive the old cars is a chance I always take. I think one of the biggest problems is some people don't understand that an old F1 car or sports car isn't going to perform like anything new.


I think the problem is there's more of them, only 1 current F1 series but there's 70 former F1 series (100+ if you count earlier Grands Prix)