Track Talk: Oregon Raceway Park

One version of my Summer plans had me racing at Oregon Raceway Park this weekend (Lemons) or maybe next (Lucky Dog). If that was happening, I would have done some virtual training to get familiar with a track I’ve never been to. I guess I could do that anyway. YSAR reader “the kornfield” asked me to do a track review of ORP, so what the hell, let’s go.

I support indie devs

Before I dive into the review, I want to say a little about the creative people who spend way too many hours making content for simulators. One of my absolute favorite cars in Assetto Corsa is the Russell Alexis Mk.14 Formula Ford by @Stereo. If I can afford to pay $10 for an iRacing car (which I have a couple times), I can certainly afford to pay @Stereo $10. So I did. But even more important to me than cars, are tracks. These let me train for tracks I’m going to soon, visit tracks I’ll probably never race, and explore fantasy tracks with unique characteristics. Many of my favorite tracks are available in iRacing, Assetto Corsa, or rFactor 2, but Thunderhill had been missing for a long time. I can recall a thread on Race Department where people were asking which track they wanted. I said I wanted Thunderhill so badly I’d pay $100 for it. Well, not too long ago, @Tyrone started working on Thunderhill. It’s been through several revisions and is now getting really good. I figured I had better put my money where my mouth is, so I joined his Patreon, first at a low tier, but now at the highest $25/month tier. I’ll probably stay beyond $100 because without @Tyrone, there is no Thunderhill. One of his latest tracks is Oregon Raceway Park. That’s right, there’s ORP in AC as well as rFactor 2. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Here’s the like to subscribe to @Tyrone (aka nukedrop): https://www.patreon.com/nukedrop

Assetto Corsa vs. rFactor 2

You know what would be fun? Comparing AC and rF2 at ORP. I love comparisons, and it’s about time I did a head-to-head between my two favorite racing sims.

ORP vs. ORP

I’m curious how different the models of the track are. Since I’ve never been there in person, I can’t comment on how authentic they are, but I can at least say how similar they are to each other.

Vehicles

So which vehicles am I going to use? That’s a simple choice for me. When learning a new track, I almost always use an older open wheel car like a Formula Ford or Skip Barber. Why?

  • Open wheel cars have the best visibility. When I’m learning a new track, I want to observe as much as possible.
  • No nannies. If you have ABS, traction control, or stability control, you won’t find the dangerous parts of the track as quickly. In a virtual training session, the primary goal is to identify the most dangerous parts of the track.
  • Low grip. Older vehicles had pretty terrible rubber. Sliding around the track helps you find the fastest and safest line.
  • No aero. Without any downforce, you will have extra respect for the fast corners.

Video or it didn’t happen

Normally, I write a lot of text and don’t upload much video. But for this post I thought I would do something unusual (for me) and talk live as I drove. As it turned out, my microphone was way too quiet and basically inaudible. So I ended up recording an audio track afterwards.

Text version

Personally, I don’t like wading through 10 minutes of video where I could read it in 1 min, so here are the highlights of the video in case you’re impatient like me.

  • The most dangerous corner is T16, a blind left-hander that leads onto the main straight. It’s easy to run out of room on the exit and drop a wheel or 4 in the dirt. If you’re not accustomed to driving on dirt, you may find yourself over-compensating for loss of traction, which could see you shooting across the track and into the K-wall on the left. Given how high speed this corner is, the damage could be severe.
  • T7 is probably the next most dangerous. You go into this with a lot of speed and the corner is partially blind and off camber. The car might get loose here, which is exciting/frightening at high speed. If you carry a lot of speed, you may find yourself running out of room as the track turns in to meet you.
  • Turns 3, and 13 are very slow and preceded by long straights. Taking the usual very late apex may see you skewered by some idiot who brakes too late and skids into your tire. So don’t create a huge Vortex of Danger by setting up really wide. Put your rear bumper between yourself and the idiots.
  • In terms of lap times, I think the most important area is the 4-5 complex. T5 sets up a really long section of track. In order to maximize your speed through T5, you have to throw away the exit of T4. I mean really throw it away.
  • T7 and T8 is my favorite combination. It takes some bravery and skill to keep as much speed as possible through T7. T8 is basically one very long, very gradual, off-camber braking zone. Fun!
  • The AC version of ORP looks much more modern than rF2. If old-school graphics are an eyesore to you, AC is the better choice.
  • Both the AC Formula Ford and rF2 Skip Barber car models are great to drive because they are highly responsive to changes in balance. I love how slippery the default tires are.

AC vs. rF2 vs. everything else

There are a number of good racing simulators aside from AC and rF2. So why are these two of my favorites? Probably the biggest reason is that they have strong modding communities. I don’t think iRacing will ever have ORP or Thunderhill. Since I use simulators as virtual training, I want to drive cars that are similar to what I have access to. It’s pretty unlikely I’ll be driving a GT3 or prototype any time soon. I drive Miatas, BMWs, FWD econoboxes, and the like. I want my simulator to offer these cars at tracks I visit in real life.

So what about AC vs. rF2? Since much of the content is user-created, there’s a lot of variation from track to track and car to car. For example, the AC version of ORP looks so much better than rF2, and the Formula Ford is also visually much better than the Skip Barber. But once on track, they are sort of similar driving experiences. I feel like rF2 is just a little bit more authentic on tarmac. For dirt, AC is much better, but that’s not saying much as there really isn’t much dirt in rF2.

So let’s get back to imagining I’m about to prepare for an upcoming race at ORP. Which simulator would I use? I would probably start out in rF2 with the Skip Barber because it’s so easy to get into trouble with that. My first goal is always to identify the danger zones. But then I’d switch over to the NA Miata in Assetto Corsa and do the rest of my training there.

5 thoughts on “Track Talk: Oregon Raceway Park

  1. Amazing! This is so helpful–particularly your commentary in the video in which you describe how you’re classifying the various turns into each type. The layout of this course makes it not immediately apparent where some of the straights are, as mentioned in the original post about the most important corner, so having some more detail on the other turns is really helpful.

    Thank you for putting this together–I’m still digesting all of it, there is so much here.

    And unrelated to this track, I’m particularly excited to hear that Thunderhill may finally be available on a sim! Such fantastic news.

    Like

  2. Nice! I track PIR and ORP as well. I can’t find the ORP track for assetto corsa. Can you post a link to it, or tell us where to find it? Cheers and see you at ORP soon :)

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  3. I’ve raced at ORP a bunch of times. The rf2 track is nearly perfect.
    It looks like you only drove ORP clockwise. CCW is the really fun direction.

    You mention T16 being dangerous. It is. It seems like every race at least one car goes into the K barrier hard enough to move it.

    Like

    1. I also like the reverse CCW direction. Hard to say which is better. It’s shocking how much a track changes when you drive the other direction. It’s like having 2 tracks in 1.

      Like

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