Sweaty Spice, the other Spice Girl

In 2006 (or so) I bought a Microsoft Xbox 360, and I bought a fair number of games, but one in particular stood out to me, Forza Motorsport 4. I played a LOT of this, all on the season (that is not online) settings, and I loved it. I upgraded to version 5, and then in 2015 I bought an Xbox One and the first game I bought for it was, Forza 6, and I was wowed by the graphics and the game play. The courses were amazing, and I progressed. I will not say that I mastered it, and like before, I never played online.

Lately, I have converted my Xbox Live to the Game Pass (they make it ridiculously hard to avoid making this transition, so I gave in). and with it I got access to Forza 7. Hard to like it, that game is nowhere near as good as Forza 6, but I digress.

This renewed interest in racing games has  spurred me to be more engaged. Since I have been prowling Youtube lately, I stumbled across some streamers who participate in sim racing leagues, and I am wowed by their skills and abilities.

Whodathunkit? It is not normal to bombastically ram your way through the pack to take the lead, doing insane tactics that would lead to an immediate DNF in a real race?

Smooth lines, strategies, having breaking points and knowing how to set up the car for best  handling and performance. Sure, I have known that all this was part of Forza, but I never really got to that level. I just pick a good handling, fast enough car, leave all the driving aids on (ABS, automatic transmission, traction control, and stability management) and drive it like I stole it.

But watching these far more serious drivers, who compete in the esports realm, with their cockpits and high end hardware has taught me that there is nearly as much skill involved in sim racing as in the real world. If you have tire wear, and fuel consumption as part of the physics of the game, then you need to strategize, just as in a real race.

While I am not likely to ever invest the relatively insane amount to get into a good wheel, load cell pedals, and a rigid cockpit with dedicated displays (not difficult to get to $4K without monitors and computer/console) one piece of advice that I got from watching the masters is to turn off all the aids, and really learn how the car drives. Traction Control and stability management really take a lot of the feel out of driving. Having the racing line turned on means that you will be trying to follow it, rather than learn the track. It feels like cheating, because it is cheating.

Also, don't pick the car with amazeballs handling and performance. Instead pick something modest, with mediocre power, and turn a ton of laps on a few different courses. Get to really know it.

Last weekend, I "bought" a ratty old first generation VW Rabbit GTI. 90ish horsepower, front wheel drive, so-so brakes, and decent handling (for its power to weight ratio). Without any aids, it was, uh, challenging at least at first. But as I got more laps under my belt, I began to get the feel for the car, and I got noticeably faster. Not "fast" by any stretch of the imagination, but it became more comfortable.

I think I will continue on this quest this coming weekend, and the next few, and start entering some free play races. I will avoid the online races, because, well I have learnt that that is ram and cram central. No sportsmanship, no sense of fairness, and tons of abuse.

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