Although it’s true that the fastest laps in Forza3 are executed by the fastest hot lappers of the 1.5 million drivers in the Forza community, it is widely recognized that this is but one facet or skill set of the simulation racing genre. Racing head to head, or door handle to door handle, is yet another side that produces its own legion of experts. One can be good at both, but few can be great at both.
It is accepted rightly or wrongly in the Forza community that the two are very different skill sets, and require two differing mindsets to master. My opinion is less discriminating. I believe one is the indispensible training aid of the other.
Everyone does at least some hot lapping which amounts to the real racing equivalent of practice sessions and testing. In F1, for a real-world example, special types of drivers are often used solely for testing. The test driver’s job is to in effect hot lap the car so the engineers can prepare it for the actual racer to practice in, and then bring the car up to a race competitive level. Test drivers are often specialized high quality drivers in their own right, but for whatever reason may have never truly succeeded at the highest level in competitive racing.
In Forza we see a similar type of division between hot lappers and racers. Elite racers will often foray into the arena of hot lapping, and indeed have often come from the competitive ranks of hot lappers. This kind of cross over is common, but, much less so the other way. There are dedicated elite hot lappers that refuse to race based on a long list of reasons that their counterparts say are merely excuses. Reasons such as, “I don’t like to race,” “I hate lag and collisions,” “I’m only interested in running a perfect lap and I can’t do that with other cars on the track,” and perhaps most damning, “I don’t like the pressure of racing.” It is for these reasons and others like them that some of the very best Forza hot lappers in the world make no attempt to enter competitive racing events.
Obviously there is some human psychology to all this. If you are exceptionally good at one pursuit, there is little reason for you to pursue another similarly related endeavor that you are not exceptional at. Human ego being what it is prefers to be the “king of the hill,” over the “also-ran,” every day of the week.
Nevertheless, racers need the tutelage that comes from hot lapping, and can not do without it. To be an extremely good FM3 racer means that you will by necessity need to run laps that are nearly on a par with a top 10 hot lapper. The fundamental skill to run supremely fast laps is most easily gotten by hot lapping. Just as in real life racing, “there is no substitute for track time.” The more seat time you have the faster you will be.
Because of this near dichotomy of the two camps, the question often arises how to determine who is really #1 in the entire Forza world? Is it the more gamer oriented hot lap driver who sees the simulation race track as nothing more than a “map” with a single artificial racing line? Or is it the Michael Schumacher simulation wannabe racing addict, who can expertly pirouette his way through traffic using a variety of lines for the win? The question may never be directly answered. Sort of like comparing dissimilar apex predators, depends on what ecosystem you place them in. A marine predator on land is no mach for a land based carnivore.
There is no unifying method to bring the two together on a level playing field is the overriding problem. Making things even more difficult (on the hot lap side) are the recent revelations of transmission glitches that somehow allow a given car to be over-built for the class. This isn’t the first time “Turn10” has had this sort of thing pop up, but with all the advances of FM3 it was an unexpected shock. Worse still is the fact that “Turn10” has known of the glitch for some months now and refuses to address it. This has sent angry waves of clamor all throughout the Forza community lately. The leader boards are being undermined as a result, and as has been the case in the past with the franchise, no one knows for sure who is legit and who isn’t. Even those veterans that are well known for their speed are being questioned. It’s a sad state of affairs because with each passing day the leader boards become more skewed, and rife with pretenders, and ne’er-do-wells.
On the racing side things are not that much better, there is no unifying international sim-racing championship to produce an ultimate #1 competitor in Forza Motorsports. The premier Xbox360 league known as the, “IFCA” (International Forza Club Association), boasts some of the fastest drivers in the world, but lays no claim to hosting any overall definitive championship among their many popular series events. I mention the IFCA because they are the closest to actually having a Forza world champion, with their end of the year, “IFCA Championship” finale. This is when the top points earning drivers from out of all the IFCA series for the entire year meet to compete head to head.
Still, this is but one league (albeit the largest), there are other Forza leagues that have their own cadre of super star drivers too. There is Race Shop World Series , SIMRACING HD , Virtual Motorsports Racing League , International Sim Racing Association , The Online Racing Association , Forza Motorsport Challenge , and Sim Racers to name a few.
The smartest thing all of these well known racing leagues could do to promote their sport, is come together as a unifying force and agree to produce a single, “Forza World Champion.” It has been suggested that each league might select a representative champion candidate to battle the other league champions. Until then the only other rough estimation for who might be #1 is found in the IFCA World Rankings List . The list is a compilation of data points including hot lap, time trial, and series performances for the top 200 Forza2 drivers in the world. In general it gave the Forza community a vaguely accurate idea of who was probably #1 overall. A new and up to date list is said to be in the works for FM3.
So where does it leave us for now? In a place of relative uncertainty one could argue, but there is hope. Though the hot lap leader boards are being compromised daily, series racing has been revitalized! Due in part to another debacle involving the new match making form of multi-player mode for Forza3, many have left the once endlessly popular public lobby scene in search of greater racing fulfillment in the form of league racing. As proof, memberships have skyrocketed, and leagues like the IFCA have had to place a limit on sign-ups for some of their series for the first time ever in their nearly 5 year history.
Though the bloom may be off of the venerable “hot lapper” these days, sim-racers may be entering a new renaissance period that has only just begun. Cruel irony is that Forza3 as a simulation racing game has at the same time both initiated the ground swell towards sim-racing, while not offering more racing features, but less. It suggests that the up-tick in popularity amongst league racing is as a direct result, a kind of protest vote against the many fundamental changes away from simulation racing.
See you at the track,
This week’s track tip comes from the #1 lap record holder in D-Class for Sunset Peninsula Full Reverse:
“Turn 1 is critical, down shift to 5th early, and then into 4th early, and clip the inside rumble strip with the left front tire. Make an early turn-in towards turn 2, and go over the right side rumble strip with your right side tires. If done right you will run out of 5th gear before turn 3 arrives. Let it bounce off the rev limiter once or twice, then down shift to 4th as you enter turn 3, followed by a quick down shift to 3rd. Stay on a wide arc, 3rd gear will bring you through turns 4 and 5, go way to the inside and heavily over the rumble strips into turn 5 to avoid the wall. Shift up to 4th, and then 5th gear early, as you start to turn-in early for turn 6. As you exit turn 8, shift down to 4th gear, and then immediately drop to 3rd, and line your car way out to the left side before entering the hard slow right hand turn 9. Shift up to 4th and 5th staying to the inside around fast turns 10 and 11. Stay to the outside before entering turn 12, and then steer towards the inside in 3rd gear as you aim for the inside curb, then let the car drift wide to the outside before reapplying throttle for the long exit of turns 13-14, and onto the finish. Or, you can just race my ghost.” –AAR GTDon