Category: Sim Racing

Gran Turismo 6: Seasonal Challenge LCC Rocket


This is one of the best seasonal’s for Gran Turismo that has been put out in the year or so the game has been on the market. And, the reason is simple: this feels like what I imagine driving an open wheel racing car with no aero aides, skinny tires and just a tad too much horsepower would feel like. In some ways, this is the quintessential 1960’s era open wheel racer experience for the PS3.

Why yes, I am a nerd with Frito bits stuck all over the front of my somewhat greasy and in need of changing wool sweater.lcc-rocket

 

Click on Photo for a link to the GTPlanet News Article on the LCC Rocket Seasonal

But that doesn’t really matter, now does it. Because, the whole idea of sim racing is to allow scruffy sods like myself to imagine ourselves propelled into the world of high speed motoring. Overall, I’ve found the greatest satisfaction in this medium from console based sims, due to a number of factors, not the least of which being my lack of a dedicated gaming computer.

The idea of a gaming sim on a computer holds greater potential than any console based title. Most computer sims include modding options that blow the doors off any console based sim. But, modding doesn’t necessarily equate into a better sim experience. Here the sim experience of Gran Turismo 6 stands out, by providing a lightweight, rear engined modern vehicle: the LCC Rocket, as a stand in for mid-60’s F1, F2 and F3 kit.

The suspension and drive train are more advanced on the gaming model, providing minute alterations to power, and differential settings. Plus, the game provides various elements of traction and stability control that can be turned off or on, either in the rules of the current competition, or simply to fit players’ tastes.

The idea that console racing sims, when played with a pedal/wheel setup, are nothing more than video games equal to shooters of the console genre, grossly undervalues these titles. They might not be the equal of top end PC based sims, but those sims also require hefty investments in hardware to achieve realism at levels quantum leaps beyond the consoles. Otherwise, we are talking about differences of percentages, degrees and preferences.

Bottom line, the currently running — it ends in early December — Gran Turismo 6 Seasonal competition is one of the best yet, and portends well for the future of the series that shares a bipolar, love/hate relationship with it’s staunchest users, it’s staunchest critics.

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GT Academy Status Update 3


This post was deleted by me, before I realized how to use a previous post for a template. I’m dumb as hell. But, I can’t be too mad at myself because I’m just learning how to do this. Besides, this status update was probably pretty boring anyway. So, honestly, you’re lucky I accidentally deleted it.

Hey, you know what’s fun. Adam Buxton’s Internet TV Show. I hate to leave you with nothing, so here’s a link to Bug TV, an odd little show by an odd little man.

There aint no Queue for the Summertime Booze.

Just a quick update. Worked a lot last night on getting thru sectors 3 and 4 efficiently. That is, doing it quickly and correctly. Hopefully that will result in some quicker overall lap times today and tomorrow. The problem new players have with GT Academy is too many aborted laps. I know I’ve done that in the past and still do it. So, you never familiarize yourself with the second half of the lap, at least not to the level of the first half.

So, that’s why I’m working diligently on the back half of the lap. Oh, and I also don’t think the 4 sector times add up to a complete lap. It appears there’s a sizable gap between at least sectors 3 and 4. Though, I might be wrong.

GT Academy Status Update 4


First, let’s not kid myself here. There are multiple real racing series, where real drivers post articles about real racing and real issues and concerns. Concerns that can literally mean life or death. And the world ignores them. I was shocked to see the abysmal turnout at some high profile races this weekend. Probably the most disappointing (at least watching on TV) was the return of IndyCar to Pocono. The main grandstand on the front straight never looked much more than half full. And there are men and women out on the track travelling over 225mph with average lap speeds north of 210mph, literally in the backyard of the Andretti family. And the world rewards such efforts with a collective yawn.

Try harder world.

I, on the other hand, am infinitely less interesting than the lowliest kart racer mixing it up in a rental kart at an indoor kart track. And, no one is going to read that guy’s blog. “Got passed on the last lap for 3rd place just as I was driving past the soda machine on the front straight.”

Nope: I’m not reading that. And I know you’re not reading that. If you’re in my target audience of motorsport fans, you have a wealth of  options available on the internet and on TV so overwhelming that a great kart racer, a great racer in ALMS, an up and coming stock car driver or IndyCar racer is not going to get much attention. So, who is going to follow the antics of some idiot attempting to qualify for a reality TV show?

I don’t know.

But I do know this. There are about a million of us trying. Out of that group, I’m rated 1291st (as of this writing) in my region and about 13,000th overall. I’m in the top 2% of all online racers trying to win this competition. And it’s a competition that realistically takes the top 0.01% of all competitors and gives them a shot in a real car on a real track. And, it changes my life when I compete and prepare to compete.

This past weekend I improved my 2013 5K PR to a pathetic 26:12 seconds. But that’s about 20 seconds better than I ran a month ago. And, I have another race this weekend. I’m eating healthier. I’m drinking less. I’m working out. I’m remembering my karting lessons about not hanging my hands off the wheel. Focusing on being precise with my left foot braking on a brake pedal that’s little more than an on/off switch. OK, I’m obsessed.

Obsession is something people like to read about. Obsession makes you crazy. Obsession gets under your skin and makes you want to scratch and scratch and scratch. I’m sure all of those real racers out there feel this obsession, ten fold over what I feel. I hope they start writing more about it because I’d love to read those articles rather than the usual “We were tight in turn two, then we made some adjustments and we were loose in turn two.”

Yesterday I pounded around a virtual map of Silverstone for about two hours and managed to skim another second or so off of my lap time. This brought me from about 3,000th place in the USA to closer to 1,000th place. Since it’s been 24 hours, that time has probably been beaten by a few hundred other virtual racers. Maybe individually we’re boring, but as a cultural phenomenon something interesting is happening here. We’re like the virtual zombie army from World War Z threatening to crash the gates of the racing for dollars party. Someone once said that there is probably a kid in an African village some place who can drive better than Jackie Stewart. Well, if the world is ever going to find that kid, GranTurismo is the way it will be done. Watch out for us boring zombies.

GT Academy 2013 Status Update 2


 

I broke out the wheel, or: I busted out the wheel…

If you race online, you probably know what that means. It means I brought out the big guns. I switched from using a hand held controller to a racing wheel setup. In my case, that’s a used Logitech G25 wheel I borrowed from a friend who proceeded to start a family and never asked for it back.

Yesterday, I felt I’d reached a limit of how far I can push with a hand held controller. A wheel and pedal setup is much more “realistic” but more importantly, it provides a level of precision that can’t quite be attained with a hand held. A hand held, on the other hand, is convenient and doesn’t take up a huge patch of the living room.

The door to the living room is closed. My wife still thinks the Logitech wheel is stored in the basement. We went out and enjoyed the 4th of July with friends yesterday. So, today, the push for faster times takes off in earnest. She is not going to be happy.

I also mentioned to her yesterday that I think I’ve found a Kawasaki 500 for cheap that I could buy for a track day bike. She was very unpleased with this news. Rudely, albeit correctly, noting: I don’t know anything about racing a motorcycle.

The bike news hopefully will lessen the shock of finding my toys scattered all over the living room. What’s worse, a juvenile middle aged man chasing his dreams on the couch, or actually going missing for weekends on end, strapped to an actual motorcycle going actually way too fast. Your answer and my answer might be different than my wife’s (and my banker’s).

GT Academy 2013 Status Update 1


GT Academy 2013 will allow a handful of videogamers the chance to try their luck at real racing. This is, I believe, the 4th iteration of the Academy here in the USA. More details on history and format can be found at GT Academy (the link is for the U.S. website).

But I want to cut right to the chase: how am I doing in the competition.

That’s what this series of blogs will be about, just basically following my progress through a video game. Will it be interesting? Will it be informative? Will it bore you to tears. There is a very real chance (much greater than the opposite likelihood) that I am NOT the next Lucas Ordonez.

Press conferences are held for competition winners. Blogs are written by competition particpants. So, let me tell you a little bit about what it’s like to compete in such an open ended competition.

First, it lasts a month. So, from now until July 28th I will be living in two modes. Like Steve McQueen said: Racing is life, everything before and after is just waiting around. That’s what the next four weeks will feel like for me and about 1 million other video gamers.

Well, probably not a million. Let’s face it, if you’re ranked 1 millionth after a week or two, I’m guessing your motivation to continue is going to drop somewhat. In the USA, the top 200 or so gamers qualify for a 2nd round of the online competition. Right now my full lap time of Silverstone has me ranked 1362nd in the USA and about 10x worse globally (USA based players make up about one-tenth of the total GT Academy student body). So, probably the top 20,000 – 50,000 world wide will continue to stay motivated and work to improve their times.

I’ll try to share as much as I can about the experience through out the competition. Like I said, I’m ranked (since I’ve been writing this my ranking has dropped) 1378th in the USA. That’s the addictive, problematic nature of this competition: when you’re not online going faster, someone else is online making your times look slower…

Nurburgring Track Options for Simracing Plentiful


Here is an interesting compendium of possible track reconfigurations considered shortly after Niki Lauda’s near fatal crash at the Nurburgring in 1976. Eventually, as the maps show, we ended up with the Nurburgring GP F/D configurations that are used today.

I’m most interested in the configuration shown below, for a couple of reasons. First, it might be historically correct to assume that this could have become a shortened version of the Nordschleife. If I understand the website’s data, they are saying that this was an actual proposed shortening of the track considered in the late 70’s. That alone makes it an interesting alternative track for simracing.

Second, some of the roads and (of course) all of the topography exist IRL, so GPS could be used to map the proposed track and create an alternative Nurburgring Nordschleife-Kurz for simracing. I suppose, that could be said about any track configuration anywhere, so not a very strong argument.

Nürburgring, 1976 proposal

Here is another view of the alleged proposed shortened Nordschleife.

So, the question becomes: was this layout ever actually proposed as an alternative to the Nordschleife, or is this just internet mythology. Since the proposed track doesn’t include many existing roads, it lacks a connection with reality that would make it more interesting. And, it would have been an expensive anachronism even in the late 70’s to have developed such a track.

For further speculation on possible simracing track layouts, check out this racedepartment discussion. Simracers and modellers will undoubtedly continue to develop old/new track models and track development tools are edging ever closer to the point where the casual gamer will be able to link with Google maps can create hiw own home town grand prix circuit.

Much thanks to the creator of the website where I found most of this information: Guido d’ Carli. I hope I can find him to give him proper credit. Thanks for checking this out and any speculation or real information would be greatly appreciated.

 

Gran Turismo: Deep Forest Raceway Found


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A Chaparral-2A sits on pole at one of the few races held at Greenwood Roadway during it’s brief three year life span as an active race track (photo courtesy of Greenwoodroadway.com).

Please find track map and photos below to verify the discovery of Deep Forest Raceway, a supposedly non-existent track in the legendary PS3  Gran Turismo series, next to a corn field in Iowa.

So, expect Gran Turismo Guru and principal architect Kazunori Yamauchi to fess up and move Deep Forest from the mythical “Original Circuits” of Gran Turismo, to the Real World section in the game. Deep Forest Raceway is a disguised version of Greenwood Roadway, an actual (though now defunct) road circuit in south central Iowa, about 45 minutes south of Des Moines.

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As can be seen from the two maps (Greenwood Roadway on top, Deep Forest below) the track layouts are very similar. Not identical, but very similar. Similar enough, that if an investor were to decide to renovate Greenwood Roadway, it would be very easy to create a reasonable duplicate of Deep Forest Raceway from the Gran Turismo Series.

What can’t be seen from the maps is the identical nature of the topography of the two tracks. Driving on both tracks, the rise and fall of the circuit is virtually identical. The two highest points on both are at the end of the back straight (in the tunnels on Deep Forest Raceway) or at the ninety degree bends in the middle section, and the lowest two points are at the start of the back straight and at the hairpin at the end of the main straight.

The original Greenwood pit location is slightly different than the virtual track. But again, in about the right place and even on the right side of the track. The sensation, though, of driving the real track is eerily reminiscent of driving the virtual track simply because the rise and fall of the two layouts is so close to identical.

There being virtually no historical significance to Greenwood Roadway, the real track set in the rolling hills of southern Iowa, there’s no reason  the Gran Turismo Series developers would have felt any qualms in “improving” the track to fit their needs.

The double ninety degree bends in the middle of the track have a nice rhythm that isn’t apparent in the real circuit. Ditto for the fast sweepers at the end of the lap. With no signature corners (EG. Eau Rouge at Spa, White House at Le Mans) to emulate, the Gran Turismo developers were free to improve on a slightly simpler layout. There are corners on the actual circuit that would have been pretty scary taken flat out, especially noting the proximity to the track of the rusting ruins of Armco barriers.

There are no mountains around the Greenwood Roadway in Iowa, and of course no tunnels to race through. The track topography is very similar, but the real topography is markedly different. That said, the real track is located in a beautiful rural setting in the rolling hills that cover most of the state. The asphalt is still intact although nowhere near what one would call a road anymore. More like a paved path to the past of American road racing.

The two tracks are very similar in layout and design, but by no means identical. First, the real circuit is a full three miles in length, while it’s scaled down virtual double-ganger measures only 2,24 miles in length: a three-quarter scale model.

The real track was developed in the 1960’s by a consortium of well to do Des Moines businessmen/racers/land speculators who realized that Lake Red Rock was being built nearby and expected the explosive growth of racing in the mid-sixties to continue unabated. Unfortunately, the track fell on hard times quickly and in its prime only hosted a handful of races.

It continued on, being used for local club events into at least the 1970’s with some photos online of an Iowa Mustang club that gained access in this century, although this would have been purely for historical purposes and maybe a blast down the mostly intact main straight

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This is the view heading down the main straight into the hairpin. On the left of the photo you can see the track snaking back uphill.

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Same view in Gran Turismo.5.

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This is the view from approximately half way down the back straight looking at the sweeping left-hander as the track falls away back downhill.

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View much closer to the sweeper at the end of the straight in Gran Turismo 5.

There might be a move afoot to resuscitate the old track as a type of motorsport country club, similar to other tracks that have proved popular around the country. If revived the track would add to an impressive compilation of motorsport facilities in south central Iowa, including: the Iowa Speedway in Newton, the famed dirt track at Knoxville and the almost equally famous dragstrip at Eddyville. All of these facilities, with the inclusion of Greenwood Roadway would be within a 30 mile radius centered approximately on Lake Red Rock just outside Knoxville.

If the plan does come to fruition, fans of Sony’s Gran Turismo racing simulator could find that a circuit that only exists on the PS3 is brought to life, reviving a lost gem in the Iowa countryside. Potential investors in any scheme to revive the track should seriously study the potential benefits of creating a replica of a track that is well known to the fans of the Gran Turismo series, which in five iterations has sold over 70 million copies worldwide. It might seem far fetched to expect Japanese tourists to travel to Iowa for a track day made famous on Japan’s most famous console racing title.It’s been said before when fantasy meets reality in Iowa: if you build it, they will come.

Special thanks to the current owners of the property who most graciously allowed me access to photograph and videotape at the track. And to greenwoodraodway.com, for the usage of historical photos.