Version 1.4 of Automobilista 2 is here, and the update has brought numerous improvements to the sim – as well as an entirely new discipline in oval racing. As a central element, full-course yellows have been implemented, but how well does the left-turn spectacle hold up in its current form?
Most sims focus on road racing, with iRacing and rFactor 2 being the only outliers in that they implemented ovals properly as well. While RaceRoom and Assetto Corsa (via mods) have oval tracks available, neither officially supports them, with AC not supporting flying starts or full-course yellows. With the update to v1.4, AMS2 has joined iRacing and rF2 in the lineup of contemporary sims that support the discipline. A few hotfixes followed to iron out small issues quickly.
Apart from the “roval” at Jacarepagua where CART held the Rio 400 (later Rio 200) from 1996 to 2000, which was already in the sim before the update, World Wide Technology Raceway (aka Gateway), Auto Club Speedway (aka Fontana) and the oval version of Daytona (the road course had been introduced with the first part of Racin’ USA) are now available for oval fans to race at in AMS2. The implementation of full-course yellows was so important to developer Reiza Studios that problems with the system caused the planned July update to be pushed back and merged with the August update.
So, how well does it work? Full-course yellows, if switched on, get triggered reliably by incidents that would warrant a caution period from what SRU has encountered when trying the new feature. Getting the yellow flag warning and seeing a battlefield of broken race car parts moments later feels appropriate when racing, however, the first are with room for improvement shows immediately in the length of the FCY phases: In every single instance we have encountered, they only lasted for two full laps after the lap they were triggered – which is less invasive to the flow of a race, but not exactly realistic in most cases.
Once a yellow is triggered, the AI lines up single-file and slows to about 100 km/h (roughly 60 mph) for the duration of the caution, with the occasional acceleration moments – be sure to keep a bit of distance in order to avoid collisions. To make it look a bit more authentic, spreading them out instead of keeping them in an exact line behind each other might be a good addition in the future.
The AI does not usually use FCYs to pit if they happen early in the race, but will do so with less laps remaining. Different strategies for them are not really a thing in AMS2 yet, but should be implemented in the future – maybe as part of the expansion to the full-course yellow system, which is set to feature actual pace cars as well.
With their aggression set to high, racing the AI on speedways can be a lot of fun. They respect your space in most cases, but will try to make a move if you leave the door open, leading to exciting battles that can go on for multiple laps at a time. The AI will also use different lines depending on where the player positions their car, so there is no single way to defend your position. Getting the difficulty level right can be tricky, however, as they tend to slow down more than needed in some turns, which is especially noticeable in Turns 1 and 2 at Fontana. Increasing the AI strength gets rid of the problem but might make them too fast on all other parts of the track.
Of course, racing against other humans remedies the AI problems, but it would be helpful to gather a group of racers who you know you can race hard, but clean against. The oval experience in public lobbies seems to magnify all the problems public road racing lobbies already have, meaning the chances of your race lasting only a few laps (if that) are not exactly slim.
Still, Reiza have proven that oval racing is possible on the Madness Engine – while Project Cars 2 technically had it as well, there were no full-course yellows, meaning a crucial element of the discipline was missing, and improving oval racing was never a focus during the sim’s life cycle. It should be exciting to see what the upcoming months mean for AMS2’s oval racing, especially with the possibility of Reiza securing the IndyCar license.