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UK Mike (miner2049er)

Grand Prix Legends

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GRAND PRIX LEGENDS

Grand Prix Legends is an old racing sim in every sense of the word, not for the faint of heart this is a true racing sim. Developed by Papyrus Design Group and published in 1998 by Sierra Entertainment, it simulates the 1967 Formula One season and is considered one of the most realistic racing games ever. It is definitely not an arcade experience, there is not a weapon or a power up in sight, this is for the die hards only.
Of all the classic Formula One seasons why would a game simulate the 1967 season?
The romantics will sigh and tell you that 1967 was the last year before advertising in F1 and all manner of advertisements and logos were plastered all over Grand Prix cars which until then had been painted in pristine national liveries: British Racing Green for Britain obviously, Red for the Ferraris of Italy, that it is the last year before Grand Prix racing “went commercial.” Whereas Formula One cars are now little more than mobile cigarette packets.
The realists will tell you that the true significance of the 1967 season was that it was the last year before “wings,” “spoilers,” “aerofoils,” “air dams,” wind tunnels,” and other aerodynamic developments were added to the cars, so it is seen by many to be the last year that the driver was truly driving the car and doing more to hold the car on the road than the wind effect was.
The 1967 season is widely viewed as a turning point in Formula One and is seen by some to be the last true drivers championship with competitors like Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart. More importantly though, the cars of 1967 made driving them quickly a real challenge and that has definitely been carried over into the game.
See, the cars were more powerful again after certain rule changes in 1966 and engines were allowed to be up to three litres (3,000cc), the formula which had immediately preceded it had limited engines to a measly 1.5 litres (1,500cc) and so the new 3 litre formula was widely heralded as Grand Prix racing’s “Return to Power.”
In truth, many of the sport’s leading engine suppliers were caught out by the sudden doubling of engine displacement and by the first race of the 1967 season (the South African GP on January 2nd) many of the teams still didn’t have their acts together with a 3 litre engine. A local hero almost won the race in an ancient Cooper-Climax, and would have done had he not run out of fuel.
The cars were still using regular treaded tyres that were not developed for racing and these tyres would be used for more than one race, so just getting the power down to the road was a challenge, and don't think of mentioning traction control, that wouldn't be around for years to come.
The late 60s and early 70s were also before the days of safety measures and regulations that were really only pushed for after Jackie Stewart's crash at Spa in Belgium when he found himself trapped upside down in his BRM, soaked in fuel and inside somebody's cellar. Spa, like many others circuits at the time was raced on real roads with houses right at the side of the circuit and with people stood on the roadside grass verges watching the cars fly by. Also there was the high profile fiery crash of Lorenzo Bandini at the Monaco chicane in 1967 and then Jim Clark's death in 1968.
Clark was widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers at the time and still one of the best ever, and when he didn't reappear at the end of his lap people drove round the German Hockenheim circuit looking for holes in the trees where his car might have left the track. They eventually found him in the woods along with the wreck of his car.
In fact the 1969 race at Spa and the 1970 race at the Nürburgring in Germany didn't take place because the drivers boycotted them as safety upgrades were not installed as they had demanded.
If you want to gain a taste for what the racing in this era was like you should watch the 1966 John Frankenheimer film Grand Prix. Released to DVD in 2006 it stars James Garner and features actual race footage of the 1966 races at Monaco, Clermont Ferrand in France, Spa in Belgium, Zandvoort on the Dutch coast, Brands Hatch in England and Monza in Italy with the now defunct banked curves.
These classic circuits made for great racing, and in fact Clermont Ferrand was so twisty and undulating that drivers like Jochen Rindt raced there in open faced helmets in case they vomited from motion sickness, so a game based on another season or without these classic racing circuits, in particular the nurburgring, would be unthinkable.
The Nürburgring, sometimes known as simply "The Ring," is near the town of Nurburg in Germany and it was built in the 1920s around the village and medieval castle. It was nicknamed The Green Hell by Jackie Stewart and i widely considered the toughest, most dangerous and most demanding purpose-built race track in the world.
Originally, the track featured four track configurations with a (17.and a half mile Gesamtstrecke ("Whole Course") made up of the north loop (Nordschliefe) and the south loop (Sudschliefe) and the circuit used today for Formula One is vastly different and positively tame in comparison, but by the late 1960s road circuits like the Nurburgring were becoming increasingly dangerous for the latest generation of Formula One cars so they started to add chicanes to bring the speeds down.
In 1970 Formula One drivers decided to boycott the race at the Nurburgring unless major changes were made so the German Grand Prix of that year was moved to Hockenheim instead as it had already been modified. Even higher demands by the drivers were either too expensive or impossible to meet due to the track's extraordinary length and the lack of space for run off areas because it is literally on the side of the mountains, so the 1976 race was deemed to be the last ever, even before it was held.
That year, Nikki Lauda the reigning world champion and the only person ever to lap the full 22.8km 14.189 mile Nordschleife in under seven minutes proposed to the other drivers that the circuit should be boycotted again. They disagreed with him and voted against the idea so the race went ahead. Ironically it was Lauda who crashed in his Ferrari, probably due to failure of the rear suspension, and because it was only on lap 2 his car was still loaded with fuel and he was badly burned. It could have been much worse had it not been for the combined efforts of his fellow drivers rather than by the ill equipped track marshals.The Lauda crash proved that the distances were too long for regular fire engines and ambulances and this crash marked the end of the old Nürburgring. It never hosted another Formual One race again.
If you want a more relaxing look at the nurburgring go to youtube.com and you will see dozens of videos both professional and amateur with in car footage. You can also buy the documentary "In Car 956" by Derek Bell that features him driving around these old classic road circuits in a Porsch 956 with turn by turn commentary. Incidentally the filmed lap of the Nurburgring in the documentary was the 4th fastest ever.
If you want to experience the track for real then at certain times such as weekday evenings and some weekends the road (for that's what it is) is given the legal status of a one way road with no speed limit so you can take your road legal car or motorbike along and drive around the Nordschliefe, but the Sudschliefe is partly abandoned and partly used as an access road to the new Formula One circuit.
Driving on the Nürburgring is only permitted using vehicles which comply with the law and which can achieve a minimum speed of 40 km/h. Joining and leaving the circuit is only allowed at the official entrances and exits and vehicles must drive on the right, in particular when overtaken, when on crests, in bends or in case of breakdown. Stopping is strictly forbidden including on the grass next to the track. Racing is prohibited and this includes attempting to set speed records with individual vehicles, though you can see in an episode of the BBC show Top Gear the motoring journalist and presenter Jeremy Clarkjson trying to get around the circuit in under 10 minutes using a diesel saloon car.
One of the most famous things about the Nurburgring is the corner known as the Karussell. Although it is one of the slower corners on the Nordschleife Karussell is perhaps its most iconic because of its banking. The banking came about due to a driver called Rudolf Caracciola who would drive around the original corner by hooking his inside tyres into a drainage ditch allowing him to take it more quickly.
As more and more concrete was uncovered and more drivers copied his technique the trend took hold, and when the corner was reconstructed it was made with real concrete banking, as it remains to this day. Because it's a slow corner and because of the variation in viewing angle as cars rotate around the banking it has become on of the circuit's most popular locations for photographers. The entrance to the corner is blind, although Juan Manuel Fangio is reputed to have advised a young driver to "aim for the tallest tree" and this tree was built into game versions of the circuit. For more info, pictures both historic and recent visit http://www.nurburgring.org.uk
If you want to experience the Nurburgring in game form then it is featured in Forza Motorsport on XBox and Gran Turismo 4 on Playstation 2 but for the real thrill of the circuit you need to experience it in Grand Prix Legends.
As I mentioned, the game was published in 1998 by the Papyrus division of Sierra Entertainment and there was a subsequent demo released in 2004 with limited circuits and cars but to this day it maintains a reputation as a very realistic race sim.
Its strong points are:
It has accurate car physics.
It has reasonably attractive graphics - for the time anyway.
It has impressive engine sounds.
Everything that moves in “GPL” is subject to the real-world laws of physics. Each tire has its own physics model. Each suspension part may be seen moving realistically up and down.
If you stomp on the brakes, the nose of the car dives.
Put the pedal to the metal and the rear end squats.
Bang into a curb and the steering wheel visibly shudders.
Even the rotational inertia of the engine is modeled, so when you push in the clutch and blip the throttle the chassis rocks.
Let the clutch out in neutral and the idle speed drops
Its weak points are:
The game's difficulty as the cars are quite difficult to drive well (although many fans consider this to be a virtue because Formula One cars of that era were extremely difficult to drive compared to modern high-downforce cars).
It has some minor physics flaws, such as primitive aerodynamic modelling (for drag and slipstream,ing etc.), and a simplified tyre model that completely omits tyre wear, but does make use of tyre pressures and temperatures, though in 1967 racing tires on F1 cars would not always wear out during a race and might be used for more than one event.
One criticism (valid initially) that people had was that the cars would spin without warning but this was addressed later and I'll come back to that.
Included with the game are eleven vintage 1967 tracks including of course the 14 mile long Nurburgring, the high speed Monza circuit in Italy and the tight street circuit of Monaco. All eleven of the tracks featured in the 1967 Formula One season apart from one, the French Grand Prix at Rouen. The actual French Grand Prix of that year was held at the Le Mans Bugatti track, but the Bugatti track and its surrounding landscape is generally considered somewhat lacking in interest by comparison. In fact, the Bugatti circuit even proved unpopular with the drivers at that time. Jack Brabham called it a "Mickey Mouse" track.
Much of the difficulty in driving the GPL machines is due to the accuracy of the physics model. The car handling is somewhat slippery but 1967 Grand Prix Formula One cars made a large amount of power i.e. over 350 hp (260 kW), had very little mass i.e. about 500 kg (1100 lb), and rode on hard, skinny, 'pre-radial' tires, with no downforce of any kind. All of this combined to make it what was in reality one of the most dangerous Formula One seasons ever.
The game didn't help matters though because certain decisions were made during production that perhaps with hindsight would not have been made. For example the demo version gave users a taster of the Brabham F1 car at the Watkins Glen circuit in America. Unfortunately the car was set up with approximately one degree of positive camber angle whereas an actual car of that era would have run one or more degrees of negative camber. What negative camber does is physically change the angle of the wheel.
When you stand in front of the car looking back at it, negative camber will mean that the whole wheel is tilted in at the top so in a straight line, the inside edge has most contact with the road, but as soon as you turn into a corner and the car and tyre start to "roll" (lean over) the whole of the outside tyre is in full contact with the road surface. This meant that the game actually gave you less grip than you should have had.
The learning curve was steep too because the "trainer" cars had reduced power and, in the case of the Novice Trainer, fewer gears but they were only available for use in practice sessions, so your first taste of an actual race had to be in a full F1 car at F1 speeds with F1 opponents. Add to this the fact that low powered PCs of the time allowed users to reduce the number of computer opponents if their PCs were unable to render a full grid of cars at a reasonable frame rate. Unfortunately, reducing the field was achieved by removing cars from the back of the grid starting with the slowest so you were left with a grid containing only the fastest drivers, but perhaps the most damaging aspect to the game's reputation was that of ride height, the height that the car's body physically sits above the track.
Grand Prix cars from 1967 typically ran 5 to 6 inches of ground clearance but Grand Prix Legends only allowed its cars to be set up with a ground clearance of 1 inch. Lowering the ride height is good because it lowers the car's centre of gravity of the car which helps improve cornering ability but a consequence of this is that the car has less available suspension travel. It just cant bounce.
So when the suspension is fully compressed it reaches the bump stops (small blocks of rubber that catch the suspension arms at the end of their range of movement). This is often referred to as "bottoming out" and once that happens the springs have no effect and the bump stops become in effect very hard suspension.
Having harder suspension at one corner of the car or on one wheel means that weight is transferred onto this wheel and away from the other wheels, so if a front wheel is taking all the weight then the car will understeer and if it is a rear wheel then the car will oversteer.
The default setups in Grand Prix Legends combined uncharacteristically low ride heights with short bump stops which meant the cars bottomed out a lot, especially on 1967 tracks with bumps and kerbs or even under any significant amount of acceleration or braking. These sudden onsets of either understeer or oversteer meant that you needed not only lightning reflexes but also a lot of luck. What didnt help was the fact that there was no sounds associated with bottoming out so you didnt know what had happened, all you knew was that you had spun off the track again.
On the very first page of the manual, it cautions, "The first time you go out on the track, you WILL spin and crash. This is because, the first time they play Grand Prix Legends, EVERYBODY spins and crashes."
There is a rumour that when Jackie Stewart had an opportunity to play the game he claimed that it was harder to drive than the actual 1967 Formula One cars had been.
Papyrus recognised the ride-height problem and the first patch (version 1.1) prevented setups from being lower than 2.5 inches but the reputation of "overly difficult handling" and "no grip" was already established but for those that persisted the cars were now extremely driveable.
SETUPS
The setup of the cars is probably more technical than it was back in 1967 where cars would often turn up at a circuit with th setup from the last race and build on it during practise sessions. There are so many options that at first setting a car up to be quick at a circuit is quite daunting, but if you're not sure about setting up your own car then there are tons available for download.
There is a great community built around this aspect and the sharing of setups is encouraged because at the end of the day, even if you use somebody else's setup it may not suit your driving style and you still have to physically drive it around the track.
To help still further you can also download people's replays of their laps so you can see things like where they brake and where they are changing gear, where they stray from the racing line where they feather the throttle etc. A handy feature is that a saved replay contains the entire field so you can jump from one car to another and from one view to another. A good source for these setups and replays is a driver called Steve Cloyd who is the world record holder on several tracks. You can find Steve's stuff among other things at http://www.gpladdicts.speedgeezers.net. If you're going to be good though you need to learn the art of setting your chosen car up as well as just driving it quickly.
So what do you need to run the game hardware wise?
The answer my friend is not much, not much at all, but when launched, GPL required what was for the time quite high-end hardware. While a software renderer was available, for smooth gameplay a 3D card was all but essential, and GPL supported only two types: 3dfx and Rendition Verité.
GPL's box stated that the minimum CPU required with hardware acceleration was a Pentium 90, and without it a Pentium 166, but in reality both these figures were well short of what was needed for a satisfactory frame rate.

Hardware Requirements:
Minimum requirements:
Pentium 166 or better
32MB of RAM
Windows-compliant video card with 2MB or more of video memory
2X or better CD-ROM drive
Mouse
Recommended requirements
Pentium II-266 or better
64MB of RAM
3Dfx Voodoo 1 or Voodoo 2, or Rendition v2x00 series video card
Joystick or steering wheel and foot pedals
Windows-compliant sound card

Let's be honest, most machines you have in your house these days, or even on your wrist, will run this game well enough. These specs though are for the original unpatched game, now the ptches require more modern hardware and higher specifications, though I've even played it on a laptop with a crappy graphics card, it's that easy to run.
Grand Prix Legends did not sell very well, especially in the US, where a Formula One-based game was less appealing than in the European market, while the game's hardware requirements meant that it did not run well on many computers at the time of its release.
GPL's lack of inbuilt support for 3D accelerator cards other than those produced by 3dfx and Rendition contributed to a decrease in sales when those cards became obsolete, since at the time there was no Direct3D support.
As of 2004 total sales were around 200,000 units. Many of these sales came quite late in the game's life, when increases in CPU power made the game run more smoothly, and after Papyrus had released patches to allow GPL to work with modern graphics accelerators. The addition of Force Feedback support also helped. The release of the game on budget ranges, the inclusion of a demo CD with the Nürburgring in this track's official 1999 season magazine as well as its giveaway in Germany in a 2001 issue of the magazine PC Action, also encouraged newcomers to GPL.
So how do you get this accurate yet flawed sim running on a modern system and up to date? Well, you can do it the official way if you like.
The official version 1.2 patch adds force feedback.
A second patch to add Direct3D and/or OpenGL support.
A third patch that gets around a problem that prevented the original game from working on computers with CPUs faster than 1.4 GHz, but the best way was to grab the most recent "all-in-one v2" patch from SimRacing. Yet again the homebrew scene has brought the best out of this classic game. It has even become possible to have GPL running not only on Windows, but also on Linux and OS X using Wine and Cider.
The Grand Prix Legends Preservation Society has a new installer that you run with the original disc in the drive and it not only installs GPL but upgrades all the tracks and cars to the latest specifications. It also contains several custom programs that are invaluable to a good install. By default GPL online will show only 4 cars in front and 1 behind over internet dialup connections. The bandwidth patch (bwpatch) increases those numbers to 6 in front and 2 behind or more, and it allows hosting servers to show any combination of cars in front and cars behind instead of the default 75%/25% division. To see what difference the bandwidth patch can make, see these examples.
As with anything, the backbone of this game and in particular it's continued growth and support is the strong community it has built up over the years. It is not huge but it is dedicated and helpful. There are updates and addons for all the original tracks and cars, for the menus the A.I., the drivers and there are now more than 500 tracks made by the game's fans which are listed at the Alternative GPL Track Database at http://gpltd.bcsims.com
One of them, the Isle Of Mann TT course has involved the builder, Jim Pearson visiting the track and taking still pictures and videos of the entire track with volunteers offering to help him out with other local information and help. If you don't think that's too impressive, Jim lives in Australia. Jim's GPL site is at http://jrpearson.homestead.com
On-line races can be organised using VROC (Virtual Racers' Online Connection) but also available now is a new online tool called iGOR (Grand Prix Online Racing).
An important feature of iGOR is that it prevents cheaters from from joining online races unlike VROC. iGOR comes with another tool called GEM+ 2 but more of GEM later.
Many other tools are available including those allowing telemetry-like analysis, giving individual sector times as oppose to whole lap times. An important update to do for a server racing online is the "loose grids" which gives you modified track.ini files for the tracks so that the starting grid is changed to a 1x1 staggered format giving the cars more roomat the stary. Lag and warping can be an issue when cars "merge"so lap 1 incidents can occur.
The most popular and interesting mods are the 65 Mod, the 66 Mod and the 69 Mod
65 Mod
In 2004 the 65 Mod, the first community made mod for GPL was released and since the game was proprietary software and there were no official tools or SDKs available from Papyrus, almost everything had to be worked out from scratch, and this meant that the whole process took about four years.
As the name suggests, the 65 Mod represents the 1965 Formula One season, the last one where Formula One used relatively tiny 1500cc engines. It has all the cars and drivers and a changed physics enginewhich makes it a very popular mod, especially for beginners. Due to the smaller engines the cars in this mod are generally considered to be more easy-handling than the 1967 3-litre cars and while still not easy, they are definitely more driveable.
In 2004 the 65 Mod won the 'Best Mod' award at Blackhole Motorsports, an international website aimed at 'hardcore' simracers.
69 Mod
The 69 Mod was the next one released and again as the name suggests it was based on the 1969 Formula One season. This one is particularly interesting because it adds aerodynamic downforce to the physics model, a feature not included in the original physics model. As of the initial release, the wings were only adjustable outside the game in the GEM+ utility but the part 2 release added in-game wing settings.
The 69 Mod contains three carsets:
One representing the pre-Monaco, high-wing configuration.
One representing the post-Monaco, low wing configuration.
One without wings as used at Monaco.
This is because wings were temporarily banned because of major accidents including one at the thursday practice session for Monaco.
The 66 Mod
This mod was formally announced on August 8, 2006 and naturally simulates the 1966 F1 season, with the cars themselves being based on the late season grid to allow as many cars as possible to be nearer the three litre engine formula that the 1966 rules allowed, as opposed to the two litre engines that some teams ran early in the season
The 66 teams are the same teams from 1967, but the cars are generally lower powered and generally somewhat heavier than their 1967 counterparts.
The 66 Mod includes all the physics developments from the previous 65 and 69 Mods (though even further refined), including the downforce model, more realistic tyre characteristics and the slipstreaming enhancements.
Another new feature with this mod is that car choice has been expanded from 7 to 16 and more tracks than 64 per season can be installed. To increase the realism of 60's engine characteristics, most run irregularly at low revs.
The Night Mod
Released before the 66 Mod but not as popular was the Night Mod which includes the original 1967 cars and the 1965 cars but the difference is that they have lights to enable them to drive the Night Tracks.
Until 2008 there had never been any real Grand Prix races run in the dark but perhaps now that Singapore has hosted the world's first night race this year, this mod will become more popular.
I have to say that the screen shots look amazing.
http://gplmz.bcsims.com/sub/ftommi/65_3.jpg

iGOR and GEM
http://gem.ebi-service.de/
iGOR we covered for racing online but GEM is a tool necessary for launching the different mods once installed. A standard install has a gpl.exe but the 65 Mod renames that to gpl67.exe and creates gpl65.exe, but instead of having to launch each one directly you can run GEM, select the mod to run and it will launch the correct .exe for you and also load the relevant .ini files for that mod.
You can adjust almost everything before you start Grand Prix Legends like sounds, layouts, graphics and track lists etc. GEM also has a launcher for iGOR.
Like I said, the force behind GPL nowadays is the community behind it and a great resource for all things GPL is http://www.gpllinks.org with tons of links to all aspects of the GPL community.
The racing community I joined is UKGPL and you can find them, and me at http://www.ukgpl.com
Once you get proficient at the game and want to compare your progress with others, including me, you can go to GPLRANK which is found at http://www.gplrank.schuerkamp.de
Here you need to upload your player.ini file (or your plac65.ini file for the 65 Mod) and it will chart your progress and give you a final rank. Believe me though, it will be disheartening when you see how you compare to some of the best.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about hit youtube and search for the user gxtracker and you will find tons of videos there. If that whets your appetite then you can buy the game from play.com for £33.99 or Amazon for £4. At the very least pick up the demo version, but for how cheaply it is available for you should really pick up the full game. Once you do you'll take your first step into the community that surrounds GPL.
I had a spare PC sat here doing nothing so I turned it into a GPL iGOR online race server for people to practise on in between races, and actually now i use it to host UKGPL races. There is nothing like having other human cars around you, even during practise to help you prepare for racing. It's fine being able to drive around a circuit on the racing line within 1 second of you Personal Best each time, but throw more cars, especially human ones into the mix and people can easily go to the dogs.
This is where you find out if two cars can get through a corner side by side and its no good finding that out in a race. Thats what practise is for, and especially online practise. My efforts here have been much appreciated and I have been given an offical UKGPL server number. UKGPL5, and I'm now also a race moderator for UKGPL. I know, next stop Victoria Cross right?
Seriously this is a great community to be a part of and it makes for great racing.
The 67s race every other Sunday and the 65s every other Tuesday, but there is somebody on the practise server most evenings, or mornings, depending on where you are in the world, so do yourself a favour, pick up the game and I'll see you on track and online.

Mike James (UKMike)

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