Oval racing in Automobilista 2 used to be lacking, but the recent batch of updates made AI races on the speedways a much better experience. It may even be the sim’s secret star.
There is arguably no other discipline that is underestimated as much as oval racing. It looks simple on the surface as it is “only turning left”, as many like to point out. The main thought seems to be “just floor it and turn left 400 times per race, how hard can it be?”
Of course, those who have properly looked into the art of turning left know that it is, in fact, anything but easy. And, as it turns out, it seems to be hard to portray in sim racing, except for bespoke titles. iRacing offers the most in-depth selection of cars and tracks. But oval racing in Automobilista 2 since update 1.5.3 may be a good alternative for those who are not subscribed to iRacing and want to race their own Indy 500, for example.
It has to be said, however, that AMS2 is still a road circuit-focused sim first and foremost. As a result, you will find nowhere near the amount of oval content iRacing has on offer, nor will the simulation of the discipline be quite as in-depth. However, this does not mean that oval racing in Automobilista 2 does not deserve a closer look.
Oval Racing in Automobilista 2: Insane Speeds in Classic IndyCars
Ironically, this is because of its content, most notably on the car front. AMS2 features three classic IndyCar/CART seasons, those being 1995, 1998 and 2000. All of them have livery packs available on RaceDepartment, which also adds the real-life drivers as AI pilots. These cars can exceed 400 kmh/248 mph on big ovals, and these speeds are hard to be found anywhere else.
Running turbocharged, V8-powered open-wheel missiles at what feels the speed of sound is certainly an experience. Finding a proper online lobby for this will prove difficult, however. Luckily, the AMS2 AI is now at a point where they can provide a properly exciting experience. This also applies to the 2023 IndyCar mod available on RaceDepartment, and the Formula USA 2023, the latter being Reiza’s interpretation of a modern IndyCar.
Plus, the handling has improved massively. Since the big v1.5 update, cars do not corner at weird slip angles anymore. They rather behave like you would expect them to, requiring precise and calm inputs in order not to become loose. The adjustable anti-roll bars and weight jacker allow players to fine-tune the car’s handling as it changes over the course of a stint.
Exciting & Capable AI
This is a great base to have some high-speed fun against the AI. We tried multiple races with the same difficulty level of 108 and their aggression set to ‘high’. Setting the latter to ‘max’ would override driver-specific behaviors, so this seemed like the way to go.
The result was an extremely engaging racing experience. While the AI tends to get better starts and restarts, you should be able to catch back up as long as you are close enought to snag some of their draft. Once you do, things become a proper battle, especially with the Gen 2 and 3 Formula USA cars – the 1998 and 2000 season CART vehicles.
Starting in 1998, the so-called Hanford Device was used in CART. Put simply, it is a vertical plane that hangs off the trailing edge of the rear wing in superspeedway configuration. While this creates more drag (making the top speeds of these cars even more impressive), it also punched a bigger hole into the air, meaning the following cars get an increased draft effect.
Slipstreaming Battles & AI Awareness
This is very much noticeable in AMS2. Much like in the actual races of that era, you can have proper slipstream overtaking fests with the AI now. You have to think about when to overtake – do you really want to start the final lap as the leader and risk getting passed just in time for the finish? Or do you stay back and risk losing the draft as the leader pulls away in clean air?
What was immediately noticeable in our test races was the awareness of the AI. They are not going to try and create gaps where there are non, but they will also make use of any door you may leave open. On the other hand, side-by-side racing with them is nerve-wracking, but by no means a collision fest. The rule of thumb of treating them like real opponents (which also applies to circuit-based races) works well on the speedways, too.
There is hardly any erratic behavior, meaning as long as you are aware of your surroundings, you will be able to have clean races the vast majority of the time. Of course, the AI can make mistakes – it is one of the unfortunate realities of oval racing in Automobilista 2 and in real life that your race can end in an instant because of someone else’s mistake.
Oval Racing in Automobilista 2: Strategy & Pace Cars
Now, all of this may sound good for single stints, but what about pit stops and full-course yellows? Are those the points where it all falls apart? Luckily, the answer is no. Running longer oval races is perfectly possible.
The AI tend to start the race with a full tank and seemingly try to run with that as long as possible if the race stays green. However, full-course yellows can mix things up considerably, shaking up the order in the process. Early yellows will not prompt pit stops for cars that do not need repairs. But once a yellow comes out towards the halfway mark of a stint, the AI will peel off to pit road.
Mind you, this does not mean that all AI cars will just dive into the pits as part of a predetermined strategy. Instead, some of them might opt to stay out and hope for another yellow, cementing the track position gained by that strategy.
Full-Course Yellows – A Lottery Of Luck
On the other hand, yellows can come at the unluckiest of times. One of our test races saw us pit due to worn tires before the fuel tank was empty. A pit stop under green means at least one lap lost, possibly two. It was the latter for us, so we rejoined dead last – a few laps later, the pace car came out, everyone else got to pit, and we were still dead last. Such is the oval racing life.
Speaking of pace cars, they worked without problem in our scenarios. It would be nice to have a slider for the threshold of when it actually deploys, as this seems to vary with many incidents. Currently, the only options are ‘on’ or ‘off’. Sometimes, small incidents trigger a full-course yellow, other times full-on spins or wall taps do not.
Anyway, once the pace car is out, it will collect the field while the pits are closed. They open after one lap behind the pace car. Usually, the flashing lights on its roof will switch off on lap three or four, meaning FCYs do not last terribly long. While not perfectly authentic, this also eliminates periods of having to crawl around (relatively speaking) for 20 laps or more, as you would in real life. Good thing cleaning up sim racing crashes takes hardly any time.
Oval Racing in Automobilista 2: More Content Needed
While the content in AMS2 is one of the strengths for its oval racing, as mentioned earlier, it is also its biggest weakness. Aside from the four different types of IndyCar/CART machines, there are no other cars in the sim that usually run ovals. It is still possible to do so, even with asymmetrical default setups, but it does seem like a stopgap.
Stock car fans can make due with the abundance on NASCAR livery packs for modern and classic Brazilian Stock Cars of TomLehockySVK on RaceDepartment, but in the end, they will likely be missing a NASCAR-style vehicle in most cases. They might get one eventually, though, as a bonus pack of the Racin’ USA DLC is still to come (and covered by the Season Pass).
As for tracks, there is not too much choice either. To go really fast, players can choose Indianapolis, Fontana and Daytona (although the latter is not raced in IndyCar). In addition to these, Gateway (World Wide Technology Raceway) and Jacarepagua, which no longer exists in real life, are in AMS2. Both Gateway and Jacarepagua are far from full-throttle only experiences, the Brazilian track even featuring two hard braking zones ahead of turns 1 and 3.
More To Come?
Hence, oval racing in Automobilista 2 is not in a position to rival the offerings of iRacing. Meanwhile, rFactor 2 also features the discipline, though the community feedback has not been too kind when it comes to AI.
Still, with what is there, a decent amount of fun is possible. Looking strictly at the IndyCar side of things, the addition of the Milwaukee Mile, which makes its real-life comeback in 2024, could be a good fit. All three of the classic seasons raced there, after all. The long-lost Nazareth Speedway would likely also prove immensely popular with fans of historic Indy racing.
There are tons of possibilities – but also other priorities for Reiza Studios, of course, with Le Mans on the horizon. The track was intended to release before the end of 2023, with more cars and historic versions of the circuit (plus fitting vehicles) coming in 2024. All of this is exciting in its own right, as proper endurance racing is not yet possible in AMS2 – it might be somewhat soon, though. Oval racing in Automobilista 2 as well as the addition of rallycross have shown that Reiza are capable of adding new disciplines, even if it may take some time.
Have you tried oval racing in Automobilista 2 recently? Let us know your thougths and experiences on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!