Note: Replay and Setup can be downloaded at the end of the post.
A Look at the Track
Rouen’s characteristics have always given me a mixed feeling about the track. On one hand I like the flowing fast bends which give you a challenge of how much speed you dare to carry on going into them, but on the other hand the high sharp curbs and slow hairpins can (and will) easily give you some grief if you’re not precise enough.
The track is simply brutal (thus the post title) in the 69s because of their high amount of grip, both mechanical and aerodynamical. This makes it feel like you’re almost flying in some places and that there’s always some extra grip waiting to be exploited, but the closer you get to it the more frightening the experience becomes.
I opted for a slightly above medium wing settings in order to get both enough downforce for the quick corners and still reach reasonable top speed down the long s/f and back straights.
The car feels quite stable at this track, so I dialed in some oversteer by making the front a bit softer than usual. The bump and rebound settings are never perfect, as usual, so playing with those is necessary to achieve smooth transitions, especially for the sections in the middle of the lap where you have both a change from predominantly mechanical to aero grip, as well as altitude changes which lead to either understeer or oversteer as you pass into and over the crests.
Gearing made a lot of difference with each change I tried and in my opinion it’s best to opt for slightly longer gears which allow you to floor the throttle early into the corners and maintain optimum torque through the fast bends, changing up only once you’re close to the exit of the corner.
Differential-wise I had to dial-in some more lock on the coast side to prevent the rear from stepping out on throttle lift-up and allowing for some slippage on the power side so the car wouldn’t push too much in the fast corners.
One Lap Around Rouen-les-Essarts
Here’s a track map you can use as a reference while reading my guide:
T1 – this corner is taken flat out in the 69s, at least when you have a decent amount of wing, but the turn-in point is a tricky one. I don’t use any particular object as a reference apart from the slight crest that you go over just before the corner, but looking at my video I can see there are a number of billboards on both sides of the track which you can use for that purpose.
Aim for an early apex and be very smooth throughout the whole corner. Avoid applying any significant angle on the steering wheel, but keep just enough to preserve the initial drift the car goes into. It’s perfectly OK to use the outside grass edge to expand the track width, but don’t put more than 2 wheels off, and make sure to straighten the steering a bit as soon as you climb the curb. Don’t rush with getting off it, as that can launch the car violently to the right.
T2 – this is a difficult corner to take perfectly because of the downhill slope and the way the road widens up a bit on entry. The best line before the corner is to stay as much to the right as possible, obviously, but there’s a big risk of touching the edge and losing the rear as a result.
In the 69s, the braking point happens to be just at the point where the track edge on the right starts to open up a bit. Brake hard but don’t stay on the brakes for too long because you need to balance the car early on as you let it drift into the corner. Avoid turning in too early, there’s actually a lot of grip there and it may send you into the inside curb. Aim for neither a too late or too early apex, and get on the throttle just as you reach that apex.
It’s not necessary to use the whole track width on the exit and you should rather focus on going quickly to the left to set up the car for the next corner.
T3 Six Freres – this one is taken flat out in the 69s, but only if you are well positioned before the corner, as far to the left as possible. Turn early into the corner and don’t worry about hitting the inside curb. The car keeps drifting wide all the time here due to the lack of banking in the road and because it goes downhill, so keep the steering turned right, aiming towards the inside as if you want to ride the curb.
Once you reach the middle of the corner the frontend would gain some grip due to the upper slope of the track, so make sure not to get caught out by it and hit the inside curb. Avoid changing gears until you reach the exit of the corner so the car would remain balanced all the way through.
T4 – this is a very tricky one in any car, in any mod, so avoid taking risks by braking too late – the little time gained is not really worth it. Avoid braking too hard into this corner so you can have more control over the direction of the car. Try to stay close to the inside which seems to have a slight positive camber and draw a smooth line around the curb as you change down the gears. It’s a good idea to let the revs drop a bit more than usual before each gear change – it makes it easier to control the car as you’re trailbraking.
T5 Nouveau Monde – there’s nothing special about this hairpin and a lot of it depends on how you take the previous bend. The optimal line is one where you hit a late apex, but it’s not really that crucial because of the low speed and you won’t lose too much time even if you take a more conservative line.
What is important here is to avoid dropping the revs too much so you can pick up the acceleration on time as you exit the corner. Be careful as the rear wheels spin under throttle and catch any slides by applying opposite lock. It’s relatively easy in the 69s.
T6 – this one is flat out, as long as you maximize the track width and turn in smoothly and early into the corner, aiming for an early apex. Be careful on the exit because the grass surface seems to extend over to the track, although it looks like tarmac. If you ride that part with your left wheels, avoid turning to the right too much or too suddenly, but let the car return naturally to the middle of the road.
T7 – braking for this turn is tricky because of the narrowness of the road and the way the track edge on the right side opens up a bit, similar to T2. You can brake quite late for this corner and carry more speed than it appears at first. This is due to the road going uphill and the frontend gripping better as a result.
Aim for a slightly early and long apex, and get back on the throttle before the middle of the corner, but apply the acceleration gradually instead of flooring it. It’s OK to use the curb and grass edge on the outside if you run a bit wide or carry more speed, but be careful with it – it’s quite high and if you turn too much or too sudden, it may snap the car to one side quite violently. The most critical parts are the moment you climb over the curb and the moment you get down off it.
T8 Sanson – finally a corner with a proper braking marker – the distance sign on the right side of the track. Brake just as you pass it and take a straight line as you aim for the right side of the track, ignoring the weaving nature of the road there.
You need to turn in early for this half-hairpin due to the almost negative camber it has and the way that keeps pushing the car wide. Keep decelerating as you turn in and be patient with the moment you accelerate out of it. Once you reach the middle of the corner, begin to apply more throttle, but be smooth with it and don’t maximize it until you’re almost going in a straight line.
You should avoid using the whole track width on the exit, but rather move to the left as much as possible so you can be well positioned for taking the next right-hander.
T9 – if you’ve done a good exit out of the previous bend you should be able to take this one flat out, coming from the far left side of the track towards the early apex of this turn. The frontend loses some grip just as you reach the apex, due to the crest in the road, so make sure you turn in early into it. A short-shift up a gear helps keep the car on the line and prevent you from going too wide.
Try not to turn the steering wheel too much, so you don’t scrub too much speed as the car is still accelerating quite hard. It’s safe to use some of the grass on the exit of this corner, but try to return on the tarmac before the next bend.
T10 Beauval – this is a very difficult corner to be consistent at on each lap and it’s also very dangerous if you get it wrong. There’s only one good line through it and it passes right next around the inside curb and goes slightly over the curb on the exit.
There is a slight crest before the corner which raises up your revs a bit and hides the apex from your sight. Use this crest as a reference for when to turn into the corner. There’s no substitute for practice about how well you can execute the line through this turn, because it’s pretty much taken blindly, relying on your feeling for speed and position.
Avoid hitting the brakes or lifting up the throttle too much (or at all) once you turn into the corner. The car is pretty much on the limit as you take it flat out in the 69s, so any imbalance is going to change the direction of travel in quite a negative manner.
It’s OK to use some of the curb on the exit, but the banking of the verge can make the car very unstable as your left wheels go over it, so make sure you’re both smooth and firm with any corrections you have to do, otherwise you’ll find yourself spinning to either side.
T11 Gresil – an easy one, but be very smooth with your steering because any additional input is going to scrub off some speed from the car. Try to keep the steering wheel in a single position once you do the initial turn-in. Aim for a late, long apex and maximize the track width on the exit.
T12 Scierie – the braking point for this one seems to be half way between the area where the groove becomes lighter, after the initial dark groove, and the position of that differently looking tree in the tree row on the left. Personally I begin to lift up slightly a bit earlier instead of jumping on the brakes all of a sudden in the last moment. This gives me some room for adjustment of the braking distance.
I also avoid being too hard on the brakes, to avoid locking them up. Try to take a line through the middle of the road on the first part of the corner which is slightly quicker, but keep decelerating so you can turn around the car and point towards the edge of the curb where the corner tightens up.
Once the car passes that initial slope in the road as it transitions from tarmac to pavement, accelerate gradually and short-shift up a gear if you feel the rear is starting to step away from you. Use the whole track width and bit more on the exit.
T13 Paradis – You can make this corner a lot easier if you put half of the car onto the grass before entry, thus expanding the track width. It takes some practice to learn to do it right, but once you master it, you’re going to like it and you’ll realize it’s a safer way to take the corner. As long as you’re smooth in your transition as you climb the curb and turning back into the corner, the car setup is going to take care of the rest.
Now, in 69s, this corner can be taken flat out easily, but you can scrub a lot less speed if you take the above line before the corner entry because you won’t have to turn the steering wheel as much.
Once you turn into the corner, keep the steering wheel turned right all the way until the exit of the corner, to combat the tendency of the car of going wide into the grass. Shifting up a gear is a good way to balance the car here, but only do that if your previous gear has reached maximum revs, otherwise you’ll lose some acceleration as the tires scrub through the bend and that will cost you top speed down the s/f straight.
Replay and Setup Downloads
I’ve recorded and saved 2 consecutive flying laps, with the 2nd one being the faster (and my current PB). The setup would need further tweaking, particularly for the race where I would use a longer 5th and perhaps a stiffer front ARB.
Download Matra MS80 Rouen Replay and Setup