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The Flare Path Grand Prix

Votes = VROOM

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Vaguely aware that we’re living in a race sim golden age? Not sure which of the ‘Big Six’ you should invest your precious time and money in? Me too! Hopefully, by the time the inaugural Flare Path GP is over (Oct 14) little of that bewilderment will remain. Guided by the preferences and observations of that section of the RPS community that knows and loves realistic Cars Wot Go Fast games, it shouldn’t be hard to find a high-quality race sim that suits you and me to a GT.

The Flare Path Grand Prix is a comment-driven popularity contest in which, over the coming week, reader votes will propel sim-representing car counters around a plan of my local circuit, Tupwell Park.

Next Friday at 1300hrs, the counter/car/sim that has travelled the furthest will be placed atop a podium, tossed a life preserver made of laurel leaves, and encouraged to spray a magnum of ASDA Spumante (£12.99. “Fabulous with strawberries and cream or a fruity cheesecake.”) over the cheering crowds below.

The Rules

All the major sims field two cars in the race (one representing the singleplayer side, the other the multiplayer) and every commenter gets to move two SP and two MP cars.

Let’s say reader ThePewterCommuter’s two favourite solo race sims are, in order of preference, Assetto Corsa and Automobilista, but for multiplayer he prefers iRacing and rFactor. At the end of the day when I go to update car positions on this map, I’d note his comment and move Assetto Corsa’s SP and iRacing’s MP counter two sections forward, and advance Automobilita’s SP and rFactor’s MP counter one section (the circuit consists of 21 sections).

If you’d rather only vote in one category (SP or MP) or can’t decide on a second choice in either or both categories, that’s fine, but please make clear which aspect of the game you are recommending when you vote (a bald “Project CARS!” doesn’t tell me which pCars counter to move).

Votes that are accompanied by a few sentences of explanation are especially welcome. If mods are at the root of your SP rFactor love affair, or community warmth keeps you coming back to iRacing, then it would be splendid if you’d point that out.

Occupying the grid at the start of the race are the half-dozen sims currently jockeying for market share, but if older titles like Grand Prix Legends and the original rFactor crop up often enough in the voting, I’ll add them to the field. In order to keep things simple and comparable, rally cars and motorbikes have been excluded from the GP. Sorry Dirt Rally, if things had been different I suspect you’d have been amongst the pace setters.

The Circuit

Before I introduce the teams, let me tell you a bit about the venue. Regularly snubbed by the snobs and safety nazis at the FIA, Tupwell Park is, to my knowledge, the only motorsport circuit in the world built around a fully functioning sewage treatment plant. Other striking features of this quirky-yet-thrilling British track are the disused quarry to the south (where Wham! star Andrew Ridgeley tragically lost his life twice in ’91) the neighbouring abattoir to the SW (who can forget the harrowing scenes in 2001 when a mass pig escape happened to coincide with a World Championship sidecar event) and the crematorium in the north (the source of the infamous ‘Tupwell Mist’).

1. Werthers Curve
2. Crematorium Corner
3. Canal Corner
4. Diabolika
5. Crammonds
6. Steradent Straight
7. Kaemmer Straight
8. Hangmans
9. Pillbox
10. Pits and paddock
11. Scrumpy Jack Straight
12. Stinkside
13. Francis Rossi Hairpin
14. Screwfix Straight
15. Hedgehogs
16. Lonely Oak
17. Abattoir Corner
18. Wisteria Lodge
19. Quarry Corner
20. Tena Curve

The map will be updated at least once a day, numbers under each counter indicating a car’s current lap total.

The Teams

rFactor 2 (team colour ORANGE)

A recently announced partnership between Image Space Incorporated and Luminis, bodes well for the future of this 2013 release. New combi-concern Studio 397 plan, over coming months and years, to energetically address some of the weaker aspects of a sim often praised for its persuasive tyre and suspension physics, sophisticated weather simulation, and plausible AI. DX11 and VR support are on the way along with a friendlier front end, better matchmaking system and more officially licenced content. Whether rF2’s MP will ever be available without a separate annual or lifetime subscription, or its mod scene will ever flourish in quite the way its forerunner’s did (the community have struggled to get to grips with the complexities of the improved tyre model) remains to be seen.

Assetto Corsa (team colour RED)

Surely one of the favourites in the Flare Path GP, Assetto Corsa has a striking knack for communicating automotive character. The 95 or so badged production, GT, GTR, supercar, open wheel and track day driveables that now throng the DLC-bolstered garage, assert their individuality and authenticity in every corner and on every straight. Until Kunos grasp the precipitation nettle, users aren’t able to enjoy the sim’s exceptionally evocative physics and audio in wet conditions (night driving is also impossible at present) but currently the absence of moonlight and raindrops seems to be causing far less community consternation than the price of Porsches.

iRacing (team colour BLUE)

Will iRacing’s singleplayer car have managed to crawl past Canal Corner by this time next week? I doubt it. Focused solely on providing subscribers with realistic, well-patronised online racing, the sim lacks the AI drivers necessary for serious solo enjoyment. You iRace because you hanker for human opponents, human opponents that understand that the car in front is not a brake augmentation device and that the car behind may actually have a perfectly valid claim to the racing line. You iRace because you crave close, grief-free competition, reality-aping career progression, laser-scanned tarmac, and convincing handling models, and are prepared to pay toppish dollar to get hold of them. The 8.4 mile Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans has just been added to the extensive DLC list, and dirt tracks and their denizens are on their way.

Automobilista (team colour GREEN)

Horses don’t come much darker than Reiza Studios’ follow-up to expanded and improved version of Stock Car Extreme. Built around the same ageing isiMotor engine that propelled greats like GTR2, GT Legends, and rFactor, Automobilista lacks the ravishing visuals, swish licences, and high public profile necessary to compete with the Assetto Corsas and iRacings of this world. Whether it stays in touch with the leaders in the FPGP, depends largely on how many of its legion of loyal, physics-trumpeting, AI-lionising fans read RPS. Brazilian race series form the core of the unusually diverse AMS but a hunk of payware British content including Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Caterhams is imminent.

RaceRoom Racing Experience (team colour CYAN)

Light on content in its unembellished Free To Play form, RaceRoom doesn’t seem to have been bosom-clutched in quite the same way its predecessor Race 07 was. If you’re one of those who feel that Sector3’s chosen business model and decision to emphasise MP in publicity (offline racing against the AI is possible) has inadvertently damaged the prospects of a cracking driving recreation with top-notch tracks and awesome audio, then use your precious votes to push the little cyan marker a little further round Tupwell Park. If, on the other hand, you yearn for the days when Sector3 were SimBin and a straightforward sequel to GTR2 seemed possible, then take heart from this recent announcement.

Project CARS (team colour PURPLE)

Vote for me! I look like several million dollars. I’m extremely well-endowed both geographically and automotively. I feature a “class leading suspension & tyre model” and an “unrivalled variety of motorsports”. I am the mostly proud recipient of 6325 mostly positive Steam user reviews and I’ve been cruelly neglected by the writer of Flare Path for years!

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This way to the foxer

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Tim Stone

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