VROC: Virtual Racers' Online Connection

Driving Tips

How fast should I be offline before I start racing online?
Getting off the grid (by Derek Bell)
Visibility Ahead
If you spin, both feet in
Getting passed

Note: See also the excellent page, GPLAC Recommended Driver Behaviour.

How fast should I be offline before I start racing online?

The most important thing is not how fast you are, but how well you can control your car, and how well you deal with traffic. If you are smooth and reasonably consistent, and don't make a habit of taking other people out, other drivers will be glad to have you join them, no matter how fast or slow you are.

John Wallace says, "I think the time you can run is not really relevant. If you can run within 10-15% of the record time for that circuit then it's definitely a bonus, but the key things are that you can drive reasonably consistently (not falling off the track every other lap) and that you pay attention to and respect the other people on the track. If you do that 99% of drivers won't worry about how fast or slow you are."

Alison Hine says, "I figure it's worth it to get into some online races as soon as you can keep the car on the track and going reasonably fast. If you can run fairly consistently and you keep it on the track pretty well, give it a go online. Keep a sharp eye on your mirrors, and let the fast guys through when you see them coming."

Joel Willstein says, "You don't have to be one of the fast pack to win at most tracks. You just have to be consistent and stay out of trouble. I can't tell you how many races I've won or placed in the top 3 when I qualified near the rear of the grid just by staying out of trouble. As an example I've seen big pile ups at the front of the grid,and found a way around it. Look for opportunities."

Michael Carver says, "The key word for racing online is 'consistency'. However, the only thing that you should not be consistent at is overdriving your skill level. If you can consistently run laps and keep your car under control, you will already be better than many of the faster drivers running online.

"If you can run your own race, racing online will only help you drive faster. There is no better place to hone your racing skills than on the track with other sim-racers. The only folks that aren't appreciated online are those that are always wrecking themselves and causing others to be caught in their mistakes. Or those that consistently overdrive their cars and run into others because they can't keep their car under control when they are attempting to pass.

"Remember that the race is not won when the green flag drops, but when the checkered flag is waved. You should also know that, except for a gifted few, we have all been in the same position as you are now.

"So get online, watch your mirrors and the heed the flag marshals, enjoy and learn."

We strongly suggest you practice with the Advanced and/or Basic Trainers and then try to get into some "F2" and "F3" races on VROC (see Racing the Trainers). These are excellent venues for developing your tactical skills, refining your line and your braking points, and improving your car control.

The "F2" and "F3" races also can provide extremely enjoyable racing experiences. The frustration factor is lower, and the fun factor is high.

And read the rest of this page!

Getting off the grid

Derek describes racing in the Tasman series in '68\'69 with people who were "a lot of laughs...."

"...But there were also some serious moments, one of which has stuck vividly in my mind. I've referred back to it on many occasions since.

"It concerned an incident on the grid at Teretonga (NZ)...I was on the second row of the grid behind Chris (Amon) and Jochen (Rindt), while Graham (Hill) was right behind me on row three. I was still really a raving young Formula 2 driver and, when the flag dropped, I just let the clutch in with a bang. Jochen appeared to move at the same moment, but the Lotus only lurched forward a few feet. It had broken a drive shaft!

"Of course, I just slammed into the back of him. Boom! he shot forward again, so I dipped the clutch thinking that he was really starting this time. Boom! I hit him again, vaulted over one of his rear wheels and was away.....Despite the fact that the impact had deranged the suspension, I still managed to finish fifth.

"After the race, Jochen didn't say a word. It was Graham who raised the subject. We were sitting at a party that same evening and he said casually, 'What the hell were you up to today?'. So I tried to make a joke of it and replied,

"Oh I was trying to get rid of your team-mate,' knowing full well that there was some aggro between him and Jochen.

"Graham just fixed me with a stare. 'It's not funny,' he said firmly, 'it's just stupid. If I'd let my clutch out as well there would have been the most monumental accident. You don't just go when the flag comes down, you go when the bloke in front of you goes.'

"After a moment's reflection, it all seemed very obvious. I always remembered that comment and have reminded various young drivers, including my son.....You can't win the race on the starting grid, but you certainly can lose it with manoeuvres like that!"

- Derek Bell, "My Racing Life" (pgs. 30-31)

Thanks to Christopher Snow for this contribution.

Visibility Ahead

Michael Carver points out another consideration unique to online racing, one which significantly impacts the start and the first few laps when you are racing online:

"Keep in mind that if you don't qualify on the first few rows, you won't see all of the cars ahead of you on the start. You will only see 5 cars ahead. So take heed of the cars you can see and let them be your 'canary in the coal mine'. If they let up or suddenly take a different line, odds are they are seeing a car that you can't see due to the bandwidth limitations of online racing. Don't be stupid and attempt to take advantage of their slowing or moving off line on the first few laps. Odds are they are making a move to avoid an incident involving cars that are not registering to you as a client.

"You may also want to read the advice on starts and other matters at GMSS's Dodger Denske's School of Online Racing."

If you spin, both feet in

One of the first rules that most racing schools teach is "if you spin, both feet in", or a variant on the theme. What this means is that if you lose it, dump the clutch (so you won't stall the engine) and lock the brakes.

In GPL, we don't need to dump the clutch because the engine never stalls. But locking the brakes is critical. Failing to do so is one of the most common mistakes made in online races.

The reason for locking the brakes is this: when a car is spinning and its wheels are turning, it will follow a random path as the wheels alternately grip and slide. This makes it extremely difficult for an approaching car to predict which way it will go, and to take appropriate avoiding action. The result is a much increased risk of a crash.

On the other hand, if you lock the brakes once you realize you've lost it, your car will follow a predictable path: it will go straight on from that point, sliding away from the center of the corner on a tangent to the arc it was following when you started to lose it.

This gives the other drivers a much better chance to avoid a collision. If you're sliding toward the edge of the track, they can slip underneath. You can - hopefully - recover from the spin and continue unharmed. Even if you crash, at least you've given the drivers behind you a chance to avoid being taken out by your mistake.

One other advantage to locking the brakes is that when the brakes are locked while the car is spinning, if the rate of rotation is not too high, the cars in GPL will tend to rotate so the car is pointing in the direction of travel. This can be a very useful timesaver in recovering, particularly from a slow or partial spin.

Getting passed

Learning how to be passed is one of the most important things to learn about any kind of racing, and one of the first things you'll need to learn how to do online. If you learn how to do this well, you'll save yourself time and aggravation - and you'll earn the respect and appreciation of the fastest drivers.

This is particularly important if you're being lapped, because there is a greater speed differential between you and the leaders than there is between you and the people who are running about your speed.

Technically it's the overtaking driver's responsibility to find a way by. Racing schools tell you to hold your line and let the other driver choose where and when to pass.

However, in practice you'll find that it's a significant advantage to learn how to let a clearly faster driver go by while losing minimal time yourself. If you're about to be put a lap down, there's no point in racing with the leaders; you have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

If you - unintentionally or otherwise - hold up someone who is fast enough to lap you, at best you'll frustrate the other driver. More likely, he or she will barge past you at the first hint of an opportunity, leaving you scrabbling for grip way off line as you are forced to modify your plan for the corner at the last second, since the other driver has taken the piece of track you were expecting to use. This can cost you literally seconds. Worst case, you'll both wind up off the track, upside down and in flames...and those may not be the only flames you experience!

On the other hand, if you learn how to neatly let the leaders through while losing minimal time yourself, not only will you help them out (and nurture friendships which may prove to be very rewarding) but you can turn the humbling experience of being lapped into a tactical advantage by losing less time than the less savvy racers you're battling with.

Here are some tips on being overtaken:

When a significantly faster car comes up behind you, don't let off suddenly and try to dart out of the way. Instead, hold your normal line. If the faster car can go by easily, it will.

If not, as soon as you come to a reasonably long straight, accelerate hard out of the corner, and then ease over to one side. If possible, take a clue from the overtaking car in your mirrors; if it moves left, ease to your right, and vice versa. Then, once you're sure the overtaking car is off to one side, ease out of the throttle a little - not a lot, just enough to let the other car get past you easily.

Once it's moved ahead of you, go back to full throttle, and if the other car gets well ahead before the next corner, ease back onto your line. If it's still close, however, stay off line a little so you don't ram it if you brake a little too late.

The key here is to avoid sudden moves - no darting, no sudden lifts or jamming on the brakes. As you get good at this, you'll find you can let another car by and slot right back in behind it, losing an almost negligible amount of time. You may even be able to draft on it a little, gaining further advantage over the cars you're racing with. Just be sure not to brake too late and hammer it in the gearbox at the next corner!

We strongly recommend you take advantage of the "F2" and "F3" races on VROC to develop your tactical skills. These use the Advanced and/or Basic Trainer; see Racing the Trainers.


As in real life racing, cleanly overtaking another car of similar speed is one of the most difficult things there is in GPL. The most important rules of passing are:

  1. Don't hit the car you're passing
  2. Be patient
  3. Practice alternate lines
  4. Be patient
  5. Don't hit the car you're passing

A very important tactic which helps enormously with Rules number 1 and 5 is this: Do not enter a braking area immediately on the tail of another car! The only possible exception to this is if you know the other driver very well and absolutely know that you can trust him or her to brake at exactly the same spot every time - and you can do the same yourself.

Since this almost never happens, if you are close to another car, make it a rule to ease off to one side as you near the end of the straightaway. By the time you enter a braking area, have at least a car width lateral separation. This way, if the other driver brakes a little earlier than you expect or if you make that rare mistake and brake a little late, you won't ram it instantly up the backside. You'll have a chance to save the situation, and if the other driver brakes more than a little early, you'll have a pass ready-made for you without even trying.

Plus, if you keep doing this, the other driver will think you are setting him or her up for a pass, and she may get nervous and wind up making a mistake that does the passing job for you.

Clearly, in order to know where you must brake when you are off your normal line, you will need to know where your braking point is. You will need to have practiced this beforehand. Racing with the AI can be a very useful way to do this. Turn down the AI strength so you'll have lots of slower cars to pass, and go at it. Or, if you have the discipline, drive around the track entirely on one side, and work up to the fastest you can go. Make a mental note of your braking points. Then do the same on the other side. Try other lines as well; try to find ways to enter and exit corners using unconventional lines that don't lose you much time.

And when you're actually racing with other humans, be patient! Humans have a weakness that is lacking in the AI drivers. Humans get nervous. If you sit patiently on someone's tail for lap after lap, looming in their mirrors, it's a very rare driver who will not eventually let the pressure get to him or her. Sooner or later, a mistake is almost certain to happen. If you're lucky, it will be a big one and the other driver will just slide off or spin harmlessly out of the way - but be ready to take avoiding action if necessary.

Even if the other driver doesn't go off, a small mistake may be enough for you to capitalize on. The mistake may cost the other car a few miles per hour on the exit of a corner, giving you a chance to set up for a pass entering the next corner. Or the other car may slide wide going into a slow corner, giving you an opportunity to dive inside - if you've practiced your off-line braking points.