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.