The Race-Off was announced just over a week ago, with details on the event format being posted a few days later. Having heard about some of the issues with Forza events in the United States I was worried that things would be too restrictive. Fortunately, after asking Gfinity for some info things seemed pretty positive. We could choose between a controller or wheel, could change some of the assists and adjust our controller layout and deadzone settings. We'd also have multiple attempts to better our laptimes.
Going into the event I knew that we'd be using stock Formula E cars around Long Beach East so I started hotlapping and setting some times. HCR Motorhead
helped out by setting a Rivals time so that I had a second ghost to race against and by the end of it my ultimate pace (54.8) was pretty close to his. Here is footage from one of my practice runs.
Through my 50 or so laps of practice I found a number of quirks with both the car and the track that I was expecting a many competitors to struggle with. As with most electric cars the Formula Es have notable off-throttle oversteer, most drivers would struggle with that through Turn 4 in particular. The way I dealt with it was to partially stay on the throttle when slowing down, releasing the throttle a bit more whenever I needed a more aggressive turn-in.
As for Long Beach, the kerbs would likely catch out a lot of players, along with the walled-in nature of a street circuit. Through Turn 1, you could go over the rumble strip on pit exit and gain a tighter entry. This was a 50/50 call however as hitting it at the wrong angle would dirty your lap. Through Turn 2 you could get a better exit by clipping the wall on the inside but if you make the wrong approach the bumps would throw you into the tyre barrier. The Turn 5 hairpin was also tricky, but by exploiting the car's off-throttle oversteer it was possible to tighten the turning radius and get a better exit.
Before heading into London on Saturday morning I did a few more laps and maxed out my Formula E affinity:Time-Trials:
I was on-site for the start of the Time Trials and one of the first to set a laptime. I decided to play it safe for the first run and set a 55.7 which was quickest for the first half hour or so. A second run brought that down to a 55.3 after which I bumped into Zak (ScholesySlash46
). We're both racers and painters and have raced against each other over the past few weeks, but funnily enough neither of us spoke about this event to each other and knew the other was attending. We traded tips and talked Forza for a bit before doing another run each, me with a 55.1 and him a 55.0, half a tenth quicker.
With about 30 minutes to go I felt confident enough of making the playoffs so I sat back and watched everybody else set their laptimes, taking note of how they took corners, where they'd be weak during races etc. Time Trials then ended and the live broadcast began, myself and Zak were the quickest drivers overall
I was going to be in the second Semi-Final, which gave me some time to think about how to approach the first lap while also watching how the players in the first race got on. The dynamic of the event had changed now, going from solitary time trials to a full field of cars battling on-track. Given that I race in Hoppers every night (and can navigate the inevitable Turn 1 craziness with relative ease) I felt I had an edge in this part of the competition.Zak's race started
with a heavy crash on Turn 1 taking out the majority of the field but fortunately for him he emerged in 2nd place before stealing the win at the end. The notable performance of the race was Jann Mardenborough's comeback drive after some rough opening laps. You could clearly tell that as a professional racing driver
he was calm under pressure and methodically worked his way into a podium position.Next up was my Semi-Final, which you can watch here
. I started on the front row, took the outside on Turn 1 and battled for the the lead before passing through Turn 3. From there it was a comfortable victory.Final:
Things would get interesting now as Bruno Senna
and Nico Prost
would join Jann, giving us a final grid of 3 professional race drivers and 5 Forza players. We'd switch to Rio (Full, Reverse) for this event but there was also one more significant change to come: players were forced to use Simulation Steering, which would be tricky around Rio.The final can be seen here
, Zak started on pole and I was in 3rd. Going into Turn 1 I was cautious and focused on avoiding any potential incidents. The field tightened up however and a few cars got past, but I made a few spots back right away through the Esses. Zak had a clean run up front and started to pull away while I was still scrapping in traffic.
Going through the Mountain section I lined up a pass for 2nd
, but contact form the other driver forced me into the wall. At that moment victory was out of the question so I focused instead on securing 2nd, which I took towards the end of Lap 1. With a clear track ahead I tried to make inroads on Zak's lead but the time difference wasn't big enough to make an impact. My only hope was that he'd spin a few times due to Simulation Steering on a bumpy circuit but it was also catching me out through the Mountain section. In the end we both made a similar number of errors and the gap stabilised; he took the win and I finished 2nd, with Jann Mardenborough having another comeback drive to take 3rd.
Congrats to Zak on the win, well earned. If I'm going to lose to anyone I'm glad it's the person I race against every week. After the race we had a casual chat with Senna and Mardenborough, who both enjoyed the event quite a bit. We all relayed our experience of driving these cars and Jann spoke a bit about what driving the GT-R LM NISMO at Le Mans.
Overall I quite enjoyed the event, it was well run and I hope to see more of this in the future. Many thanks to Formula E and Gfinity for putting it together, I aim to do one better next time