We offer our opinion on rFactor 2’s new Q4 Content Drop which added four new tracks and two new cars to Studio 397’s racing simulator.
rFactor 2’s November Content Drop has landed, introducing the second-ever officially licenced Le Mans Hypercar in sim racing – the Vanwall Vandervell. The paid downloadable content update also sees a continuation of rFactor 2’s (rF2) recent British Touring Car Championship focus with the BMW 330i M Sport becoming available.
In addition to this, four laser-scanned tracks are now available, including the BTCC’s Thruxton and Croft, with the venue for the opening Le Mans Virtual Series round – Bahrain – also released.
As a final surprise, Formula E’s ExCeL London Circuit is part of the mix, delivering more electric racing goodness to the sim.
We’ve had a chance to sit down and try out all the new content, find out our thoughts below or check out our very own John Munro’s opinions on Thruxton and Croft as he tackles them using the Vanwall and BMW respectively.
Vanwall Vandervell LMH and Thruxton
The Le Mans Hypercar category gains another representative in sim racing as the Vanwall Vandervell LMH joins Gran Turismo 7’s Toyota GR010 Hybrid.
The Vanwall Vandervell, named after Vanwall founder Tony Vandervell and built by German racing team ByKolles, is scheduled to take part in the World Endurance Championship in 2023, competing against the likes of BMW, Ferrari, Peugeot and Acura.
Expectedly, the Vanwall is fast. Very fast.
Taking to Thruxton for my first laps in the car, I exit the pits and am immediately propelled to the Campbell, Cobb and Segrave complex at frightening speeds. Now it’s time for the good stuff. I pin the throttle and don’t lift off until the approach of Goodwood. The speed builds now as we head towards the fastest corner in British motorsport – Church.
The bumps at Thruxton are brutal, especially in a stiffly sprung Le Mans Hypercar, and this, combined with the furious pace created by its Gibson 4.5 litre V8, means the Vanwall is quite a handful.
The speedometer reads 170mph through Church, with a bump on the apex sending the car into a terrifying bout of oversteer. The Vandervell’s downforce saves the day, however, and the car is easily gathered up in time for heavy braking at the Club chicane.
While the Vanwall struggles over the large sausage kerbs it puts its power down effectively thanks to its hybrid-assisted four-wheel-drive system, so the launch towards Turn 1 at Allard is an all-too-brief experience.
I expected the Vanwall to be a lithe, agile prototype, but it’s a brute of a car – emphasised by the bumps of Thruxton. However, the new BTCC BMW is a much better fit for the track, handling the bumps more sympathetically.
Studio 397’s Thruxton is naturally more accurate than previous mod versions, so Church is no longer just a flat-out blast. With the default set-up bolted on, players will require a brief lift or a brake dab to balance the car on the corner entry.
Using low-powered cars like the historic Mini and Caterham Academy, Thruxton will be an awesome battle of slipstreaming that will work extremely well in online racing. What a track! My one complaint is about the track model is that the grassy run-off is perhaps too slippy. One wheel off the asphalt equates to an instant loss of traction and either a spin or trip to the scenery.
Ok, grass can be slippy, but not friction-free like ice.
Your computer-controlled rivals around here are… erratic. Simply, if you pump up the aggression level even slightly, they can roll by clipping the Club chicane’s kerbs. Immersion-robbing.
As a neat little Easter egg, however, – and nod to Thruxton’s origins as an Airfield circuit – you can drive on the runway in the centre of the track. Fortunately, there’s no air traffic to contend with…
BMW 330i M Sport and Bahrain
The BMW 330i M Sport was first used in 2019’s BTCC. Built by crack touring car outfit West Surrey Racing, the car has a front-engined, rear-wheel-drive layout, with the motor coming from BMW with tuning by Neil Brown Engineering Ltd.
This is important, as the BMW uses a different engine to the other four BTCC cars released for rF2 (the Toyota, Hyundai and Infiniti use the TOCA/Swindon unit, while the Ford uses a Mountune engine). Although the Ford sounds identical to the other cars, I’m happy to report the BMW’s exhaust note is noticeably distinct (albeit external sounds are much like the Infiniti’s).
And I would say the BMW has the most pleasing engine note of all the BTCC cars in rF2 currently.
The BMW tends towards oversteer just like the Infiniti, so it’s immediately more engaging to drive than the BTCC’s front-wheel-drive counterparts. If you try to take liberties with your steering angle and accelerator, the car will easily break traction into a satisfyingly controllable slide.
Instead of Bahrain’s Grand Prix layout, I decided to try the much shorter Outer Circuit, seemingly a more appropriate choice for the sprint nature of BTCC racing. And it turns out to be a perfect combination; the BMW especially enjoying the direction changes through the mid-part of the lap.
It was tremendous fun; I’d even go as far as to say Alan Gow should take the TOCA bus to the Far East and make a BTCC race happen…
The Vanwall is much more comfortable in Bahrain’s expansive surroundings. The vast run-off areas are a stark contrast to Thruxton’s slippy grass. Bahrain is replicated perfectly – from the BIC Tower to the LED-shod Ferris wheel – with its tricky late-apex turns making it a perfect venue for cars like the V10-powered Formula Pro car.
Bahrain also looks great at night, with the floodlights making for some atmospheric screenshots. Add some unseasonal rain and it looks great, the light bouncing off puddles convincingly. I did notice some slowdown with the graphics turned up to 11, however, but players using higher-end equipment will likely be just fine.
Located in North Yorkshire, Croft has been used on and off in the BTCC since 1968, lasting just three years before it was redeveloped (when it was known as the British Saloon Car Championship). The circuit returned in 1997 and has been a fixture ever since.
Settling back into the BMW, I did some sighter laps before really pushing. It became apparent that rF2’s new build has removed the BTCC cars’ downshift protection, so you have to watch those revs while you downshift.
During my testing, I actively downshifted too quickly and was treated to a cacophony of horrendous mechanical grinding noises. The sound remained when I escaped back to the pits and was still there even when I exited to the main menu and returned.*
Also, at high revs, the BMW’s internal sounds become a little distorted. It’s not as game-breaking as the previous issue but still takes the sheen off what is a very polished piece of content.
In terms of driving dynamics, the BMW is BTCC perfection at Croft. The Beemer was amazingly fun to drift around the likes of Sunny In and Sunny Out (using four-time champion Colin Turkington’s – the King of Croft – livery), with the high-speed chicane in sector one providing a sumptuous oversteering thrill when taken flat-out. Magic.
And according to our very own John Munro – who has raced at Croft many times in his motorsport career – this laser-scanned version of the track is spot-on. Even though rF2 already has a high-quality mod version of the circuit, Studio 397’s attempt is a significant improvement, showing the subtle camber of the Sunny complex and the obscene tightness of the final hairpin in all their glory.
London E-Prix ExCeL Circuit
A surprising addition to the Q4 Content Drop, London’s new Formula E track is possibly the most diverse and interesting circuit on the calendar.
Featuring elevation changes, tight chicanes and a section inside the vast ExCel convention centre, the London E-Prix track is not short on character. However, it’s difficult to get past its tight and twisty configuration – it’s a struggle to get into a rhythm (it would likely work much better with KartSim content in my opinion).
The Formula E Gen2 car should be a natural fit for the London ExCel Circuit then, but it’s a tricky combination to master. For me, this is the least enjoyable piece of content in rFactor 2’s Q4 Content Drop.
The track has been modelled beautifully, however, with the River Thames in full view as you make your way through the Royal Docks area. If you’re a fan of Formula E you’ll likely love the London E-Prix track in rF2.
But owing to the track’s tight and twisty configuration don’t expect public lobby races to last very long…
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*further testing reveals the sound occurs without driving at all. It’s definitely a bug!