brakes are for babies. Often times braking can make more of a difference than anything else. I didn't want to take too much space, but it seems you guys don't mind, so I'll post my write-up on intermediate/advanced techniques.
Edit: here you go...
I started writing this as a quick thought for the race tips thread, but it quickly took a life of it's own, and I put a lot more detail than I had initially planned. This guide should be useful to ANYONE that is beginner/intermediate, and possibly to some of you advanced drivers. Some advanced drivers go entirely off instinct, so a bit of knowledge can push them even faster. This guide should also serve as a tool to help decide what car is best for your online racing weapon.
One thing to consider when buying a new car is that "handling" as a solitary metric is far too vague to ever base even part of a decision on. What are they basing the "handling" on? For the average driver, a car that simply sticks to the ground better than others is considered a better handling car; after all, if you can't negotiate your car to the end of the course, then it doesn't matter what the potential of the car is, however...
Most racing drivers will agree that a "looser" car has a higher potential for handling. I've found that some cars with a higher handling rating just stick to the ground better, which may not actually be faster. If you have access to the Forza series, with some digging, you can actually find the tunes that the top drivers use to set the fastest times on the leaderboards available for you to buy. I think you'll find that the vast majority of the top tunes used by the top drivers are cars that seem absolutely useless to the average player. When I first started playing, I downloaded the fastest car available for the A class on Tsukuba. I hadn't tested it before choosing it in an online race. It was so absolutely touchy that I actually crashed on EVERY corner the first lap, quit, and then tested it out by myself. I was able to finally force the car to do what I want, setting some massively fast times, but it was so touchy that I made a mistake on 90% of the laps I tried. I decided on a car with less potential, but was easier to drive, and ended up winning far more races.
I'm going to preface the next part by saying that while I do believe the physics simulation for this game, while obviously and necessarily, is not perfect, it does seem to be deep enough to truly simulate not only how throttle/braking/steering inputs can make a car slip in realistic ways, but also the final piece of the car handling puzzle beyond that; the transfer and balance of weight, is simulated fairly accurately as well.
When it comes to a good handling car, a car that never loses traction is most likely not going to be a very fast car. Even a car that "plows" by understeering strongly, could potentially have a lot of cornering ability on tap for someone who knows how to wrestle it out of the car. I'm not going to try to explain every quirk that a car could have, but I'll touch on two major...I guess handling stereotypes, and you can take the information or leave it.
The car that's eager to wag it's tail:
Cars that oversteer a lot can be a handful. Obviously, muscle cars oversteer on throttle, and some cars naturally oversteer on corner entry no matter what you do as you enter a corner. These types of cars have a very high potential for handling. Think about it this way, oversteer itself isn't the problem, it's when you can't get the traction back quick enough that you lose time. Any kind of smoky drift is going to make you slower, but if you are able rotate the car quickly, then accelerate cleanly, you can sometimes get a faster exit than if you maintained traction throughout the turn. The key is getting on the throttle earlier. In general, he who gets on the throttle earlier will be faster. How does one do this with an oversteering car?
If you are oversteering on entry, it's because when you were braking, you transferred the weight to the front, and as you started turning, the rear tires had less traction to hold the car through the turn, so momentum took over. This can be cured with gentle throttle inputs. If you hit the throttle too suddenly, too soon, or too hard, then you will only exacerbate the oversteer. However, if you can gently ease on the throttle just enough to get more weight over the rear tires, without making the tires slip more, then you will be able to regain traction in the rear. This, if done correctly, can be done faster than negotiating a corner with no loss of grip.
If you are oversteering on exit, it means you are giving too much throttle, you got on the throttle too suddenly, or you got on the throttle while you had too much steering input. This, in general, is slower, however if you are understeering, and it would take too much time to wait for the car to point the correct direction, a sudden blip of throttle, followed by balanced throttle input could both rotate the car, and then transfer the weight to the rear tires in order to allow you to get on the throttle earlier than if you simply waited for the car to point the direction you wanted.
For the car that doesn't like to turn:
With a car that terminally understeers, you can try the above method, but sometimes cars like this don't oversteer no matter how you play with the throttle. What you should try here is trail braking. Essentially, you can think of the grip of your tires this way: You have 100 grip points available to any of the tires. By adding weight over the tires, you add grip (to an extent) and the opposite is true. So when decelerating the front tires would have something more like 120 grip points, while the rear has 80. Now any action you take uses grip. Braking uses grip, turning uses grip, and accelerating uses grip. If you use just about all 100 points to brake, and then try to turn at the same time - you run out of grip, and you understeer. However, if you use all the points for braking, but then ease off the brakes as you input steering, you can use all your points while not having to do one action at a time. As you brake, the weight transfers forward, giving you a bit more grip potential, but that is then traded off by the rear having less. You can use 120 grip points to brake, but as you enter, you reduce that to 100 for braking, 20 for turning, then continue to let up on the brakes as you add more steering, so by the time you are fully committed to the corner, you are using no brake, and all of those front tire grip points for steering. Now, since you took away a bit of grip from the rear, you may experience a bit of oversteer, which is great for a car that terminally understeers. It's at this point that you can add a bit of throttle, which moves the weight to the back, giving you more grip in the rear, which will then take away grip from the front. If you are good enough on the throttle, you can stop the oversteer by adding throttle (which may sound counter intuitive) letting you get on the throttle sooner, which will give you a better exit speed, and more time at Wide Open Throttle. At that point, since this car understeers, you can actually use that to your advantage, as you should be able to use more throttle/more suddenly/earlier.
Some random tips/concepts/ideas:
- Each drive train will react a bit differently, but the same rules apply. If you have no weight in the back, even an FF car will oversteer. When you trail brake using an FF car, it's beneficial to try to keep the weight in the front as you gently apply the throttle, as there is a bit of a "pulling" effect FF cars can have when on the throttle at the correct time. Be careful, however, as these cars are generally considered the least efficient when it comes to handling - but the right driver can make them fantastic.
- Simply easing a bit off throttle, either partially, or fully, can affect the weight balance. If there is a corner that you can ALMOST take at full throttle, easing a bit off, but not all the way, for a brief second can possibly give you enough extra grip in the front negotiate that corner, and only be off Wide Open Throttle for a brief second.
- A similar concept to the previous note, there will be times when you may be able to add a tiny bit of brakes, while staying on the throttle, to get more grip in the front. Every action you take has both direct and indirect effects. We know what the brakes and throttle are for, but a bit of brakes will move the weight forward, and a bit of throttle will move it back. Use that knowledge. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will be.
- Elevation changes, the camber of specific corners, speed, terrain - all of these things will need to be considered when racing.
- If there is a long straightaway after a corner coming up. and you and another driver are battling, it's sometimes beneficial to let them outbrake you, with your sole focus being on getting on the throttle earlier. Even if they are in front of you at the exit, and carried a good amount of momentum through the corner, if you are on the throttle earlier, there is a good chance you will be able to overtake them shortly.
- If there is another corner directly after a corner coming up, think more about where you will be at the entry of the second corner, rather than how you negotiate the first. This is true if you are not actively battling someone, or if you are.
- If you have to read this guide, and you encountered any new information, stay away from the handbrake, as you won't have the skills necessary to use it correctly, even in a gymkhana type situation.
- All wheel drive cars have all of the benefits, as well as negative characteristics of both FF and FR/MR/RR cars.
- FF cars understeer, plain and simple. MR/RR cars tend to oversteer wildly on corner entrance, and mildly on exit. FR cars can go either way, but in general are fairly neutral, with the tendancy to oversteer mildly on entrance and exit.
All of this takes lots and lots of practice. If you have experience with other racing games/racing in real life, you will most likely have an advantage in this game. When it comes to choosing your car, test all the cars you can! It's MUCH easier to make money in single player, and you can buy most of the same cars and test them. Create a test route for yourself, and when considering a new car as an online weapon, time yourself around your test course. You can take all the theory you want, but like I said at the beginning: if you can't make it to the finish line, it doesn't matter how much potential your car has. I, by no means, think I am the fastest, but if you doubt my theories, I'd be happy to find some digital credentials that should prove that I know what the hell I'm talking about. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!