After rFactor 2’s 2022 Q4 Content Drop we assumed Studio 397 would have nothing else in store for us until 2023. However, last week the studio announced two new cars coming to the sim on the 21st of December – the Vauxhall Astra BTCC and Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (992).
Also set to arrive with the Q4 2022 Bonus Pack are the BTCC’s full suite of 2022 liveries for all the currently available BTCC vehicles in-game, including; the BMW 330i, Hyundai i30 N Performance, Infiniti Q50, Toyota Corolla and Ford Focus ST.
We got our hands on the new cars ahead of their release; find out our thoughts below.
Vauxhall Astra BTCC
The venerable Vauxhall Astra becomes the seventh modern-day BTCC car to join rFactor 2 and is far and away the oldest of the NGTC cars added over the past year.
Joining the series in 2017, the car has been campaigned by the likes of Jason Plato, Dan Lloyd, Senna Proctor and Rob Collard in past seasons, but in 2022 was piloted by Michael Crees and Ash Hand.
The car uses the officially-sanctioned TOCA engine – like the Toyota and Hyundai – but the Vauxhall has a smoother internal sound. It’s a little confusing, especially as the Mountune-engined Ford sounds the same as the Japanese and Korean cars.
In terms of set-up options, Studio 397 has tweaked a few things on the BTCC cars. There are now separate oil and water radiator tape settings to be made, and these make a noticeable difference in terms of the car’s top speed. Naturally, you need to balance this against engine temperatures – no point in being fast if your car goes bang.
Differential settings have also been updated, with percentage displays for coast and power being replaced by technical, numerical values. Another key thing to note is that tyre wear is now more forgiving than before – no more pesky tyre saving!
The Astra handles similarly to the other front-wheel-drive touring cars as you’d expect, if perhaps a little sharper on turn-in owing to its shorter wheelbase.
It must be said that all of rFactor 2’s BTCC cars have a solid handling model (as thousands of LFM users can attest), so I would be massively surprised if this were ever to change dramatically in future.
The Astra comes with a total of seven new liveries, four of which are the Power Maxed Racing paint schemes from 2021 and 2022, and three fictional liveries. Helpfully, all of the official 2022 BTCC liveries in-game can now be selected collectively, completely omitting fictional cars from the grid.
In another quality-of-life improvement, Studio 397 has adjusted the BTCC class’s Balance of Performance (BoP), tempering the rear-wheel-drive Infiniti and BMW’s advantages thanks to respective 4kg and 5kg ballast additions.
Overall, the Astra is a worthy addition to rFactor 2’s roster of BTCC cars, helping build anticipation for the potential release of the Honda and Cupra – thereby completing the 2022 grid – next year.
Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (992)
Porsche’s latest GT3 Cup is its most powerful yet. With over 500bhp and no driver aids, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (992) is a monster to control.
This is odd, as the car is regularly used worldwide by both professional and amateur drivers. No matter, rFactor 2’s virtual version is immediately enticing thanks to its glorious onboard flat-six soundtrack – it’s the best-sounding Porsche Cup car in sim racing in my opinion.
However, externally it sounds a little more subdued when it should be piercing. In all fairness, the Porsche Carrera Cup GB field is normally one of the quieter support series on the BTCC’s TOCA package but I’d love to hear more presence from Weissach’s finest.
Speaking of the Carrera Cup, the 992 currently has eight liveries (with more promised on release day) made up of paint schemes from some of Porsche’s single-make series; including the Formula 1-supporting Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup Carrera Cup Deutschland and a single livery from Carrera Cup GB.
992 liveries include those of two-time Supercup and Carrera Cup Deutschland champion Larry ten Voorde and sim racer-turned-real racer Rudy van Buren.
Taking to the track, the car is an absolute livewire. Brake lock-ups and oversteer will litter your first moments with the car, as its excessive power and lack of ABS or traction control focus the mind. The car bounces over kerbs a lot too, the suspension seeming quite soft for such a racy-looking car.
As a follower of real-world Porsche Cup championships, it looks and behaves like I’d imagine it to and can pleasingly be provoked into power oversteer. However, it does take a lot of effort to drive correctly, although I found that reducing the differential’s preload setting made it more pliant.
Because of its limited set-up options, there isn’t much that can be done in the garage to tame this beast, which encourages players to improve their driving technique. But the Porsche is tricky to adapt to given its unorthodox rear-engined layout, requiring the front axle to be loaded up before turn-in. As ever, practice makes perfect.
The car tends towards understeer at high-speed, which although safe for amateur racers is frustrating for the quicker driver eager to push on. My gut feeling is that this car may be too tricky for entry-level sim racing.
Studio 397 has promised physics updates to the 992 on release day, which may or may not address some of its challenging handling characteristics.
The Vauxhall Astra BTCC and Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (992) will be released for rFactor 2 on Wednesday 21st December at 4pm UTC, priced at €4.99/£4.35/$5.30 each.
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