If you ever envy motoring journalists who get to drive exotic machinery before it becomes available to the wealthy businessman and footballers (let alone the fact that most of us won’t ever get to drive them), then at least we can console ourselves with the knowledge that a virtual Grand Prix car costs the same as a virtual VW Jetta!

Of course if you are an inRacingNews journalist then you just might get to drive the upcoming Williams FW31 before it is made available to the membership. Feeling envious? You should!

online racingMind you, the car isn’t quite finished. The engineers are completing tweaks to various components including wiring up those little dials on the steering wheel to actually work. The wheel-modders are going to have a field day when this thing is launched and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

driving games

You can change the FW31’s differential settings with the flick of a switch.

I was always a fan of modern GP sims, right up until Grand Prix Legends was launched (which I thought was an odd choice of era until I drove it). Since then modern GP sims have never really excited me. I have always felt more involved with the low grip, non-aero cars in simulations as the driver involvement can be simulated but the sensations of sheer speed and high grip are harder to convey. Even the good simulators have felt a bit “arcadey,” as if things have simply been speeded up.

So one question when I fired up the Williams for the first time was whether it would just feel like it was in time-acceleration mode. I didn’t get to answer that question at first because what you initially notice is the sound. It’s the best yet in iRacing. Internally it sounds great; externally it manages to almost convey that first time you hear a Grand Prix car in the flesh. I say ‘almost’ because nothing quite prepares you for the sheer brutality of a GP car on full chat, but this is much –  make that much – closer than TV.

screenhunter_10-sep-17-1032Select first, give it some throttle and that brutality extends to driving this car for the first time. It isn’t necessarily the speed at leaving pit lane, nor the wheel spin that impresses as much as how it conveys getting all the power through the drive train to the rear tyres. I found myself gingerly pressing the throttle as I tried to identify just how much the back-end could take.  But it feels controllable and you can instantly relate to those on-board shots where the drivers are feeling for the traction on corner exit and the revs rise and fall. You certainly need to be quick to deal with it but there isn’t the instant spin switch – the driver remains involved.

Of course cornering speeds are higher than anything else in iRacing and yes, you need to be precise, but it feels very involving.  The car may twitch as it loses grip at one end, but with quick correction it’s brought back in line – very much what we see in real Grands Prix. These little errors lose fractions of time and the driver is being made to work, but it never feels impossible.

This is what I love about this car. I am not the fastest driver, especially when it comes to the top-flight, high downforce machines. Yet I feel like I have worked hard driving the Williams on the edge of my ability. With every other modern GP sim since Grand Prix Legends I have felt like I have just been memorizing points on the track to brake, turn in, accelerate, track out; which of course we do in every sim and every car. But the iRacing Williams FW31 adds a new level of fidelity to driving a Grand Prix car in a simulation and manages to convey the sensations of raw power above and beyond simply driving very fast.screenhunter_11-sep-17-1032

Like a kid in a sweet shop I have driven at Silverstone, Virgina International Raceway and Road Atlanta. I even tried Summit Point to compare with a certain Ferrari test track, dipping into the 54s and it was an awesome experience. The feedback when a wheel locks under braking or loses traction under acceleration feels instantaneous and there is a true feeling of man and machine in harmony – even if my harmony is two seconds slower than the next man!

This kind of reminds me of Grand Prix Legends for the opposite reasons. I had little interest in ‘60s Grand Prix racing and yearned for a modern GP title instead. Of course I was hooked when I drove GPL. Since then, modern Grand Prix has done little for me in racing simulations, so the thought of an iRacing GP car wasn’t a great deal for me personally. However, I may be hooked again!

The one plea I would make to iRacing is that ten years ago most Grand Prix Legends races ran at Class D or C race distances and the setup garage was relatively simple compared to that of a modern day Grand Prix car. Making Grand Prix available for the masses is something we can do in sim racing, so a short, fixed setup series to complement the top flight GP series would be fantastic.games driving

GP is back!

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wow, awesome article!

I cannot wait to mod my own wheel. I’m already drooling. Such great news that the dials/switches on the wheels will function. Oh yes!

M. Voigt
September 17th, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Now, you have a new nick name : Lucky Tony 🙂

Great news for the steering wheel. Time to invest again ?? 🙂
And the sound is good news. Did you test a build with the new sound engine Tony ?

Nicolas Bihan
September 17th, 2010 at 7:24 pm

That car looks great! Interesting article too. Too bad I only have 2 buttons on my wheel. 🙁

[Don’t agree with having a fixed setup series though. This is F1! You need to be able to tune the car to your own driving style. (Plus you can bet there will be tons of setups available on the forums.)]

Russell Hodgson
September 17th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

if they make it fixed setup Im done with iracing

September 17th, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Ahh Lucky Tony, thanks for the write up. Cant wait see…and hear it!

Andrew Stanzl
September 17th, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Awesome article Tony, as always!

I am not sure if I hate you for having had this experience before me, or if I pat your back and buy you a pint for sharing it!

Ggrrrr thanks mate


September 17th, 2010 at 8:17 pm

I think the OPTION of a fixed setup race series for this car is a very smart idea.

There are several cars in iRacing I have not purchased simply because I know I’ll never beat the drivers/teams who spend the time to tweak the setup for each track until I spend some serious time learning how.

This car gives me the motivation I need to spend the time to learn. BUT…………..until I do learn I would like to have the OPTION to be competitive in a race. Fixed setup does that.

Now I’ve got to learn how to mod a wheel, too! {;^)

Bill Wright
September 17th, 2010 at 8:38 pm

DEAR GOD please not fixed setup series

September 17th, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I think the few of you are a bit confused…

They are considering having a series of both:

Just like how the Vette series is…. That series seems to be hurt AND improved… Hard to say. You can bet there will be enough people interested in open setup series and there will be plenty of setups available on the forum.

M. Voigt
September 17th, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Cool stuff Tony great Article.

It was very relieving to read what you think about the steering, I was afraid the steering might be as broken as with the Lotus 79 where 1cm of wheel movement is enough to get you through any corner, the steering in the Lotus is like digital, an ON-OFF Switch. A great disappointment.

With the upcoming FW31 it seems like the car will actually be steer-able.

George Kuyumji
September 17th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Great article Tony! You *almost* made me drool. That is quite an accomplishment.. 🙂

Matthew Mitchell
September 17th, 2010 at 8:58 pm

i hope for a fixed setup series! U know how much things you have to tweak on a f1?!!? I don’t want to hire an engineer for a setup on iracing.. 😛

alessandro fior
September 17th, 2010 at 9:46 pm

If we get a fixed (not interested) series I hope the races are short sprints.

Paul D Smith
September 17th, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Just to clarify, the short, fixed setup idea is a secondary series to the primary A class, A distance and open setup series. It would be unthinkable that the top flight series would be anything less.

The suggestion of adding two series will be anathema to some and a headache for iRacing management to slot in but I am convinced the car will be hugely popular in both formats.

The setup engineers amongst will absoutely love the garage, the fixed setup concept is very much an additional and separate series.

Tony Rickard
September 17th, 2010 at 11:26 pm

pit speed limiter?

September 18th, 2010 at 12:25 am

> pit speed limiter?

Forgot to mention that but yes 🙂

Tony Rickard
September 18th, 2010 at 8:26 am

A full on class A GP along with, say a class B fixed series with half distances would be awesome.

Great article!

Christiaan LeGrand
September 19th, 2010 at 1:43 am

Full distance GP’s, full setup ability. accept nothing less! 😀

cannot wait!

Dave M
September 19th, 2010 at 6:18 am

No fixed setup series, please. There will be plenty of setups available on the forums.

Klaus Kivekäs
September 19th, 2010 at 4:58 pm


Having both options will kill the OPEN option, as it happend with C6R

Ales Papler
September 20th, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Oh and if there is a FIxed setup series (which i hope it wont be):

FIXED: 2 days (maybe Wednesday and Friday)
OPEN: 7 days

Ales Papler
September 20th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Ales you assume that the FW31 will suffer from the same popularity problems the Corvette did.

If you take something that isn’t popular and give people an alternative they prefer the unpopular item will become even more unpopular and perhaps obsolete.

If you take something that is popular and give people an alternative that they may find more appealing then that popular item will suffer some sure, but not die. See the poll in the FW31 forum. There are lots of interested people that will be driving the A-class open version of the car.

Ryan Terpstra
September 22nd, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Mr. Rickard, the last sentence of your article was the most profound. Your idea of a fixed setup series is brilliant. I say this, as I have always felt that sim racing is not a level playing field because of what I call the engineer and geek/nerd setup artist. As a good driver with limited technical ability it becomes boring to be beaten by those who have a definite talent for setup and less for driving. I hope I Racing takes note of your suggestion. I just quit LFS for that very reason, it is unfair racing for the technically challenged person, and I think that represents a significant number of people. This is not a put down of technically talented persons, they are appreciated, it’s just that others would like to be in the hunt for a good finish too.

September 23rd, 2010 at 7:40 am

My thoughts on fixed setup and shorter race distances as an additional series for this car are more for accessibility rather than to level the field. Performance is a variable mix of practice, talent and setup. People may feel more inclined to join who are limited on time, desire or ability to work on setups but it isn’t necessarily about finding the best driver, rather making it easier to join in.

Tony Rickard
September 23rd, 2010 at 6:03 pm

> There are several cars in iRacing I have not purchased simply
> because I know I’ll never beat the drivers/teams who spend
> the time to tweak the setup for each track until I spend some
> serious time learning how.

That is a pretty sad attitude towards a hobby.

Dave Kadlcak
October 2nd, 2010 at 2:58 pm

fixed setup series? count me out

Peter Burke
October 4th, 2010 at 7:39 pm

> fixed setup series? count me out

Count you in on the class A series then?

Jonathan Stewart
October 4th, 2010 at 9:35 pm

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