Columns Esports

How to become an Esports World Rally Champion

Want to know how to master the world of sim rallying? Esports World Rally Champion and Junior WRC competitor Jon Armstrong will explain all there is to know about virtual rallying.

Through his four guest columns on Rally Insight Armstrong will cover what is required to go from the very basics to conquering the world’s best Esports drivers.


So, what do you need to get started?

You don’t need the most expensive equipment to be fast in sim rallying. Starting off with a PlayStation or Xbox and a basic controller can be enough.

In fact, some players using hand controllers are really close to the best people using steering wheel set-ups.

The important bit is getting started and experiencing what the games are like.

If you want to improve your consistency whilst maintaining a high pace, you can move onto a low-end steering wheel with brake and accelerator pedals.

There are many options out there and some are very affordable like the Thrustmaster TMX/T150 Pro Force Feedback wheels.

A PlayStation or an Xbox can be a much more cost-effective way to get your sim racing career started than a high-performance PC.

There are no performance differences between them in terms of driving physics, so you can be just as fast using a console instead of a high-end gaming PC.

Getting to grips with the game

Start off with a slower, front-wheel-drive category like the R2s or early historic cars in Dirt Rally 2.0.

Practice on each surface using these cars but it is a good idea to begin on asphalt to learn the basics of racing lines.

Driving these cars and finding the optimal racing line will help you to carry good speed through the stages. This is a really important driving trait to bring forward into four-wheel-drive.

R2s are rapid but you don’t have to worry about the car swapping ends like a rear-wheel-drive car. The R2s have impeccable grip across the rear wheels so instead of worrying about controlling the rear you can focus on the front wheels.

Learn to control your throttle inputs to try to minimise wheel spin and instead find good traction out of slower corners.

“Start off with more forgiving front-wheel-drive cars until you have learned the basics of car control.”

Try the different driving styles and techniques of your favourite rally drivers. They will work in the virtual world too.

You will quickly find out what type of driving style you can be fastest with – ideally not too sideways as this scrubs off speed.

Take your time to get to grips with how the game and how the car feels to drive. Understand what style of driving is best suited to you and gradually build up your confidence.

Utilise the time trial mode on a single location, repeatedly practicing the same stage with the same car. Steadily improve your times and focus on constant development on the global leaderboards from Top 1000 to Top 500 to Top 100.

This is how you learn fast and how you can be quicker, by beating your previous attempts and setting those PBs!

Don’t overlook steering wheel settings

Try to set up your steering wheel so you get a good feeling and can push all the way through a stage.

It’s crucial to focus on the degrees of rotation and force feedback settings. Find what feels good for you and suits your driving style.

“No game uses the same force feedback or physics system so always fine tune the steering wheel settings.”

There are things that may be slowing you down without realising it.

Too many degrees of rotation will require a lot of steering input. You’ll notice you’re always feeding the wheel back and forth between your hands.

This can be a nice way to drive some of the historic cars but in modern cars start with 400 degrees and then optimise it to fit your needs.

Some people also tend to have force feedback set too strong which can cause all sorts of issues whilst driving.

You still want freedom to move the wheel from side-to-side in a flowing manner.

Self-aligning torque and wheel friction should not be set too strong as that can make it really difficult to do what you want with the car; it can feel like the car is driving you.

Utilise the pacenotes

In rallying we have what is called a co-driver which I am sure you have all heard of but understanding what the heck they are saying can be a completely different matter.

Co-drivers read a set of pacenotes to the driver as they make their way through the stage. These pacenotes are made during a recce and are the driver’s perception of the road, telling them how fast they can drive through each corner.

The pacenotes include corner angles, the particular system used in Dirt Rally 2.0 is the “six-fastest system.”

When the co-driver calls “six” that represents the least severe corner. Then there are 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 corners before the most severe square and hairpin junctions.

We also have other calls such as the distance between corners and obstacles like jumps, bumps, crests, watersplash and rocks on the inside or outside of a corner.

Listening carefully to these calls will get you through a stage safely and as you understand the definition of each pacenote it will be vital in helping to consistently set fast stage times.

Thanks for reading my first Esports column on Rally Insight. Who knows maybe this is the first step in your journey to become one of the fastest rally drivers in the virtual world.

Just remember these four basics to get started:

  1. Invest in a simple steering wheel and pedal set-up
  2. Master front-wheel-drive before going full Group B
  3. Don’t forget to optimise the steering wheel settings
  4. Learn to drive the stage following the co-driver’s pacenotes

Photo by Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

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