Practice is well underway for the next round of the IFCA ALMS Season 3 series, and I’ve finally managed to get out on track. One way that professional racers can judge themselves during practice is to look back at times from previous seasons. Plus they’re also normally involved in specific practice days which will see several teams all lapping the same circuit at the same time.
Last season the IFCA ALMS series didn’t visit the Mugello full circuit, so there’s a risk I’d be running blind, but fortunately the community racing in the championship are fairly open and helpful about what times they’re getting – and what they’re aiming for. Thanks to some of the other GT class racers, I know that they’re already hitting low 1 minute 47 laptimes, and aiming to break the 1 minute 46 barrier. Incidentally, the ‘real’ lap record for GT class cars at Mugello is held by Bernd Schneider who managed 1:45:013 in a CLK Mercedes, showing how closely Forza and the IFCA series have combined to produce a good set of cars and classes.
On track in the Tuscany hills:
The first bit of good news is that I really like Mugello as a circuit, and the flowing nature of the track seems to suit much better than the previous outing at Sebring. Most of the circuit is made up of third and fourth gear corners, and although there are several areas where the back can step out, at least there are no tight hairpins, and either I’m far more accustomed to the BMW, or it’s far better suited to the circuit, as without any tuning (And only ABS as assistance), I’m fairly comfortable and consistent at the start.
After a couple of initial laps to remember where the racing line is located, I start pushing on a bit, and in the first 10 laps or so, I’ve managed a time of 1:49.228, which is far better than I was hoping for the standard M3 GT2 in first practice. My prediction would have been the low 50s, which I can hit pretty consistently. So rather than going all out for speed, I think my main tuning focus will be to improve the consistency with which I can stay under the 1:50 mark. After all, with an hour race, it’s far better to lap consistently, than have a couple of fast laps and the rest of the time in the gravel.
The other bit of good news is that some of the ‘problem’ bends I remembered don’t seem to be as much of a hindrance for the BMW as I thought. The downhill section from Casanova which climbs back up to the right/left at Scarperia actually isn’t too bad, and I seem to be able to carry a fair bit of momentum through there. The main challenges for me at the moment are still the slightly slower combination corners – Luco, Poggio Secco, Materassi, and Palagio, as the BMW doesn’t like braking hard, turning in, maintaining speed, hitting the apex and powering out with the standard set-up.
Instead, it’s more of a brake, slide, miss apex, try to get back on line, hit too much kerb, slide, and wheelspin until I can get everything in line and shift up a gear. That might change a little if I was a bit more circumspect and turned on the traction control assistance, but aside from the fact I occasionally use the MotoGP trick of wheelspinning to tighten my line up when I overshoot, I’m also a firm believer that TCS in Forza is for wusses. I know plenty of real racing cars and bikes have it, or a variation, but sometimes you need to go with what’s more fun than realistic, and TCS takes away some of the throttle balancing I enjoy…
So, time to see if I can improve the flickability of the BMW in the slower sections, without losing the ability to flow through the faster 4th gear corners, and speed down the main start/finish straight. And to keep reminding myself not to get sucked in by both the first San Donato corner, which is a 180 degree turn sucking you into braking later than you need, and Corentaio, which pulls the same trick at slower speeds and is probably the one corner where I make the most mistakes under braking.
And then on Saturday, it’s race time again at 8pm. Here’s hoping my connection holds and I can get a decent bit of mid-table respectability for ORD Racing!
The previous exploits of ORD Racing: