Studio 397’s rFactor 2 has continued its fine 2022 form with another content-heavy update. The Q3 Content Drop features the Caterham Academy, a classic Mini, two BTCC cars and a new track in the form of World Wide Technology Raceway.
The update also adds a new build of the sim’s dynamic track feature (RealRoad), improved cut detection and enhanced ABS and Traction Control systems, as well as many other minor fixes. Read on for our thoughts on all the new addtions.
Hyundai i30 Fastback N Performance NGTC
Joining the Infiniti Q50 and Toyota Corolla GR Sport in rFactor 2 is the new BTCC (British Touring Car Championship) Hyundai i30 Fastback N Performance NGTC car. The car made its first appearance in the real-world championship in 2020 when EXCELR8 Motorsport entered two examples for Senna Proctor and Chris Smiley.
The examples re-created in rFactor 2 (rF2) are from the 2021 season and include Tom Ingram’s Ginsters Excelr8 with TradePriceCars.com #80 car, his team-mate Chris Smiley’s #22 car, plus the Excelr8 with TradePriceCars.com #96 car of Jack Butel and his team-mate Rick Parfitt Jr’s #62 example.
Nick Halstead and Andy Wilmot also drove Hyundai i30s for the Excelr8 with TradePriceCars.com team in 2021, substituting for Parfitt and Butel for one round each respectively. Their liveries are not included.
Smiley could only muster a best race finish of fourth at Silverstone, while Parfitt and Butel scored only four points between them all season. Ingram on the other hand showed the true potential of the car by claiming three wins and a further six podiums on his way to fourth in the championship.
Taking to Studio 397’s (S397) recently released Donington Park, immediately there are similarities with the Toyota, namely the engine sound. This makes complete sense, however, as both cars use the TOCA/Swindon-tuned engine in the real-world championship. The exhaust note is a convincing portrayal of the real cars too, sounding punchy in the cockpit.
Externally, the sounds are a little low on volume in my opinion, but if you’ve ever heard an NGTC-spec BTCC car in person you’ll know that more volume doesn’t equate to a better sound…
Handling-wise the Hyundai feels more stable than the Toyota – possibly owing to its slightly longer wheelbase – but on the brakes, the rear end is more nervous. I ended up using a more forward-leaning bias to help keep it on the straight and narrow.
Speaking of brakes, rF2’s Q3 Content Drop update has added a new brake squeal sound to proceedings. It’s a little jarring at first but soon becomes an immersive addition to the sound package, much like how Assetto Corsa Competizione’s (ACC) brake sound hits the spot (while viewing the action in chase cam). All BTCC cars have now been updated to use the new braking audio sample.
In terms of set-up options, the Hyundai matches the Toyota in terms of tuneability – I’ve yet to find a difference between the set-up options available on either car. I was able to bolt on the Toyota set-up I used for rFactor 2’s Race of the Season 4 and immediately felt at ease with the Hyundai. It makes sense as both are front-wheel-drive and share suspension componentry.
The Hyundai maintains the high standards set by S397’s Toyota and Infiniti and touring car aficionados will be delighted to see another manufacturer take to the virtual grid
Having participated in a couple of extremely enjoyable Caterham-based sim racing leagues many years ago, the sports car holds a special place in my heart. Arriving as a free content upgrade, the Caterham Academy is looked upon as a replacement for the Alpine Cup car – the entry-level in rFactor 2’s online Competition System.
The Caterham Academy car is designed as an entry point for Caterham customers to get involved in real-world racing. As a result, the Academy cars are low-powered and relatively easy to drive compared with the Crawley business’s faster examples.
My first run with the ‘Cat around Brands Hatch’s Grand Prix layout didn’t go well. I experienced a strange camera glitch which I traced back to the ‘Exaggerate yaw’ setting defaulting itself to –80%. Setting it back to 0% did the trick and I was able to comfortably get back in the driving seat (I may have accidentally changed this figure myself somehow, but it’s worth noting if anyone else has a similar experience).
Immediately you will notice the horrendous brake squeal in the Academy car. It’s there all the time, even when the discs and pads are up to temperature. And it’s loud – far too loud. It’s overpowering and there’s no apparent way to turn its volume down. It sounds like a rusty nail being dragged down a blackboard.
Another issue I encountered was the front suspension seemingly bottoming out on the default set-up. While in cockpit cam I’d occasionally notice sparks flying out from under the car, which, after confirming via the replay, were occurring as I drove through slight compressions. Not game-breaking, but certainly immersion-breaking.
A third issue I spotted was the speedometer displaying the wrong speed value. Again, it’s barely noticeable while driving but it makes me feel like the Caterham received less attention than the other cars in the Q3 Content Drop.
The Caterham reacts instantly to driver inputs – especially before the tyres are up to temperature. Under cornering load the rear axle is always eager to swap ends with the front, so requires constant vigilance to keep it on the straight and narrow.
Momentum plays a huge role with the Caterham too; a brief lift is all that’s required to guide the car through Hawthorn Hill in fourth gear for example. It’s satisfying to get it right, but the car is still a huge challenge to drive. Managing oversteer through Surtees can either result in glorious oversteer or an embarrassing spin.
Undoubtedly the Caterham Academy can be a satisfying car to drive, and in a bunched pack it will provide amazing slip-streaming action, but I wonder if its learning curve is perhaps too steep to act as an entry-level racer?
Regardless, the Caterham Academy is potentially a great car for close racing – and it’s a free update for all rF2 users, plus part of the Season 5 Competition System.
Austin Mini Cooper S MkI Group 2
The Mini – originally designed by British Motor Company’s (BMC) Alexander Issigonis – became the most popular British road car ever made, selling in excess of five million units in its 41-year production cycle.
Racing and rallying variants were also produced, and this example, the Cooper S Mk1, was built to conform to the FIA’s Group 2 touring car regulations in the mid-’60s.
The car was renowned as a giant killer thanks to its Ford Falcon and Mustang-beating exploits in the British Saloon Car Championship. It relied on its nippy handling to battle the horsepower of the big V8 brutes and often came out on top.
In rF2, the car retains that direct handling. The bias-ply tyres encourage an aggressively sideways driving style, with typical front-wheel-drive lift-off oversteer a handy way to provoke the Mini’s nose into an apex. Once turned in, it bounces along in hilarious fashion.
The engine sounds internally and externally are solid (apart from a little flat spot early in the rev range) and the car is bags of fun once in the front-wheel-drive groove. It’s a little different to a 350bhp BTCC car, mind.
The car is also subject of Season 5 of rFactor 2’s Race of the Season, so now’s the time to head onto Brands Hatch’s Gran Prix circuit and set a fast lap.
Ford Focus ST BTCC
Coming as a surprise bonus in the Q3 Content Drop, the Ford Focus ST was originally developed for the BTCC by Motorbase Performance, with the team – alongside its Racing with Wera & Photon Group partners – providing backing to the quartet of Andy Neate, Sam Osborne, Paul Rivett and Jessica Hawkins throughout the 2021 season (Neate, Rivett and Hawkins shared one car alongside full season entrant Osborne).
Mark Blundell’s MB Motorsport Group also ran two STs for Ollie Jackson and Jake Hill, with Hill making the biggest impression of all the Ford drivers by taking nine podiums – including two wins – on his way to a fifth-place championship finish.
With the addition of five Fords, rF2 now has 14 official 2021 BTCC cars. S397 is now nearly halfway to a full grid, something we haven’t seen in videogames since TOCA 2: Touring Cars way back in 1998.
Unfortunately, this highlights a weakness in rF2: customised grids cannot be selected ahead of a race. You can manually add specific AI cars to an offline race mid-session, but the system requires you to remember all the BTCC drivers’ race numbers. Not ideal then.
In my opinion, the development team should take a leaf out of iRacing or Gran Turismo 7’s book and offer a custom roster option to ensure you can select all the official BTCC liveries ahead of a single-player session. Or a filter that does all the hard work for you.
The ST uses a Ford-derived Mountune engine – only the second engine we’ve seen in rF2’s BTCC content so far – but unfortunately, it sounds the same as the TOCA unit in both the Toyota and Hyundai. Disappointing.
As far as handling goes, there isn’t much to report. It feels very similar to the Hyundai and Toyota, which is not a bad thing at all. I achieved similar lap times around Donington Park GP too.
World Wide Technology Raceway
World Wide Technology Raceway (formerly known as Gateway International Raceway) is located near St Louis’ famous Gateway Arch, on the border between Missouri and Illinois. Although the track has experienced a troubled past it’s now seen as a great success story, holding 2022 rounds of both NASCAR and IndyCar on its 1.25-mile Oval configuration.
As well as the Oval, the rF2 version features a 1.6-mile road course layout, which complements rF2’s Dallara IR-18 IndyCar content given its high-speed, high-downforce nature. The Road Course also works well as touring car and GT track, evoking Daytona Road Course vibes.
The track also has a drag strip outside the confines of the circuit, although this isn’t an ‘official’ layout. A kart track also exists on-site and is modelled in-game, so could be a welcome addition to dovetail with rF2’s Kart Sim DLC if added to the sim.
The track has been in iRacing for over seven years and both iRacing and rF2 versions are modelled to a high standard. In my opinion, S397’s version just edges it thanks to a more convincing colour palette (albeit with rF2‘s trademark overly-saturated visuals).
Although the Road Course layout only has a few featureless corners, the infield should promote good racing thanks to a couple of late apex turns and medium-speed chicanes. The entry to Turn 1 can be slightly terrifying though, as cars exiting pitlane are uncomfortably close to the racing line. The apex is also a wall, so approaching at 170mph in an IndyCar focuses the mind somewhat…
World Wide Technology Raceway joins the likes of Portland, Laguna Seca and Indianapolis’ Road Course and Oval layouts as official IndyCar tracks represented in rF2. Fans of the series will undoubtedly be hoping for more in future updates.
RealRoad 2.0 and updated track limits system
A couple of notable new features in rF2’s August update are the new RealRoad system and a fresh approach to track limit warnings.
RF2’s approach to track limits was previously quite draconian. It wouldn’t matter if you lost time thanks to a track cut – say you’re nudged wide by a competitor for example – the sim would hit you with a warning. Depending on where the cut was, this could even mean an instant drive-through penalty.
Now, however, S397 has implemented a more lenient approach, similar to ACC’s. If you cut the course, the sim takes a little time while it evaluates whether you’ve gained too much time or not and issues a penalty (or not) accordingly. It’s not foolproof, but in my brief experiences so far rF2 is a much fairer arbiter of track limits, offering a sliding scale of points based on the severity of the cut.
The new RealRoad system promises dynamic track temperatures depending on which areas of the track are in shade and which are in direct sunlight. Although I’ve only had a chance to sample this briefly, I’ve seen track temperatures change despite constant ambient temperatures, indicating the system is working.
The Q3 Content Drop pack including the Mini, Hyundai, Ford and World Wide Technology Raceway is available on Steam for £13.61/$16.34. A separate BTCC car pack is available with the Hyundai and Ford for £7.60/$9.14, with the Mini costing £4.21/$5.09 and World Wide Technology Raceway available separately for £6.73/$8.15. The Caterham Academy is a free download.
What’s your favourite piece of content from rFactor 2’s Q3 Content Drop and update? Let us know in the comments below.
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