Monday, 20 July 2009

Race-Shop World Series @ Pau – My P.O.V

Race Pro (XBOX 360) is a racing game close to my affections at the moment while I wait in anticipation for NFS Shift and Forza 3. It has been for a while, but after a short break I’m back into the groove. With me being a member of RaceDepartment, a sim racing forum known throughout the community, I’d been able to put my racing skills, honed since I first played Lotus Turbo Challenge on the Sega Mega Drive all those years ago when I was little, to the test against other enthusiasts of the game. After eventually managing to win a WTCC race at Monza in a Chevy Lacetti a while back, I continued to run races online. But only a few days ago, a friend of mine from RD called Gred Dranard offered me the chance to run in the Race-Shop World Series. He was running a Volvo S60 Challenge under the genius team name of Prawn GP and from my experience of racing against him, he was VERY quick. So of course, I asked and I got.  My debut – on the streets of Pau, France.

After some testing with Greg on Saturday night, I felt more confident, if only a little. He’d shown me a few ways on how to keep the car stable over the seemingly unsteady, winding streets, like making sure to always keep the diff loaded by applying power pretty much all the time through the long corners. That way it helped to redcue the chance of lift-off oversteer coming up the the very tricky, slightly downhill chicane with fairly large kerbs about halfway around the lap. Mind you, it didn’t mean I was never caught out a few times. By the end, I was in the low 1’22s with a controller, while he was managing 1’20s with a wheel. There seemed to lie the secret to his speed in a car with a stock setup.

Sunday came, and with more practice in the afternoon, I felt I was ready. But as soon as I got into the lobby and started seeing the times the other guys were producing, I knew my chances of even securing pole were slim. Still, I managed to put myself 4th fastest in the 2nd of the two lobbies with a 1’22.116:

Lobby Qualifying (to determine who would be in which lobby for the entire event):

Lobby 1

1. gregtwo, 1:21.214 (my teammate)
2. X calibur014, 1:21.714
3. UsR EXTR3ME, 1:21.916
4. VVV Haga, 1:22.281
5. Webbers88, 1:22.448
6. iiINIFIECTiiOIN, 1:22.916
7. TKR Garlicbread, 1:23.116
8. F4H Red Pod, 1:23.817

Lobby 2

  1. RpM Mad Monk - 1:20.812
  2. Noss The Boss - 1:21.447
  3. Kerry Katona - 1:22.983
  4. woodwiss - 1:22.116
  5. writester - 1:24.684
  6. iTrevorMcDonald - 1:21.481

Thankfully, that time came on my last flying lap and it got me into the A Final – just about, anyway. Onto the Superpole, which used the game’s normal qualifying system of just 1 flying lap. You were normally allowed to restart but the RWS rules did not allow this. One shot at pole was all you got. I knew I’d never get it, but I also wa hoping not to make a mistake – which is exactly what I did. That tricky downhill chicane with the big kerbs? Yup, lost it there and nosed it into the wall. But unlike the other guy who messed up, I carried on and finished my lap, which is why I started 6th instead of 7th.

A Final Superpole for Race 1

1: RpM Mad Monk - 1:21.346
2: gregtwo - 1:21.814 (teammate)
3: X Calibur014 - 1:21.948
4: UsR EXTR3ME - 1:22.515
5: Noss The Boss - 1:22.850
6: woodwiss - 1:30.924
7: iTrevorMcDonald – DNQ

The start was fairly straightforward. I decided to hang at the tail of the field for the first couple of laps and then started to try and advance up through the pack. A few times I managed to get a faster run through the final chicane than iTrevor in the SEAT in front of me, which meant I could pull alongside on the pit straight but only before backing out for the tight right hander before Turn 2. I managed to get as high as 4th before the inevitable mistake came. Going a bit too fast into the fast right kink after the pit straight, I clipped the outside wall, spun, hit the opposite wall and quickly got going again, albeit dropping to 5th with UsR EXTR3ME’s Chevy on my tail. The front of my car was crumpled which seemed to affect front end grip somewhat, but thankfully there was no mechanical damage. For the last 5 or so laps I bravely kept EXTR3ME behind, despite messing up at the tricky chicane on the last lap. So, 5th place on my debut while my teammate and series leader Greg went on to beat Mad Monk’s SEAT to the win.

Race 1 (14 laps)
1: gregtwo 19:20.354
2: RpM Mad Monk 1:20.646 - +1.273
3: Noss The Boss +8.890
4: iTrevorMcDonald +27.377
5: woodwiss +33.819
6: UsR EXTR3ME +34.120
7: X Calibur014 DNF

Race 2 would be wet and a reverse grid based on the finishing order of Race 1. This placed me 3rd behind X Calibur and UsR. It was also a rolling start with an extra lap added on to the 14 so we could perform it. It was a little confusing though. The front row went about 30 metres ahead too early which meant it was a drag race between the two of them into T1. But as I arrived there, I watched X Calibur’s SEAT spin sideways and lose it big time. UsR slowed to avoid and amidst all the carnage, I popped through the middle to lead on my debut! So there I was at the head of the pack doing Prawn GP proud. Granted, I was a tad slower than everyone else which meant I was essentially forming my own version of the Trulli Train. For 8 or so laps I bravely hung on, getting close to losing the lead once or twice but eventually it happened. Greg, iTrevor and Mad Monk all slipped by at the bottom hairpin to knock me to 4th. But Greg made a rare mistake and hit the final chicane wall getting him very loose, promoting me to 3rd, and then iTrevor outbraked himself at T2 and slid off, pushing me to 2nd. For the final laps I tried to close the gap to Monk but it was all in vain. Still, 5th and 2nd on my RWS debut was pretty decent, I think.

This isn’t a racing driver’s excuse here, but I don’t feel the Volvos were at their best at all on the streets of Pau. It is a good handling car with a stock setup, provided it’s on an actual race track. On a street circuit it seems it’s a little clumsy which seems to hamper it when faced off against the shorter, nimbler SEATs. But Brno is next, which is big and wide and hopefully should suit Prawn GP much better. Plus, I’ve just put in an order for a Logitech Drive FX Racing Wheel for the 360, the exact same one that Greg uses. Things are about to get serious.