Although rFactor 2 has been around since 2013, its progress in terms of development and content has sometimes been disappointingly slow. However, in recent times, Studio 397 has progressively improved the title, particularly in the last few weeks as it announced a spate of new content and updates.
For the majority of motorsport fans, the most anticipated content is two officially licensed British Touring Car Championship cars and tracks. The 2021 Infiniti Q50 and Toyota Corolla GR Sport are available on Monday 9th May, complemented by two of the championship’s most popular tracks – Donington Park and Brands Hatch.
These form part of the rFactor 2’s ‘Q2 Content Drop,’ which also includes WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and a host of other improvements – including a revised sound engine and an enhanced photo mode.
Using information from the championship’s tyre supplier Goodyear, as well as laser scans of the cars and engineering data from the teams, the two cars are the first pieces of British Touring Car Championship (BTCC)-related content for rFactor 2 since the Honda Civic NGTC back in 2013. Crucially, that wasn’t officially endorsed by the championship.
The Honda was a fun car to drive, but without other BTCC content, the rFactor 2 player base lost interest. So, can the new BTCC cars and tracks hold sim racers’ long-term attention?
Infiniti Q50 2021
After a single warm-up lap at Donington Park’s National circuit, the tyres are up to temperature and I can begin exploring the car’s limits. The Infiniti feels stable under braking and has an immersive exhaust note from the cockpit, thankfully without the distortion of the championship’s in-car TV cameras. It is front-engined and rear-wheel drive, so a little care is required in the low gears.
I lock up the front brakes often on my first run, so adapt my style to reduce left-foot pressure. But, it’s my right foot that’s causing all the problems. The Infiniti is wild, always on the edge of breaking traction exiting Redgate. More familiarity leads to fun, Goodyear-shredding drifts, but this is not the way to gain lap time in the BTCC.
If you watch onboard laps from the perspective of four-time champion Colin Turkington, you will see him calmly going about his business – his inputs are smooth and relaxed in order to keep his tyres at an optimal temperature while also minimising wear. And this is exactly how to drive the virtual version. Smoothly.
I dispense with the oversteer fun and concentrate on setting consistent lap times, but after a couple of fast laps, the Medium tyres have given their best. I pit, switch to the Soft compound, warm them up for a lap and immediately go one second a lap faster. I get slightly alarmed by the excessive tyre wear, however.
It’s apparent I’m having too much fun.
Both the Infiniti and Toyota have an audible downshift protection alert if you try to downshift quicker than the car will allow. This engine-protecting system’s irritating beep fades into the background as I become more attuned to the car’s braking points and gearing requirements.
The Infiniti is a lot of fun to drive but tricky to master. With a little setup work, I think it can be tamed.
Included with the 2021 Infiniti are Ash Sutton and Aiden Moffat’s number one and number 16 BTCC liveries respectively, with ten additional generic BTCC paint schemes also present.
Toyota Corolla GR Sport BTCC 2021
As opposed to the Infiniti, the Toyota Corolla GR Sport has a front-wheel drive and front-engined setup, and my first lap around Brands Hatch Indy contains a surprising amount of lift-off oversteer. A quick look at the tyre widget in rFactor 2 reveals the issue – cold tyres.
Just like real BTCC cars, players will need to warm the tyres for a lap or two and this is when the car starts to come into its own.
With tyres duly warmed up, the Toyota proves to be reassuringly stable over kerbs – in contrast to the lairy Infiniti. The Toyota also reacts much better to trail braking, traction not being an issue once the apex has been hit.
I found short-shifting to be particularly useful in the Corolla, its 2.0l Swindon-tuned engine – the same powerplant as in the Infiniti – putting its 370bhp onto the tarmac more efficiently as a result.
The Toyota comes with 12 liveries in total, including Rory Butcher and Sam Smelt’s number six and number 23 paint schemes from 2021 respectively. Like the Infiniti, there are also ten generic BTCC-themed liveries to help fill up the virtual grid.
The Corolla GR Sport again has an immersive engine noise and the handling feels weighty. So much so that I felt the need to change both cars’ force feedback multiplier down to 85%, which helps retain a nuanced steering feel.
Brands Hatch and Donington Park
As one would expect, Donington Park and Brands Hatch have been faithfully reproduced in-game. Donington features the National and Grand Prix layouts. Although, the Grand Prix loop was last used in the BTCC back in 2002. Brands Hatch also features two layouts; the Grand Prix version is 2.4 miles, double the length of the Indy circuit.
The two BTCC tracks join Silverstone and its National configuration as official content in rFactor 2, with hopes high that more circuits from the BTCC calendar can join the sim’s roster in future
Both the new tracks feature up-to-date trackside buildings and will be familiar to most sim racing enthusiasts from other titles. One aspect of the Donington National circuit most will be glad to see omitted, however, are the hazardous chicane tyre stacks.
But, in their place, the game has placed draconian track limit warnings, which feel a little heavy-handed given how much kerb real-world BTCC drivers use.
Staying with Donington, its location next to East Midlands Airport is highlighted in-game with the regular appearance of aeroplanes – something already seen in Assetto Corsa Competizione’s version of the track.
At Brands Hatch, the glint of the sun off the glazed exterior of the Motorsport Vision Centre gives the track an air of authenticity, and the leafy Grand Prix loop remains as atmospheric as ever. If I were to criticise, however, the grass textures look a little flat, but this isn’t typically something players will focus on mid-race…
From my brief time with the BTCC content, I was impressed by the internal engine sounds of the cars – they are some of the most convincing I have heard in rFactor 2. Externally, the cars sound much better than their harsh real-world counterparts, but perhaps lack a little presence in the sound mix.
The driving experience in both cars mimics my real-world approximations of what piloting a BTCC car is like. Being smooth is key, although I particularly enjoyed trying to tame the Infiniti’s throttle oversteer with exaggerated powerslides. I can see why Ash Sutton once described it as the best touring car he’s ever driven.
The force feedback is weighty – the real cars have hydraulic power steering and weigh 1240kg after all. Ideal for catching those powerslides…
The Infiniti is great fun – on-throttle it’s a drifting machine, but when properly tamed it feels the faster of the two cars. The Toyota is an oversteering nightmare on cold tyres – as a front-wheel drive touring car should be – but becomes a more stable platform as the laps pass. Trail braking is essential in this car, as reflected by the default rear-biased brakes.
Disappointingly, in the version of the platform I tested, the AI drivers were extremely slow. With their ability turned up to 105% I was still easily over a second a lap faster on the short Brands Hatch Indy Circuit. For those aiming to use these cars in online leagues, however, this will not be an issue.
With the recently announced delay of Motorsport Games’ official BTCC game, the new BTCC cars and tracks for rFactor 2 are the only way for fans of the sport to access official BTCC gaming content for the time being. And with more rFactor 2 BTCC cars set to follow this year – plus a 2022 livery update – there is even more for touring car aficionados to look forward to.
Both cars cost £4.29/$5.32/€4.99 each, with Brands Hatch and Donington both separately priced at £7.73/$9.59/€8.99. A ‘Touring’ bundle is also available, including both BTCC cars and both tracks for £21.64/$26.83/€25.16.
Both BTCC cars are also available in a separate Double Pack for £7.72/$9.59/€8.99. The entire Q2 Content Drop bundle is £27.01/$33.50/€31.41.
We sampled the new BTCC content using a work in progress Release Candidate version of rFactor 2 provided to us by the Studio 397 media outreach team. The final version may differ.
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