It’s Friday evening, the second round of the NCS already started.
A lot of drivers got out from under their shells early this round to make the leaderboard a lot more competitive from the start. This results in a lot of fast times that have already been posted. Where some things went slightly wrong with ghosts and track limits last week. The competition is tighter than ever. And many more competitors are finding it difficult to believe that the times set by the top drivers are actually achievable this time.
This may partly be because of the track. Where 2 wheels on the grass were legal in Monza, it didn’t slow the car down as much as the Californian sand of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca can do. The track edges have a reputation for gulping up cars of drivers that are going about too leisurely with the sand on the outside.
This is not the only trick this course has to offer, it is world famous for its corkscrew turn. A point on the track where cars and drivers literally go from the highest point, which lies in the braking area, way down to the sandpit that is the exit. Brake a little too late for this corner and the bump throws you upward. Voiding much of the needed grip the tires need to slow you down in time. Brake too early, and you lose seconds. A balance needs to be found where the brakes are feathered as late as possible, making for a quick turn in. Helping to throw the car down the blind crest as quickly as possible.
Besides the corkscrew, this track consists of many more challenging corners. Turn 1 has a bend in the start of the braking area and a, difficult to master, double apex. Turn 2 and 3 just require a lot of patience. Turn 4 is the start of the most challenging part of this track. The bend is heavily banked and tight. Braking too late results in poor use of the banking and a trip in the sand. If you get this turn right you’re in for another nasty assignment, a blind 4th gear kink that is very easy to overshoot and miss, ending you up in yet another part of the desert. After this is the corkscrew, but don’t think it’s over after that. When accelerating out of the corkscrew you have to be very patient to get the front of the car to turn to the apex at the end of a long left hander. Missing this patience can land you in the expected place once again. After this the real difficult part is over, the track ends with a tight banked right hander that is fairly easy to approach and a hairpin to test your car control at low speeds. A point you need to get exactly right for a new lap.
Luckily the organisers of the NCS have been merciful in giving you the tools to conquer this raceway. They have provided us with the Corvette C7.R a car built by the racing division of General Motors that races in European and American GTE and Le Mans series. This is to reflect the IMSA touching down in the real Laguna Seca as well. It’s cross plane v8 makes an amazing noise, and I’m talking about both the real car and in-game replica here. The noise is not its main parade piece. The setup of the car is developed in direct cooperation with Tommy Milner. One of the drivers that raced this car to a class victory in Le Mans last year. Sadly, this form of feedback is relatively expensive and is still not seen really much because of this.
And the setup is a masterpiece, during my personal in-game testing and racing of the car on the Watkins Glen track I found the back end to be very easy to play with and very predictable. Combine this with the near perfect weight distribution and you get a car that’s very fast in the right hands. I repeat in the right hands, because of its balance the C7.R is very tempting to slide around and play with over the course of your lap. But this is not what you want in a fast lap, that’s why this car is the perfect machine to sort out the best drivers. The racers who just achieve perfect control during a lap without losing the incredibly playful back end.
The main picture and title of this post are an homage to the late Prince Rogers Nelson. May his soul rest in peace, and his music be played all over the world.
The Corvette is wearing a livery of white and red designed by our team member Emil Glockner on the request of Sean, one of our other team members.