"It is all a question of balance."

- Denny Hulme

See the GPL General FAQ for info on how you can get your picture into GPL's Player Info menu

On this page

I've added a new section on books about race driving which were written for drivers of real race cars. Since GPL accurately models real cars, the driving techniques explained in these books are quite applicable to driving the cars in GPL. Virtually anything that applies to real race cars also applies to GPL.

Check out this article about Why Jim Clark had the Edge by someone who closely observed Clark's technique in person. Also see the discussion section of Steve Smith's Advanced Setup Guide for more driving tips.

Also on this page are Driving Tips, including more discussions about dealing with mid corner understeer, and a lot more about passing. See also my Alison's Setup Tips (under development) for a discussion about why the car pulls to on side under braking and acceleration.

If you haven't read this page yet, you'll find an excellent discussion by Peter Gagg (used by permission) about the challenge of learning to drive the powerful cars in GPL This is followed by the discussion about passing, including comments from the GPL beta team.

For more information about driving in GPL, please read the driving section of my general GPL FAQ. Also read an excellent Digital Sportspage interview of ace driver and setup expert Doug Arnao by electronic racing journalist supreme Randy Magruder.


For an excellent all-around race driving book, I would suggest the book Going Faster! by Carl Lopez. This is published by Bentley Publishers and is available at Amazon.com.

Carl is a long-time instructor for Skip Barber Racing School. Skip Barber has done much to popularize trail braking and teach it to aspiring racers. See Block 3 of Chapter 5 for a discussion of trail braking.

Also consider Drive to Win by Carroll Smith, which I feel is an essential book for the serious student of race driving.

Other excellent books on racing include Race Car Engineering and Mechanics by Paul Van Valkenburgh, Think to Win by Don Alexander, The Racing Driver by Denis Jenkinson, and The Technique of Motor Racing by Piero Taruffi, all from Amazon.

Jenks' and Taruffi's books are the classic books on the art and science of motor racing. Although they were written before trail braking became widespread, much of their content is still relevant today.

  • Going Faster! by Carl Lopez
  • Carroll Smith's Drive to Win
  • Think to Win by Don Alexander
  • The Racing Driver by Denis Jenkinson
  • The Technique of Motor Racing by Piero Taruffi
  • Paul Van Valkenburgh's Race Car Engineering and Mechanics
  • Driving Tips

    Getting Started

    A reader wrote:

    I have just tried the demo to see if there would be any interest in the game and to say that I was impressed would be an understatement. The problem, however, is my lack of experience in this field. Before I purchase the full copy of the game, I would like to see how set-ups would affect the handling of the Lotus in the demo (I could barely keep the beast on the track). It is my understanding that the demo set-up for the Lotus is terrible. Can you steer me to a car set-up area?

    You can download my collection of setups right here.

    Also, on my Links page you'll find links to several hotlap sites which post setups by the fastest GPL drivers in the world. Schubi's site is the best of these, I believe. Try some of Wolfgang Woeger's setups.

    Even the best setups in the world won't drive the car for you. The GP cars are very challenging to learn to drive because of the high power to grip ratio. Keep in mind that you are also learning a new skill: that of being able to control a car without any kinesthetic or tactile feedback. This requires some investment in time even by top real-world race drivers.

    I strongly suggest you start with the Basic Trainer and master that before moving up to the Advanced Trainer. Use the Basic Trainer to learn the corners, the elevation changes, the bumps and camber changes of each new course. Because things happen more slowly in the Basic Trainer, you'll become aware of subtleties in the track configuration and surface that you would never notice in the more powerful cars.

    Then advance to the Advanced Trainer and put in some serious lappery at the course you're learning. At 270 horsepower, the AT's power is not too far off that of the GP cars, and the braking points, cornering speeds, and rhythms you learn will only need relatively minor changes to adapt to lapping the same course in the GP car. But because you don't have such an excess of power to weight and grip, you can focus on getting the line right, being smooth and precise on corner entry, and so forth. This is extremely important to good lap times, and is crucial when you're driving the monstrously powerful GP cars.

    When you can do fast, consistent laps of a given track with an Advanced Trainer, then move up to the GP Coventry. The Coventry is the best-handling of all the cars in GPL and will be the least frustrating and the best for learning.

    When you've mastered the Coventry GP car, then you're ready to try some of the lighter and more powerful cars. The Lotus should be one of the last cars you try, because its combination of light weight and peaky power curve make it very challenging to handle.

    Note that I said that the GP cars are difficult to *learn* to drive. Once you've gone through the learning process, they are really not terribly difficult to drive and are immensely rewarding when you get it right. But you've got to put in the time and effort to scale the learning curve.

    Starting off slowly

    A reader's question in rec.autos.simulators read like this:

    "I've wondered sometimes if it's better to start off fast and work on consistency, or start consistent and work on speed. Would you mind explaining the advantage of the latter? Start off slowly and gradually build up your speed, not the other way around."

    Peter Gagg responded:

    Most people get a new racing game/sim and jump straight in with both feet and immediately try to break all known lap records at the first attempt without even glancing at the manual!

    This usually results in lots of unscheduled off-road driving admiring the scenery when you should in fact be on the track practicing. This is caused because the drivers have not learnt how to control the car, not learnt the circuits, and they are driving TOO FAST and end up continually crashing. This in turn dents confidence, and can get very annoying, and you do not learn that much from continually crashing (apart from where the barriers are situated, and how slow it is to get out of the gravel trap!)

    The more conservative approach (driving slower and gradually building up speed) will ultimately be more beneficial, IMHO, because of many reasons:

    1) Driving slower gives you more time to react.

    2) You can see & learn the correct racing line easier at lower speeds.

    3) Car control is easier at lower speeds.

    4) You will crash less at lower speeds.

    5) If you crash less your confidence will rise.

    6) Remembering circuits is easier at lower speeds.

    My method for a new game/sim is to take a few laps to just drive around the circuit, not fast at all, to familiarise myself with the general layout. Also I check out any maps or diagrams in the manual, etc.

    Then try some faster laps, but the object is to just try and stay on the track without spinning/crashing off. Once I can do this consistently (I have learnt to anticipate the corners and bends) I start to gradually increase speed and try to lower my laptimes, but the emphasis is on gradually.

    As you gradually drive more laps, you get more familiar with the circuit, and can anticipate better, try to go faster on the straights on each lap by accelerating out of corners earlier. also try to brake into corners a little bit later on each lap. Each lap you are only trying to improve on the last one (even if it is only by 1/100th of a second) and not trying for an out and out record. Although, obviously, if you drive an outstanding lap, then that is a bonus!

    As the laps count off, you will find the best braking points, the best gear change points, and the correct line for the circuit. You will also be learning about the car, how it brakes, how it accelerates, how it slides, how the wheels lock up, etc. Because you are doing it gradually, you are learning that little bit extra on each lap, feeling for the limit of the car, the braking limits, the traction limits, etc.

    I find using this method, after about 20 - 25 laps of pretty much any circuit, in any game/sim, that I have learnt enough about the car and circuit to drive a fairly competitive lap. This means after say about half an hour to an hour I can be pretty quick and fairly consistent.

    Whereas, the guy that just jumps in feet first and drives hell for leather (unless he is very talented) ends up spending the first half an hour to an hour spinning all over the place, crashing out, smashing into things, *AND* at the end of it all, he knows bugger all about the cars limit or the layout of the circuit, cos he has spent more time off the circuit than the marshals!

    This advice from Peter Gagg is terrific. The only thing I would add is to start out in the Advanced Trainer, rather than the Grand Prix car.

    The AT cars all have 270 hp, vs about 400 hp for most of the GP cars. This makes it much easier to learn to control the cars; they are not quite so ready to leap at the scenery at the slightest touch of throttle. Also, in terms of overall lap times, the Advanced Trainers are not too much slower than the GP cars; I've done a few laps in the 1:32 range at Zandvoort, for example. I found that when I was learning to drive in GPL, if I did a few laps (maybe 50 or so) in an AT, then I did much better in the GP car.

    Don't feel like a wimp if you choose to race the AT's for a while. With their size and weight, the ATs are roughly comparable to the full-house 1.5 liter GP cars of 1961 through 1965, and not much different from the cars derived from the 1.5 liter cars which many of the teams used as interim cars in 1966 and early 1967.

    It is possible to race against the AI with the Trainers if you change a single character in your player.ini file. See my general FAQ for details.

    Once you feel you're ready to move to a GP car, I strongly recommend that you start with the Coventry. This is a great car for honing your skills, and is an excellent all-around car, versatile enough to go well on all of the tracks. Although it's a little slower than the more glamorous cars in qualifying, it's one of the best cars over a race distance. Please read my discussion of the Coventry and download my complete setup collection!

    One other point which cannot be overemphasised: you need to practice a lot!

    I drove more than 500 laps at Monza before I felt I really was competitive there, and Monza is the simplest track. And I'm still learning. Although I know all the tracks fairly well by now, I find that I need about 200 laps at most circuits to get down to reasonable times, if I've been away from that circuit for more than a week or two.

    Mid-corner understeer

    How can I adjust my driving and/or car setup so as to achieve the following. If for example entering the first Lesmo turn at Monza, I can provoke a rear end slide. Then I can apply the correct amount of throttle and power slide through the turn. If I fail to provoke the tail slide then I understeer into the carsh barrier unless I can brake. How do I provoke a small tail slide each and every time? What combination of steering and throttle should I use. This is preventing me from getting good times.

    - Alan Pittman

    This takes a good setup, a deft touch on brake, throttle and steering, and a lot of practice. I use a setup with brake balance fairly far forward (usually 58 to 60% on the front wheels) and trail brake to rotate the car. The rate and smoothness with which you trail off the brake (i.e. smoothly release brake pressure as you turn the car into the corner) is critical, and is probably one of the most difficult and subtle things to learn in GPL. Jackie Stewart said that the last thing he learned was how to release the brakes.

    It's a good idea to study the replays of the fast laps that came with GPL carefully.

    Learning how to pass

    Recently the beta team discussed passing encounters at the Watkins Glen Papy Cup race, in which three beta team members participated via the Internet. Beta team comments are in blue; my responses are in black.

    I went off once trying to let Dave or Matt pass!

    I also went off trying to let Matt pass, although it was stupidity - I was reaching for the space bar to signal him with my virtual arm, and the car drifted over to the edge of the track, getting two wheels onto the bumpy stuff and preventing me from braking at the proper level.

    That's definitely something we have to practice from now on. Letting someone by, and doing it in the right position.

    This is a really good point. In real racing, I raced under a variety of conditions. In karts, I got quick enough that I was almost always one of the fastest in the field, so I really learned how to pass. We also used inverted grids (determined by points in the championship), so winning usually involved picking your way past almost every car in the field.

    Later, I ran sports cars, driving a 100 hp RX-7 in fields populated by Corvettes and turbocharged Porsche 944's and other cars which were much faster than the RX-7. In those races, I really learned how to get passed! There are definitely ways and places you can let other cars by while minimizing your own loss of time, and it is worthwhile to learn these places. I found that if I didn't let them by, the 'Vettes would force their way by anyway, in places which might cause me to really slow down and lose a lot of time.

    For this reason, among others, I've been running with the AI to practice for the Papy Cup races. I used to like to be able to beat all the AI in ICR2, and at first GPL frustrated me because I couldn't do that (except at Monza). But now I don't really mind that some of the AI are faster than me. When Clark et al come up behind me in practice sessions, it is very interesting and good practice for the real races. When I run against the AI, I'm as much practicing passing and being passed as I am learning how to go quicker.

    I wonder, do the other guys online see it when a driver raises his arm? That way we could signal them we're letting them through.

    I saw Bill Warner raise his arm for me in the Monza Papy Cup race. Unfortunately, I only noticed it in the replay from the TV views. I think it's hard to see this when you are in the car, but we should try it.

    More about passing

    Here are some new additions to the discussion of how to pass.

    If I'm slower and you race up behind me and want to pass, I should just continue with my "slot" and when we get to a straight or "passing zone" I should pull "off the line" to let you through correct? Just because you fill my rear-view mirror doesn't mean I should go chewing hay to accommodate you, right?

    Right. In racing school (SCCA and Skip Barber) they drilled into us to hold your line, and let the faster driver choose when and where to pass. If you go off line, it could be just where they plan to go.

    One thing to do, though, is to brake early at the end of a straight. Either do this when the other driver has already pulled out and is looking down your inside (you'll see the other car in your mirror) or else pull to one side early on the straight - and stay there - to make your intention clear. You can even press space bar to wave them by.

    A smart driver will not follow very closely directly behind a slower car, especially in the braking area. When I'm following a slower car, I generally pull out to the inside as I approach the braking area, in case the other car brakes earlier than I expect. If you see the other driver do this, looming in your mirror, you can easily let him/her pass by lifting off the throttle and braking a little early. This way, you also lose minimum time, as opposed to trying to go offline in the middle of a corner - or being forced off line.

    Randy and Alison on passing and following

    Randy Magruder:

    If you know the track will allow you to hold your position over a faster driver, and you can beat them into a corner, you TAKE IT. But as in real racing, the responsibility to overtake safely belongs almost totally to the overtaking driver. Only when the overtaking driver is at least halfway alongside the overtaken driver should the overtaken driver turn in, otherwise, the position still belongs to the leader, and he can chop off the nose of the overtaking driver.

    This is what countless racing books teach, and it works just fine in GPL as long as both drivers are disciplined and follow racing etiquette. If the overtaken driver *IS* faster than the guy who gets in front, he's just as capable of turning the tables.

    If I wanted to just follow people around all day, I'd drive NROS more!


    Good points. [In my earlier comments] I was talking about the difficulty of a faster driver overtaking a slower driver, not the other way around. I agree that it's the overtaking driver's responsibility to do the pass cleanly, and the car ahead has the corner until the other car has drawn even. Of course, if you chop someone, and they are already on the limit, then they may not be able to get out of your way and you will collide.

    I go for openings when they are there, of course. But most of these openings are a result of a mistake (not necessarily a spin or an off) on the part of the driver ahead. That's how we collided at Kyalami last night; you got sideways out of Barbecue, and I got alongside going into the fast left-hand sweeper. At that point neither of us could see the other, and bam!

    The same thing happened with me and Sandman the next race; I made a slight mistake, he got alongside on the right, I couldn't see him, I moved out onto my normal line for turn in, and bam! As a result, I've decided that this is not a place where it's practical to pass a car that's only marginally slower than me, even if they make a mistake, and added it to my mental list of "sucker holes" to avoid.

    It's relatively easy to pass backmarkers at most tracks, but I find it almost impossible to force a pass on a car that is only slightly slower than me (I'm talking a second or two per lap) without presenting a significant risk of taking us both out. But if I sit in their mirrors, sooner or later they almost always make a mistake that gives me an opening.

    This is also what happens in real life on circuits that lack good passing areas. Look at what happens in real life races in CART and F1, now as well as in the 60's in F1. Often a faster driver will sit behind a slightly slower driver for many laps, unable to get by. It wasn't really much easier to pass in 1967; much of the passing was due to mechanical problems.

    The only difference between GPL and real life, as far as I can see, is that in GPL there is the added risk of warping. We can't get as close to each other in real life because the other car might warp into us.

    As a host, you see less of this, because you're only seeing latencies to each client. As a client, the total latencies to other clients is often nearly a second, and at that level, GPL's extrapolator is not able to guess very well where the other car is right now. So you see the opponent's car jerking madly from side to side sometimes, and at other times it's totally smooth (when the latency drops). Sometimes there is also longitudinal warping, so you can't follow as close, either.

    Allowing room for closure during braking

    Another issue to consider is the difference in performance of the various cars. It's particularly a problem when a Ferrari is behind an Eagle, because the Ferrari has excellent braking, while the Eagle is about the worst of the lightweight cars. When I'm driving the Eagle, I have to brake a lot earlier than the Ferrari drivers, and so it seems that my likelihood of getting rear-ended is much higher than the other way around.

    Also, I allow for the issue of closure when following. If the gap is 2 car lengths at 180 mph, and both drivers brake at the same point in identical cars, and get identical braking performance, then at 60 mph the nose of the car behind will contact the tail of the car ahead.

    Therefore, if I'm right behind someone, when I get to the braking area, I ease over to the inside (assuming the car ahead stays on the outside) so I won't hit them when the gap between us closes as the speed drops. I'm not attempting to pass - although the onlooker may think so. This is also helpful if they brake earlier than me.

    If you think about real life races, this kind of thing happens fairly often, but the TV commentators don't understand this. Hence the "he's taking a look inside" comments from the TV announcers.

    A lot of the people we're racing with don't seem to understand the difficulties of passing in a real GP car, and aren't driving accordingly. And they are not taking the warping into account. So when someone catches me, unless it's Doug or a few others, I expect sooner or later to be taken out.

    This is what I'd like to address. I'm not saying to follow someone around for the whole race; I'm saying to operate within the limits of the equipment, just as in real life.

    How to learn the art of passing

    I feel that the art of passing is a skill that needs to be learned. It's entirely seperate from the art of going fast, and can only really be developed once you've mastered going fast. It takes an enormous amount of skill and experience to do it well, and you have to be able to make accurate judgements of extremely complex situations in a very short time.

    IMHO, the AI give a very good opportunity for learning this. After a half dozen to a dozen races at each circuit with the AI, I get to know what corners present passing opportunities, and which only look like you can pass there but are really sucker holes. I also get practice at braking and cornering off line, going by the AI, so I know what I can do and can't do with humans.

    Equally important is the art of being passed; it's necessary to learn where and how to let faster drivers by. If you're being lapped, for example, you can let people by in a place that will not slow either of you down very much. If you don't, chances are they'll go by anyway, but in circumstances that could at the very least slow you down, and at worst have you on your head.

    This knowledge is also useful if you know that a faster driver is coming back up through the field after an incident, and is likely to want to get by in a hurry. You have the choice of fighting them, and giving them the opportunity to provoke an incident (very likely at the moment in GPL) or letting them by and accepting the loss of only one place in favor of the risk of crashing.

    This is a judgement call based on your knowledge of the track, and - very importantly - your knowledge of the other driver's personality. There are some drivers who I'll race with wheel to wheel with no problem (you're one of them), whereas there are others who I figure I'm better off letting by, because the chances are very good that when they catch the next driver up the road, they will take both that driver and themselves out, giving me back my position plus one more!

    See the discussion between Achim and Doug, below, for the perspective of two drivers who I'd race wheel to wheel with any day.

    John Wallace on passing

    What do you think - considering all the options we have. Lettings someone by or not? And if not, if we're that hardcore, don't we then have to accept that the driver behind us also uses all means he has, short of shoving us out of the corner like a Bulldozer?

    Both should use all means at their disposal, but while respecting that there should be no accident - BOTH should strongly remember that. Essentially I think of the responsibility as being the "x" position on the road. If you are behind the responsibility for passing safely and avoiding an accident is all yours. As your front axle line up with my rear the situation changes slightly, and I need to consider your presence although the corner is still mine. When we are level we are equally responsible, and if you nose ahead then I must accept you are past (or fight back in similar fashion) and take responsibility for not hitting you as you continue.

    The key thing is that as you make your move you must consider what happens if you can't get alongside or ahead, and be able to give up the pass without sliding us both of the road. Similarly I must only turn in if I know that you haven't won the corner - difficult without peripheral vision (and difficult in real life as Paul Tracy demonstrated...!).

    - John Wallace

    Achim and Doug on passing


    I made a mistake at Silverstone, BTW, when I had that engine problem: I moved over to the right to make room for Doug, not taking into account that the ideal line is also on the right. This was an automatic behaviour for those who drive in the right hand lane in normal street traffic, it was what I'd have done on a public road. But at that very location, it was wrong, and we were lucky that Doug could lunge over to the left in time to avoid me.


    No no...you did the right thing! When some one is that close to you, don't make any sudden moves. The moment I saw the smoke I made the decision to go inside to the left in a normal overtaking manouver. This is what I would expect on the real track too. When two cars are that close and there is a speed differential, the overtaking car should go off line to pass. Its much safer to him making the descisions. If there was a much larger gap between us, then yes move off the line or off the track, so it's quite obvious looong before I or someoneelse reaches you where you are. I guarentee I would have smacked you if you'd moved left.

    Personally, I am not sure how we should behave. Brutally shunting the leader off is out of the question. But OTOH, if you follow someone forever and you're faster and just can't get past because he closes every door on you even if in real racing that move would have gotten you past - do we simply say if you can't get past, bad luck? Or should we let someone by if you clearly see that he's faster and has made a decent move?

    Yes, I think you should. In my real racing I would. And the competent competitors would do the same for me. There's still the gray area, but in general yes. Of course the last lap is another story <grin>.

    Anyhow the best strategy in online racing is to be dog close and force a mistake - then take advantage of it ................ ;)

    For example with Doug yesterday. I would have let him by, but I didn't because I was always able to open up a small gap between him and me. So, IMO, I was a little faster. If he'd been all over me and I had made more mistakes, I'd have gone out of the way. Believe it or not <grin>

    There was no reason to let me by. I only gained slightly on that last lap. I was doing the the above strategy - waiting for the mistake - and I got it with your engine <grin>. I just wanted to get close enough to take advantage of it and make you a little more nervous and BIGGER in your mirrors....:)

    Maybe I'm a little too much on the side of the "guy who comes from behind", because someonw coming up to me from behind happens seldom. But at our Rouen race, for example, I was considering letting Sandman pass me on the last lap, simply because he was faster, and just didn't have a chance to pass. Then he made the inevitable mistake and spun, so that answered all questions. But it might just have happened because it is more difficult to follow a car than to drive by yourself.

    And I know George pretty well by now, and he wasn't getting mad - probaly waiting fo a mistake - he races very cleanly. On the last lap at Monza last nite, He and I were racing for second - George was 3 seconds back. I scraped the guardrail in curva grande and he closed on me like a frieght train. As we approached the first Lesmo, I held my normal line, because if I'd moved right to block his overtaking manouver, we probably would have hit. The speed differential was too great at that point for me to make a sudden move and have it all work out. So George took the clean pass on the inside but went a little deep and sideways at the exit, allowing me to close right back up on him.

    We were nose to gearbox all the way down to the braking area for Parabolica. At this point George pulled right to block the inside line - the correct thing to do given that our speed were near identical and it was the last lap. I had no choice but to go down the outside and made the decision to try and out brake him - a fairly safe thing considering I could only ruin my race by sliding out in to the sand pit. As it turned out the move worked and I managed to drive around the outside of Parabolica and beat him to the S/F cleanly by only a car length or two.

    George said later he got loose applying the power exiting Parabolica and had to back out slightly or it might have been a drag race to the finish.!


    Under Construction