After Hours

Get a grip: Ubi Soft's F1RS isn't for wimps

Nothing touches a Formula One race car, except maybe a jet. Learn why Erik Eckel says you should trade in your NASCAR lead sleds for some real racing action with F1RS.

You think stock cars are fast? They’re not. They’re big, slow, and heavy. In fact, a NASCAR-series Monte Carlo or Taurus is about as fast as your grandmother’s Buick filled with bricks, compared to a Formula One machine. You see, speed is relative.
TechRepublic is celebrating the return of NASCAR in the new millennium by publishing reviews of auto-racing simulations every Saturday, culminating with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20. Did you miss John Day’s review of Grand Prix Legends? No sweat. You can catch it here .
Having rubbed shoulders with professional drivers and race teams while coordinating a telecom concern’s IndyCar motorsports program, I’m no stranger to super-fast cars. That’s why I say dump your NASCAR lead sleds, and get into something with some real speed.

How fast is an F1 car? Well, I could give you the numbers, but you wouldn’t believe them. You’ve really got to see these machines in action to comprehend their capacities. Even then, it’s tough. Why?

Ask yourself a question. The last time you caught an F1 race on TV, why was so much footage shot from the air? I’ll tell you why: With cameras on the ground, an F1 car doesn’t stay in the frame long enough to attract viewers’ attention.

An F1 machine performs 0-100-0s in less time than most SUVs hit 60. Think about that for a few seconds. That demonstrates not only exceptional acceleration, but tremendous braking power as well.

Of course, leading-edge performance comes with a price. These machines all have too many zeros in the price for a mere mortal to possess. That’s why there are racing simulations.

Papyrus has a great game in NASCAR 3 . In fact, Dale Earnhardt Jr. even says it’s the best sim out there. But he’s talking about NASCAR, people, and we now know how slow those cars are, right? Besides, it gets boring turning left all the time.

Instead, get Ubi Soft’s Formula 1 Racing Simulation for true performance. You can select a rocket powered by such legendary V-10 motors as Ferrari and Mercedes. They may only produce 50 more horsepower than a 358 cubic-inch Chevy, but they’ll wind up to 16,000 rpm, and at the speeds they hit, F1 comparisons to aircraft are more accurate.

Set your car up to your liking and hit the course. You’ll find world-famous racetracks (all road courses) and intense competition.

Just don’t get tempted to throw a wheel into another pavement jockey, or you’ll find yourself spinning helplessly into a retaining wall or gravel trap. While these cars are super-fast and extra responsive, they don’t take to manhandling. Instead, they prefer finesse.

I’ve played the ’96 version of this game, and at any given time you can find four or five copies of it on eBay. I feel sorry for the bloke who sold it to me for $20. This game’s worth $45, easy.

If you pick up a copy, turn on all the computer assists (anti-skid, anti-spin, and so on.). It’s not cheating, because you’re an IT professional, not a race car driver.

Next, get the red Ferrari, kick the gearing up just slightly, and play with the spoilers some. Believe it or not, these cars generate so much downforce they could race upside down!

Once you’ve completed those steps, hit Nurburgring. As you’re darting around this storied track at 225 mph and ripping through your 7-speed gearbox, check out the rises and dips, the shadows in the uphill turns, and the sun glinting off your windscreen. You’ll find impressive graphics, especially considering that the game came out a few years back.

But, that’s one of the nice things about this sim. As good as F1RS’ graphics, scenery, tracks, and race cars are, system requirements aren’t overwhelming. You don’t need a Pentium III with a 700-MHz clock and 256 MB of RAM to run it. I encountered no problems playing the game with all the graphics turned on (including a stunning rainstorm) on a Pentium II 350 with just a 16 MB video card and 64 MB of RAM. Minimum requirements are down around a P166 and a handful of RAM, so most folks should be able to play it. Just be sure you’ve got a 3D video card.

There’s a new version of F1RS out, and I intend to chase it down soon. I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve had a chance to bring a few new Ferraris back on the rims.

Erik Eckel is an avid auto-racing fan. Look for him in Indianapolis in September when the Formula One series once again returns to the United States.

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