Day 1 - Time Played: 1 Hour
The first half hour was spent putting in some initial settings (both on the wheel and in the game), mainly to get the brake and throttle sensitivities at a place that sounded right. I don't want to get too bogged down in these yet as I feel I need to know how to drive consistently first before I optimise things further.
My steering sensitivity is set to 360. Any higher and I'm locking my arms when I turn the wheel, and since it's a Formula rim I can only grab the wheel at a specific spot. I knew this before I bought the rim and thought long and hard about which rim to buy; this is still my preferred choice. From what I've seen online some notably quick drivers use 360 degrees of rotation and some also use Formula rims, so no excuses here.
I needed a "control" on which I can measure my progress after each session, so I found a Time Trial Stage I hadn't done before in an R5 car:
Rockton Plains / Dry
Ford Fiesta R5
Stock Tuning Setup
When I'm done with each session I plan on running this Stage once with no restarts.
Today's goal was to just get to the end of this "Benchmark Stage". It didn't matter if I got there on 4 wheels or none, just get there and have an initial feeling for the wheel.
My first attempt didn't go well at all; I t-boned the bridge right after the first turn, spent a minute on the wrong side of a fence and got 2 punctures. I soldiered on but a few turns later another tyre blew on the straight and I had Terminal Damage.
One thing I noticed right away were that whenever I hit the brake pedal I was slowing down far too much, so I upped the Brake Force setting to 50. I was also not getting as much resistance as I expected when turning, so I changed the Drift Mode setting to -3 (it was -1). I also upped the FFB setting to 100 (it was at 50) but that felt too tough on my arms so I dropped it to 75.
Finally, I was ready for a second attempt. It went better than the first but not by much, got a rear puncture early on. Regardless, I continued and dealt with horrendous oversteer thanks to the puncture which often resulted in spins. I got to the end eventually; the Leaderboard position's near the bottom of the global standings but I have to start somewhere.
In the next session I plan to start Rally Career at Open (the lowest) difficulty, in an H1 FWD car. Start slow, build up confidence.
Time Gained - 0.00
Places Gained - 0
Day 2 - Time Played: 1.5 Hours
Time Gained - 1.39
Places Gained - 5,016
I started off by entering My Team Career as previously mentioned, driving the Lancia Fulvia at Open (the lowest) Difficulty. Hardcore Damage is on, all assists are off, bonnet view.
My first Stage at New England had some offs but thanks to the slow AI I was still comfortably ahead. On the second I got Terminal Damage, which eliminated any chances of a good result. 2 more error-prone but high-ranking places wouldn't make up the difference so I finished 30th.
Next up was Finland. I got off to an okay start through the first sector of the opening Stage, but a misjudged jump and a meeting with a telephone pole gave me another Terminal, skipping Stage 2 and returning to Service. I repaired the car and set off once more, and the next run had quite a few crashes too. I Terminaled the final Stage not through a crash but suspension failure.
2 events and a lot of pain, but I was able to take some findings from it. The first was that I felt I wasn't turning enough with where I was placing my arms, so I dropped the rotation to 300 degrees (from 360). Most of my troubles came from going wide and hitting trees despite me putting in what I felt was a lot of steering angle.
I also felt that I was coming into corners way too fast. That could have been due to a multitude of things, like braking too late, not putting enough pressure on the brake pedal, or putting too much on the pedal and locking the fronts (which results in understeer in a FWD car). Although my wheel vibrates lightly when I reach higher brake pressures I would like some stronger feeling when the wheels lock up, so that I have a sign to back off the brake pedal. That's one thing the Xbox One controller does well on console, those Impulse Triggers start shaking when you're at the limit.
After soundly getting my Lancia beaten up it was time for the Benchmark run. Although I did have a point where I went off and did a 3 point turn, ultimately this was a much stronger showing than yesterday, as I got through the entire Stage without a puncture or a major off.
I gained over a minute on my PB and climbed into the Top 30% on the Leaderboard. Day 1 wasn't really a true test of pace thanks to the puncture but Day 2 seems like a proper benchmark now.
Day 3 - Time Played: 1.5 Hours
Time Gained - 11 seconds
Places Gained - 1,085
This evening went reasonably well. I started off with the Fulvia, this time at Greece. Despite the occasional dip off the side of the narrow road and the car's tendancy to flip once you go on two wheels, I was still near the top of the standings and felt in control most of the time. The thing I struggled with most was getting a slow FWD around tight corners, though that's less to do with wheel performance and just my general lack of experience with FWD rally cars.
Following the Career Rally I did my first Rallycross Event, also Open difficulty. This was in the Super 1600s at Lydden Hill. Given how slow the AI is here it didn't put up much of a challenge, and I immediately felt comfortable on a relatively wide circuit. I breezed through the Qualifiers, Semis and Finals, with the only notable difficulty again being hairpins in FWD cars. Haven't figured out the technique for that one yet.
Next up it was time for the Benchmark run and it went really smoothly with no crashes. There were a few moments where the car started to get too agile, but I managed to hold it and beat my previous PB by 11 seconds. One thing I noticed was that when I was on the tarmac sections I couldn't put in as much steering lock as it would immediately kick the car into oversteer. It'll get harder to beat the Benchmark now that I've put in a crash-free run though.
Day 4 - Time Played: 1 Hour
Time Gained - 3 seconds
Places Gained - 112
I made one minor change today before setting off, upping the Suspension setting in-game to 150 and in the Stages that followed it seemed like I could feel the front end of the car more and predict when the front tyres would catch grip after a countersteer.
The Career Events went by very smoothly today. Rallycross is posing no challenge at the moment as the AI is so slow and in Rally I had barely any trouble round Argentina.
When it came to the Benchmark run I was feeling more confident in attacking the opening sectors, and by having greater feel of the front end I could chuck the Fiesta into corners and apply the right amount of lock before the front wheels grip and propel me where I want to go. I initially improved by about a second but knew I made some mistakes early on, so I had another go and ended up gaining more than 3 seconds on my previous PB.
I might up the rotation to 360 again but right now things are feeling fine and I just need more wheel time to progress further.
One thing I am curious about though is that the rev lights aren't lighting up on my wheel rim or the base. If anybody could point me in the right direction (remember, I'm playing on Xbox) that'd be handy.
Day 5 - Time Played: 3 Hours
Time Gained: 3 seconds
Places Gained: 142
I was able to get in more wheel time today than previously, as I was working from home and didn't have to commute. Just under an hour for lunch plus a few more in the evening gave me a solid session.
During lunch I didn't have time for a full Career Event so I did the Petter Solberg Challenge and a few Dailies. Wasn't aiming for anything here, just wanted more seat time.
For the evening session I upped the rotation to 360 as watching the replay of the previous Time Trial I saw I was too aggressive on turn-in thanks to the lower setting of 300. 360 is the highest I plan on going.
I started off with Rallycross this time as I was one Event away from promotion to Clubman. I knew going into this that the AI would pose no challenge and that the car wasn't going to threaten me, so I used it as an opportunity to try out some settings. After @fifomaniak's comment yesterday about the Suspension setting I tried some races with it at 0, 150 and 75. I didn't like the lack of road feel at 0, and at 75 it felt too weak also so I've settled on 110 for now. I don't get any on the tarmac sections but I imagine I don't need it there anyway.
I won the Rallycross Event with ease and it was time for Germany in Rally. I'm getting the hang of the Fulvia now and its low speed so it wasn't particularly challenging in and of itself. What was tricky however was the fact that I used Wet Tyres for all 4 Stages (based on the game's recommendations since there was rain in a few). I overshot quite a few braking points, especially the blind or downhill ones, but by the end I was feeling fine there too and given that I had no major offs the AI posed no challenge.
This brought me on to the Benchmark run, which ended up taking about 20 attempts before I got a clean run. The reason for this was that I was no longer "figuring out" the car and Stage, I was actively pushing myself to go faster and take more risks. Some sectors where I braked in the past I would now try to lift, and some I'd try to take flat-out or shave a little bit more off the apex. I had one run where I was set to be at least 4 seconds faster but a puncture in the final sector burned that away.
In the end I got a time 3 seconds faster than my PB, despite a scary two-wheels moment near the end. There's more time in that but 284th on the board (33rd on Xbox) seems pretty good with a stock Tuning Setup. I reckon there's another 4 or 5 seconds in that before I need to tune the car.
Day 6 - Time Played: 1.5 Hours
Time Gained: 3 seconds
Places Gained: 107
No settings changes today, just wheel time.
First up was Career Rally, last Event in the Lancia Fulvia before I move on to a faster car. Monte Carlo was largely pleasant although the ice caught me out on Stage 3 with an early puncture. A sudden blowout later on meant I had no spare tyre going into Stage 4, and after struggling to get to the end I eventually slid off the road for Terminal Damage. Had enough points to guarantee promotion to Clubman though, where I'll likely drive the RS1800 in Rally and the Crosskart in Rallycross.
I followed up by doing the Daily Challenges as they seemed like a good opportunity to try a few different cars. The Mitsubishi NR4 was a dream to drive, the Audi Sport quattro tried to kill me and the VW Golf Kitcar was good when I wasn't driving too quickly. The RX2 was surprisingly tough, as the wheel seemed real heavy whenever I countersteered; it made for a tough driving experience even with no other cars on the track.
Benchmark run was up next and just like before I was looking to find places where I could go faster or cleaner than my PB. My first sector is real good now, almost optimal and I managed to find some time towards the end too to beat my PB by another 3 seconds. I'm now in the Top 200 globally and in the Top 20 on Xbox.
Day 7 - Time Played: 1.5 Hours
Time Gained: 1 second
Places Gained: 22
I started off today by doing a full Event in the Ford Escort MKII, first time using RWD on this setup.
The first 2 Stages of Greece were tricky as I was getting to grips with the car, resulting in quite a few spins and drops off the edge of the road. One thing I've come to expect on a pad is a sense of vibration when I've put too much throttle down, but I don't get that on the wheel and it took 2 Stages to adjust to that behaviour.
Once I got it settled down and stopped overdriving the car the rest of the Event went rather smoothly. I didn't quite win as I lost too much time in the opening Stages but I put in some clean runs as I got the hang of the car.
The Benchmark run was interesting today. I'm now learning the Stage more than I'm learning the Fiesta R5, and finding places to optimise my lines. I gained a second on my PB today but looking at the splits I could have been up by more; I was up by a second on Sector 2 and again on Sector 4, but a slower 1 and 3 cancelled out the big gains.
I feel I've almost taken a stock setup as far as I can now, though with a perfect run I could potentially get into Top 100 Global. I'm already on the top page of the Xbox standings, 12th overall on the platform.
Day 8 - Time Played: 1.5 Hours
Time Gained: 1 second
Places Gained: 28
More progress today, particularly in the Escort where my next Event was at Australia. Things just seemed to click for more of the rally, as I was well in control of the car for the majority of Stages and amassed a 2 minute lead going into the final Stage. Admittedly I used Restart a few times on the final run as I was nursing a misaligned front wheel but I eventually got a clean one together and won the Event.
The Benchmark run went even smoother than previous days as I immediately beat my PB on my first attempt. Again I was slower in Sector 1 but found massive amounts of time in Sectors 2 and 3. I'm now 9th on Xbox and closing in on the Top 100 overall, still with a stock Fiesta R5. There's at least another 2 seconds in that car before I hit uncomfortably fast territory.
Day 9 - Time Played: 2 Hours
Time Gained: 3 seconds
Places Gained: 42
I arrived home late from work today (preparing a big DiRT announcement with a lot to get done) but was still determined to get some seat time in and managed a full, intense session.
First up was Sweden in the Escort MKII, which was relatively trouble free. It took me a Stage to figure out how the car felt on the snow but once I got the hang of it the AI posted no challenge and I beat them by 2 minutes. Promotion to the next difficulty seems inevitable now.
Next was the Benchmark run and I beat it on my first attempt. Not satisfied with my run I went again, and beat it once more. Still not satisfied, I pushed harder and it took me an hour to beat my (new) PB, but I eventually put together a super-brave run and am now under the 3:20 barrier. Based on the splits I should be able to pick up another 7 tenths with a perfect run.
I'm in 6th on Xbox and in the Top 100 across all platforms. I'm fairly sure I won't be able to beat this on a controller.
Day 10 - Time Played: 2 Hours
Time Gained: 1 second
Places Gained: 17
I started out with a quick Benchmark run today (mainly so I could show off on Twitter) and happened to beat my PB by 3 tenths.
After that it was off to Monte Carlo in the Escort. The sensation through the wheel was interesting to say the least. On the snow and Ice I wasn't feeling anything, which was to be expected but as soon as I hit dry tarmac the wheel got very heavy. I had a few slip-ups thanks to the varying conditions (and RWD on ice) but still ended up taking the Event win. Wales and Finland left before I potentially get promoted.
With that done it was back to the Benchmark for a proper run. I knew there was time to be gained as my PB had some scruffy sectors, but it also had a monstrously quick Sector 2 so it was touch and go. Still though, I threw caution to the wind and after a few attempts came out almost 2 seconds up.
I was still down by a second in Sector 2 though so a low 3:17 is possible with the stock Fiesta R5. I think I want to hit that before I consider tuning the car. I'm now in the Top 70 overall and 5th on Xbox (where I'm only 2 seconds off World Record pace).
Oh, and I recognise some names on the board now so I must be getting quick. Hello @Snaky115 and @SereneLogic 🙂
Day 11 - Time Played: 2 Hours
Time Gained: 0.4 seconds
Places Gained: 2
Started off this session in the Escort again, this time round Wales. I haven't driven Wales since before it was released so I was a little rusty, and dropped a minute on the leader in the opening 2 Stages.
I felt that that would rule me out of a win but some good runs thereafter helped me catch up. I was still about 20 seconds off the leader going into the final Stage but fortunately they had an Unexpected Moment and fell off the timesheets, giving me the win.
The Benchmark run (which was over an hour) was frustrating as I couldn't seem to beat my Personal Best despite driving well. In the end I applied @2Technical's setup and found 4 tenths after a few runs. There's more in the car I'm sure, once I get used to the slightly longer gearing.
Just for curiosity I tried the Mitsubishi Space Star and found that I could gain half a second in Sector 1 and a whole second in Sector 2. I drop off towards the end but I have a feeling I'll switch cars if I can't go much further with the Fiesta.
Day 12 - Time Played: 2 Hours
Time Gained: 0.9 seconds
Places Gained: 4
Started off in Career in the Escort again, this time at Finland. I was feeling reasonably happy with my run through the first stage until I misjudged a jump and wrapped it round a tree. I retired from the Event on the spot but since I already had a big points lead I won the Championship and got promoted to Pro.
That gave me some time to take on Rallycross and I've chosen the RWD Speedcar Xtreme for the Clumban Tier. It was quite a handful but once I started to drive more smoothly I did a lot better, and comfortably won the Event.
In the Time Trial I feel I'm approaching my limits now, as every run is either blindingly fast or ends with me rolling the car over a fence. I tried for almost an hour to beat my PB in the Ford Fiesta but failed to do so. Switching to the Mitsubishi Space Star gave me a few tenths and switching to the Volkswagen Golf gave me some more. I would like to set an Xbox World Record (which is a 3:35.5, or thereabouts), but even at my current pace level I feel I've already hit one of my goals for the year, as I highly doubt I can go this quick on a pad.
Over the last few days I was hearing some rattle from the pedals, and at the end of the session I figured out why; the mounting screws had begun to come loose from the Playseat. I tightened them up so they should be good to go again for a while.
Day 13: Time Played - 2 Hours
No Time Trial improvement today, but I did manage to confirm one thing: I'm faster round that Stage than I am on a controller, so this marks one of my 2020 goals as complete.
I tried beating my Personal Best in the same car (Volkawagen Polo GTI R5) with the same tuning setup, and despite multiple attempts the best I could manage was a 3:18. That's still a very good time considering I was on a controller, but almost 2 seconds slower than my best time on the wheel.
Comparing it to the wheel runs I noticed that some sections felt much easier to handle on a pad, whereas others felt much stronger on a wheel. With the wheel you pretty much have to drive smoothly to be quick, whereas you can be a little more aggressive on the pad in some areas, at the cost of greater punishment when you go too far.
I did also have a go on the wheel and while I can make minor gains on individual sectors, stringing them all together for a perfect run takes a long time and can be rather frustrating, especially when you see no progress after an hour.
I think this is a natural stopping point, at least for that Time Trial run. I've hit my goal with it, showed that I can get good pace and learned a lot along the way. As I continue my move towards Masters Tier in My Team I'll be posting fewer updates here, since "I beat the AI again" isn't really an interesting thing to say every day. I'll probably pop back in with an update every so often though if anything significant happens.