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CART Precision RacingPrecision Racing for the Imprecise

CART IndyCar simulation makes you a "Roads Scholar"

By Jim Bray

I have the greatest job in the world.

I get paid to play with the latest toys for (so-called) grownups, which lets me be the Walter Mitty of the 90's.

One of my dreams has been to drive the CART World Series, and now, thanks to Microsoft's CART Precision Racing Indy Car simulator, I've lived my dream. I've also gained an even greater respect for the athletes who shepherd these state-of-the-art steeds through the concrete canyons, road courses, and ovals that make up the real Championship Auto Racing Team series.

CART Precision Racing (CD-ROM for Windows 95/NT) was created with input from the real people involved. And they've pulled out all the stops, combining terrific graphics (there's even "head panning") and sound, with as realistic a feel as you can probably expect without begging Bobby Rahal to let you take his place in the cockpit. Choose from many tracks or teams

Microsoft and co-developer Terminal Reality Inc. have even used GPS (Global Positioning System) information to ensure the tracks are accurate to within 10 centimetres of the real ones, right down to Laguna Seca's fabulous roller coaster-like corkscrew downhill run.

The game is very up to date; tracks and drivers are from the 1997 CART series and therefore include the Fontana and St. Louis tracks, along with rookie drives Patrick Carpentier and Dario Franchitti.

I muscled poor (relatively speaking) Alex Zanardi out of his championship Firestone-shod, Honda-powered Reynard for a few hundred laps, while picturing the feisty Italian shaking his virtual fist at me every time I put his precious vehicle into a wall.

Which happened depressingly often…

Fortunately, you can turn off any damage to your car and "safely" get past the first corner. You can turn on and off a whole bunch of other parameters, too, to make the simulation either more or less realistic (depending on your PC's power and your driving skill), and there's support for 3D graphics acceleration and force feedback, though the computer on which I was using the game didn't include those treats.The Author strews bits of his car over the track

You can also use the extensive "virtual garage" to tweak your car in innumerable ways and there are audio clips that tell you the differences between tire compounds, gear ratios, and Gurney Flap sizes.

I was impressed by the "Driving School," an online manual (with Bobby Rahal providing video clip support) with tips about how to find the racing line, when to start your braking, etc.

Reading about it, however, is much easier than actually putting that knowledge into practice. Still, after picking Bobby's brains I steadily increased my Surfer's Paradise street course speeds while decreasing the amount of carbon fibre I cast through chicanes and corners.

I never got good, but I went from last place to 8th.

Of course, that was all on "Rookie" setting…

My game controller was ThrustMaster’s NASCAR Pro racing wheel, which added immeasurably to the enjoyment. The combination is simultaneously thrilling and exhausting - and will make you marvel at how the real guys manage to get around the circuits intact as often as they do.

It also made me realize that the only CART I'm qualified to push to its limits is a shopping CART.

So much for Walter Mitty!


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January 31, 2006