A man with a red shirt and a bright red line in his hair next to a Mercedes racing car in orange and red.
Image credit: Kunos Simulazioni

Diving Right In on my Sim Racing Journey

After getting comfortable on the likes of iRacing and rFactor 2, our contributing editor Luca saw the perfect opportunity to get to grips with racing on Assetto Corsa Competizione.

Hello again! It has been a hot minute since I last did one of these. If this is the first time you have come across one of these columns, allow me to bring you up to speed. My name is Luca, I have been writing for OverTake since mid-2021.

My passion is competitive sim racing, and for years I tried to avoid the allure of getting into it myself. I stubbornly stuck with my PlayStation and racing occasionally on Gran Turismo and the F1 game.

But thanks to the managers of a sim racing outfit called United Sim Team, as well as a shared vision with the leader of VCO, I decided I needed to finally get into PC sim racing this year. I have since taken part in many events and covered them in these articles.

Perfect Reason to Race ACC

When trying to get stuck in, I admit that I did not do that much racing on Assetto Corsa Competizione. This was because of the dreaded world of custom setups, it was very overwhelming. It still is for me, even now.

But with the help of my teammates, I learned a great deal. First and foremost there was Brandon, who taught me that the operating window for the tyres was between 26 and 27 psi for dry weather. Also very basic things like how the pitstop presets in the MFD worked, which I took an embarrassingly long time to understand.

Plus in regards to setups, my team manager Sophie helped me and continues to help me understand how to make them work on ACC.

You would not have thought with how little I knew about ACC that I played the PlayStation port initially. I decided to finally pick up on my slack because of an incredible event taking place on the platform.

The Sim Grid VCO Grand Finals was announced back in May. It has a system for participation that is honestly ground-breaking. Various ACC community leagues would run championships and the top finishing teams would qualify for the 3-round series.

A league’s best five finishers would be in the GT3 class, the next two would race in GT4. The three after that would all race together in a GT4 Play-Off race, with the top three earning a spot in the Grand Finals. I knew we probably would not get anywhere near a qualifying position, but still something to get involved with.

Signing Up

After mulling over our options and initially competing in a different league, we committed to The SimZone’s Rags to Riches championship. Many of the top ACC talent were doing this league, such as; Lamborghini The Real Race European runner-up Maciej Malinowski, GT World Challenge Esports champion George Boothby, a couple of Unicorns of Love drivers and even Jardier.

Races were 90 minutes in length, and we would compete on Brands Hatch, Spa-Francorchamps, Mount Panorama, Indianapolis and Suzuka. We were definitely one of the slower teams but we were having a good time. The race at Spa in particular, we had a good fight with the only other team using a Mercedes.

The next race though was marred by tragedy.

Tribute At The Mountain

One of the other teams competing in the same league was Ballas eSport, and their driver Christian Colagrosso passed away after being involved in a road traffic collision. We paid tribute to him by revving our engines for the first minute of qualifying.

I would later come to find out from one of Christian’s teammates that Bathurst was his favourite circuit. Easy to see why, it is such a fulfilling and challenging track to drive. Everyone racing hoped to put on a good show in tribute to our fallen peer, but for us inparticular we never expected the result we got.

My teammate Sara Dove (one of the team’s quickest drivers) put us 28th out of 32 qualifiers. Roughly where we had been starting and finishing for the previous two races, having gotten 27th and 30th place finishes.

Trouble At The Start & Fighting Back

At the start, Sara missed the braking point for T1 and went straight to the rear of the field. No big deal, we knew it would be a race of attrition. Being at Bathurst, the track is tricky enough at the best of times with its barriers and small margin of error. But this race would for the majority of it be in the dark.

After her initial excursion, Sara put in an incredible stint and somehow got us back up to 20th by the time the pit window opened. We pitted and she handed it over to me, and do not ask me how but I rejoined in 19th. I was all on my own, with a 25 second gap to the car behind.

Before you read on: No, I did not have some heroic drive that saw us get a top five finish. I am also disappointed to admit, I fumbled that entire gap and by the end of the race, it was down to near zero. I will not be troubling the top talent on any platform any time soon, believe me.

An orange and dark red Mercedes racing car with a load of racing graphics around it.
We were one of only two teams to run the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the league. Image credit: The SimZone

A Comfortable Margin?

That 19th became 18th after another team Red Kings Motorsport had to pit after incurring damage. I very nearly joined them on many occasions, mirroring their wall tap at the Griffin’s Mount corner. The pressure was getting to me.

I got my head down and had Sara calling out gaps and lap times, we estimated we would just hold on with the pace deficit. Approaching the last few laps, the gap was getting smaller and smaller, I was getting more and more tense.

We got a bit of breather when lapping traffic went in our favour, slowing the guys behind us down. But that last lap, I will never forget. We were just over a second ahead, and with the Porsche behind not being as quick as the Merc on the straights, we believed we were somewhat comfortable.

Then I rounded the blind corner towards Skyline, and that is when I saw a Lamborghini ahead of us for position stranded on the inside.

An interior shot of a racing car, with a blind crest and the sky is dark.
I scaled this crest on the last lap and came within inches of a Lamborghini. Image credit: Kunos Simulazioni

Porsche Pressure

My reflexes allowed me to just miss the Lambo and I put a wheel on the outside grass, it felt as if I nearly lost control. The Porsche was now only tenths behind me, but there were no passing opportunities on the mountain and realistically, only The Chase and the last corner for them to make the move.

As we predicted, the Porsche had no chance of passing the Merc on the straight. I held my line into The Chase but they got a good drive out of the corner so I stayed on the inside. Despite very nearly outbraking myself, I held on and we crossed the line 17th! Yes, not a position typically worth celebrating, but this was amazing for us.

Needless to say, I felt bad for Sara’s ear drums because I just erupted with emotion after crossing the line. Yes it was all Sara’s doing really, she got us into that position, so I will not take credit for it. Nevertheless, I was elated!

How Does It End?

After skipping Indianapolis, I did the Suzuka finale with my team manager and the founder Yvonne Houffelaar. We were 18th in that race, but that was last and mostly down to me fumbling the pit lane entry and incurring a penalty for us. We finished the season 25th, which we were content with.

Of course, nowhere near the qualifying positions. So we thought that was the end of it, and I was ready to follow the Sim Grid VCO Grand Finals as a spectator. But little did we predict the surprise that would follow.

I committed to a Wednesday night ACC league ran by another community, SOP Motorsport. Initially, the plan was to race GT3, GT4, Porsche Cup and BMW M2 cars, which was what got my interest. It was downsized when signups were low, but it is ongoing right now and I am competing in it!

SOP were also running a Grand Finals qualifier league and had their entries decided. Unfortunately, a couple of teams dropped out and they were left short for the first round. At the last minute, a call was put out for teams to compete in the opening round. We could not do it though as our managers were in Italy for an event.

Heading To The Glen

However, since not enough hands went up, we got the call-up! I am thrilled to confirm that United Sim Team will be running in the second and third rounds of the Sim Grid VCO Grand Finals. The upcoming race will be 6 hours in length and will take place on the Watkins Glen circuit. We are running in the GT3 class using a McLaren 720S GT3 Evo.

An orange and dark red McLaren racing car with a big pink circle on the front with 'SOP' in the middle.
Look out for our car in the Sim Grid VCO Grand Finals race this weekend! Image credit: Kunos Simulazioni

The event is taking place 25 November, with the race beginning at 14:15 CET. It can be viewed on the Sim Grid YouTube channel or the VCO Esports Twitch channel.

I have a lot more racing to talk about at a later date. Hope you will check back in on my sim racing journey very soon! Also, thank you to Ballas eSport for giving me their blessing to mention Christian Colagrosso.

For all ACC drivers, a charity event hosted by SPQRacing is taking place on 22 December. A 60 minute race on Christian’s favourite track Bathurst, which you can sign up for here.

RIP Christian Colagrosso, 2004-2023.

Would you like to see more sim racing events run qualifiers through independent leagues? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

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