The Flare Path: Heads For The Hills

The FP works outings are legendary. Every year on the first bank holiday in Spring I pull up outside the office in a hired Abarth 500. Hilde and Hereward, the Reading Room librarians, squeeze into the back seat, closely followed by Roman (Senior Foxer Setter) Kate (Senior Foxer Setter’s Assistant) and Uncle George (Not Totally Certain What Uncle George Does). The hampers, rugs, and deck chairs are then carefully inserted, after which Michaela (Human Resources) Sean (Graphic Design), Oxo (Motion Capture), Lofty (Puns), Simeon (Guns) and Chelsea (Buns) usually threaten to resign unless I return the Abarth immediately and rent a more sensible vehicle.

Assetto Corsa’s new Ferrari F40 wants to burn down your shed, hide your slippers and pee in your aquarium. After reading Jon Denton’s electrifying account of the red ruffian over at RAVSim, I couldn’t resist trying it for myself.

Predictably, I was eaten alive then projectile-vomited over the armco, but soon found solace in some of the sim’s less ripsnorting rides.

Since its launch in November, the £30 early-access AC has been swollen by three hefty content injections. While there’s still no multiplayer, career mode, detailed damage modelling, or AI opposition (except for drag strip racers) ten laser-scanned tracks, twenty expertly conveyed conveyances, plus exquisite tyre physics and a general air of polish and professionalism, mean it’s highly unlikely you’ll end up feeling like a bored beta-tester.

Most of the circuits are Italian and most of the cars are contemporary at present, but those of a nostalgic bent can hurl a skittish Sixties Lotus 49 and a babbling Eighties BMW M3 around two Silverstone configurations and a fictional drift track (on which sideways skills are assessed and scored).

Get sucked into the whirlpool that is PB paring and car set-up customisation (I can’t remember ever seeing a larger or more baffling selection of sliders in a sim garage before) and evenings and weekends will melt away faster than ice-cream on mid-summer tarmac.

No disrespect to the vanilla venues, but currently I’m spending most of my time in Cornetto Assetto Corsa driving the sim’s first mod track. Somewhat controversially, a Finnish fan has plucked the fantastic Joux Plane flake from Richard Burns Rally and pushed it deep into AC’s yielding soft serve (Sorry. No idea where this sudden ice-cream fixation came from. Perhaps I’m pregnant.). Even without a terse Robert Reid at your side, the result is utterly spellbinding.

Bustling the terrier-like Abarth 500 through tightening bend after tightening bend, watching trees smudge and crash barriers and retaining walls unfurl, a tiny rally-deprived portion of my brain wants Kunos Simulazioni to abandon those achingly familiar autodromes, and head for the hills and forests.


Low Gear Now

As stable and sure-footed as the Abarth 500 unquestionably is, there comes a point in every serious highland ramble when it must be exchanged for something with a little more tread on its tyres, a bit more muscle under its bonnet, and – ideally – another foot or two of fresh air under its sump. In short, there comes a time in every upland adventure when Assetto Corsa must make way for the increasingly fabulous Spintires.

Successfully kickstarted last Summer and scheduled to arrive very soon, Oovee’s mud-plastered marvel is presently being pushed in new directions by two distinct groups. On one hand, you’ve got the devs themselves who are busy doing things like implementing uncannily realistic logging cranes…

On the other, you’ve got a dedicated band of modders who, every day, are discovering new ways of adding wonders to the freely available dev version of the demo.

New squelching grounds are relatively thin on the ground right now (Guirbaden’s ramshackle bridges and boulder-strewn desert are well worth trundling across). Additional vehicles arrive thicker and faster.

Effortlessly installed – simply window the game, and use the menu in the top-right of the screen to browse your way to the downloaded zips – even without cab views (sadly, there’s no FP view in the dev demo) charismatic rut-carvers like the handsome Willys Jeep, hulking Dutra tractor, and the distinctly familiar Nissan Patrol make spiffing lunch-hour playthings.


Pike Food

There’s a horribly mutilated corpse bobbing in the moat of RPS Towers at the moment. It’s all that’s left of the writer who forgot to include Ultimate General: Gettysburg in The Spectacular 2014 Preview Spectacular.

The poor sod promised to make amends by posting about the latest Game-Labs blog entry (Nick ‘DarthMod’ Thomadis has been talking encouragingly about the various AI personalities we’ll encounter on the battlefield and the ways in which these personalities will attempt to exploit weak points and monopolise useful terrain) but I was so incensed I quickly silenced his pleas by releasing all 77 of the Senegalese Sinew Shrews.

Amazing creature, the Senegalese Sinew Shrew. So nimble, so single-minded, and always so insatiably hungry.



The Flare Path Foxer

Because unsolved foxers, like unexploded munitions and unstacked sugar cubes, make FP uneasy, today’s collage-with-a-concealed-theme is closely related to Dec 27’s collage-with-a-concealed-theme. Successfully de-fox one and you’ll be in an excellent position to successfully de-fox the other.


  1. phlebas says:

    The chap in the red coat is John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, at the battle of Blenheim.
    Tail fin appears to be Regent Airways of Bangladesh.

  2. Timberwolf says:

    Oh wow. Ever since Richard Burns Rally came out I’ve been wanting to drive down its undulating snakes of tarmac in an ordinary road car. RBR’s handling never seemed to work quite right once you modded it too far away from snarling rally cars.

  3. skink74 says:

    I think that the locomotive is a LB&SCR L-class. If that’s “327” on the front then it’s the “Charles C Macrae” later renamed Trevithick when run by Southern Railway.

  4. skink74 says:

    … and the side view top left is a Short SC.1

  5. Matchstick says:

    Wow it’s been a while since I last did a Flare Path Foxer.

    Sub Sim in top right is Mindscape Inc’s 1990/91 Das Boot

  6. RobearGWJ says:

    Hmmm. We have red and white, leaders, transportation, service(s), supply, medical aid (that’s what Task Force Dagger dot org does)…

  7. skink74 says:

    Back again – the airfield is RAF Waddington, and the ship profile is a county class – Norfolk grouping? – heavy cruiser.

    Is Monopoly the theme? Produced (in the UK anyway) by Waddington, Marlborough and Regent Streets are on the board, the ship, locomotive and boot are common player tokens. HMS Norfolk was originally to be named Northumberland (Avenue).

    • skink74 says:

      And following from that the previous unsolved foxer could easily be Cluedo based.
      Cluedo is set in (Avro) “Tudor Mansion”, features an (albert) Ball room, a (Task Force) dagger, (professor) Plum blossom, Mrs. White (russians) , kitchen (gulashkanone).

      • Ernesto says:

        I think you got that one. Now the engine makes sense, as long as it is made by Pratt (& Whitney).

        • skink74 says:

          I think someone identified it as a P&W Wasp variant… So the Pratt link is sound. Also there was apparently a Cluedo-esque episode of Doctor Who where the villain/murderer was a giant alien wasp, so you can pile that on top too….

    • Matchstick says:

      From looking over the Wikipedia page I wonder if the ship is actually a London class, The Norfolk only looks to have 1 rear turret.

      HMS London itself only looks to have 2 funnels but the other ships in the class Devonshire, Shropshire & Sussex all look to have 3

      link to

      • skink74 says:

        HMS Norfolk had X-turret removed in 1944. The picture on the wikipedia page for HMS Norfolk (78) itself clearly shows four turrets.
        However you might be right. As completed HMS London had three funnels and aircraft facilities, and there appears to be an aircraft recovery crane in the foxer profile. And the Monopoly board is of course set in London, so either way I think it fits.

        Further tenuous Monopoly link, if the locomotive is the McRae, then of course Colin McRae drove racing cars, another monopoly token.

        • RobearGWJ says:

          I’m with you, Skink, but I don’t have the English versions of the games, sooo… :-)

    • SpiceTheCat says:

      Modest googling reveals that Short Line is a space on the US Monopoly board (instead of Liverpool Street).

      The sepia picture is the Amiens prison after the famous Mosquito raid. I suppose that could be the Jail space.

  8. Hydrogene says:

    A blend of Richard Burns Rally and Cornetto Corsa would really be something I’d get my teeth into! Hmmm, I might buy the “early access version of AC I told myself I would not buy before it’s really finished”…

    Also nice to see that Joux Plane in AC is done by Kegetys, modder-extraordinaire for Operation Flashpoint and Arma, isn’t it?

    • Axess Denyd says:

      Project CARS was originally going to have rallying, but it was decided it would be too time-intensive to include.

      On the bright side, they have plans to work on Project RALLY after pCARS is released.

  9. Kakrafoon says:

    Each friday, the Flare Path and Tim Stone’s writing make me want to fill my shoes with piddle. Simulated shoes and simulated piddle, of course.

  10. Jason Moyer says:

    Assetto Corsa is seriously excellent. In terms of pure driving, I don’t think anything can touch it (and only iRacing really comes close). It would be amazing if Kunos would add support for rallying down the road. I believe there’s going to be a hillclimb or two included with version 1.0, and of course modders will add some modern and classic WRC cars in addition to stages. If the devs add pacenote support…mmm.

    I played around with whatever early free build of Spintires was available during the KS, and while I didn’t pledge I’m looking forward to seeing what the public release is like.

    • shrapnel1977 says:

      The Trento-Bondone 21km hillclimb will be included, no others. Sadly the devs have tried to quash the conversion of Joux Plane as it is not with permission from the RBR developers. If some permission is obtained, then it’s possible all of the tarmac stages could be converted, and in the long term there are hints that AC could support loose surfaces.

  11. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I want a track where you drive around the streets of Birmingham in a Subaru Impreza at 2am, and the ‘lap markers’ are kebab shops. And fights.

    This would be a real world racing sim.

  12. Joshua says:

    More simulation races need hillclimbs or spectacular point-to-point races you normally only find in, say, the Need for Speed games.

  13. KastaRules says:

    Tim Stone FTW! You are the alpha and the omega!