Racing for the Imprecise
simulation makes you a "Roads Scholar"
I have the greatest
job in the world.
I get paid to play with the
latest toys for (so-called) grownups, which lets me be the Walter Mitty
of the 90's.
One of my dreams has been to
drive the CART World Series, and now, thanks to Microsoft's CART Precision
Racing Indy Car simulator, I've lived my dream. I've also gained an even
greater respect for the athletes who shepherd these state-of-the-art steeds
through the concrete canyons, road courses, and ovals that make up the
real Championship Auto Racing Team series.
CART Precision Racing (CD-ROM
for Windows 95/NT) was created with input from the real people involved.
And they've pulled out all the stops, combining terrific graphics (there's
even "head panning") and sound, with as realistic a feel as
you can probably expect without begging Bobby Rahal to let you take his
place in the cockpit.
Microsoft and co-developer
Terminal Reality Inc. have even used GPS (Global Positioning System) information
to ensure the tracks are accurate to within 10 centimetres of the real
ones, right down to Laguna Seca's fabulous roller coaster-like corkscrew
The game is very up to date;
tracks and drivers are from the 1997 CART series and therefore include
the Fontana and St. Louis tracks, along with rookie drives Patrick Carpentier
and Dario Franchitti.
I muscled poor (relatively
speaking) Alex Zanardi out of his championship Firestone-shod, Honda-powered
Reynard for a few hundred laps, while picturing the feisty Italian shaking
his virtual fist at me every time I put his precious vehicle into a wall.
Which happened depressingly
Fortunately, you can turn off
any damage to your car and "safely" get past the first corner.
You can turn on and off a whole bunch of other parameters, too, to make
the simulation either more or less realistic (depending on your PC's power
and your driving skill), and there's support for 3D graphics acceleration
and force feedback, though the computer on which I was using the game
didn't include those treats.
You can also use the extensive
"virtual garage" to tweak your car in innumerable ways and there
are audio clips that tell you the differences between tire compounds,
gear ratios, and Gurney Flap sizes.
I was impressed by the "Driving
School," an online manual (with Bobby Rahal providing video clip
support) with tips about how to find the racing line, when to start your
Reading about it, however,
is much easier than actually putting that knowledge into practice. Still,
after picking Bobby's brains I steadily increased my Surfer's Paradise
street course speeds while decreasing the amount of carbon fibre I cast
through chicanes and corners.
I never got good, but I went
from last place to 8th.
Of course, that was all on
My game controller was ThrustMasters
NASCAR Pro racing wheel, which added
immeasurably to the enjoyment. The combination is simultaneously thrilling
and exhausting - and will make you marvel at how the real guys manage
to get around the circuits intact as often as they do.
It also made me realize that
the only CART I'm qualified to push to its limits is a shopping CART.
So much for Walter
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