Wednesday, 31 December 2014

iRacing Ruf C-Spec race at VIR

After a week of wheel issues I just sneaked a VIR race under the wire. I don't enjoy driving in clear conditions, anyway, because of the resultant loss of grip, but this is a track I'm not all that familiar with and hence combined with the lack of practise I decided to revert to a pit lane start.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

iRacing Ruf Cup at Road Atlanta Short

Not the best start possible, but this race turned out to be a good example of what can be achieved when you stick with it.

Now on to prepare for next week at VIR.

Monday, 15 December 2014

iRacing Ruf C-Spec reference lap at Road Atlanta Short

It's a new season, and with each new season new challenges await.

This season I will be driving the Ruf C-Spec in the Ruf Cup and the McLaren in GT3. The underlying purpose is to maximise participation credits - which is a great way to essentially receive a free membership - but also I need to race. It's important for me to gain more start confidence, and the only way to do that is to, well, start from the grid. That also means qualifying.

The Ruf Cup starts at Road Atlanta, and the Short layout. It's not a layout I've driven before, but I have put quite a bit of time into Road Atlanta. The hairpin and chicane have tended to be corners I've struggled with. Here the hairpin is omitted, so I can concentrate on the aforementioned chicane. And I have improved with that. I know how to drive it, but actually doing it is another matter entirely. And getting it right consistently is an even greater challenge.

This is a 59.0 time, using default weather. There are issues I need to deal with all around the track, and as this is a reference video rather than a simple hotlap piece, I point those issues out, and my thoughts on fixes. I think of these videos as ring binders, full of sheafs of paper covered in corner diagrams and scribbled notes.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The slow corner and me

I have a confession to make: I have no idea how to drive slow corners.

They are my kryptonite. I just cannot make head nor tail of them. The closest I get to mastering them is the first turn at Summit Point. Other than that each time I encounter one it's an adventure. I have no idea mid corner how I'm going to exit. Good, bad or indifferent.

I would start from the grid at Suzuka this week but for the fact I know I'm terrible with the hairpin and the chicane. A grid start with all that incumbent pressure and I wouldn't survive the first lap.

But that also means I need to put the time into it to overcome this issue.

Friday, 28 November 2014

iRacing Ruf C-Spec at Bathurst

I have little to no idea how to drive this track. As a consequence I'm about six seconds slower than the fastest time. It's so easy to completely destroy the car in the uphill section that it's very difficult to push it hard. It seems to be one of those tracks you need to have driven a million times to be able to really maximise the turns.

Monday, 17 November 2014

iRacing Ruf C-Spec 1.24.2 hotlap at Road Atlanta

Burned out. That's probably the best way to describe my performance at Road Atlanta this week. The peak came on Friday evening with a full half a second taken off my personal best in my first timed lap. I had the good sense to do some telemetry analysis and realised - as I should have even without the data - that I was simply too fast on corner entry at times.

The actual race at the weekend was a disaster. I had totally forgotten how to drive the car around the track. It really was that bad. But here is the highlight of the week, a 1.24.2.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

iRacing Lotus 49 at Lime Rock Park

The Lotus 49 has been a little bit of a problem child for iRacing. Which is ironic given the Papyrus heritage of Grand Prix Legends. The car was simply a beast to drive on release, and quite rightly, given the low weight and immense power of the original. But it was even more of a beast than it had been historically, which lead to tyre model improvements that were generally welcomed by the community.

The decision to put a modern racing tyre onto the car met with more than a little hostility, though, and after the initial waning of interest after the initial release of the car, the community that had been steadily built up afterwards was reduced once again as dissatisfaction drove people from the series.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the tyre change, the Lotus 49 is still a challenging car to drive, let alone master. But it makes up for that with so much character. It demands not just skill, but also attention. You can't let your guard drop with this car, and you must always be listening to what it's trying to communicate.

This evening I went back to the car after a long absence. In truth I've never felt confident enough in it to do more than tinker with the car. But with the series at old favourite Lime Rock Park, I decided to put some time into the car to see how it felt. And it felt wonderful.

Monday, 10 November 2014

iRacng Mosport Ruf Cup Race

Another low strength of field race, and another pit lane start, in the iRacing Ruf Cup.

I came away from the race with the thought that I really do need to resume grid starts. It not only gives me a better chance of a top five finish, but it isn't fair on the slower drivers to have me coming up behind them.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Testing at Mosport in the iRacing Ruf C-Spec

What a lot of fun this track is going to be. It has one moderately slow corner, but even that's a fun challenge. The rest of it just feels like a drivers track. It has a good flow and feel to it.

I was hoping to work on my setup, but iRacing's tyre data isn't working at the moment, so instead I concentrated on finding markers and time.

I can see how passing might be difficult, so I'm toying with returning to starting from the grid this week, but either way just putting laps in here is a lot of fun.

iRacing Ruf Cup race at Spa

I'm not the greatest fan of Spa, at least not the iRacing version. It has far too many pedantic off tracks that end up dominating your thinking. And it has the bus stop chicane, which was clearly thought up by someone with masochistic rather than racing tendencies.

That said, this race went off pretty well for me. I certainly wasn't expecting a good finish. As always I start from the pits, exiting in twentieth place.

An eventful race. I came out of it mostly with a sense of accomplishment that I pushed when I had to and got the passes done, mostly neat and tidy, with the odd moment of drama.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

First track attempt at blipping the iRacing Ruf C-Spec

The plan was to spend a couple of weeks working on blipping. Yes I have been using auto blip this season. In my defence - not that I really feel the need to defend the practise - I wanted to get the basics down of actually driving the Ruf C-Spec before I put time into working out how to blip the thing.

At the weekend I had a brief look at it on the Centripetal track. Which is basically a glorified skid pan. That made me realise - after getting a basic feel for not having auto blip and auto shift on, because they come as a package - that I really should practise on an actual track.

And so last night I put about an hour in at Oulton Park. Partly because it was the last track I drove in the car, but also because I just love that track.

It's still a work in progress, but I did find it changes down with a small amount of throttle, to the point I'm not really aware I'm doing it. But that comes from my Skip Barber experience. The only real issue I had was at turn 16 - the vicious slow speed right hander before the start and finish straight. The car could be a little unpredictable through there, and I'm guessing that's because it really does need a larger blip in heavy braking sections.

Overall I was quite happy with the progress. Another tenth from my personal best to 1.39.3, and my optimal down to 1.38.1. Quite a discrepency, but that tells its own story about my lack of consistency. Those two chicanes continue to alternately trip me up.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

iRacing Ruf C-Spec race at Oulton Park

I really thought I was going to better a 1.29.5 this week. To be absolutely honest I did - but that was only with a 1.29.4. That's surprising given the fact I have a 1.28.3 optimal, and I'm never that far off my optimal times. A half second is probably about the average.

But that just goes to show how I struggle with consistency around Oulton Park. If I don't mess up the first chicane I mess up the second. And when I rarely get them both right I mess up another sector that I've previously been pretty good with.

It's not that I don't know how to drive the track. The optimal speaks for itself. It's simply that chicanes are still a work in progress for me. And the only way to fix that is practise, practise, and more practise.

Having said all that, I did get my mandatory race in on Saturday evening. After about fifteen minutes of practise just to get back into the proper mindset I found myself in the second split of a two split race. Here's what happened.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

iRacing, and parking the Ruf C-Spec at Brands Hatch

At this point I'd love to post a race video from Brands Hatch. I love that track. Whatever car you're driving it's a thing of beauty. But I'm not going to post a race video, even though I did enter a Ruf C-Spec race yesterday.

The reason is simple. I parked it after twelve laps. After several laps trying to pass a much slower car - you could argue he would have been smarter to have let me pass rather than hold us both up to be caught from behind, but he was well within his rights, and I just couldn't get a good enough run out of certain corner exits to make a pass stick - I was jumped after a small mistake and at that point I resolved to do another lap to confirm half distance and then pull over.

It's no secret iRacing physics are, well, sub standard. In particular grip on the rear wheels has always been poorly modelled. If you're familiar with the iRacing forums you'll know what I'm referring to. As the tyre model has progressed this has been improved, but it's taking far too long to resolve it.

What makes that worse is clear weather. You really need overcast to get it feeling planted. You might think iRacing upon recognising that would avoid clear weather until they have this dealt with. Not a bit of it. And that's my real criticism of iRacing. They're just constantly asleep at the wheel. There's a real lethargy about their development that can be excruciating. And that's bad enough, but they don't seem to have any awareness of the issues members experience. We just have to soldier on. But that level of apathy is contagious, and that's what had me park it at Brands Hatch.

If iRacing doesn't appear to care, why should their members?

Monday, 29 September 2014

Not quite, but close enough at Zandvoort

What turned out to be the closest I got to a 1.01 time at Zandvoort. I think with another day of practise I would have nudged into it, but the main thing is I learnt a lot during the week and I can take that experience forward.

I round the video off with a long dissection of the lap for future reference.

iRacing Skip Braber at Brands Hatch race

I put in about fifteen minutes of practise before this race. Not as much as I would ordinarily do, but I have the feeling I'm putting in too much practise and too little actual racing at the moment. A pit lane start as my grid start confidence is at an all time low.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

First look at iRacing Ruf C-Spec at Brands Hatch

A new week, and a new track. The iRacing Ruf C-Spec is at Brands Hatch this week, a track I know well, and one I enjoy driving. I'm very familiar with all of the challenges around the circuit, though I have yet to master, and in some case come close to master, any of them.

I'm confident I can drop at least into the high 1.28's by the end of the week, though I'm not sure how much actual practise time I'll be able to put into it before I race. I'm tending to go stale before I race I think. Actual race performance has become quite poor, so I plan to mix in some rookie MX5 races to try to force myself into a better mindset for them.

Monday, 22 September 2014

First laps at Zandvoort Club in the iRacing Ruf C-Spec

Put an hour into Zandvoort Club in iRacing last night driving the Ruf C-Spec in preparation for this week. I really enjoy this layout in general. Quite often the short layouts are overlooked at iRacing. Whatever the car, however underpowered it might be, people generally just want the full and often Grand Prix layouts. Then they're pleasantly surprised that the short layouts work so well.

I'm still working out turn one. From the external replay you can see white smoke coming off the right front in what is a heavy and cambered braking zone. I'm also working out line and throttle application through the last corner. I believe a lighter amount of throttle in the first half of the turn, keeping tight on the apex mid corner and then maximising throttle through to the exit is the way to go. Full throttle all the way will run out of track, at least in my experience so far.

I'm not sure when I'll enter a race, but it's likely to be started from the pits as I continue to work on my race confidence. It's a very difficult track to pass on, but there's likely to be significant attrition, especially in turn one with its heavy braking zone.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sampling the iRacing Lotus 79 at Brands Hatch

So, the plan is to transition to the iRacing Lotus 79 in due course. That involves having the Ruf C-Spec as the main series I participate in for this and at least next season, with the Skip Barber series as secondary.

When I first tried the C-Spec in all honesty I felt I was out of my depth. I wasn't really confident in the car - the mid corner and corner exit behaviour was even more of a challenge than it is now - and I felt uncomfortable even in practise sessions.

Now I feel much more at home in the car, though there is still plenty of room for improvement with regard to lap times. But that will come with more practise.

At this point I feel it's right to look to the Lotus 79 for my secondary series next season. With that in mind this week I've put about three hours into the car at Brands Hatch. I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise given it's a downforce car, but I've been surprised at how many corners I don't brake at all. A simple lift at the top of the hill before turn one was unexpected.

The lap time is still two seconds from where I should be, but I can see where the issues with the lap are. It's a question once again of practise.

It will take some time to become used to the speed with which things happen, but dealing with traffic will be the single largest hurdle to overcome. I may need to turn the virtual mirror back on for this car, as the spotter warnings most likely will simply not be enough. Either that or I'll have to become adept at looking in the actual mirrors. And at these speeds that's not easy.

Monday, 15 September 2014

iRacing bottom split race at Montreal in the Ruf C-Spec

This is a bottom split race at Montreal. I started from the pits as I didn't feel I had the confidence to attempt a grid start. The tenseness I felt even starting from the pits is indicative of that being a good decision.

I drove within myself and never really pushed it as hard as I'm capable of, but perhaps if I had I would have gone into a wall somewhere, or become tangled up with another car.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The art of overtaking, and the myths dispelled

You can't escape the misunderstandings on passing etiquette at iRacing. Even some of the truly fast drivers have a curious outlook with regard to it, perhaps picked up from their favourite form of motorsport, or just assumed out of the hopefulness of being fast and feeling entitled to a passing maneouver. Single player races on rFactor, or Forza, etc., can't help, of course, where the AI is expected to simply yield regardless.

As it's meant to be a simulation I like to follow the real world thinking, which I think is best summed up in the Skip Barber school book, Going Faster. A book that is well worth the price of admission.

"If, at the brake point, your car is dead alongside the car you're trying to pass, the overtaken car is obliged to leave room for you and not simply turn into you at the turn in point. If, however, you're trying to pass but you're not quite alongside, as in having the front wheels up to the middle of the other car at the brake point, you haven't made the pass; it's your responsibility to get out of the way of the other car and yield the line to avoid a collision. The other driver might yield and give you room at the apex, but you can't count on it. He may not have even seen you if he hasn't been looking in his mirrors. If you're not alongside, you've got to expect to be "chopped", which is the racing term for another driver pulling across the nose of your car going to the apex."

"1) If you are attempting a pass and are alongside at the braking point, you have rights to the line from the turn in to the apex. The overtaken car should yield."

"2) If you're not quite alongside at the brake point but draw alongside before the turn in point, you technically have rights to the line, but if contact happens, you're really to blame. You are taking the chance in this situation that your guesstimate of the closing speed is correct - that you'll make up the distance of a quarter car of half car between the brake point and the turn in. If you guessed wrong and the other car is still half a car length ahead at the turn in, expect that the other driver will take the line and go for the apex. You didn't do the pass - you got in the way."

"3) If you're behind the other car and attempt to make up a car length or more between the brake point and the turn in, you're either a wild optimist or a lot better braker than the other driver. Either way, if you blow it, it's your fault."

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Oh, Montreal

I don't normally like to spend a whole week at one track. There comes a point when I'm so jaded by the experience my performance is more likely to worsen than improve. But that said I've spent the last seven days driving the iRacing Ruf C-Spec at Montreal, and I have to say it's been a very rewarding experience.

First of all, the goal I set was quite conservative. The top drivers are putting in 1.38's. But this is a track I'm not really all that familiar with. I've driven a few laps is various cars, but I never really got it. Perhaps it's the chicanes and the hairpins. But I did achieve the 1.41 I set myself in a previous post, and not just a mid to high time.

I'm quite pleased with that. Yes, the last sector was messed up, from taking the hairpin too deep from turning in late into the chicane, but I wouldn't even have dreamt at brushing close to a 1.40 even mid week. I really started to get on top of the track. I'm still not using all of the available track, including the runoff, but I think I've not only improved at Montreal, I've improved with the car, and I might also have taken a big step forward with chicanes and hairpins.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Welcome to Montreal in the iRacing Ruf C-Spec

I have a confession to make; I have no idea how to drive chicanes or hairpins.

That's not strictly true. I know how I should drive them, but translating thought into action is my downfall. That said, what better way to work on that than to drive the Ruf C-Spec around Montreal?

That is the result of about two hours of practise. Optimal is a 1.41.8, so there's plenty of scope for me to push my time down, and in reality I'd like to finish the week with a mid to high 1.41.

It's not an easy track. Because it's a "semi street" track the corner exits are walled. You need to basically terrify yourself through all three chicanes to maximise speed down the resultant straights.

I'm not looking forward to racing here, but for the sake of participation credits I will simply have to go with it and hope the ride is better than it has been at Mid Ohio. Which is another story.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The definition of a handful - the iRacing Ruf C-Spec at Mid Ohio Short

I'm struggling to decide whether I'm enjoying or loathing Mid Ohio in the Ruf C-Spec. I can't honestly say I've ever enjoyed the track even in its full variant. The hairpin is a corner I have always struggled to get right with any level of consistency. The short layout removes it, but it's all "up hill and down dale", and along with the elevation changes there's plenty of camber complications.

Put the Ruf C-Spec on it and it's a real challenge just to post decent lap times consistently. Twenty five minutes of nailing it in races will be a real challenge. The final corner exit is a perfect example. The car can get so loose on exit, and it seems to come out of nowhere. It's the kind of loose that will put you straight into the wall on the inside.

But, as I write this, I do have the fastest time in iSpeed for this season. That won't last long, and there are only a handful of laps in there, anyway, but it gives me at least a sliver of hope. As it is, though, I just want to get one race down in decent order and shuffle on to next week.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Putting the laps into Okayama in the Skip Barber to conquer sector three

I'm not sure if I'm enjoying or enduring Okayama. I started testing this week with a 1.47.6 - a fast time going on the expected times with this weeks weather.

The race I entered was, well, not a disaster. Starting right at the back in sixteenth place with the lowest iRating and no qualifying time an eighth place finish is no bad thing. But I very nearly lost eighth spot after losing a full second lap after lap through the third sector.

As a result I decided to abandon plans to race once every day. I need race practise, but more than anything I need to finally overcome the hold sector three has over me. It starts with a hairpin turn at the end of the back straight, and continues with three tight left handers.

So, tonight I went back to testing, and concentrated on the line. I have a bad habit of pushing the braking marker too far forward and compromising the apex, so the discipline of leaving that alone is part of the process. And I was rewarded with a 1.47.3. There is more still to be done to push the optimal down from 1.46.8, and ideally, my personal best time under a 1.47. Three more days to attempt it.

But this may be my best attempt of the week. And if it turns out to be so, it's not all that bad.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

iRacing Ruf C-Spec race at Road Atlanta

I posted a few days ago about an iRacing Ruf C-Spec race at Road Atlanta. Well, I finally got around to editing and uploading it, and you can find it below. Note the title image of the carnage at the chicane on lap one. It may we worth watching just for that alone. It's perhaps just as well that I had no knowledge of what was unfolding behind me.

How to stop the iRacing spotter reading out a book when calling out lap times

Here's a scenario for you: You have just exited the last tur at Road Atlanta, and you're thundering down the straight towards turn one. You're thinking about your brake and turn in points, the apex, and your corner exit. As you're shaking yourself back into concentration after a moment of relaxation ...

"one ... twenty five ... point ... three zero one"

... That's not really what you need right at that moment.

Yes, you want to know your time, otherwise you wouldn't have checked that box in iRacing options. But let's face facts here, if you need to know the minute then it's pretty irrelevant, isn't it? You worked so hard on the track you got down from five minutes to three. And then do you really need to know the hundredths and thousandths?

That kind of detail is only important when you're out of the car and checking if you shaved another fraction from your personal best.

But, wait, there is a solution. As is often the case with iRacing it's buried in the ini file:

carLowHiPadding=0.250000                    ; How much clearance, front and back in meters, to give a car before reporting it as clear
enabled=1                                   ; Is the spotter enabled at all?
reportLapsEnabled=1                         ; Enable spotter calls out lap times
reportLapsMinute=0                          ; Call out the minute when calling the time
reportLapsMode_n=0                          ; Spotter calls out lap times, 0 - time, 1 - avg speed
reportLapsPrecision=1                       ; How much precision to display lap times with
text=0                                      ; Does the spotter display text messages?
verbosity=2                                 ; How chatty is the spotter?
voice=1                                     ; Does the spotter talk to you?
voicePack=JJ Spotter Pack v6.51             ; Voice pack for spotter, leave blank for default spotter

If you open the iRacing app.ini file in a text editor, found typically in C:\Users\Your_User_Name\Documents\iRacing, search for that section. Yours will look a little differently, but look specifically at these two entries:

reportLapsMinute=0                          ; Call out the minute when calling the time
reportLapsPrecision=1                       ; How much precision to display lap times with

Those settings will change the spotter lap time call to;

"twenty five point three"

I'm sure you'll agree that's much better.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Finding time and finding solutions at Road Atlanta in the Ruf C-Spec

This has been a bit of a mixed week so far. With one day to go in the Ruf C-Spec at Road Atlanta before switching to the Skip Barber at Okayama I've achieved what I really wanted to, which is a low 1.25 time, a 1.25.3, to be exact.

Reaching that point has involved a little frustration with the pedals, as I mentioned previously, but more than that it's involved learning about the Ruf, and improving.

Learning doesn't end when you get out of the school car. I still have to fix basic issues with my driving, most notably either not pinning myself to the kerb on corner turn in, and therefore compromising the turn to some degree, or just drifting in a foot or so as I look to the apex just before turn in. Similar issues, but two slightly different things to address.

You can spot the problems in this video. The chicane is a perfect example. I'm actually a foot or two off the kerb and I don't use the apex kerbing. It's a tough corner. You're slowing down a huge amount in a short space of time, dropping four gears, and turning in carrying as much speed as you dare. Get it wrong and the back will come around and you're sideways in the chicane.

But, overall, even if I can't get any closer to my 1.24.3/4 optimal I'm quite content with the progress I've made this week with use of markers, and with how I've analysed my issues and identified the solutions.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

G27 pedals pot replacement time - TSS or Simulaje?

The time has come where simply cleaning the G27 pedals has little to no effect. I last cleaned them about a month ago, but even after two weeks I was getting spiking predominantly on the brake pedal. That is particularly serious as you're dragging the brake around the track.

I can perform workarounds, but the workarounds will just become more and more severe. I could still strip the potentiometers down and clean them piece by piece, but that's not an edifying prospect, especially if I have to do it every six months or so.

The solution boils down to either replacing the pedals entirely with Club Sports, or replacing the pots with hall sensors - something I hadn't even considered until it was suggested to me yesterday.

I'm going to go with the latter option. For one thing it's a heck of a lot cheaper, about £50 in total I'm hoping, as opposed to £200 for the new pedals.

It's become a big issue because the problem is hurting my confidence. I can't trust the pedals anymore, and so half my attention is on them instead of the road ahead. As soon as I can decide which is the better option, TSS or Simulaje, I'll put the order in and look forward to the fix arriving in the mail.

Friday, 15 August 2014

FSX resurrected, or another false dawn?

So I'm a little behind the news with FSX. Apparently Dove Tail Games (DTG) have licensed it and have plans to put it on Steam and they've also stated something about a release next year, without being too specific.

I would really like to be enthusiastic and hopeful, but I can't help but wish they'd left it alone, for two reasons.

Before I go into those reasons, I should give an overview of where FSX is now. It's an old engine, which has evolved through the iterations of the series. Because of that it has a lot of legacy code, particularly code to support the myriad of addons that have been released for it by the huge third party addon creators. Also it's very much a CPU bound program. It doesn't take advantage of modern graphics cards. To get FSX to run well you need to throw a fast CPU at it. The gains you'd expect just aren't there with the better GPU's.

So, problem number one is, are DTG going to undertake the rewriting of the code to fix the bugs - and the developers were forced to sign off on the service packs by Microsoft before all bugs were dealt with - and are they going to deal with the GPU issue?

The answer to that is a resounding no. Why do I say that? Well, because DTG have history, or "form" as we say here. They are best known for the Train Simulator series, which they bought from Juju, who developed it under the name Railworks. TS is well known, infamous, for the number of bugs that DTG have been notified of since they took over the title six years ago. Those bugs haven't been fixed. That's suggestive to me of a company that just doesn't have the in-house expertise to get to grips with the Railworks engine.

So they have taken an existing game engine and released DLC for it. That might be harsh and simplistic, but that's essentially what's happened.

And that brings me on to point two. DLC. We're all familiar with it, and opinions range from anger to acceptance. Personally I think we just have to accept that to develop and maintain a product we need to support the title through DLC. Content, good content, is expensive and time consuming to produce.

But DTG take the concept of DLC and milk it until its legs fall off. Take a look at TS. The base game is a full price title, but it feels like a demo. There is so little content included. To get a proper game you have to buy DLC on day one, which is why if you do buy it you should buy the base game plus DLC bundle option. It's more expensive but you get stuff to do. And then each DLC pack, which consists generally of an engine and a few stops, often costs as much as the base game itself.

I could go into more detail, but that should probably wait for the TS review I've been planning.

So, being realistic, what to expect from FS now DTG has the license? Well, it will be on Steam, which I'm personally pretty neutral about, as it's not going to add all that much. Possibly adding multiplayer back into the title, but you have FSX and VATSIM for that now, anyway. But in the future I'd expect to see a new FS game, quite possibly with a different title, with DTG having a tight grip on what's released and by who, making sure they're pocketing a sizeable percentage.

Which in itself is no bad thing. Microsoft could and should have done a much better job with Flight. The mistake they made was to not open Marketplace to third parties. As a result addons were slow to develop, and things like ATC were just never added. If MS had allowed third party access while taking a percentage through Marketplace Flight would have developed faster and had a wider base. You can argue that flight sims are a small market, but it's a market with high disposable income. MS went off chasing children eager to fly pizzas from A to B, when the graphics low down were never going to be competitive in that market, and they neglected the market that didn't care about that shortcoming, and were willing to spend big.

No wonder DTG stepped in.

But really FS should have been left to die for one simple reason. It's taking up space in the market that really needs to be filled by another flight sim. A genuine, in depth civilian plane sim, to rival X-Plane. Now FS will limp on, hogging that space.

Friday, 8 August 2014

First proper laps at Silverstone GP in the Ruf C-Spec

I'm enjoying the Ruf C-Spec at Silverstone. The lap below is the best I've put together so far, but it's still three seconds short of the top drivers. But I'm not aiming that high. For the moment I just want to gain a better understanding of the car.

Club and Luffield are two particularly difficult corners, simply because I feel I have to ease on the throttle at just the right pace. Too little and I'm slow, too much and I'll lose the back end.

Not sure if I'll race this weekend. I would need to have a breakthrough tomorrow in how confident I feel with it, and whether or not I can manage a good 1.54 time.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Silverstone, the Skip Barber, and the death of common courtesy

There are seriously times I think iRacing just isn't worth the time and effort. You can say what you like about AI, but at least it gets out of the damn way when it should.

I went to the time and trouble of qualifying - which is another bone of contention right there, why on earth do fast guys not bother and annoy everyone else by moving through the field at the start? - and put in a mediocre time. Silverstone is not a track I'm overly familiar with. I'm swamped at the start. I have no idea how to start well. People push past in cars made out of cardboard. I don't have the courage to do that. I'm looking at a poor finish, but it's my poor finish.

And then, with four laps to go, I'm coming around a right hander. It's either bridge or the corner after bridge. The spotter warns me about a car in the dirt. As I round the corner he's in the middle of the track, moving slowly. There's plenty of room on the racing line, so I go right. For whatever reason he decides, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was trying to make it easy for me, he moves right, too.

The end result is I have to jump out of the way, spin to avoid him, and, well, it's pointless to continue at that stage. I quit out. Absolutely pointless to restart it because I'll be tail end charlie with no hope with four laps to go to improve my position.

All he needed to do was stick to the middle of the track. There was plenty of room on either side. And he was going at the speed of a sloth.

I know it's painful to lose places like that, but you screwed up - don't ruin someone elses race in your frustration.

Having said that, I don't know if it's iRacing in general, or just the Skip Barber series. I have to say right here and now that I'm becoming totally frustrated with the experience. I'm not the kind of person to stack up a million races a week. I don't have the time. I will stretch it to do two in two series at most. And that's it. So when I'm taking out by someone not following the basic courtesies then that kicks the stool out from under the whole thing.

Monday, 4 August 2014

First race week at Watkins Glen in the Ruf

Not quite the 1.54 time I was hoping for during race week, but under a tenth off, which I'm quite content with.

Two races, both of which were learning experiences. In the first I didn't react well to the driver ahead losing control exiting the esses. I should have backed off as soon as I noticed the first stumble, and as it developed I could have then moved to the centre of the track and looked to back right off and perhaps apply some brake pressure. That I didn't can partly be put down to lacking familiarity with the cars handling, made worse by the nature of the esses, but mostly it was caused by a lack of proper focus and reaction. Instead of inheriting fifth place my race ended there. In the second race I missed a second qualifying session for the weekend, and as a result started towards the back, in fact from the pits. With a reasonably high SOF I couldn't depend on attrition to gain a better position.

But, all that said, I'm really enjoying the RUF.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Gloves for sim racing?

Bought a pair of gloves for racing. They're not the racing or karting gloves you often see people use, but fingerless cycling gloves.

You can find them here.

You might think that's not really necessary. But over periods of time I found my hands were becoming sore from using the wheel. Now I may be gripping the wheel too tightly, but right now that's what I do. It's not an immersion thing, and I'm not about to wear a suit, let alone a helmet. But for comfort it's a good solution.

Often people will wear the full karting or racing glove to protect their wheel also, as the more expensive leather can become worn when used over extended periods.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

First look at Elite Dangerous

Elite is a title that truly justifies the term "seminal". It had that magnitude of influence in computer gaming. It put you into a world in which you got to decide what you wanted to do. You could trade, you could steal, or you could hunt down those that did the stealing. It was your choice.

And, by the way, programmers that could fit such a complex world into 22k are artists. Imagine; a game of that kind the size of a modern email.

Well, Elite is back, developed under the leadership of creator David Braben. You won't find it on Steam or your favourite retailer yet, it's still under development, but as a Kickstarter funded program it's open to participation. The early backers received alpha access, spending hundreds to make sure the title got made, and to help develop it through their input.

The beta program is now available, and is more affordable. If you're interested in learning more about it, click here.

I'm not all that far into it at the moment. I'm literally working out how it works. But the first thing that strikes you about it is just how beautiful it is. It may sound like hyperbole, but for the first time I can remember I knew what the high definition resolution on my monitor could really do. Coming up to a space station, or flying through an asteroid belt, is a stunning experience. There's definitely a feeling of scale.

Here I am approaching Azeban City, ready to dock.

At times it has a feeling of Blade Runner about it. That doesn't carry through to all the elements, at least not yet, but it's extraordinarily rich at times. Planetary exploration is promised in a future expansion, and if done right, as they're promising it will be, it should take Elite to an extreme level of immersion.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

iRacing Ruf C-Spec hotlap at Watkins Glen Boot

I'm slowly making progress with the C-Spec. The greatest issue I have at the moment is turning in late. I'm aware that I need to work more on turn in markers, but I find they are the hardest markers to define. I really must spend time at the start of my next testing session to firm up the markers I have spotted, and find clear markers where I have none.

Still, a 1.54.4 time isn't bad. I think the fastest drivers will be around 1.52.5 - at least with default weather. We won't know the actual weather used in the first week until it starts. After that, unless iRacing have changed something, we'll know the weather in advance for every single race week.

Another test session before the week starts, then it's back to the Skip Barber for races at Lime Rock Park, a track I've had success at for the last few seasons.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

iRacing pit macro commands

I'm not sure how well documented pit macros at iRacing. It seems to be something you need to search for as I wasn't able to find it in documents and tools. There is a thread on the subject in their forum, but it's not the easiest place to find things.

Pit macros allow you to define a pit strategy, which can be something as simple as taking repairs alone, or a combination of detailed changes. For example a certain amount of fuel, and tyres at certain pressures. The macros are all proceeded with a hash.

To clear fuel, windscreen and tyre checkboxes:


To clear the tyres alone:


Now you have a clean car, you can add whatever you desire.

To check the fuel box:


To add a certain amount of fuel, in this example 10 gallons:

#fuel 10g

To check the windscreen tearoff box:


Now we get into tyre macros.

To change the left front tyre:


If you want to have the tyre set to a certain pressure, in (p)si or (k)pa:

#lf 23p
#lf 23k

The same terminology is used for all four tyres, lf and rf at the front, and lr and rr for the rear.

You can also combine these instructions in one macro. For example:

#clear ws lf rf

That would clear the car, then check the windscreen tearoff box, and replace the front tyres.

Another command which may be useful, especially if more options are added later, is:


Replacing button boxes with VoiceAttack voice recognition software

Button boxes.

If you've ever seen a racing sim video on Youtube where the driver is using any form of complex setup they're most likely using a button box.

What is a button box? Well, simply put it's a box with buttons on it, connected to the computer with a seperate USB cable. What does it do? The buttons trigger certain actions, such as displaying a relative positions display, or a tyre information box. They can also be used too simply display information to other drivers.

To explain how useful they can be, I use a G27, which has six buttons on the wheel. I have used them for centering TrackIR, displaying the relative positions box, the fuel and tyre boxes, and for the toggle and next inputs so I can check off fuel and tyres for the pit box.

That works fine for the Skip Barber. But what happens when there are more options to check off? And in-car adjustments to make during a session?

Then you need more buttons - perhaps a new wheel or a button box.

But there is an alternative. Instead of pushing a button you might simply say what you wanted with VoiceAttack. For a small charge you replace an expensive button box, and the hassle of having to press buttons, and remember what button does what, with a small piece of software that works surprisingly well, while having excellent features and flexibility.

You can download VoiceAttack here and evaluate it for 21 days for free.

At the time of writing this is a safe download. No malware or other installs hiding in there.

The software can be used not only with iRacing but with other games, and Windows itself.

When used with iRacing it can be used to clean up the car before races. Instead of sitting on the grid and fumbling through a clean up process you can simply invoke a macro with a voice command. For example instead of checking off fuel and new tyres on the grid in the Skip Barber I can now say "clear car" and everything is unchecked. True, you can map a macro to a single button, but that's still a button taken up, and you have to remember what button is mapped to what command.

I highly recommend giving the free download a try.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

iRacing 14S3 new build

Now this is a build.

If you're not familiar with iRacing, seasons run on a twelve week schedule. There are four seasons each year, and between each season is what is known as "week thirteen". The important thing about those weeks is that not only is that when new tracks and cars are released, but it's also when the service itself is updated.

I'm not going to go through what's been updated with this build, but suffice to say that it has very much improved car handling. With regard to the Skip Barber that means that the rear feels much more stable. You can push the car hard around corners with more confidence. That has been an ongoing improvement through the different iterations of the new tyre model.

It has also much improved the Ruf C-Spec. Previously the car felt skittish mid corner and was prone to oversteer on corner exit. It just didn't feel right at all. Now it's much more natural. You're concentrating on driving rather than managing the car.

Of course some people are unhappy with the change. And it does seem to range across most if not all cars. The common complaint seems to be based on the idea that racing cars should be hard to drive. I don't agree with that. It's my feeling that generally racing cars sohuld only be difficult to drive really fast. And I think another strand of drivers are unhappy with the change because they have learned through sheer weight of time how to be really fast through learning to overcome the quirks.

That does leave me with the issue of having to decide what to drive next season. I'm considering the C-Spec, Skip Barber and the Radical. The Grand Touring Cup schedule doesn't really interest me, which rules out the Mustang. I might just race the former and practise the latter, given the lower participation in the Radical series. And that does looks like a hardcore series. I'm not keen to simply donate iRating to drivers that have lived and breathed the car for season after season.

The only downside to the update is the continued slow pace. Even the backfires they've added are incomplete. It's simply taking them far too long to move the service along. If it's taking them so long to get backfires in, how long for a fully functioning tyre? For proper road modelling? Day to night transitions? Realistic weather?

Other titles like Assetto Corsa and rFactor are moving along at a much greater speed. iRacing cannot lean on superior multiplayer forever.

But for now, this is the best update I've seen.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Mustang at Bathurst and thoughts on next season

I'm not a fan of Bathurst - or Mount Panorama as iRacing insists on calling it. It's certainly not a fun track to learn, at least not in iRacing where it seems every light scrape results in "wheel damage" that renders the car unable to drive in a straight line.

The Mustang, though, is a lot more driveable with a community baseline setup, rather than the iRacing baseline. I previously thought of it as a boat - the understeer was horrendous. But with a different baseline it's a lot more manageable.

Which leads me onto another point. Why do iRacing keep on producing awful baseline setups? The worst of them all has to be the Ruf C-Spec, which has a brake bias that makes the car undriveable. They changed the braking system but then didn't bother to change the baseline to reflect that. Was it not tested? Or were the testers using their own setups?

For a subscription based service it's unforgivable how they seem oblivious to these issues. It's a fact that people are putting laps in on the C-Spec and wondering why the back end comes around whenever they go near the brake. Will it be fixed for the next build?

Next season I'm still not sure which series I'll primarily concentrate on. The Skip Barber schedule has five weeks out of twelve that I'd like to race. The C-Spec just doesn't feel right mid corner. The SR8 Radical for some reason doesn't inspire me, and the Mustang ... though I do feel I'll learn a lot from it, next season it's moving to multiclass, and I hate multiclass. A D class series with at least two cars travelling at different speeds?

I can make a case for practise but not participating in races, but I would like to put more credits in the bank, as well as getting more race experience.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Skip Barber race at Summit Point

This without a doubt was the best race I've had at iRacing to date. It was one of the strongest fields I've participated in, and though I didn't execute the best moves with regard to passing, I pushed the car as hard as I do in practise, to the point my best lap was two tenths short of my personal best.

With hindsight I realise now the mistake I made when looking to pass wasn't made in turn one, it wasn't even made in turn three when I backed out and twice lost a place. The mistake I made was in not getting a better turn ten exit and beating the driver ahead to the inside line for turn one.

There was a couple of occasions when I could have been more forceful through turn one to make the pass stick, but it's important to note that I had never raced with the driver I was attempting to pass before. I didn't know whether he could hold it together enough to avoid taking me out as I passed him. That made passing on the outside a little more dangerous.

Had I made it to the inside line and been a car length ahead the pass would have been routine.

But overall a very educational race for me. I learned a lot from it.

New personal best for this season in the Skip Barber at Summit Point

Another half a second from my personal best at Summit Point. This is one of the tracks I really feel comfortable at. I have driven it so many times that I'm confident with my line, and if I do make a mistake I know the track well enough to recover without significant issues.

There are two areas I know I could improve the lap. At turn one I can run wider on exit and thus apply more power earlier. The same is true for turn five - the tight left hander at the start of the twisty section. Improvements there could give me a 1.22.6, which would be a massive achievement for me.

I'm not sure about Bathurst this week. I'm generally not a fan of long straights in a wind up car, and the walls there really make it a pain to get the basics down with the constant restarts. But from the point of view of the championship it would be useful to put in a good points week.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

iRacing and driver swaps - like eating brie without crackers

At some point I'm going to post an overview of iRacing and my thoughts on it, but this is something that touches on at least a couple of issues I have with it.

Driver swaps. The official forum is full of comments on how excited people are about it. It's rare to find a post that's in any way either critical or even really analytical.

But wait a minute. Driver swaps? At this time iRacing doesn't even have lighting transitions. It doesn't model tyre wear effects all that well. For example flat spotting tyres is still not in. The "new surface model" that was last mentioned in public perhaps two years ago is still nowhere on the horizon.

And weather. I'm not even talking about rain, but just simple variations in weather, this is still messed up. And not messed up in a "we have no idea how to fix it" messed up, but in a "there's a problem with the weather?" messed up. It's such a small thing it should take them no more than an hour to fix the code. But I have no doubt they're not even aware of it. Just as the head guy didn't know that Spa was messed up for incident points, even though people had been griping about it since the track was released.

So we get driver swaps, but what's the point of having longer duration races without day to night transitions, without proper tyre wear effects, without a track surface that doesn't change?

Why not concentrate resources on the issues that still haven't been resolved, introduced, etc., and then when the framework is there, hang driver swaps on it?

I can't help but think that driver swaps will turn out just like the Lotus 49. Something a handful of very vocal people asked for, but which just doesn't get used all that often when it is introduced because the novelty will wear off fast.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Testing for Summit Point and a hardware fix

After the debacle at Mid Ohio I return to the Skip Barber series for what will be my eighth and last week of the season. I was not looking forward to this week at all after how badly I felt I drove at Mid Ohio.

Then a few laps into testing I realised I had a massive issue with the brake "spiking". I have noticed the brake dragging on corner exit recently and put that down to me leaning on the pedal too much. An issue I planned to correct by adding a dead zone to the brake pedal. But even without any sort of pressure at all I was still getting spiking.

When I added the deadzone through the Bodnar calibration software it made a huge difference. The demo lap below does still have a stiny bit of spiking as I was still experimenting with the values, but it's something I know I can remove now. It's just a question of finding the ideal value.

The lap below is full of errors, with plenty of room for improvement. In particular turn three requires more work to find up to half a second. It's a really difficult corner to get right consistently. It's very easy to pick up an off track in the gravel on exit. The last turn also could be driven much better.

But not a bad start to the week at all.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Time for an intermission; time for Falcon 4 BMS

Not really feeling it at Mid Ohio. I put in a Tuesday race, but in all honesty my heart just wasn't in it at all. I was putting in dreadful times right from Sunday testing into the race itself - the second of two splits. As the highest rated driver I even lost iRating finishing fifth.

I'm taking a break until Summit Point. And even then I'm just looking to complete my eight week season.

In the meantime I'm attempting to make the kind of progress with Falcon 4 BMS that I wasn't able to before. I'm starting literally at the beginning with the ramp start procedure. Once I'm competent and confident with that I'll then move onto the taxiing, takeoff, and landing. And from there navigation.

That alone will keep me busy for some time.

For some technical reason frame rates are pretty terrible, so I'm not sure how well it will, or won't, work with Fraps. I'd like to chronicle my progress a bit, but having said that there are plenty of Falcon 4 videos on Youtube. I'll have to find a different angle to approach it from.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Farewell Zandvoort, and on to Mid Ohio

I would have posted video of a 1.10.7 from Zandvoort Club. I would have, but somehow iRacing "lost" the lap.

I know for sure I drove it, it's down as my overall best time, but it just didn't appear in the session, or under my lap times for the session, and the lap wasn't exported.

It's a little frustrating, but it's not the end of the world, although for one reason or another I couldn't replicate the time before the end of the week.

I just wish this layout would be used again next season. The GP layout is just too long for it. But there's so much clamour for the longer layouts. What people actually mean is they like the long layouts, not necessarily the Skip Barber on the longer layouts. VIR is another example. We've driven the full, excruciating, layout in the Skippy a lot more frequently than the short layouts, which are much more fun.

We now move on to Mid Ohio.

For some reason I feel a bit flat there. I was done after an hours practise - still about a second short of my target time. Perhaps I'll feel more motivated tomorrow.

I did have to turn the force feedback down from 24 to 18. Turning in at turn one it has always felt like there's a "ridge" I have to jerk the wheel over. Which makes the corner much more treacherous. I have no idea what that is, but it does seem to occur with a late braking point. Reducing the force feedback and pulling my braking point back slightly seems to fix it.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Better late than never at Zandvoort

For such a short layout Zandvoort Club is posing some difficult questions for me this week.

I would have liked to have put a lap up on Youtube by now, but I'm stuck on 1.11.0 times. I seem to be expert at repeating that time with low fuel, shaving off a hundredth or two here and there.

But I think I have the approach to two particular sections more or less worked out. If I'm correct I might find as much as half a second there. Of course that's dependant on my mastering that within an hour of practise time. But right at the end, with a full tank of race fuel I did find just over a tenth on the second section.

I might just run out of time this week before I can make real inroads into this track.

Monday, 9 June 2014

A bit more speed next season, but a bit more stability

That Ruf C-Spec just doesn't feel right.

I know that there's at least one Porsche driver that says its accurate, but even with a tight setup it is just such a handful mid corner. Even on corner exit. It just feels "out of balance" all the way through the corner.

And what a complete failure my setup work turned out to be. It wasn't until I compared the setups I'd created to a few taken from the iRacing forum that I realised just how little I understand how to set up. Or perhaps I just don't have a grasp of the peculiarities of iRacing setup.

I have the sense that much like their cars that don't quite drive right you need to "game" iRacing setups.

And I have also come to the conclusion that I need to follow the cars that iRacing has right, rather than choosing a car based on what interests me from the outside. The Skip Barber is almost the car it should be. It's certainly not the beast that it was with the "old tyre model", and early iterations of the "new tyre model". The C-Spec is, in my opinion, a work in progress. I just don't enjoy driving it.

The SR8 Radical, on the other hand, has always been a joy. I always thought of it as a Skip Barber with a higher top speed. That's painting a pretty broad canvas, of course, but it's so much fun. What put me off driving it before was low participation. But even if I don't actually race it next season I've decided that will be the second series I participate in. I need more experience with faster cars.

The rest of C class isn't appealing. The Star Mazda seems messed up, with drivers reportedly drifting around corners. Much fun for those so inclined, I suppose, but not much sense for a simulation. The Lotus 49 is a white knuckle ride. That really only leaves the Radical, after discounting the C-Spec.

But that's how you choose a car in iRacing: based on what the staff haven't messed up.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

It's all about using the whole width of the track

Why couldn't I exit turn four at Brands Hatch at 82 miles per hour anymore?

That was the question that really perplexed me. I seemed to be driving the corner as well as I'd done before, but I was struggling just to reach 79 miles per hour after the first day of practise.

The answer is quite simple, and the reason I didn't understand it earlier was simply because I was pushing to faster times rather than analysing why I was slow in the first place.

I had a similar, but less extreme issue with turn one. Then when I looked at an external view I discovered I was about half a car width off the track edge at corner entry. But I was still focussed on pushing that I just put it down to how you have to deal with how corner entry bends there. I didn't think enough about why I was struggling to be hard on the gas at the apex.

It's the same problem at turn four. I'm not using enough of the track width on corner entry, which compromises the apex.

Even then I could drive a fast lap time for the week. But that extra foot or so of extra track width use is what pushed me into the "really fast" bracket. And that's what I need to really reinforce with my driving. It has to be an integral part of driving the line - using the whole width of the track until it's second nature even in the more difficult corner entries.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Skip Barber at Brands Hatch and the benefit of smooth driving

I have found it next to impossible to replicate the 1.40.7 at the weekend. The lap is quite smooth - with the exception of a moment exiting turn three - and what's pleasing is that I'm using all of the track, apart from some corner exits where I could have gained significant time with a little more ambition.

But Brands Hatch and the Skip Barber might have to wait for another time. This week has become more than a little frustrating, and I feel the more I drive the more distant I become from what I want to achieve. The time is immaterial compared to the technique I'm looking for.

I'm left wondering whether the experience with the Ruf C-Spec last week encouraged the smoothness I went into Sundays Skip Barber testing with. I've definitely become much more sketchy since then with it.

Rather than struggle through the rest of the week I will return to Okayama and put three test sessions into the C-Spec, most probably working on setup from the ground up with a proper schedule of setup changes.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Taking a step back before hopefully taking two forward

Now this one has me completely at a loss. Or at least I think I know what the issue is.

The 1.40.7 I did at Brands Hatch on Sunday now seems a world away. At the time I thought a 1.40.5 was well within my reach, but in the two days since then I've spent much, more more time in the mid 1.43's.

The exit from turn four down the long straight to turn five eats up almost a second on average. At the point iSpeed announces my previous best exit speed of 82mph I'm struggling to hit 79. But I think it's more than just that rather tricky corner.

I think I'm making a mess of turn three and thereby losing time entering the sector that includes turn four.

I know what I need to do for both, but I seem to have wandered from the whole idea of the line, brake and turn in points. I really have to just take it back to basics and concentrate on getting my line right, then feeding in more speed.

That said, I did my first race of the week, and though my times were appalling I did get a sixth place finish in a fairly high strength of field race, squeezing in a modest increase in iRating, and a good improvement in Safety Rating.

The championship points total of 57 is short of the 75 I look for, though, but if I'm to improve on that I need a good solid day of progress tomorrow before the next race on Thursday.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The first test of a new approach at Brands Hatch in the Skip Barber

At the end of last season I put in a week of testing at Brands Hatch in the Skip Barber.

I'd come to realise that at the start of weeks I'd put in a fast time, then as the week went on I became progressively slower. I was pushing too hard. And a big part of that was a lack of structure to what I was doing.

About eighteen months previously I'd put in two weeks at Laguna Seca, and concentrated on markers; brake, turn in, apex and corner exit. I'd finally come to realise just how important it is to really understand a track, not just jump in and drive it. That's where consistency comes from, hitting the same points over and over.

I didn't improve on my personal best at Brands Hatch by all that much, two tenths if I remember correctly, but I had a much better understanding of the track, and through a really considered and thoughtful approach I understood what I needed to do to improve my lap times.

Another realisation that I've come to, is that most of the time, when I have the line and markers worked out, I should just turn off the sector times, forget about the deltas, and just drive, with the aim of being consistent, without the constant pressure and concentration on whether I'm picking up or losing time.

Here is the best lap from that week long session. There's about two tenths at least to be gained in hitting Stirlings - the second last corner leading onto the straight - better. I dont use the rumble strip on exit, which is down to a lack of confidence, having spent much of the week trying to hit that corner right.

Next week the Skip Barber series returns to Brands Hatch. It will be the first time I've been able to look at the reference laps I produce at the end of a race week, so that will be a test of the theory that I can save myself a lot of time re-learning the same lessons with a fifteen minute "track walk".

Two days of testing, a little practise on Tuesday, then into the first race of the week.

There are more questions than answers at Okayama in the Ruf C-Spec

I don't know whether I set the weather incorrectly for yesterdays C-Spec testing, or I just forgot how to drive it overnight, but I was almost two seconds down on a 1.32 time yesterday.

Quite a bit of that time was spent on the tyres. That has always been a particular issue with iRacing setups. I spent a long time adjusting temperatures a couple of years ago, only to discover that garage temperatures had no correlation to pressures, after following the iRacing setup guide which with hindsight is just plain misleading in talking about real world setup relating to the sim.

I was under the impression things had changed considerably, but even disregarding temperatures and going on wear, the outer part of the tyres always heat up and wear less than the middle and inners - and by some considerable margin. From the top to the bottom of the camber range there is a difference in temperatures, but there's still nowhere near an even span, and wear seemed hardly affected at all.

Perhaps I'm just not fast enough to detect the subtleties, but quite often settings just don't seem to matter at all. For example the anti-roll bars don't seem to make a difference at all. If they are I just don't feel it. The springs likewise.

It might just be that I should make adjustments in a different order during initial setup. This time I went with dampers, then springs, and then ARB. Perhaps I should go with tyre pressures, camber, ride height, brake bias, caster, toe, anti-roll bars, wing, adjust ride height again, springs, and finally dampers.

But that will have to wait for another drop week in the Skip Barber series, and week nine, Okayama in the C-Spec is coming up at the end of the month, so I may just have to go with what I have there.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Finding speed at Okayama in the Ruf C-Spec

What a difference a day makes.

I had put the mid corner oversteer in the Ruf C-Spec at Okayama down to my driving: too much trail braking up to certain corners leading to not having enough traction on the rear tyres when I tried to accelerate.

I had gone through all of the setup options I thought would help, but after reading through some forum posts it appeared adjusting brake balance forward might also help with it. And in fact on using the maximum front balance allowed - 54.3% - the car was transformed. Instead of being hesitant mid corner with throttle application I became much more confident. The 1.33.5 that seemed distant from the current personal best of 1.34.5 became a 1.32.9.

And that time is with practically race fuel, and without having pushed it to the limit, also without having a feel for the width of the car yet. With more experience and a low fuel tank I'm confident of a 1.31.5 time.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Don't ask what telemetry can do for you, ask what you can do for telemetry

We've all seen race engineers hunched over displays, gazing intently at traces that spike and trough in ways that are thoroughly unintelligible for the uninitiated. What they're doing is attempting to discover and identify issues with the car being analysed.

Now I have no great understanding of this science. When I was working on the C-Spec setup at Okayama earlier in the season I was doing it based on feel. I tried the lowest value then the highest and compared the feel of the two. From there I went to a third value in between them, biased towards the better feeling, and adjusted downwards or upwards from there.

After spending some time researching telemetry I've come to the conclusion that in fact that might be the best solution. At least the best primary source for adjustments.

I re-installed Motec after having messed around with Atlas. I say "messed around" because Atlas is not particularly user friendly, to the point I didn't even know what unit of measure it was using. Motec right out of the box with a default setup has the required information right there, to the point I went straight to the suspension histogram - I didn't even know what it was called from my fumblings with Atlas.

I can see how it's worth experimenting with the bump and rebound on three of the four wheels. I want to see how the car handles with them being more symmetrical. And tyre temperatures on the outer sections are much cooler. That suggests camber changes to improve the amount of tyre in contact with the road.

The latter I could see from wear in the garage. And with iRacing wear is most likely the most reliable measurement for camber.

But, having made those adjustments I will still go by feel, and won't be afraid to discard whatever shock changes the Motec histogram suggests. Though I am likely to see how garage tyre wear and the Motec temperature telemetry compare.

Perhaps the most important thing about analysing telemetry is that it makes you think about the science behind how these cars actually work out on the track.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The right here and right now drivers

This is an example of the downside of sim racing. The driver on the inside is clearly not alongside, and as you can see from the angle of the steering wheel at bottom left the car on the outside is already turning in, at the proper turn in point.

The common mantra - and it's not specific to iRacing - is that it's the responsibility of the overtaking driver to ensure a safe pass. The best way to do that is to be alongside in the braking zone. An attempt to pass later than that increases the danger with each foot of ground covered.

The second pass I made last week into the second chicane at Oulton Park was about as late as I'd want to take it. I was alongside at the turn in point. Those passes look dramatic, but it requires compliance on the driver being passed to do it without incident.

When a driver dives down the inside at the turn in point that is not a safe pass. The overtaking driver deserves to have the door shut firmly in their face. It's what is popularly known as a dive bomb.

The overtaking driver in this case will most likely struggle to handle the apex at that speed, which increases the risk of collision mid corner even if the car on the outside isn't turning into th actual apex.

This is what I call the "right here, right now" approach, which is sadly prevalent on iRacing. There is actually a very long straight two corners away, but the overtaking driver wants to make the pass on a fast right hand corner, rather than even look down the inside into a slow hairpin leading onto the straight.

This is racecraft. But in the culture of hotlapping at iRacing that's a difficult thing to preach. You are more likely to hear Senna quoted, which given the medium we're working with, and the lack of bodily and structural risk, is not conducive to good, clean racing.

But as you drive you do make note of who you can race with, who you can trust, and who you need to close the door to, nice and early. And, unforuntately, who you just need to let go so they can ruin someone elses race.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Working on lap times and lap quality at Laguna Seca

So I have a 1.39.5 at Laguna Seca so far this week. The fastest time I have seen so far in iSpeed is a 1.37.5, whereas previously I would expect to see 1.36's, so the track is slower this season. At a guess I would estimate I need to be about 1.39.1 to equal my personal best pace here.

That said I need to work on tidying up my laps. It's an issue I have with every other track - not being precise enough, creeping off the kerb on entry in particular.

The plan to race on Tuesday, Thursday and also Saturday must come second to spending what little practise time I have today to neaten up my laps and hopefully thereby increase corner entry speeds, and thereby lower lap times, and make them consistent.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Farewell to Oulton Park

That's it for Oulton Park this week.

I have to say it's one of my favourite tracks in iRacing. It helps that it really does suit the Skip Barber car. It's a long track, but it doesn't have the really long straights that can become tiresome in a low powered car. I don't even mind the back-to-back chicanes. In fact it's been interesting working on those two sectors, as chicanes have always been an issue for me.

The brak pedal modification certainly helped. I'm much more confident in hard braking phases.

Three races with two podiums. The third was a stronger strength of field, and not being confident of my lap one performance I started from the pits. Two aggressive passes when I caught the field were undone with a spin in the first chicane. But I picked myself up for an eight place finish, which at least meant I didn't lose much iRating.

And improvements in both personal best, down to 1.52.4 and optimal time, down to 1.51.5. Thats a big gap, but on a long track like Oulton Park it's a challenge to be consistent through each sector. I did feel I was improving with that towards the end, but there are still a couple of things I needed to work on.

However that will have to wait for another time. Laguna Seca awaits, and that's a track I've consistently had problems with.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Logitech G25/27 pedal upgrades and threshold braking

They say in racing you can divide gaining time into three sections: the line; corner exit and "braking and entering".

Time gained from mastering each part, for each corner, is measured in that order. Seconds for the line and corner exit, and tenths for the braking phase and entering the corner.

The last part, even though the time gains are relatively small, are where the hardest improvements come from.

That's why the brake pedal becomes the most important of all three, though that importance with regard to lap times is often either underestimated or overlooked altogether.

What does that mean for a sim racer? It's quite common for drivers to upgrade their pedals. The Fanatec range with load cells are popular. But those are quite expensive.

An alternative is to mod the pedals that you already have. The Logitech G25/27 is a very popular wheel, shifter and pedal set. The problem with the brake pedal is that it's not progressive. The same amount of pressure is required all the way through its travel. But even with a potentiometer inside rather than a load cell it can be improved significantly.

The first upgrade for the pedals is a Bodnar cable. You can learn more about it and purchase one here. With this cable you connect the pedals directly to your computer through USB, no power required even from the USB port, and the pedals resolution increases from 256 to 1024. That's quite an improvement in resolution.

The second upgrade is to the aforemention brake pedal. This upgrade is a little more invasive and requires opening the pedals casing, which, therefore, may mean voiding the warranty. It's a simple procedure, though you should allow an hour to complete it.

There are many pedal upgrades available for the G25/27 pedals. The GTEye modification replaces the smple factory spring with a progressive spring. With that improvement it becomes easier to find the threshold braking point, making braking more consistent and efficient. You can learn more about the GTEye modification here. The benefit of using this brake pedal modification is that while pressure differs as brake pedal travel increases, the pedals don't have to be hard mounted. It's probably the most gentle of its type in that regard.

With that installed it's useful to "short calibrate" the brake pedal so that the threshold braking point is in a part of the brake travel range that feels good, and is therefore easier to replicate.

These simple and relatively inexpensive upgrades will not only improve your lap times, but they will also at least extend the usefulness of the pedals, and quite possibly satisfy your need for better pedals completely.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Testing with the Skip Barber at Oulton Park International

Taking a break from the Ruf C-Spec and work on setups. I expect to return to it in a couple of weeks, and at that time I will probably do more with telemetry. Although that alone is a huge subject.

The reason for the pause? The Skip Barber series is at Oulton Park this week, and Laguna Seca in one weeks time, and I want to complete an eight week season. I still have much to learn.

That said, I was quite pleased with the ninety minutes I spent at Oulton Park so far. Aside from the chicanes there are a couple of corners - the carousel and the second last turn - that I've struggled with previously. I handled them much better, almost without even having to think about them. With regard to the chicanes I went through both reasonably well.

There are still improvements to be made, but it's a better start than I expected.

Official practise and races start on Tuesday.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

iRacing Ruf C-Spec initial setup at Okayama

It's the end of a week where I spent most of what free time I have for sims with iRacing. And specifically the Ruf C-Spec at Okayama.

I'm not going to go into detail with iRacing in this update. That will have to wait for another time. Suffice to say at this point is that it promotes itself as a motorsports simulation.

I'm not driving the C-Spec this season, but I am preparing for next season, when I plan to concentrate on the Ruf Cup series, which is essentially a Porsche Cup, but with the Ruf substituting. That's the nature of licensing deals in the modern world.

The Ruf Cup is a C class series. I currently participate in the Skip Barber D class series, but I'm taking this week out of the twelve week series as a "drop week", and instead I've put time into developing a setup for the C-Spec.

Now this is the first time I've really put this amount of time and thought into a setup. I confess I'm still learning what does what and why. And perhaps that is an advantage in some ways. I'm just following the numbers at this point.

The goal I have is to create a setup that behaves well in four cornering phases: straight line braking; turning in; mid corner; and corner exit. I want a setup that allows me to be back on the gas before or at the apex, without having to come back off it to compensate for oversteer.

I don't expect to have it finished this week. I'll continue improving it - hopefully - during future drop weeks. As of now I've worked on brake balance, spring perch offset, bump, rebound, bump stop, spring rate, ARB and toe - in that order. That's not to say those values are final. Far from it. I expect to go back and adjust everything when I've completed the initial setup.

It might be the setup or it might just be me, but I still don't have the confidence to be aggressive with the throttle at the apex. I'm easing it on as I roll out, whereas I'm lead to believe the Porsche is best driven with trail braking to the apex and then hard throttle - "the grip will be there". I find it oversteers into a wall.

Again, that might be me more than the setup. This is how it looks - work in progress - right now:

And below is a lap of Okayama with that setup. Why Okayama? Well, it's notorious for becoming a bit slippery, which means, at least to me, that if the setup does what I want it to there, then it should be pretty solid wherever I take it. And aside from minor changes per track I want this to be a solid base.

And that is mostly it for setup work in the C-Spec at Okayama for this week.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Opening thoughts on sims and how I got here and where I'm going

I'm an old school simmer. Back from when you had to wait for a sim to arrive in the post, and it came in a box, with a manual, and a keyboard overlay. And you felt disappointed if that was all you got.

At that time Microprose ruled the skies - and the seas, and the battlefields. You looked forward to a Micrprose release perhaps just as a previous generation waited eagerly for the next Beatles record. You knew you were in for something special when that big, heavy box hit your doormat. Not only did you have a great new game to play, you had a thick manual to read for weeks.

First sim of note? That would probably be F15 Strike Eagle. When I look at it now on Youtube I can't imagine how engrossing it could be, but it was. I still have vivid memories of timing drop tank release, and climbing at just the right rate to the best cruise altitude, but still not making it back to the carrier after a particularly long mission. I'm guessing that would have been Persian Gulf.

I think there were only three terrain colours; green, yellow or blue for the sea. You knew you were over your objective when you came upon a triangle. And whether you had to bomb or land on it, it was always a triangle.

And then there was Gunship. I still get tingles watching the Apache rise up on the loading screen. I can remember being at a friends house and watching that load for the first time. It was still very simplistic, but what stories it told, or helped you tell. Pushing the nose down, picking up speed, sprinting from hill to hill, then rising up and looking for targets. You'd see the word "target" flash up, then point the nose at the black speck, lock onto it to frame it, to get a wireframe BMP or whatever it was. Then the fizz of rockets or a missile at the aiming point or the buzz of the gun.

To this day one of the greatest sim memories I have is flying down a valley and suddenly having to autorotate for a hard landing, sitting there wondering what on earth had just happened, just as a Hind flew directly overhead from behind, evidently admiring its handiwork.

Another highlight would be standing in the newsagents and gazing at an advertisement for Silent Service on the back of C&VG magazine. Those were the days we bought actual physical magazines, too.

I sank - pardon the pun - a lot of time into that. As with many of these titles there came a point you just learned how to be good. A lot of that was just down to pure repetition. But even so I have fond memories of war patrols racking up huge tonnage. Night was particularly atmospheric.

The games were updated, the graphics improved. There were some things gained, some things lost. But there was a magic not just about those titles, but also that time. Perhaps part of it was the developers love of what they were doing. You didn't need huge budgets, huge teams. I'm sure as much as Sid Meier loved his income during those boom times he must have loved every minute of creating those games, too.

Of course those are not the only sims I played, from flight sims, subsims, to wargames. I covered the whole genre.

A part of that was also racing titles. I half remember one or two that were ahead of their time, held back by the technology of the day. But Geoff Crammond made a real success of racing sims. Again published by Microprose. I can't recall quite such detailed memories as with the previous titles, and I'm not sure I was all that good at it, but being a part of a racing season, building a story, that was the attraction.

Another big part of that time was wargames. I put quite a bit of time into the top down map oriented strategic titles, from the more simplisitic SSI titles - what a company they were, too, and sadly missed, but then discovered a new title under development by Big Time Software; a computer version of Squad Leader, the legendary boardgame.

The title was eventually released as Combat Mission, and the developers became Battlefront.

The first title was revolutionary. For a long time we had nothing but the demo, but what a demo it was. A 3D landscape with representations of infantry squads and individual vehicles, fighting through sunshine and rain. It was an impact BFC struggled with when they released the next generation of the title, but that should not be held against them too much. Combat Mission was the title you just had to have if you wargamed.

What do I sim now? Well, all will be revealed in future posts. But I hope that will provide a frame which will make subsequent comment, reviews, and general contributions more relevant.