YSAR reader Bob was the first AC driver to take up the wheel and answer the RWD vs. FWD question “Which one is faster in your hands?” The first time he did this, he didn’t choose “Optimum” track conditions and got these times.
- RWD 1:05.4, 1:06.1
- FWD 1:03.6, 1:04.1
In his hands, FWD was 2 seconds faster on average. Isn’t that amazing? Bob is relatively new to sim racing and hasn’t driven Brands Hatch or the Miata very much. As he gets more acclimated to the virtual world, the difference will become smaller. A couple days later he updated the info with Optimal grip.
- RWD 1:03.9, 1:05.3
- FWD 1:01.9, 1:02.7
As you can see, FWD is still winning by 2 seconds. For myself, the difference is on the order of 0.2-0.3 seconds. Maybe a professional driver could make RWD faster than FWD, but if you’ve got skill/experience equal to or less than mine, I expect you’re going to be faster in FWD.
Let’s see some comments from Bob.
I’ve never driven a FWD car on track or in the sim before. I’ve almost always driven mid-engine cars although I did take a front engine/rear drive on track once.
Most of the really good sportscars are MR. That said, should one start a high performance driving journey in a MR vehicle? I’m not sure which layout makes the best first car. I don’t think FF is the best for training. RWD can do the same things as FWD but the reverse isn’t true. For training purposes it certainly doesn’t matter which one is faster.
The RWD car was down-right squirrelly. I never felt like I could get to WOT coming out of a turn and I actually managed to break the rear end loose on the straights! I think it would have done better if it had more grip except it had as much grip as the FWD car which felt pretty nicely planted. I think the FWD benefits from needing to turn in later which also means braking later.
Yeah, I also got the rear end loose on the straights. A 185 width street tire isn’t the best choice for a 250 hp Miata. On the other hand, there’s a lot more grip here than on a wet track. When I compare RWD vs. FWD with less power, I get similar results: that is, FWD still wins on average. So I think if there was more grip, FWD would still win.
As usual, when one asks questions like “where is X faster than Y” the answer is everywhere. Not strictly true, but as you can see from the time graph at the bottom, FWD wins everywhere except the downhill T1. Why is RWD faster on T1? It has a more balanced weight distribution. FWD starts at 60/40 and then goes even more unbalanced on a hill. Why is FWD faster everywhere else? Because the FWD driver isn’t worried about spinning every time he adds power.
Conclusions & Thoughts
Two drivers of different experience ended up finding the same thing: FWD is faster than RWD (in a sim, at a specific track, with a specially modeled vehicle, etc). I did everything I could to make the testing scenario fair. I’d love it if a few more people took up the challenge to make the study more robust.
So you might be asking, “why is Ian a couple seconds faster than Bob?” Just like anything else, you have to train. I’ve got over 1000 hours in the virtual driver’s seat. In the new year, I’m planning on a series of posts on sim training exercises where I coach some students through some drills and watch what happens. I will need a few test subjects for that, so if you want some personalized virtual coaching, drop me a message. I’ll be using Assetto Corsa for that, so if you want to be a guinea pig, make sure you have that and you don’t have a Logitech wheel (Logitech sucks in AC).