How to win your first Esports rally

In this week’s virtual rallying column Esports World Rally champion, Jon Armstrong, explains how to transform from an also-ran to a sim rally winner. Last week the Junior WRC driver outlined how to get to grips with virtual rally games like Dirt Rally 2.0.

Now, Armstrong will focus on how to master driving techniques, assists, and set-ups.

Should you use assists?

For beginners, assists can make the daunting task of driving a rally car that little bit less stressful.

Using ABS and traction control can be helpful. They both help to maintain traction under braking and acceleration. Stability control is also useful as it prevents the car from spinning.

Even though assists are beneficial to gain confidence in controlling a virtual rally car, taking them away will allow you to unleash the car’s full potential.

Overall driving with assists means that you will have less control over the car’s inputs.

“The assists smooth out any erratic driving habits you may have but once you gain confidence you should learn to drive the car unassisted.”

Automatic gear-changing is the first assist to remove. Having control over the gearing allows you to decide what gear to take around corners and you can prevent wheelspin by taking a higher gear than the automatic system.

Then reduce your reliance on stability, ABS, and traction control. Soon you’ll have the complete car in your hands.

Chase or cockpit cam?

Driving with the cockpit view gives the most authentic experience, especially in VR.

If you are used to driving a real car, this is definitely the view for you.

Chase or bonnet views may provide a better experience for other players as they clearly show where the car is being placed through corners.

Generally, camera views are a free choice in Esports, so find out which is the best for you.

How to find a rally-winning pace

It’s really important to focus on consistency and finding a smooth driving style.

Sure it is fun to be coming into a corner completely sideways, but is it the fastest way? Could you be a little more precise and carry your momentum through the corner?

This is how you become fast.

Braking points are very important but learning where to brake can catch you out if you have worn tyres or the weather and road conditions are different than you are used to.

This is what I like about Dirt Rally 2.0 – you never know what is around the next corner or how much grip you will get.

“Understand how the car is balanced and find the edge of grip where you start to lose control. Finding this point and holding it there is what will make you super fast.”

You have to learn your car and be ready to catch any unexpected moments from it.

On asphalt stages, you need to be super clean. As if you were circuit racing.

On gravel you need to set the car up ahead of the corner, pitch it in nice and early, and carry a powerslide through the corner with just enough rotation.

Uncovering the ultimate set-up

To maximise a car’s performance you need to find a good balance in the car that both suits your driving style and the rally location.

Some people prefer a car that tends to oversteer while others prefer more understeer.

This can be changed with differential and suspension settings like adjusting the anti-roll bars.

For example, if you have too much understeer then open the front diff and soften the front suspension by decreasing anti-roll bar and spring stiffnesses.

You want to focus on the differentials and suspension mainly as this directly affects the way the car is handling.

“Set-ups will be different between classes so have a play around and find what improves your times.”

Brake balance can affect the car under braking. Usually, you will want the brake bias towards the front but on gravel having more rear bias can be beneficial to get the car to rotate on corner entry.

Bump and rebound are very important depending on the profile of the road.

If it is smooth like Spain’s asphalt stages, you can afford to go stiffer which will result in less body roll through corners.

Bumpier locations like Greece or the jumps of Finland require a completely different damper set-up. You need the car to absorb the bumps but also prevent the car from bottoming out.

Finding the best set-up takes time. Don’t rush it and follow a thought-out process.”

When I am optimising a car’s set-up I pick a stage with a close to default set-up for that particular car.

Then I analyse what the car is doing and try altering some things to obtain a different behaviour from the car.

Basically I try to improve and dial out any areas I am struggling to get the car to perform in the way I want it to.

Try changing one or two things at a time. If you change more you will confuse yourself and won’t figure out what is or isn’t improving the set-up.

Thanks for reading this weekend’s Esports column on Rally Insight. Virtual rallying is a tricky skill to master but I know that taking a logical approach to developing your speed and confidence definitely helps.

Combine the lessons in this column with the basics explained last week and you will have mastered most of the key areas of virtual rallying.

So here is this week’s summary:

  1. Assists are useful for beginners but gradually remove them to unleash the car’s full potential
  2. Smooth out your driving style
  3. Find the edge of grip – and try to keep it there
  4. Take some time to unveil a balanced car set-up that gives you more confidence

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