Kunos Simulazioni came through this weekend with the update that’s been eagerly awaited for many, albeit in beta form. As previously reported, this update brings two new cars, the Osella PA21S, and the Vintage GT (Shelby Daytona Coupe to you and I) as well as the daunting and fantastically realised 21 km Trento-Bondone hillclimb.
This winding Italian mountain road is quite an interesting aspect to what is a very deep motorsport simulator, not only is it so long and winding it could take years to learn, it’s also stunningly pretty and genuinely reminds me of holiday times in Italian mountains driving hire cars on roads like these. The atmosphere and artistry in the graphical representation is divine and truly immerses the driver.
However, the biggest addition, the one that I am here to talk about today, is rain. Rain is a tricky customer in racing simulators, everyone wants it but when they get it, well, it’s pretty tricky and so no-one wants to race in it!
What Kunos has managed here, as ever, is electrifyingly engaging and stupefyingly accurate when it comes to feel. Unlike previous wet weather implementations in some other sims, it never feels like the car is beyond your control, but the greasy surface means that the car is moving around all of the time. The driver has to focus, ferociously, so as to keep up with the tiny adjustments that are necessary. One finds oneself dancing on the controls, trying to be gentle and smooth so that one moment doesn’t become another, but at the same time having to act fast to keep everything under control. One millimetre too much brake could lock the rears and spin you in an instant, too much throttle and the same thing is on the cards, one tiny dab too much opposite lock and the car could snap on you…
All of this is very much like driving a racing car in the wet in real life, but what differs to other sims in the realism stakes is that it never feels “canned”. Sometimes, in sims such as GTR2, it felt like there was a very tight edge where the car could be lost, more through a lacking tyre model than a lack in your skill, not so here.
Oh no, netKar Pro has once again delivered and produced an implementation of wet weather that redefines what has come before. The feel becomes so natural that one is left in no doubt whatsoever as to how much skill one lacks.
The first of my videos below is from the fictional circuit in netKar Pro, Aviano, in a Formula 3 single seater. This car is light (550kg), and potentially skittish, but in the dry it’s sheer downforce largely overwhelms the relatively low engine power (230hp). This means that in medium and high speed corners one can all too often maintain a very heavy right foot.
On this quick run I am using a dry weather setup (I’ve had no time to work on a wet setup, it only came out on Friday!) and the car is low and stiff, this makes it very difficult to hang onto, as you will see, I understeer wide on my out-lap, and on my in-lap I am caught out when pushing a little too hard in a 6th gear corner! Driving this sim in the rain certainly gets one’s heart racing.
Following this, I decided that the F3 car was not quite fast or terrifying enough, so opted to take out the Formula KS2. This was a snap decision during filming, alas, this was the first time I had driven this car in the wet at all! So, with rain up to 70% (As it was with the above video in the F3 car) I took out the 680kg, 585hp Formula KS2.
Yes, I did nearly just stack it coming into the pitlane!
A beastly machine, but an interesting comparison. Where the KS2 generates much more aero grip at higher speeds, the faster corners are less hairy than they are in the F3, unfortunately, the slower corners can be much more difficult to get into and out of. It’s strong brakes require a very delicate feel, locking up can be very easy as the speed and downforce decrease, leaving you slewing wide. All the while getting the thing out of slow corners requires just as much sensitivity on the right pedal, as the savage power from the 4.0 litre V8 snaps to the rear wheels and merrily spins them in just about any gear you care to mention.
It’s arresting stuff, and I look forward to more of it, though I am wondering how mentally drained I will be after a 20 lap run in weather like this, but I plan to find out. The wear rate and change in feel on the new wet tyres intrigues me, though it seems to go against netKar convention that i can’t manually choose which tyre to mount, perhaps the final release will differ. It would be very interesting (Well, to me anyway!) to see how pace differs on the lighter rain settings, and whether wear rates could suggest that in the dryer conditions the slick may be the tyre to have. All these variables and the sheer complexity of the tyre model are what make netKar Pro such a deep experience.
For now, I can just scare the crap out of myself and love every minute of it.