Circuit Guide - The Best Drives
Racing games are filled with both real world and fictional circuits for us to take our dream cars out for a spin. From the dry dustbowl of Laguna Seca to the outlandish characteristics of the Nordschleife, racing games have taken virtual drivers to places they can only dream of. Creating a guide to all circuits in the world would be nigh on impossible, so here are the five best real world circuits in the virtual world to hone your driving skills.
Difficulty - 2/5
Racing games are often plagued with flat learner circuits that lack any form of character, making driving games seem dull. Laguna Seca is a racing game classic that offers all the thrills and sensations of some of the most challenging circuits in the world. Located in Monterey, California, Laguna Seca is a relatively small circuit at just over 2.2-miles long.
The first half of a lap at Laguna Seca is relatively straightforward. Crossing the start/finish line, you'll be greeted by a blind, left-hand kink that can be taken flat in most cars. Shortly after the kink is a downhill, left-hand hairpin that requires jumping on the brakes earlier than you might think.
Further on, you'll come across one of the most recognisable and challenging corners in circuit racing - the Corkscrew. It begins as a sharp left that plummets downhill into a right turn that unwinds into rollercoaster of bends. The key is to maintain moment by letting gravity drag you around the corner. No heavy braking is needed, instead use a dab of brake to position the car and don't be afraid to use the whole width of the track.
Laguna Seca is an incredibly rewarding circuit no matter what your skill level. It may be a short track, but a lap of Laguna Seca will give you a taste of some of the greatest racing circuits in the world.
Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit
Difficulty - 3/5
Considered to be the home of Formula One, Silverstone hosted the very first Grand Prix event in 1950. The circuit has seen numerous changes over the years, with substantial modifications introduced in 2010 in a bid to modernise the circuit. In its current, 3.6-mile configuration, Silverstone is a relatively forgiving circuit as F1 regulations require large tarmac run-off areas. That being said, Silverstone, along with Spa and Monza, is among the fastest circuits on the Formula One calendar.
Silverstone is driven completely differently depending on whether you're in a road car or a racing thoroughbred. Luckily, the two different approaches are relatively simple in practice.
Most of Silverstone's corners are fast, sweeping bends that require a car with a good chassis and, if you're in a racecar, aerodynamics. In a road car, you will need to scrub off as much speed as possible before entering the corner. Carrying too much speed into a fast corner will result in understeer, which is where the front of the car washes wide. You'll need to brake in a straight line and modulate the accelerator to in the middle of the corner. It may seem slow at first, but it will result in the car maintaining its balance, which is crucial for a fast lap.
Cars that have aerodynamics, mainly racecars, have a slightly different approach. Instead of braking hard in a straight line, dab the brakes and shift down a couple of gears. The aerodynamics will push down the front of the car and give you grip that road cars simply won't have.
Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit
Difficulty - 4/5
Many of you may be wondering why Brands Hatch is one of the most difficult circuits on a driving game. Brands Hatch has two characteristics that make it a tough circuit to navigate - its elevation changes and narrow width. Many of the corners are completely blind and at first you'll have to understand how the circuit undulates before perfecting your racing line.
Powering down the pit straight, which is actually curved, you'll quickly come across one of the most iconic corners in motor racing - Paddock. Much like Laguna Seca's Corkscrew, Paddock is a right-hand corner that falls down a very steep hill. The apex is out of sight, appearing just after the top of the hill and negatively cambered. Enter Paddock too fast and the car will easily run wide, forcing you into the punishing gravel trap at the bottom. Instead, brake heavily at the top of the hill and then get on the power early, as downward momentum will enable you to make an even faster exit.
The Grand Prix Circuit leaves behind the simple Indy track and heads off into the forest. A short straight leads to Hawthorn - a long, swooping right-hander that requires immense precision. Hawthorn is not a blind corner, yet it's treacherously narrow, with even the slightest mistake resulting in a race-ending trip to the barrier. With Hawthorn, hit the brakes and drop down a couple of gears, before slowly easing on the power. Even cars with strong aerodynamics struggle to make the most of this corner.
Suzuka International Circuit
Difficulty - 4/5
The Suzuka International Race Course is one of the most technically challenging circuits in the world. Designed as a Honda test track in 1962, the Suzuka Circuit was commonly used for motorbike racing, before becoming the home of the Japanese Grand Prix in 1987. At 3.6-miles in length, the circuit is not only one of the larger circuits available on racing games; it's also one of the toughest.
Most get their first taste of Suzuka through Formula One titles. As the circuit was designed as a test track, nailing the perfect lap requires extreme precision and finesse. The first corner has two right-hand kinks. The first kink can be taken flat-out on an F1 game, before dropping two to three gears for the much tighter second kink. Keeping the momentum through Turn One is vital for outright lap time, as even the slightest mistake at Suzuka can result in a ruined lap.
Following the tricky S-section, Degner Curve and under the bridge, comes arguably the most difficult corner at Suzuka - the Hairpin. The sharp, upward right-hand hairpin can easily throw a car off balance as it is negatively cambered. Entry to the corner is like no other, as there is a right-hand kink to navigate where you'd ideally want the braking zone to be. In an F1 game, take the kink flat out and immediately apply the brakes, any hesitation will most likely resulting in you running wide and into the gravel trap.
Don't be put off but its technical nature and obscure angles; the circuit was designed to test both man and machine. To make the most of Suzuka, get in your favourite car, hit Time Trial and begin lapping. It'll take a lot of practice, but hooking up a lap at Suzuka is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have in the virtual world.
Difficulty - 5/5
At over 12-miles in length, triple World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart named it the 'Green Hell', and it really isn't hard to see why. Nordschleife translates to 'north loop', which means the Nurburgring was even longer during its heyday in the 1960s and early 70s. Those who take on the Nordschleife aim for a sub ten-minute lap time, so here's some tips on how achieve it.
To go fast on the Nordschleife requires an understanding of where the track goes. That may sound a little obvious, but 12.9-miles of tarmac strewn across a mountainous forest makes track memorisation a challenge in itself. Before setting your sights on a sub ten-minute lap, take a cruise around the circuit in your favourite car. This allows you to figure out the layout and where the undulations are, which in turn will give you confidence when making that first flying lap.
Some sections to look out for on the Nordschleife are Flugplatz and the Karussell. Flugplatz is steep hill that, once at the top, is followed two high-speed, right-hand kinks. The braking zone is short, so once you pass over the crest of the hill and the car has settled, dab the brakes without dropping a gear and power around the two kinks. If you're struggling to slow down in time, apply a little brake just before the crest of the hill.
Karusell isn't necessarily challenging, but it's the Nordschleife's signature corner, so getting the perfect line is especially satisfying. The Karussell is a banked, left-hand hairpin with a very uneven concrete surface. You'll want to enter the Karussell about a car width in to where the concrete begins. Keep the throttle level until you can see the apex of the next corner, where you can reapply full power and straighten the car.
Starting your driver training at Laguna Seca and progressing through to Silverstone and Suzuka will prepare you for most circuits found in the virtual world. Once you feel ready and have a good understand of how a car reacts to different surfaces and characteristics, you can move onto the Nordschleife and chase down that ten-minute lap.