Last week I went to my first SCCA Track Night in America event. This was held at Thunderhill West. They were running a promotion with a “Buddy Pass” so I was able to go for free thanks to buddy Tiernan. One of the best things about TNIA is that it’s nice heading to the track at 2:00 pm rather than 6:00 am. The downside is having only 3 20-minute runs. But on a short, twisty track like Thunderhill West, that still makes a good practice day. Luckily, Thunderhill is about an hour away. If I had to drive 2.5 hours each way, I’m not sure I’d make the trip.

The event was very well organized. There were lots of people telling you where to go and what to do. For the experienced drivers there was minimal hassle and the novices got a nice packet. They also offered free T-shirts, stickers, magazines, and pamphlets. They didn’t provide bottled water, however, which I found a little odd as most HPDE organizations do that.

One of the unusual features of TNIA is that they don’t allow passengers except during one session where there’s a pace car going 50 mph or less. Drivers and passengers don’t have to wear helmets at this time. I can’t imagine it’s much fun for spectators, but it’s definitely a good time for coaches to talk with students. Speaking of coaching, I dropped in on one of the novice classroom sessions and the instructor was very good.

I think TNIA in NorCal is in a pretty good place. The price is low, the track is great, and the event is well organized. If you’ve never been on track before, TNIA is a very good place to start. I’m sure the quality varies from region to regions, so YMMV.

Run groups

I really like the simplicity of their run group definitions. It’s all about safety and not lap times.


Cars and drivers

I expected the usual mix of Miatas, 3 series, and 86s, but this TNIA day was a little different. In the Advanced group, there were three Mustangs, three turbo hatches (Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Focus RS), two 911s, one M2, one Corvette, one Taurus (new, and huge), and me in my Yaris. No Miatas, no 3-series, no 86s! I was lapping in the 1:34-1:35 range, and I passed others much more than they passed me. It’s a little surprising to me that advanced drivers in actual sports cars can’t lap faster than 1:34. The rules in the advanced group is point-by anywhere, but I followed the Fiesta ST for 4 laps while corner workers threw passing flags at him and he wouldn’t point me by anywhere except the straights. At which point he would accelerate away from me. That’s not advanced driving. I don’t think he realized he was holding me up 2 seconds per lap. It’s straight out of You Suck at Point-bys. Finally, I put my car on his door in the middle of a corner and demanded him to point me by, which he did.

The other groups seemed to run smoothly. Very few off-track excursions. In the other groups (novice and intermediate) there were a good mix of cars including the usual suspects (Miatas, 3-series, 86s, VTEC Hondas) but also two NSXs, two 1960s muscle cars, and the only car more curious than mine: an old WRX with a cheap eBay wing. It would be fun dominating the faster hardware in that POS.

At most HPDE events around here, the demographic of drivers is about 85% male and 75% white. This event was 100% male and mostly white. This is just a single event, but I wonder if SCCA is marketing their product widely enough.

Yaris power solved

I hadn’t had the Yaris on track in ages and the last time it was running poorly. In the Thunderhill ChampCar race last May my lap times were around 2 seconds off pace. The car also threw a check engine light a few times. So last Summer I replaced the intake air sensor and the CEL turned off, but I didn’t know if that solved the power problems. Mario did some tire tests in September that resulted in a 1:36.x fast lap, but I wasn’t sure if that meant the power was solved or not. Due to my back injury, I wasn’t able to test it properly until now. So I ended up waiting some 10 months before knowing. Good news: the car is back at the 1:34 pace, which means I probably have most of the 100 horses pulling for me.


Here’s a comparison of my lap times and Mario’s. We pulled a little weight out of the car between the events, so I should be a little faster. We were running the exact same tires. If you look at the speed on the straight before T1, you can see I’m carrying an extra 4 mph. But I also exit T10 2 mph faster. The difference in speed isn’t just the exit speed as you can see from the slope. Lighter is better.

The biggest difference in our driving styles is on the high speed corners. Thunderhill West is my home track, and I have the confidence to enter the fast corners faster. I also exit T10 better, probably because I have more experience flattening out the drive wheels on a loosely sprung FWD vehicle.

The data comes from an APEX Pro downloaded into TrackAttack. The APEX Pro is a good data logger and TrackAttack is a good data analysis tool and cloud storage service. Even though I had the APEX mounted on my dashboard, I never even looked at it. The lights are pretty, but I find the device mostly useless in its intended role.


Intermediate Topic #4: downshift timing


This is the last weekly post. YSAR is moving to an event-based format. Race reports, experiments, reviews, etc. will now happen when they happen. This means YSAR will probably not be updated as frequently, but the content will hopefully be more meaty.

Back to our series in progress

This series of posts is aimed at you, the intermediate driver. Let’s identify and fix some common errors. If you’re not an intermediate driver, fake it till you make it. Last week we talked about driving a higher gear as a way to keeping momentum. Let’s get more complicated this week and actually perform a downshift.

The engine is not a brake

One of the big misconceptions I inherited from my father was that downshifting improves your braking. He told me that by feeding out the clutch gradually, I could use the friction of the drive train to slow the car down. While it is true that engine braking slows you down, it does more harm than good. Back in the old, old days when cars had drum brakes, engine-braking actually did reduce stopping distances. But today, with disc brakes, engine-braking just changes the brake bias from optimal to sub-optimal. In addition to longer braking distances, engine-braking also wears out the clutch and may kill the engine by over-revving it. There’s really no need to do it on a race track ever.

Downshitting is bad

Engine-braking in a FWD vehicle doesn’t do much harm, except as noted above, but in RWD it can make you spin. One of the terms I’ve come up with on this blog is downshitting. This is the act of downshifting, locking the rear wheels, and spinning. Although it occurs most frequently in corners, downshitting can spin a car going in a straight line. It’s a lot like grabbing the e-brake. Most downshitting is accidental. It results from putting the clutch in too soon.

The exercise: downshift later

Once you’ve pushed the clutch pedal, you’re mentally committed to the downshift, especially if you heel-toe. Your thoughts run something like this: “I don’t want the revs to fall, so I had better shift soon”. This is the source of downshitting, so we need to fix that. In this exercise, I want you to shift as late as possible. As you enter a braking zone your thoughts should be “brake, keep braking, keep braking, downshift”. Make it a game to see how late you can downshift. You can even shift after the corner. What? The video below is queued up to Tim O’Neil describing when to shift. He says “after the corner”. I’ll let his driving speak for him.

Wow, just freaking wow.

Telemetry Analysis

Let’s take a look at the difference between early and late shifting. The green line shifts much earlier than the blue. The top panel is gear. The second panel is RPMs. Here we can see some of the properties of early shifting. The highest RPMs occur when engaging the lower gear. Over-revving an engine causes excess wear if not outright destruction. It also causes the rear end of the car to drag (because the car is RWD) and re-proportioning the grip may induce a spin (and another chance at destruction). Lots of intermediate drivers, especially those using heel-toe technique, shift way too early and are consequently in danger of damaging their engine or spinning. If you have to ease the clutch out gradually, you didn’t match revs. That doesn’t mean the fix is to dump the clutch! Please don’t do that. Learn to match revs.

The blue line shows me shifting much later. In fact, later than I normally drive. This is a drill after all. I’ve gone through a surprising amount of the corner in the higher gear and then switch down after all the hard work is done. The speed and time graphs show there isn’t much difference in the outcome. The extra-late shift wins by 0.3 seconds. Shifting too late is better than too early because it’s much easier on the car. I’m still rev-matching because the engine is spinning very low by the time I want to engage the lower gear. If you’re not comfortable with heel-toe technique, you’ll have to ease out the clutch.

Intermediate Topic #3: gear choice

This series of posts is aimed at you, the intermediate driver. Let’s identify and fix some common errors. If you’re not an intermediate driver, welcome to YSAR, but what the heck are you doing here?

The out-fast mindset

Last week we began by stating that the in slow, out fast mindset is something that holds back the intermediate driver from improving. If you recall, we focused on the in slow part, and discussed how braking softer can help. This week let’s discuss the downsides of the out fast mindset.

What’s the #1 thing someone asks you when you tell them you drive a car on a race track? “How fast do you go?” The less you know about racing, the more you focus on speed, acceleration, and power. And so it is with out fast. The reason we downshift is to put the car in the gear that will get us the most power coming out of the corner. But that focus on the second half of the corner robs of us of our focus on the first part of the corner.

The exercise: don’t shift

To move your focus to the first half of the corner, I want you to try cornering without shifting. Choose a corner where you usually downshift one gear. Instead of driving it in 2nd, drive it in 3rd (or whatever). Your mind will automatically try to drive the corner as fast as possible, and knowing you have less power coming out of the corner, you brain can’t help but optimize the start of the corner. Downshifting and braking together is a difficult skill to master. In this drill, you only have to brake, so your braking will become more precise and you’ll be able to keep more momentum. As you begin to optimize the line with the higher gear, you may find yourself taking an earlier apex. This is normal, and to some degree desirable. But watch out that you don’t take too early an apex. That could see you running out of room at the exit.

Let’s see what the telemetry traces say about this experiment. As usual, I’m using Brands Hatch Indy, Assetto Corsa, and Race Studio Analysis. The panels are RPM, speed, throttle position, and time differential. Looking at the RPM traces it should be pretty obvious that the blue line is the downshifting trace. What else do you notice?

  • The speed traces of the red line have a more gradual descent and ascent. Last week we talked about V-shaped and U-shaped speed traces and here they are again. When you focus on keeping momentum, the speed trace becomes U-shaped.
  • The downshifting driver has to do a lot more work. Not only is there the heel-toe downshifting dance, but being on throttle sooner, in the middle of the corner, requires some balancing.
  • The blue line loses speed at entries but makes up for that on the following straight. That’s what we expected. But we probably also expected that the later apex, more power-focused line to be faster.
  • All the lap times are nearly identical.

Try putting together both exercises so far: brake softer and drive a higher gear. They go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or french fries and gravy. Or tea and biscuits. Or suck and racing. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Intermediate Topic #2: brake pressure

This series of posts is aimed at you, the intermediate driver. Let’s identify and fix some common errors. If you’re not an intermediate driver, just know that you can become one if you try hard enough.

If there’s one defining flaw of the intermediate driver, it’s too much emphasis on the phrase in slow, out fast. This leads to several related problems, which I’ll be discussing in the next couple posts.

The problem with threshold braking

Remember those days when you were afraid to hit the brakes hard? Probably not. Your mind was so full of the track that you were barely aware of what your limbs were doing. There was no spare attention for self-assessment. I’m guessing that like a lot of novices, you coasted into your braking zones. We all did at one point. But not anymore! Your car brakes so well it feels like your eyes are going to pop out of their sockets. Once you get a little experience, you start to feel the fun in braking. There are more Gs in braking than there are in accelerating or cornering. While threshold braking is a skill that is important to master, it may also be holding you back. We all know that exit speed is the key to a corner. But what you might not appreciate is that the entry speed determines the exit speed. However, that comes with some risk.

Exiting a corner on the limit is like tightrope-walking; entering a corner on the limit is like jumping onto a tightrope while blindfolded –Mark Donohue

There is an ideal speed at the entry that maximizes the exit speed. Too slow and the corner is ruined. Too fast and you may end up off track. Most drivers recognize that too slow is a lot safer than too fast and therefore drive too slow. Now let’s imagine you have a blindfold on and there is a rope in front of you and you are forced to walk it. Are you going to jump blindly or inch forward to feel where it is? The more time you take to inch forward, the more likely it is you’ll find the rope and have some success walking it. And so it is with entry speeds. The more time you give yourself to feel the entry speed, the more you’ll be able to maximize it without going too far over. The problem with aggressive braking is that it robs you of the time you’re allowed to probe. To get more experience in optimizing your entry speed, you need to spend more time sensing it, thinking about it, and adjusting to it.

The exercise: triangular brake pressure

In the figure below, I’ve loaded up some demonstration laps from Assetto Corsa into Race Studio Analysis. The blue line is hard braking while the red line is soft braking. Note how much higher the blue traces are than the red. They are also much more rectangular in shape. That’s not only because the top is flat, but the sides are vertical. This is using the brake as an on/off switch. For the exercise, I want you to make your brake pressure triangular. Build it up and then trail it off. Yeah, this is exactly what some instructor told you not to do at one point. Go slowly enough that you can spare the attention to your braking foot.

Try to build up your entry speed by braking less and less. However, the goal isn’t to stop braking but to stop over-braking. Drag your brake through the corner entry and you will feel the steering wheel start self-centering. This is a kind of tactile speedometer that your hands will learn to read. My favorite reason to trail-brake isn’t rotation but speed-sensing. A relaxed grip will help you in this endeavor.

U-shaped speed trace

If you’re rolling more speed through the corner entry, your speed traces will have U-shaped bottoms (red) rather than V-shaped bottoms (blue). A V-shape indicates an abrupt change in speed. That typically happens if you mash one pedal and then the other. If you’re holding speed, the speed trace is much more gradual in descent.

But wait, there’s more

In the graph above, one thing you may notice is that the red laps are more consistent than the blue laps. It’s easier to drive when the car isn’t being yanked fore and aft. The red laps are also faster by about 1 second. If you counted up how many lines there are, you would also observe that there are 10 blue lines and 11 red ones. That’s because soft brakes increased fuel economy by 10%. Can it really be true that braking softer results in faster laps, less wear, increased economy, and more consistency? Yes, but don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.

So when do you go back to threshold braking? Is never okay? Yes, I think it is. By giving yourself more time to set the ideal entry speed, you’re on the path to advanced driving techniques (like zero steer). Mashing the brake pedal leads to flat-spotted tires, understeer, bad decisions, and remaining an intermediate driver forever.

Intermediate Topic #1: training wheels

Here in California, there isn’t much off-season, but for a lot of YSAR readers the driving season is just starting. Each year, I have specific driver development goals. I hope you do too. With that in mind, I thought I would do a series of posts aimed at the intermediate driver who wants to improve their craft in 2019. Let’s identify and fix some common errors. If you’re not an intermediate driver, fake it.

So many tires

What tires should you bring to an HPDE track day? Popular choices include Hoosier R7, Nitto NT-01, Toyo R888R, Maxxis RC1, etc. There are literally dozens to choose from. Myself, on a race track, I’ve driven on a bunch of different compounds made for sporty driving and several others that were definitely not. For those who like lists, here they are to my best recollection: BFG Rival; Bridgestone RE71R, RE11A; Continental ECS; Douglas Xtra Trac II, All Season, Performance; Dunlop Z1, Z2; Falken RT615, RT615K, RT615K+; Federal 595 RSRR; Goodyear Eagle Sport; Hankook RS3, RS4, H724; Hoosier SM7; Nitto NT01, NT05; Pirelli P6; Riken Raptor; Toyo RR, RA1; Yokohama

Which stops best? Which turns in best? Which has the lowest lap times? Which feels best? Since the ‘E’ in HPDE stands for education, what we really should be asking is which one is most educational? In other words, which tire will make you a better driver? If you’re trying to improve your driving skills, your primary goal is to learn how to sense and control traction. As a student of driving, it’s literally your job to find out what’s on the other side of the slip angle curve. You know, the part where it dips down and gets less grippy.


Tires are effectively part of your suspension. In the “it’s raining lies” series, we discussed why you soften the suspension in the rain. In a word, compliance. Drivers need time to adapt to changes in grip. Intermediate drivers, who aren’t comfortable sliding their car around, need time to explore the traction space. Your job as an improving driver is to play around on the unfamiliar side of the slip angle curve. If you’re not making steering corrections, you’re not sliding enough, not exploring enough, not learning enough. Am I telling you to spin out on track? No. If you find yourself spinning, you’re getting surprised by loss of traction. To combat that surprise you need tires with more compliance.

Slip angle

How much difference in compliance is there among different kinds of tires? In other words, how much does traction change with slip angle? Take a look at the following graph. Racing tires have the most grip, but they also have the most change in grip. Once the optimal slip angle is exceeded, grip falls away very quickly. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the street tire. It has low grip, but a very gradual loss of traction. As a result, intermediate level drivers are better served with street tires than R-comps.

Some of you are probably thinking “But I want to drive on R-comps some day, so I ought to be driving on them all the time”. I can see the logic in that, but your muscle memory does not. There’s a reason why the best motorcycle racers have dirt racing backgrounds. If you want to improve your driving, you need to experience more sliding, not less.


A critical part of your grip-sensing toolkit is your ears. The sound of your tires is a language you will eventually understand at a higher resolution than the following quote I got from my racing buddy Ben.

A squealing tire is a happy tire. A screaming tire is a screaming tire.

The fastest way around a corner requires balancing tire grip throughout the corner. Use too much too soon and the tire will lose traction in the second half of the corner. How do you monitor that? Got an APEX Pro? Its lights tell you how much grip you’re using. Don’t have one? No problem, your ears do the same thing. Street tires tend to be narrower than R-comps. The extra load and open tread means that street tires are louder. If you want to hear what your tires are doing, and really you do, you should be training on street tires. Again, some of you are thinking, “but some day I want to use R-comps, so I should be training myself for that sound”. You know who’s talking? That part of your ego that doesn’t want to run slower laps. Don’t let your ego hold you back from actually improving.

Don’t believe me? How about Skip Barber?

Despite recent financial problems, the Skip Barber racing school is the most famous racing school in the USA if not the world. They have been training drivers in Formula Fords since the 1970s. Guess what tires they mount on their school cars? Street tires. How streetable are we talking about? 400 treadwear BF Goodrich T/A Radial at last reckoning. If the #1 racing school uses street tires on its Formula cars, maybe you should consider the same on whatever you happen to take to the track.

As a side note, when I was researching the T/A Radial, I read a bunch of reviews to see what people thought of them. You know what the #1 complaint was? No, it wasn’t problems with durability or grip, but rather the white lettering on the sides of the tire. Apparently they aren’t white enough and if you scrub them too much it rubs off. Oh for fucks sake, who the hell buys tires because of the lettering on the sides? Apparently lots of people. This reminds me that there are two kinds of car people, (1) the kind that wash their cars (2) the kind that drive their cars. If you’re the first kind, thanks for stopping by a blog about the second kind.

Which street tire?

On my Yaris I’ve used everything from Hoosiers to Hankook runflats. One of my favorites is Douglas Performance in 195/55/15. The Douglas Tires brand is probably not one you’re familiar with. They are actually made by Goodyear in their Kelly Springfield subsidiary plant. Douglas currently makes only 2 models of tires: All-Season and Performance. Both come with 420 treadwear ratings and a 45,000 mile warranty. They cost about $40-45 each. On track, I’ve found them to be more heat resistant than some performance tires. How do they perform? Like a 420 treadwear tire, so perfect.


My brother has his street/track Miata set up with Yokohama S.drives. At 300 TW, that’s a bit sportier than a Douglas, but a great choice because it’s loud and has a nice balance of grip and slip. I think 300 is a good compromise, but if you’re not sure, here’s a suggestion: OEM tires. That’s what your car was designed to use. And as my friend Harkamal used to say, you should always run in jeans because if you ever have to run for your life, you’re probably going to be wearing jeans.

Are you ready to leave your ego in the paddock? Are you willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains? Sadly, most drivers are not. Let’s face it, even though HPDE sessions don’t allow racing, it’s always a race, and nobody wants to be slower than the next guy. No problem, just bring 2 sets of tires to the track. You’ll be grinning ear to ear when you pass people in faster cars with your training wheels on. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself leaving them on the whole day.

Race Report: Lemons Sonoma

This weekend I’m at a Lemons race at Sonoma. I’ll update the post a few times during the weekend as stuff happens.


The team I’m with is pretty green. There are three noobs, one 3-race veteran, and me. Noob 1 has never driven on any track. Noob 2 has driven once at Thunderhill. Noob 3 has done some autocross and maybe a track day or two, but not at Sonoma. Lemons is the first introduction that many people have to road racing, and it can work out pretty well even for the complete novice. But at Sonoma? In the rain? Well we won’t know until we try.

The car we’re racing is an MX-3, which had an unusual 1.8L V6 engine. That engine has been swapped out for the 2.5L V6 from an MX-6. So now it’s an MX-3/6ths? The car wasn’t quite ready when it arrived on track and we spent the next 4 hours working on it. But once we got to tech inspection, it passed with no problems and they put us in the B class with zero added laps. That’s probably where it belongs. The 2.5L V6 has 160 hp and the car weighs some 2400 lbs. So the power:weight is a lot better than my Yaris. If the MX-3/6ths handles reasonably well, I think I’ll be able to run with cars in the A class.

This race is using an unusual configuration for the track. They are using the short turn 7 and the bus-stop turn 9, as Lemons usual, but the track is going all the way down to the long 11. That will add 5-10 seconds to lap times and give the high horsepower cars a bit of an advantage I think. Hopefully it doesn’t become a safety issue as the long 11 is narrower.


The long turn 11 is a lot longer than I thought. I think it added more like 15 seconds. The spectating is better with the short 11. It turns out I did a lot of spectating. I had a lot of grading to do, so I spent a lot of time inside grading rather than outside driving.

So what about the car? Well it was a hoot, but for some good reasons and some bad. The brake pads were $12 OEM replacements and overheated very quickly. So braking zones were much longer than they needed to be. The more interesting feature was the tires. We put decent tires on the front, 225 width RS3s, but in the rear we had some 205 width RT615K. Not RT615K+, but the older ones. How old? Manufactured in 2013 old. The track was soaking wet and the combination of water plus 6-year old tires meant that every time I decelerated in any kind of corner, the back end started to come around. I spent a lot of time driving sideways on the first few laps before figuring out how to drive it. Once I did, I was pretty fast, and got passed only 1 time.

160 hp in a lightweight car is plenty of power. The only car that passed me had a turbo. The big V8s were still trying to hook up coming out of a corner when I was at full throttle. I drove 90-100% of the track in 3rd gear. There was enough power to spin wheels on corner exits in 3rd so there was no reason to switch down to 2nd. And going to 4th meant I had to use more of the terrible brake pads on the next corner. On a dry track, I think I could put this car in the top 10 without much trouble.

I forgot to shoot video. I’ll make sure I do that tomorrow.


At the end of the day, it was a great success. Not because of our placing, which was around 100 out of 120, but because we had a lot of fun. Our casual, never-rushed attitude meant that we were safe in the pit and out on track. The only negative is that Noob 1 was fighting claustrophobia and never got on track. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this. It can be nerve-wracking getting strapped into harness and not being able to move freely. Hopefully he overcomes this. Maybe splashing in some puddles rather than jumping into the deep end would have been a good idea.

Video or it didn’t happen! At the start of my stint, the track was soaking wet, but it dried out quite a bit by the end. This clip is from somewhere in the middle. I’m in a mix with some fast Lemons cars like Eyesore, Cerveza, Hassenpfeffers, Too Stupid, and BDR. And I’m keeping up with them for the most part. Our tires were a couple years old and there was some weird noises come from the suspension, so I think I did okay for what I had to work with.


Esports Racing? Dirt Rally 2.0?

DiRT Rally 2.0 was released this week, and I was going to write a week-long diary about how awesome it is, but it turned out to be shorter than expected, so I’ve included a little extra content about racing as an esport.

Nobody gives a shit about esports racing

I’m not sure why car racing is such a terrible esport, but the fact is that nobody watches it. The most famous racing games ever made are Gran Turismo (Playstation) and Forza (Xbox). They must be financially successful because these franchises have been through 7+ iterations for 15-20 years. But if you look at the number of Twitch streamers and viewers, it’s clear that nobody gives a shit. In January 2019, Forza Motorsport 7 averaged 8 streamers and 34 viewers per day. Gran Turismo Sport had fewer streamers (5) but more watchers (76). Let’s put this into perspective with another game, Eurotruck Simulator, which has over 10x the number of streamers and viewers (95, 1009). People would rather watch someone picking up and delivering packages than racing. Let that sink in. It gets worse. In Rocket League, cars play soccer to a tune of 50-fold more viewers.

But wait, no hardcore sim-racer takes Gran Turismo or Forza seriously. That’s console crap. The real racing sims are on PC. Let’s look at the streamer and viewer numbers from the real racing platforms.

  • iRacing (47 streamers, 641 viewers)
  • Project CARS 2 (9 streamers, 92 viewers)
  • Assetto Corsa (9 streamers, 42 viewers)
  • RaceRoom Racing Experience (2 streamers, 31 viewers)
  • Automobilista (1 streamer, 55 viewers)
  • rFactor 2 (1 streamer, 17 viewers)

Nobody gives a flying fuck about PC racing either. However, the overall #15 most popular game on Twitch is Grand Theft Auto V with 539 streamers and 16,321 viewers per day. So people do like cars. They just like them doing stupid shit, not racing. So what can we do to make racing a more popular esport? I give zero fucks. I want my sim software to be as realistic as possible. That probably makes it less popular, not more. Ideally, I want a sim that lets me drive my Toyota Yaris around Thunderhill West. The Twitch impact of that would be on the order of 0 streamers and 0 viewers.

DiRT Rally 2.0 sucks ass

The original DiRT Rally was sort of a surprise when it was released in December 2015. Codemasters was well known for their DiRT franchise of rally games, but none were ever thought of as true rally simulators. In many racers’ minds, the only rally simulator is Richard Burns Rally, which is now so old (2004) that you can’t even buy it anymore (you can find it for free if you look hard enough). With the 2015 release of DiRT Rally, there was finally a modern rally simulator. Not everyone thought it eclipsed RBR, but it was very well received by the hardcore sim crowd. DiRT Rally has been called the Dark Souls of racing games. While I never played Dark Souls, it has a reputation for being the most difficult video game ever. What made DiRT Rally so hard? There was literally no tutorial, no help of any kind. They just threw you into a rally stage, shouted abstruse directions at you, and then played some cool music while you watched the replay of yourself falling off a cliff or hitting a tree. Thankfully, it did get better. Lots better. Eventually you understand the lingo. You adapt your driving to gravel, mud, and snow. You start to think track driving is too easy. I liked it so much that I built my Yaris into a rally car.


DiRT Rally 2.0 was released at midnight so I stayed up until 2 am. I spent most of the time configuring the controls. I’m still not sure I’ve got the brake pedal sorted. There’s no graph telling you how much each controller is inputting or outputting. With a pressure sensitive pedal, it’s very easy to have the brake partially on at all times. I ended up copying the settings from the original DiRT Rally, but I don’t know if that’s sub-optimal or not. Frustrating. After driving a little, my immediate impressions were “it’s sort of like the original but with surface degradation, different locations, and you can drive in custom events without having to unlock cars in career mode”. So that’s all pretty good. Next up, actual driving.


I drove a stage in New Zealand, and it was decent fun. Trying to beat the AI times is pretty hard. Good, I like challenges. But then I went to Spain to drive on asphalt and my heart shattered into a million pieces. I desperately wanted to love this game because it’s gorgeous, but this is not how tarmac feels. You might as well use a hand controller because what comes through the wheel is total fucking garbage. Words fail in describing my sadness. I don’t have much real world time driving on dirt and gravel, so it’s hard for me to determine how broken the physics are on loose surfaces, but I can say with certainty that the asphalt model sucks ass. The original DiRT Rally wasn’t perfect, but it was so much better.


I went looking for reviews and found 3 types. (1) DiRT Rally 2.0 sucks because of RaceNet. (2) DiRT Rally 2.0 sucks because the physics are broken. (3) DiRT Rally 2.0 is the king of rally games. Apparently the single player career mode requires logging into RaceNet. This makes it impossible for people to play offline. Also, RaceNet has been plagued with bugs, causing people to lose their saved games. As a result, the most common complaint about DiRT Rally 2.0 is the career mode. There are fewer complaints about the physics, but those who complain about it, like me, really hate it. Of the fanboys who think DiRT Rally 2.0 is better than the original, I suspect they have never executed a pendulum turn, much less shifted a manual transmission.


One step forward, 2.0 steps back.


As sequels go, this is as bad as the Phantom Menace.


Thankfully, Steam gives refunds.