The Grassroots Motorsports forums Spec B Forza 4 series finished a couple of weeks back and today we started the new IT7 series. This is a spec series using the 1985 Mazda RX7 GSL-SE and I’d been working on building my car for today’s first race. Here are some pictures:
We had a pretty good turnout for the first event at Infineon Raceway. I still have a bit of tweaking to do with the car setup as it can still be a bit drift happy but am enjoying the rear wheel drive action so far. Here we are doing our rolling start lap for the sprint race (the second of two races):
Tonight we just finished the Forza 4 Grassroots Motorsports B Spec race at Motegi East.
I hadn’t had a ton of practice this week so wasn’t feeling too confident about my lap times on the track but did pretty well considering. We didn’t have a big turnout as we’d had in previous races but we did have 8 cars and I qualified 5th. I ended up finishing 4th so was pretty happy with how the race went. Early in the race I made a pass for 3rd but wasn’t able to hold on to it. I made a mistake coming into a turn too hot and ran out of track which slowed me down enough to give the position back.
Here’s a short clip of my pass for 3rd early in the race:
After doing quite a bit of racing in Forza Motorsport 4, I decided I wanted to step it up a few notches. I started doing some research online in the area of driving simulation and found that people were putting together some pretty serious setups for games like Forza and iRacing.
I found everything from full metal cockpit cages with multiple monitors and racing seats to a basic wireless control steering wheel from Microsoft. The handheld wireless wheel controller is nice but not as precise or immersive. It’s probably a step up from the regular controller but not by much. I don’t have the room for a full simulation setup so a cockpit was out of the question and my budget for something like this. My friend Mark had played around with some of the setups from Fanatec and after looking into them I decided these would work best for me.
I decided to go with the Fanatec CSR wheel and Rennsport wheel stand. I ended up ordering their combo setup which includes the wheel, CSR Elite pedals, and shifters (H pattern and sequential). The wheel stand is great because it folds and allows me to move it out of the way when not in use and is quick to set up yet sturdy. I already had a race car gaming chair that works perfectly with this setup.
I found this setup works great and really changes the game and how I play. I changed the game setting steering to simulation and controller type to wheel with clutch. Now I’m able to drive with a real brake/gas pedal, shift with a real clutch and shifter and get force feedback from the wheel when driving. This all comes together to give you an even better and more immersive experience when racing. The biggest thing I noticed is how much smoother you can be using the wheel and pedals. I always found it hard to give it just a little bit of throttle with the controller triggers, now I have a much better range of control. Also, holding the wheel steady or making minor corrections is much much easier.
The setup is not cheap, and it’s certainly a big expense for a “game”. Sure, I could have gone to a couple of track events for that price but with this setup I can practice every week and even work on things like heel toe downshifting when I’m not in my car. It makes my participation in the weekly series feel like much more of an event as I bring out the setup before the race and get myself into position.
Of course this setup can be used with other racing games as well. Forza Horizons will be coming out soon so I’m looking forward to trying it with that as well. I’m still pretty addicted to Forza and recently picked up the Porsche expansion which is great. They keep adding content like the new Dodge Viper so this setup will definitely keep me satisfied in between real life driving events.
So I’m big into games, always have been, and I spent many hours with the original Gran Turismo on the PlayStation. That’s the game that really started it all for me, the first game that had great car physics and a variety of production cars to choose from and customize. Ever since GT things have just gotten better and better for gamers who love racing.
The latest and greatest in my opinion is Forza Motorsport 4 on Xbox 360. It really excels in vehicle dynamics simulation, attention to detail in everything from the cars themselves, cockpits, tracks, and customizations. There are plenty of game review sites covering the game itself and why it’s so amazing so I won’t rehash those aspects here. What I do want to talk about is how this applies to racing (great writeup here) and can aid in driver skill development.
Although there is no substitute for what racers call “seat time”, time spent sitting in the seat of a car on a real track, there is something to be said for simulation. Pilots use simulators for training as does the military and as computing power and capability increases we’re only going to see more of this in different fields. For sports like auto racing this is particularly helpful as track time and attending events is not cheap. Firing up your Xbox for a quick game on the other hand is a great supplement (not alternative) to real life racing.
In particular, the game has a good level of customization with regards to settings to aid in your driving skill practice. To get away from the more arcade feel of the game be sure to turn off all assists (except maybe ABS brakes initially) and you can start to really get a feel for how different cars behave at speed. You’ll start to notice you can’t just throw the car around or brake at the last minute and expect to make a turn. Just like in real driving you’ll want to practice you look ahead skills and smoothness with the controller. Start by doing hot laps on a track you know well until you feel comfortable with the car and how it handles. Also, to start, pick a lower horsepower car and try to make it go fast. Just like in real life, you’ll learn alot more about carrying speed through the corners from your technique rather than from the car’s ability to accelerate fast.
I’ve been having a blast with this setup and after completing the career mode I’ve been focused on online multiplayer circuit racing. This can be a mixed bag depending on who you’re racing. Sometimes you’ll have a very clean race with drivers who treat it like a simulation rather than an arcade game and this is when it’s really fun.
I’ve recently joined a weekly series with guys from the Grassroots Motorsports website forums. They’ve organized an SCCA B-Spec series that’s been a blast so far. The B-Spec series is a real life series with cars like the Honda Fit and Mazda 2 (that’s a picture of my in-game Mazda 2 spec car at the top). It was created as an affordable entry into road racing competition. Mirroring this in the game was a great idea as there is a specific customization setup for each type of car that makes the races very competitive and alot of fun.
So if you’re looking for another way to practice driving I’d definitely recommend Forza 4. Setting up the difficulty towards simulation really opens up another aspect of the game, one that can help you in real life.