Sim Racing's Kickstarter: Remembering Grand Prix 2


There is no denying that sim racing has come a long way over the years. Full rigs featuring automotive-grade wheels and pedals were unthinkable not too long ago - and going back even further, the best many could do was a joystick. Today's trip down memory lane takes us right back to that era with a title that ahead of its time when it was released in 1996 - it is the starting point of many a sim racer's careers: Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 2.

Following up on the first iteration of the series simply called "Formula One Grand Prix", GP2 was the first title of the franchise that was officially licensed by the FIA and Formula One, featuring the 1994 season. All 16 circuits of the season were present, as well as all 14 teams that competed in it.

Grand Prix 2 Circuit Menu.png

All 16 circuits of the 1994 Formula One season are present, but not all of them feature the safety changes made that year - Jerez, Estoril and Silverstone do, Spa-Francorchamps, Catalunya and Montreal do not.

Of course, 14 teams meant 28 cars - but as F1 had a 26-car limit in place, this ruled out two drivers per race weekend, just like it did in real life. All 28 cars would compete in the two qualifying sessions - one on Friday and Saturday each - to make the grid, the two slowest drivers did not make the race. Usually, positions 27 and 28 were reserved for the Pacific team, which only qualified for five races in the hands of Bertrand Gachot, and two in those of Paul Belmondo in 1994.

Same Helmet, Different Name​

While driver lineups changed frequently in 1994 due to the tragic Imola weekend, drivers being injured in testing, sponsorship or other reasons, they stay the same in Grand Prix 2. The game's driver lineup is that of the 1994 British Grand Prix, which is where the cars' liveries are based off of as well. However, it is possible to rename each team and driver in the menu, so even though the drivers' helmets would not change, different drivers could take their seat in name.

Grand Prix 2 Race Menu.png

Grand Prix 2's game modes ranged from quick races to full-distance championships including authentic weekend structures.

Accurate weekend structures let players experience full F1 weekends if they so chose, but sessions could also be skipped. Apart from single race weekends (called Non-Championship Race), players could drive in Quickrace mode (with a previously set length and grid position), Free Practice, a full season and online multiplayer via dial-up connection. Local multiplayer was possible either via LAN connection or in hotseat mode, where players would take a pre-defined amount of turns with their own car on the same PC.

Revolutionary Graphics & Physics​

What really set Grand Prix 2 apart from the competition was the on-track action, though: The game featured realistic physics for the time, as well as 3D texture mapping and SVGA graphics, making it a challenge for many home computers to run it well at the time. The circuits are fairly accurate for the time, with some elevation changes not quite being represented as they were. Overall, they were believable and featured key trackside buildings and objects.

Grand Prix 2 Damaged Ferrari Hockenheim.png

Big crashes carried big consequences - almost every part of a car could break off.

The realistic driving physics meant that small mistakes or a kerb hit at a wrong angle and speed could have dramatic consequences in the form of rather big shunts, highlighted by the extensive damage model: Cars could shed their wheels and bodywork, even to the point of just the monocoque remaining. Plowing through a gravel trap too fast could also lead to losing a front wing, and lost parts had a noticeable effect on the behavior of the car.

Fire! Fire!​

Random failures were also part of Grand Prix 2: A number of mechanical gremlins could be enabled, so electrical failures, blown engines that started with white smoke before transitioning to grey one and a full-blown fire later, suspension failures and more could put a car out of the race, no matter if it was the player's or an AI opponent. Once stopped, a 2D marshal would appear and push the car to the closest barrier, where it would be lifted off the track by an invisible crane.

Grand Prix 2 Advanced Setup Menu.png

The depth of the setup menu was similar to even today's racing sims.

Under the hood, an extensive setup menu which even included telemetry made it possible to adjust a car to all the circuits and its driver's liking. This was unheard of at the time, with even the wear of the wooden plank on the car's floor being simulated. Different tire compounds were available - although no wet weather tires were present due to the absence of a weather system, which was later introduced in Grand Prix 3.

What it did feature, however, was full pit crews waiting for you once you came in for a stop. Although your team was static and in 2D, this was a nice addition to make the pit lane feel less empty - plus, they even wiped your visor (not that dirt would accumulate) with a squeaky rag, the sound of which is probably etched into the minds of anyone who has ever played GP2.


Calling Grand Prix 2 a trail blazer is no exaggeration: There simply was no other game that simulated an F1 race - or any other type of race, for that matter - as accurately as Geoff Crammond's second entry into the iconic series did. The level of detail is astonishing for a 27-year old sim, and the passion the developers had for their project can be felt in every inch of it - even the menus, which featured a catchy, guitar-heavy soundtrack and photographs of the real 1994 F1 season.


Grand Prix 2 spawned a modding community that is still active to this day and laid the groundwork for its wildly popular successors Grand Prix 3 & Grand Prix 4, never mind much of the sim racing genre as we know it today. Its cars even got ported to rFactor and Automobilista in the Grand Prix Evolution mod, which also features Grand Prix 3's car.

Editor's Take​

Grand Prix 2 holds a special place in my heart even though it did not mark the starting point in my racing game career - that title goes to Formula One on the PS1. While my family did not own a PC when I was growing up, my childhood best friend's family did, and as I spent significant parts of my childhood at their home, we poured enormous amounts of time into playing GP2, being obsessed with Formula One at a young age already. I even still remember winning my first race against the AI at Imola, using Christian Fittipaldi's Footwork as I loved his helmet design.

The sim continued to accompany for even longer when I got my own (used and not very powerful) PC for my 10th birthday, and as we did not have internet access yet, multiple seasons of renamed drivers in cars that suspiciously resembled those of 1994 resided on my hard drive - probably up until 2004. Despite more modern games being available on PlayStation 1 and 2, which I also played, GP2 continued to draw me in.

Later on, I made the jump to Grand Prix 4 and found its modding community, which again saw many hours of my life poured into it. It is safe to say that the Grand Prix series by Geoff Crammond had a big impact on my passion for motorsport and sim racing - and Grand Prix 2 was such an essential part of it that I still randomly get the main menu soundtrack stuck in my head over 20 years later.

Your Thoughts​

What are your memories about Grand Prix 2? Do you maybe even still play it from time to time? Let us know your best stories in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

Spent countless hours on this one. I remember playing a whole season on 100 % length in a span of days.
I think later there were addons available for other seasons and/or specific races.
 
GP2 was the first F1 game to semi actually simulate wheel-to-wheel collisions, pitching cars up at 45 degree angles. But cars couldn't fully roll over until GP3. And debris collisions were GP3 2000 Season add-on and GP4.
 
GP2 was not my first sim....I started to play racing sim-games with legendary Need for Speed Porsche Unleashed and later I got F1 Challenge 99-02 and it was like opening new world for me. I discovered GP 2 and GP4 later but because I was already used to play my favourite racing game F1 challenge 99-02 I disliked GP games....they seemed outdated for me and in addition F1 challenge had better graphics and more realistic handling so I was sticked to F1 challenge and abandoned playing GP.

What do you think?? was it right decision by me?
 
This game must be incredible in VR! If I were a businessman, I'd sell it as DLC with an optician sponsor, guaranteed money.

1687034475835.png
 
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I loved playing, the one memory i still have of this game was T-boning Damon Hill and his car splitting in half, wasn't aware at the time that the game was even capable of that.
 
In 1997 I was in the GP2 Racing League and a ran a full season in the Semi-Pro category (for Guinness Grand Prix), with races held to an alternate weekend when a real life F1 Grand Prix was not on TV. We had teams, with very basic modified skins and crash helmets. It was intense and exhausting. Full length races - we uploaded our records to a server and the placings were determined that way, this was far before internet competition or anything like we have today.
 
GP1 was my first sim but GP2 was incredible in those days. Many multiplayer races and many good memories.

Anyone remember LFRS?
 
Grand Prix 2 was the first racing game of which I called 'a sim'.

Due to the quite detailed range of car setup parameters AND that altering these parameters in fact was reflected on track.

Besides blistering graphics opportunities for it's time, clearly remember my first time driving out Hockenheim entering Ostkurve with max graphics settings on my newly acquired Riva TNT 128 MB GFX.

To me both car setup opportunities, AI's, collision as well as graphics were on an entirely new level.

And the keybindings I still use today when keyboard driving (of which now is again most of the time, not having any time to roll out my flexible rig sadfully, but brings back memories before my first FFB wheel in '99).

And a year later in 1997 and 4 years onwards participating in the LFRS - Little Formula Racing Series (of which rapidly became anything but 'little' with thousands of indeed active registrants), my first online results file competition participation.

LFRS with Grand Prix 2 must be the first online simracing league in history, I think?

And now 27 years later taking use of variable input opportunitis, racing GP2 with modern day sim hardware.
 
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I thought, for a second, that there was a Kickstarter to relaunch this game.

Damn you, Yannik :D
In fact I 'relaunched' my personal Grand Prix 2 with an explosive kickstart of modern sim gear in during 2021 after watching a German instruction howto vid. It is not this one below, however usable too, to get engines restarted:

 
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Premium
In 1996 we were still stuck on a 286 16 MHz computer, the only real racing sim we'd ever played back then was Indianapolis 500: The Simulation. In early 1997 my father got himself a brand new Pentium MMX and Grand Prix 2. We couldn't believe our eyes & ears. This was too good to be true.
Just some weeks later we bought the (back then) famous Thrustmaster Formula T2 racing wheel, which also found good use in any of the Papyrus racings sims at that time.:)
 
Fabulous ground breaking PC simming days they were. Everything was new. It was an adventure that todays young gamers will never realise or experience.
GP4 was my ultimate though and I still play it today.
Here is one of my very very old videos:
 

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