Here is my first collection of setups for GPL. They are race setups for the Coventry, which I feel has been unjustifiably neglected by most GPL enthusiasts.
The Coventry is actually a very good race car and perhaps the best car of all for honing your skills as a driver and developing your race craft.
After several weeks of racing with hordes of people online on VROC, I've noticed a definite trend. Red, green and yellow, and blue and white cars mowing the grass.
Everyone wants to drive the Lotus, the most famous car of the era, and the most romantic. We all want to be Jim Clark. Even me! (Ok, I'll be Jane Clark.)
Or we can't wait to jump into the the Eagle, the gorgeous, shark-like car that carried that lovable all-American, our very own Dan Gurney, to victory in Spa in 1967.
Or hurl the screaming red car from Maranello, with its delicious wail and delightful, responsive handling, through the streets of Monaco or past the howling tifosi at Monza.
Unfortunately, few of us, myself included, possess the talent of a Gurney or a Clark. Yes, there are a few ultra-talented sim racers who can flick the Lotus around Zandvoort in 1:25 or take the Eagle by the scruff of the neck and hustle it around Rouen in under two minutes.
For the rest of us, the word is practice. We've got to hammer around and around to get anywhere near these times.
Worse, we have to work really, really hard to do it, and we struggle to do it consistently. Ok, so maybe we work one of the Fast Four down to a competitive time in practice, and we're up near the front of the grid with the aces. But all too often, we find ourselves mowing grass while the hotshoes motor off into the distance, probably laughing quietly to themselves.
The Coventry is our secret weapon.
There's great historical justification for driving the Coventry. German-Austrian ace Jochen Rindt, who would later become world champion in the Lotus 49, worked magic with the Cooper-Maserati in 1966 and 1967. The aging Maserati V-12, whose original design dated from the 2.5 liter formula of the 50's, was down on power to the latest Cosworth and Ferrari engines, and it was overweight. Yet Rindt put the Cooper at the front of the grid at Spa both years, and finished on the podium three times in '66. The Cooper won at Kyalami in '67 in the hands of Pedro Rodriguez.
More importantly, the Coventry, GPL's best imitation of the Cooper (Papyrus was unable to obtain from John Cooper the license to use the correct name) has a number of qualities which make it admirably suited as a race car and also as a weapon for honing one's skill.
What's that, you say? The Coventry has the worst power to weight ratio of all the cars in GPL? Perhaps. But it's only 120 pounds heavier than the lightest cars, the Lotus and Brabham, and is down only 10 hp from the Cosworth and outpowers the Brabham by 40 hp.
Unlike the BRM, which is lovely to drive at Monza but whose heavy engine tries to swap ends with the nose when the going gets twisty, the Coventry has a very good-handling chassis that is versatile enough to work anywhere. And it has a lovely engine, with a broad, smooth power band that comes in strong in the midrange but without any sudden peak that tends to break the rear wheels loose as you accelerate out of slow corners.
The Coventry is responsive and, unlike the BRM, it telegraphs to the driver what it's doing, perhaps better than any other car. I've found that this is fantastic for honing my skills, because it helps me be aware of the bumps, camber changes, elevation changes, changing radii, and all the other subtleties that one must learn in order to drive a Grand Prix car at the limit. With a good setup, the Coventry "talks to me", letting me know when its rear tires are about to reach their maximum grip under power and start to spin, or when the tail is about to step out, or the front wheels lock under overenthusiastic braking.
Things seem to happen just a little bit slower in the Coventry, giving me time to observe what's happing, time to think about the line, time to catch the car if I do something silly and it starts to get away from me. I've found that I can get into deeper trouble with the Coventry than with any of the other cars, and still save it.
The Coventry lets me "talk" to it. It seems to be a tad more responsive to throttle and brake than any of the other cars, working its tires in response to weight transfers in a very graphic and manageable way. Its rear weight bias seems to keep it a touch more stable under braking. Its relatively high polar moment makes it take a smidgen longer to snap sideways when I hit a bump or make an abrupt input, giving me that necessary fraction of a second more that I need to recover.
Indeed, that's perhaps the greatest value of the Coventry. It lets you learn, making mistakes and not - like the Lotus, in particular - punishing you for them. You have to drive it hard to get quick times out of it, but it responds to hard driving. And its forgiving nature allows the driver to run lap after lap at very close to its - and the driver's - maximum.
This is great for learning, but it's also great for racing. It's all well and good to cut a fast hot lap when you're offline, in training mode, running solo. No distractions, everyting optimized.
But in a race, everything changes. There are cars roaring and screeching all around you. Your palms are damp, you're nervous, just from being on a grid full of other real humans. You're worried about how you'll do, hoping you won't do something that will make you look bad. Your mind is racing, thinking about a zillion things - do you have enough fuel, will the guy next to you move over on you, did you remember to pick up milk on the way home from work.
In a race, the chances of a mistake escalate dramatically. And the slightest mistake will cost you plenty.
Think about it. The average spin takes about 10 seconds from which to recover. On most tracks in GPL, the Coventry is about one to two seconds slower than the Lotus or the Eagle. For most of us, it's more like one second, because it's so difficult to get that last second out of the Fast Four - especially the Lotus.
So if you pound around for an Int Short race, say, at a pace one second off the leader's, and the leader spins once, you've got a really good shot at the win. If they spin twice, you're long gone.
Well, you may find that some of the setups are fairly similar to the default setups in a number of parameters. The inspiration for this setup collection was the default Ferrari setup for Mosport (although I've changed quite a few of the settings to suit the heavier Coventry). When something works, I'm not ashamed to copy it.
Unfortunately, many of the default Coventry setups have a fatal weakness. They are too soft for their bump stop length/ride height relationship, and tend to go onto the bump stops whenever you push them hard, or when the corners are banked (especially fast, banked corners like the Masta Kink, which generate a lot of roll).
This is very bad.
When a car goes onto the bump stops, all the carefully tuned balance of the spring rates and relative roll resistance, all the subtleties of damper, camber, and toe-in settings, all this goes right out the window. If the outside rear goes onto the bump stops, the tail will snap out into sudden oversteer. If the fronts go onto the bump stops, the front will wash out into terminal understeer. If you alternate front and rears going onto the bump stops, such as when you transition from left to right and/or power on/power off, the car gets darty and can become undriveable.
So, I've carefully tuned spring rates, bump stop lengths, ride heights, roll bar settings, and damper settings to keep the car up off the bump stops and let the suspension do its job.
Also, these setups are all very similar. Even the Nurburgring and Monaco setups, which necessarily depart from my baseline setups at the other tracks, feel much the same. I've worked hard to make the cars handle consistently from one track to the next.
I've used a fairly high differential between front and rear tire pressures, with softer than optimum pressures in front (if we go by the tire temps) and harder than optimum pressures in the rear. This seems to have several advantages. First, the car is terrific on cold tires, because the soft front tires, not yet up to temperature, promote understeer, making the car more stable than it would be with equal pressures front and rear. Also, the rear tires, closer to optimum profile at their cold temps, generate fantastic traction off the line. I'm sure that a number of people have been rather startled at my getaways at the start in the lowly Coventry in VROC races.
Secondly, the softer front tires seem to help damp the wandering or snaking under power that plagues all the cars at some tracks, particularly Kyalami.
Third, this particular combination seems to telegraph particularly well when the limit of rear traction is being reached. It has a delicious sensation of "digging in" when you're exiting a corner right on the limit of adhesion, and you reach the point where the rear tires can take full power.
I've also balanced the car with a bias toward understeer. This has several advantages. First, it's more forgiving and less work; you're not on opposite lock through every corner. You can always induce oversteer if necessary with judicious applications of throttle and brake, but if you drive smoothly you're not constantly flicking the wheel back and forth to recover. This is less tiring, and I find I'm more likely to get through a long race without a mistake with a setup like this.
Second, an understeering car, although slower through midcorner than a more neutral car, can get the power down earlier because less weight is being transferred away from the inside rear tire. In GPL, where massive horsepower and minimal grip is the norm, traction away from slow corners is crucial.
Third, an understeering car can be braked later into a corner. It's more amenable to trail braking, because the tail is not trying so hard to jump out and get ahead of the nose.
Mostly, no. The exception is camber. For most tracks, I've used asymmetrical camber, which gets the tires up to temperature more evenly and makes them work better.
This can be a drawback, however, for the learning driver, because it can make the car pull to the right under braking until you learn to compensate and to brake carefully at the point of best grip, just before the tires start squealing.
If this bothers you, you can set the right side cambers to the same as the left, -0.75 front and -0.25 rear. This will make only a small difference in grip and may make the car easier to handle while you're learning.
Here are my best times in the Coventry as of this writing:
Mexico City 1:52.81
Watkins Glen 1:07.53
These times are not going to scare Achim Trenz or Dave Mansell, but they compare very favorably to my best laps in the Eagle or the Ferrari, in some cases only a fraction of a second away. And I can run close to these times all day long if I have to.
If you can't beat these times with the glamour cars, then why aren't you driving the Coventry?
Incidentally, I've only done about five laps at Mexico in the Coventry, and the Nurburgring lap is the first timed lap I ever did in the Coventry at the Ring. That should give you some idea of the Coventry's driveability!
The Coventry setups kept the sim on my hard drive.
-- Lawrence L. Holbert
I reckon you've done exactly what was needed here. Beginners the world over may now rejoice!!
Your setups are an absolute delight to use. Fast, surefooted, and forgiving. Just what the doctor ordered.
My first flying lap of the ring was 9:12 with 2 spins, so around 8:45s should be feasible easily. That's brilliant with that car, and as you say, you could do it for hours if necessary.
At the ring I only had two problems. Firstly the weight makes it ground badly in dips, (spin number one) but once you know about it it's not a problem. Secondly, you've got to be a bit more careful in that very tight uphill hairpin (spin number two) than elsewhere.
I've had a little more time to spend at Zandvoort (another 5 laps to be exact), and have a 1:28.86. I was very suprised that the time was so quick, because it didn't feel stressed at all. I believe that with a wheel, and a bit more time, the Coventry with your setup should be capable of 1:27s, and maybe into the 1:26s with a really top driver at the controls. If you know you're not yet in the absolute top rank of sim-racers, what more do you need?
Frankly, I see no need to develop my own setups for the time being. Yours will do just fine, thank you very much!!
-- Keith Findlay
I just wanted to thank you for the tip on your site to try the Coventry. I'm definitely no hot shot racer. Previously I had my best luck with the Brabham. It wasn't the fastest car I tried, but it seemed the easiest to me to drive. My best time at Monza was 1:40:21. I put in your Coventry setup and in less than a half an hour hit 1:39:46 for the first time.
-- Jim Jasutis
I just thought I'd write and thank you for your excellent Coventry setups! I installed them today and within 10 laps I had knocked out a 1:33.90 at Monza. That's not much to hotshoes like you and the Papy Cup crowd, but it's .09 off my best-ever at Monza in an Eagle.
--Lewis "Moose" Gregory
I agree with everything you said about the Coventry. It's made races (as opposed to hotlaps) much more enjoyable. I've got a ways to go before I move up to the hottest cars.
-- Dr. Bob
Just downloaded your set-ups for the Coventry today and it is amazing how responsive and much easier the car is to drive. That's not saying you don't have to drive a clean lap because as you know that's the key.
After several warm-up laps at Rouen, I started picking up the pace and turned a lap of 2:04.23 which is the fastest lap I have turned at Rouen. I did turn a 2:05 in the Lotus; however I crashed at least 5 times during that session and the fast lap I did turn I felt almost out of control.
I look forward to seeing the rest of your set-ups for the other cars. Again, thank you for help.
-- Bob Wilson
The Coventry sound that comes with GPL is really (don't tell anyone) a small-block Chevy. It's not very authentic, and not really very pleasant, in my humble opinion. Fortunately, now there is a much better, more authentic sound available. A very clever fellow named Patrick has adapted a recording of Nick Mason's 1957 Maserati 250F to work with GPL.
You can download Patrick's sounds from his site. I highly recommend all of them. The Maserati sound is quite delicious, a mellow, throaty moan overlaid with a delicate whine. With a good sound card connected to a good home stereo system, and the volume on "realistic", it's wonderful. (See the sidebar on my BRM page for tips on setting the volume.)
I have a collection of Ferrari setups waiting in the wings, and plan to rework my Eagle setups to match what I've learned while developing the Coventry and Ferrari setups.
I've also got plans for the Brabham. The Brabham is a very fast car, despite the fact that most of us turn up our noses at its crude sound and unimpressive horsepower numbers. Equally important for Pro and Intermediate racing, it's the most robust of all the cars, able to take a lot more punishment than the more fragile Lotus, Ferrari, and Eagle. Some testing suggests that it responds very well to the setup philosophy I've applied to the Coventry, taming its rather tricky handling.
But I'm releasing the Coventry setups first, for a good reason. The temptation to drive the Fast Four is great, almost overwhelming. And yet, for most of us, it's the path to greatest frustration.
The Coventry, on the other hand, is great fun to drive.
Yes, it's a bit less powerful than the Lotus, and less romantic than the Ferrari. But objectively, it's still a monster: 390 hp, 1231 pounds empty, and those same hard, skinny tires. Imagine a car weighing less than half of your contemporary small sedan - with the most powerful street engine you can buy today, and tires with about as much grip as those on the contemporary small sedan.
It's a huge challenge to master a car with these characteristics. The Coventry makes that challenge just that little bit more manageable.
If you're like me, you'll find that it's a lot more satisfying and a great deal more fun to do a solid, mistake-free drive to the podium in the Coventry than to spend half the race extricating yourself and the Lotus from the weeds.
Have fun, and maybe I'll see you at the track!
Alison's Coventry Race Setups (11/17/98 - 5 kb) - Race setups for the Coventry.
These setups go into the setups folder under your GPL player's folder. For example, my setups folder is:
This setup collection was zipped with the setup folder included. You can simply unzip the entire archive into your personal player folder. In other words, I would unzip into folder Hine__Alison.
You'll need Winzip, which you can download for free from http://www.winzip.com/.
There's also a GPL export HTML file with my best Coventry times.
Note that these are setups for the GP car. It is possible to use them for the Trainers, although you'll need to rework the gearing.
To use a GP setup for a trainer, you simply need to change the filename extension. GP setups use an extension ending in 1, while the Advanced Trainer and Basic Trainer's setups end in 2 and three, respectively.
Thus, to use my Coventry Monza GP setup for the Advanced Trainer, create a copy of Ali_Cov_Monza.co1 and rename it to Ali_Cov_Monza.co2. Then revise the gearing to be appropriate for the lower redline of the Advanced Trainer engine.
See my Setups page to download my setups for other cars.