The 60s F1 cars understeer considerably with the default setup. A good start is to set front and rear roll bars to be equal. I set both of mine to 46. Default tire pressure is too high. I set 1psi above minimum in both front and rear. Break bias is also way off and fronts lock up too early. Shifting bias more toward rear will create much better braking and feel.
From a standing start you may need to squeeze the throttle, back it off as you exceed optimum slip and enter wheelspin, squeeze again, etc. many times as you struggle to maintain optimum slip. As you get a better feel for it and with practice you will reduce the number of times you need to back off and roll back on the throttle. The objective is to stay in the ideal slip range for maximum traction as you accelerate. This sounds tedious and frustrating but it doesn’t have to be. My perspective is that it keeps the straights from being boring and provides another opportunity to excel where others won’t.
The ability to initiate wheelspin at very high speeds is both a blessing and a curse. With smooth inputs, you can use this to your advantage to balance and control the heading and direction of the car. Some, however, will elect to forgo this ability for the security that comes with increasing power differential. There is nothing wrong with either approach as there are trade-offs with each.
Braking is as it is with any car, although your distances will be longer than cars with ABS, more downforce and/or softer tires. The advantage of this is that there is more room for differentiate yourself through better braking than with other cars which have a narrower difference between average and excellent braking skills.
Steering and balance
The 60s F1 cars can be steered with both the throttle and wheel. Some choose to steer with the rear and use wheel for balance. Others steer with the wheel and use the throttle and weight transfer for balance. Still others like me use multiple techniques depending on the situation. Wheelspin, weight transfer and steering inputs all combine to initiate four wheel drift that is vital to achieving maximum grip. While counterintuitive, sliding into a turn, even an off camber turn, can stabilize the car and prevent oversteer and loss of control. Additionally, if performed just right, counter steering during acceleration on a slight curve, such as Sebring’s Big Bend, one can easily gain tenths.
Avoid the tempation to overdrive the car. Use smooth and subtle inputs and keep the tires relatively quiet even though often it will seem too slow. Four wheel drifting is different. You will hear the tire scrub but not skid loudly. The key is not to focus on using all available power, but rather on balance and speed in the correct direction. This is also important when you are “off” and not achieving your desired times. As with any car but perhaps more so with Spark, sometimes you just have to call it a day and sleep on it rather than develop bad habits because you are not in the zone. I’ll never forget practicing with another racer for an online race at Malaysia and the day before I was just “off” but that day I was doing well but the person I was practicing with was way off, literally could not stay on the track but on race day we both were on fire and achieved new PB multiple times.
Rubber, tire temps and tracks
Drive carefully until you get your tires up to temperature, especially on a green track. Drive on a well-rubbered track, at least until you become sufficiently comfortable getting around a green track enough times to get your tire temps up. Driving on a variety of tracks will also help develop different handling techniques. Malaysia, for example, has an excellent variety of challenges that will develop your ability to handle the car.
Avoiding and getting out of trouble
It is always better to go off track with a balanced car than to risk spinning from touching grass to save a few tenths but then wind up losing several full seconds or even crashing out of the race. This is one of the reasons why more experienced drivers crash less even though they may often go slightly off track. This is especially useful in that it can increase confidence to use the entire track on turn exit.
To mitigate the impact of the the pendulum effect from over-correcting oversteer, immediately locking up the brakes can keep you from spinning out. If you are late in removing steering correction and feel the weight of the car begin to move in the opposite direction too quickly, slamming on the brakes can help keep the car in a straight line.
Performance, focus & experience
Perhaps one of the greatest characteristics of the 60s F1 cars is the degree to which each race is a “performance”. As stated above, you can be “on” some days and “off” some days and this is the same thing that separates the truly great from the others in real life ; the ability to consistently perform or perceive, accurately assess and work within limits or stretch when “in the zone”, etc. In addition to race day focus, wisdom and attitude, tactical and strategic preparation decisions also come into the picture as does learning from your mistakes and that brings sim racing just that much closer to the rich experience that is real life racing.
You’ll know you are on the right track (pardon the pun), when you begin to identify endless opportunities for improvement. On the best tracks, every improvement I make simply reveals more opportunities. I no longer yearn for new tracks as I have yet to master any of the ones I already have, even after focusing on a single track each week.
Open your mind to modern and fictional tracks. If you don’t, you are missing out on what I consider to be some of the best racing available. There are many modern and fictional tracks that each have an amazing story to tell with the 60s F1 cars.
Good luck and have fun!