Note: Replay and Setup can be downloaded at the end of the post.
I haven’t driven the new mod so much yet, but after missing the first race in the non-official UKGPL series last Friday, I thought I would do some laps at Mexico and try out different setup tweaks in the Chaparral Mk2F.
I find the car quite nice to drive, but the 3 speed gearbox makes it really difficult to feel the car and to judge the speed at which I’m going at any time, particularly in slower corners where it feels like the engine shuts off completely.
A Look at the Track
The track has just about everything in it – hairpins, straights, fast corners, slow corners, chicanes, both flat and banked sections, and the only thing it’s missing are noticeable altitude changes. Despite all that variety, I don’t like how the track flows. It has never given me much pleasure to drive around it and it always demands a forceful approach if you’re to extract the maximum out of a single lap.
It’s not much different in the Chaparral, but at least it is not suffering from the usual tire overheating problems I’m faced with when driving the F1 cars and the original 67 spec in particular.
Anyway, I’ll try to keep this guide a short one due to my lack of sound understanding for the GT mod at the moment and because I believe I’m starting to repeat myself with my attempts to describe each corner in so much detail that I digress into talking about cornering basics. Perhaps a separate post can summarize the latter, although you can find plenty of fine written articles on the topic.
As you are probably aware, I’m not a big fan of the GT mod default setups. They’re too stiff, too conservative and as a result, too restrictive to the lap times you can produce. What’s more, they don’t make the tires operate in a very good range, resulting in the center layer becoming very hot, despite the claims that the tire pressure is the optimal for each car/tire combination (28 PSI for the Porsche and 32 PSI for all other cars, if I recall correctly).
Now before you assume I’m making an assault towards the default setups on purpose, hear me out. I do believe them to be realistic. I do think the setups from reality were similar in values to those we see in the default setups. The problem here isn’t really the setups and I do appreciate the work and effort John (Roberts) put into making them.
The real problem is the physics of the cars and more specifically, the tire parameters. GPL does not model tire wear or deformation of the shape of the tire, nor it models damage and loss of integrity of the tire construction. GPL also does not model high-frequency bumps and changeable/unpredictable track surface, nor it simulates off-line contamination.
All that makes it possible to be overly-aggressive with the tires and get away with it, as well as run lower ride height. As a result, the driving style changes and setups which would be used in reality become too limiting for us as simracers. Although I think this should be taken into account by the mod developers, I do like that we can actually see and try the way the real cars were set up and driven.
What I’ve done to unlock more of the potential of the cars (Chaparrel in this case) and tires is to soften the suspension, remove some of the understeer by having softer frontend, reduce the tire pressure to get more even tire temperatures across the thread and do some other minor adjustments for fine tunning.
On the topic of tire pressures, I do have a suspicion which is yet to be tested: run much more negative camber and stick to the suggested optimum pressure settings, and see how that works out. The reason being the various tire temperature measures I’ve seen from real racing cars on the Internet where the inside edge is some 10-15 degree hotter than the middle and outside and with those higher optimum pressures in the GT mod, that should be achieveable and may actually work.
Anyway, I’m not going to say anything specific about the setup I used for this particular lap, but it’s definitely not so good yet. It is fast, but requires more focus to keep the car on the edge than what I would like. Feel free to download the setup (along with all my current GT setups) and give it a go, or just take ideas from it. If it feels too loose, you may try adding more negative front toe-in and softer rear bump/rebound, but I quite like the wheel rates as they are atm. From what I’ve read the car is much closer to 50:50 weight distribution than the F1 cars, so it made sense to run similar front/rear wheel rates, and it worked really well.
Onboard Lap of Hermanos Rodriguez
As usual, the track map can be found over at GPL Track Database:
I am using the F1 67 Lotus WR groove and you can see it on the video. It’s a much better line than the default groove, so I suggest you use it as well.
T1 – As you arrive in top gear for T1, make a slight initial turn into the corner just a few meters before the armco edge on the left side of the track and start braking carefully, cutting across in a straight line (as much as possible) through the inside of the track, beyond the white line and close to the grass. The more track width you use, but straighter your line can be and that makes braking much easier. Change down a gear or two, depending on the car. It’s 3rd to 2nd in the Chaparral.
Lift up the brakes a bit to avoid going wide, but keep decelerating, then stop applying the brake pedals once you feel the car has slowed down to make the initial sweeping bend, and just let it carry speed for a bit. Although hard to notice, there’s a very short straight which connects the initial fast entry with the much slower second part of the corner.
As you stay as close to the inside as possible, start braking again and change down to 2nd gear (1st in Chaparral), straight-lining the braking zone as best as you can, aiming to reach the outside point of the track near the armco, just before the slow and tightening righthander.
Ideally you want to trailbrake a bit going into that righthander, but be careful not to drift too wide or turn in too early; stay in the middle of the road. Once you enter that corner, keep decelerating using only the throttle and prepare to slow down for the tight right-left which only really has one proper line. I’ll treat that chicane as T2.
T2 – The best line through this right-left is to sacrifice the first part so you can carry more speed in the second part and have a faster exit. Use the half-burried tires as your reference points and aim to almost clip the tire on the right as you slow down through the right-hander, then accelerate carefully for a moment and lift up while turning left, aiming to go as close as possible to the tire on the left. If you do it properly, you can get back on the power (gradually) very early on, but if you miss the line a bit, be patient and delay your acceleration to avoid running wide onto the grass because of the slight dip in the track surface on the outside which creates some understeer.
T3 – I have no reference point for braking here except the WR groove plus the RPM if I had a normal exit off the previous turn. Assuming you use the groove, brake just as you go over it, change down a gear and turn-in a bit earlier so you can carry some speed into the corner. It’s very important not to run wide here and to also sacrifice your exit completely, so stick to the inside and even go onto the grass at the apex.
Accelerate for a moment before slowing down and turning early again for the right turn, cutting across the grass a bit and delaying your acceleration. It helps to apply just a bit of throttle in the middle of the corner here, to help the car turn better and to bring the revs up, but be careful as you accelerate out of it and be ready to counter steer any wheelspin from the rearend.
T4 – I found the hairpin really difficult in the Chaparral. Because it was necessary to set 1st gear very long and use it for a number of corners, it was very uncomfortable at the hairpin. The low revs kept the diff locked much more than I would like and because any throttle application would create understeer, it was impossible to control the car with anything but the steering.
Anyway, brake just before the dark groove and try not to overrev with your gear changes. It seems that in these cars the braking becomes much less efficient if you do that, at least for slower corners. Keep braking in a straight line and until the very moment before you’re right into the bowl of the hairpin, and only then turn into it, but try to keep as tighter line as possible. It may feel slower, but it’s not, although it may not be the best solution in the Chaparral because of the gearing.
There’s no need to do much throttle control on the exit, but a momentary lift-up or two of the throttle just to balance the car might be necessary and it seems to be better than catching slides with the steering wheel, as the latter can throw the car in an unexpected direction. You need to go to the right side of the track as quickly as possible after you exit the hairpin.
T5 – Brake early for this corner, before you go down into the dip, and turn in early as well, carrying speed as the car drifts down the little drop there. Aim to put half of the car over the grass at the apex and begin to accelerate very smoothly and gradually well before the apex. This creates a nice drift and keeps the car moving forward instead of sideways. It always feels exciting when you do it right and exit right next to the curb on the right, just after the dip, thus maximizing the available track width.
T6 Esses – The turn-in point for the first of many Esses is just where the armco begins on the left side of the track, but the braking should be done slightly before that, just to avoid unsettling the car too much or drifint wide. Brake just momentarily, only to brush off the acceleration, and turn right by aiming for that tire at the apex. Even though it may seem you would hit it, the car is going to drift to the left as you keep decelerating with only the throttle and go next to it.
As soon as you’re past the tire and go over the slight dip in the road, straighten up the steering wheel and brake hard in a straight line, forgetting about all the track width there. Turn early to the left as you continue braking and use the tires on the inside of the corner as your reference points for your line, aiming to go just slightly wider around them.
The apex of that left-hander is just after the end of that row of tires, slightly over the grass on the inside, so make sure to keep a very tight line, keep decelerating and turn left into the apex on time. This would allow you to step on the throttle earlier for the next section, but be careful because a slight dip of the road there can create sudden oversteer. I almost always lift up for a moment on acceleration out of this left-hander, even if there is no slide – it does not hurt to do so!
The car would drift slightly to the left even if you lift up though, but you can use that to your advantage for the next right-hand kink – turn right just as the rear wheels spin a bit and revs go up. It’s similar to what’s known as the Scandinavian flick, except it’s done under acceleration here. The change of camber in the road would suck the car to the right and launch it over the grass on the inside, but make sure to lift up somewhat as soon as you go over that, then accelerate again towards the row of tires around the next left bend.
Brake in a similar fashion as with the previous left-hander, keeping close to the tires and turning towards the very inside (while decelerating) just after you go past the last tire. Be careful with your acceleration again due to the slight camber change in the road and move to the left to prepare for the faster right-hander that follows.
Phew, you still there? We’re almost out of the dreadful Esses! Whether or not to change up a gear for the next right turn or not depends on your car and setup, and your speed of course, but it usually helps to do so. It makes controlling the power on the exit much easier, but it may create some understeer in mid-corner, so it’s a trade off.
Turn into the right and keep a line that closes up all the time, so you can sacrifice the exit of the right-hander completely. The ideal exit line lies exactly parallel to the edge of the track on the right, beyound the white line, but be careful with the dip in the road just before you reach that position. As usual, a momentary lift up of the throttle to settle the car helps with that.
There is a very slight crest in the road before the final turn of the Esses – the left hander. Just as you exit the previous bend and settle the car on the right, turn left and lift up at the same time, aiming for the tires on the inside. Delay your acceleration until you’re just about to hit the tire there, then step onto it and the car would drift just in time to draw a nice smooth line around the tire row. Don’t accelerate too hard initially though, or you’re going to run wide onto the grass. Using some of the grass is OK on the exit, but make sure to keep the front wheels straight until you reach that patch of tarmac (service road?) before you return onto the track.
T7 – Peralta(da) is rather nice in these cars because they’re very stable and you can floor it very early, without worrying too much about tire overheating as is usually the problem with F1 cars here.
There is diamond-shaped sign on the left before the corner and you can use it as your reference point for turning-in. Stay beyond the white line and turn right while at full throttle just as that sign goes out of sight. Aim for the tires on the inside and don’t worry about hitting them. As soon as you go over the slight crests that sends you into the bowl of the corner, lift up the throttle and apply the brakes, but not too hard.
The car would start drifting and you won’t hit the tires on the inside, but instead go to the outside of the track. The key here is to time your deceleration with your position on the track. It’s kinda similar with how you take The Loop at Watkins Glen, except it’s much easier because you don’t have to brake too much (and because there’s a nice armco to keep you in place).
Try to decelerate just enough as to gain full grip when you reach the outside of the track in the middle of the corner, but don’t go beyond the white line as the camber change there can unsettle the car. As soon as the car stops drifting, initiate a reverse drift to the inside by stepping harder onto the throttle and aim for a very late apex right next by the tires on the inside, near the end of the corner, straightening up the exit as much as possible and glancing the armco at the s/f straight.
Replay and Setup Downloads
Here’s a download link for the replay of the lap:
As mentioned, you can get the setup along with other GT setups by downloading my updated setup pack.