Let’s talk about Automobilista 2

Among sim racing enthusiasts, Automobilista (AMS) is well respected for its vehicle dynamics. It’s not very popular compared to iRacing or Assetto Corsa. Honestly, it’s not popular compared to just about any other platform. Maybe that’s because of its obscure car and track collection? Or maybe advertising? In any case, people who like realistic sims tend to have AMS in their software library. Personally, I don’t use it as often as AC or rF2 because of the track collection. I prefer (a) tracks I may visit in real life (b) rally courses. But if AC and rF2 didn’t exist, I’d be very happy with AMS.

Project CARS is well known for its Madness engine. If you want to see how gorgeous a car simulation can be, PCARS and its successor PCARS2 are at the top of the heap. But hardcore sim racers generally feel that PCARS is a little on the arcade side and PCARS2 is a lot on the arcade side. I found that it was really car dependent with some vehicles excellent and others miserable.

When Reiza Studios announced that Automobilista 2 would be using the Madness engine, I got pretty excited. Best physics with best graphics? How can they go wrong? I purchased AMS2 during a sale event but have been waiting for the official 1.0 release before driving it. They have been making lots of little fixes over the last couple months as they get close to 1.0, so the release is going to happen soon. But I got impatient and started trying it anyway.

Controller Setup

Sadly, AMS2 inherits PCARS2’s hidden configuration files. You can’t tweak values in a text file. However, you can see the default values of the pedals when they are at rest, and this lets you set the floor (I think). Calibration probably sets the ceiling correctly but you might want to stop before pushing your pedals to the end just in case. It’s hard to know because there is no feedback in game to show you what the input values are. I suppose I could record data to find out. There are a couple commercial products for data acquisition and analysis (e.g. Z1 Analyzer) but nothing yet that simply exports to AiM, MOTEC, or TrackAttack.

Vehicle Selection

AMS2 has a very strange mixture of cars. You’ll find plenty of Formula cars and prototypes if you like the high end. There are also karts. But there’s also a lot of low performance cars in both RWD and FWD from various Brazilian series.  I can’t think of any other platform that has so many shitty FWD cars. So, yeah, I’m in sim racing heaven with the vehicle selection because I love shitty cars in general. (By shitty I don’t really mean bad, but rather all analog with low power and low grip).

Track Selection

The bulk of the catalog are Brazilian tracks. I’ve never been to any of them and my guess is I never will. So to me they’re a bit like fantasy tracks. Nothing wrong with fantasy tracks! Some of my favorite tracks aren’t real.

Great news, my favorite test track, Brands Hatch, is in the game, as well as a bunch of other UK tracks like Snetterton and Donington. All appear to be laser scanned. There are no dirt tracks yet and I’m not sure if they are planning on that or not.


My favorite driving test is a low powered Formula car at Brands Indy. AMS2 has a Formula Trainer, so that’s perfect. Unfortunately, the Formula Trainer has some really weird behaviors. The steering isn’t even remotely linear. Turn a little and nothing happens. Turn a little bit more and suddenly the wheels turn too much. There’s a really weird understeer behavior and sometimes the front tires don’t spin at all. I went off track into the grass and the car literally got stuck and couldn’t move. I was about to weep baseball-sized tears of sorrow and ask for a refund when I decided I should check out some other cars.

It turns out that the FWD cars are a completely different story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sim so committed to old FWD cars. Thank you Reiza Studios! They are awesome. Finally, FWD cars that actually drive like FWD cars.

Next up, I tried the Formula Vee. Last year, Reiza put together a car and track pack for rFactor 2, and I bought that. So I’ve driven the Reiza FV before, just in a different sim. I really like the FV in rF2. Also, the Puma is really great. In AMS2 the FV is equally awesome. But it isn’t the same. The AMS2 FV is a lot more stable than the rF2 FV. It may be differences in the default setups. I haven’t explored that yet.

Why should the Formula Trainer be so different from the FV? Physics is physics and the two cars aren’t that different on paper. But they are very different. Did RS do something stupid like inherit the Formula Rookie from PCARS2?


There is no modding in AMS2. That means no community-created cars and tracks. FUUUUUUCK.


How successful will AMS2 be? Not very. It looks great and drives great (mostly), but that isn’t enough to unseat any of its rivals. It doesn’t have the match-making structure of iRacing. Nothing else does either. You might go to AMS2 for organized races but not for pick-up games. It doesn’t have community content. One of the reasons AC and rF2 are so popular is that the community has created a huge number of cars and tracks. It doesn’t have a Miata. Miata is always the answer. It doesn’t have a low price tag. The Season Pass DLC is like $100. It has one thing that the other sims don’t have: a focus on Brazilian Stock Car racing. That means it comes with some pretty cool tracks and some awesome shitty cars. That’s good enough for me and some hardcore sim racers, but most people will get a lot more out of AC, rF2, or iRacing.

So is AMS2 better than the original? Like PCARS2, DR2, and ACC, the graphics got better. Maybe some other things got better or will get better. But the loss of modding is a really hard loss. So no, I don’t think AMS2 is actually better than AMS. It may be someday in the future when there’s more content, but right now you’re better off with the original.

iRacing vs. others

The most popular driving game is Grand Theft Auto V. The number of people tuned into that is greater than all other platforms combined (I’m using Twitch statistics for the last 180 days). To be fair, GT5 isn’t really a driving game. I don’t think anyone buys wheel, pedals, and shifter to play GTA5. But the number of average viewers, 73,267, is an indication of how popular driving content (ish) can be.

The next most popular game, Rocket League, is soccer played with cars. But the cars don’t really move like cars. They drive up walls, spin and flip in the air, and generally behave like superheroes. It looks like fun. Not like driving, but it looks like it takes a mixture of skill and teamwork. It’s roughly 1/10th as popular as GTA5, but 6,485 average viewers is pretty amazing.

iRacing is the most popular simulation title, and its popularity is climbing consistently. The yearly numbers from 2016 to 2019 are 141, 167, 299, 642, and if you focus on the last 180 days, 732. That’s great, but still only 1% of the viewership compared to GTA5.

Weirdly, Euro Truck Simulator (726) and American Truck Simulator (199) are some of the more popular simulation titles. Apparently it’s more engaging to watch someone navigate city streets than race tracks.

F1 2019 is doing surprisingly well with 415 average viewers. F1 is the most watched motorsport in the real world, so it stands to reason that it would be popular in the gaming world. I’ve never tried F1 2019 or its predecessors. When I buckle into my virtual harness, I like to drive cars I might drive in real life, and have those cars behave authentically. I can’t imagine driving an F1 car in real life, and if I did so in simulation, I wouldn’t have any idea how authentic it was.

It’s surprising how poorly some of the iRacing direct competitors are faring. Assetto Corsa Competizione was designed to be an iRacing killer. ACC is the official Blancpain GT simulator. That license used to belong to iRacing and the GT3 cars were the most popular on iRacing. Somehow ACC got the rights instead, and their competitive esport version of the series has only 42 average viewers. Near the same popularity, 58, is Gran Turismo Sport, another esport attempt that hasn’t proved popular. Other mild failures include Project CARS 2 (48) and DiRT Rally 2 (36), two titles whose sequels were arguably not better than their originals.

At the moment, my 3 favorite platforms are rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa, and DiRT Rally, in that order. I’ll post soon about why rFactor 2 has overtaken Assetto Corsa. But rFactor 2 and DiRT Rally have miserable viewership: 10 each. What’s worse, I’m really looking forward to Automobilista 2, due out in Spring 2020. The original Automobilista has zero viewers, and I don’t imagine the sequel will have a huge impact either.

Why is iRacing winning the relatively small esports racing market? I think there are four main reasons.

  1. It’s the most popular platform. New players will be attracted to the game with the most players.
  2. It’s good enough. Among hardcore sim racers, iRacing isn’t considered to have the best physics. The tire model, in particular is often criticized. However, all the tracks are laser-scanned, and the feel of the game is pretty good.
  3. They have the best racing support. Whether you’re racing in official series or building a custom race of your own, iRacing makes it easy to get into a race, or manage one.
  4. The iRacing community forums are very helpful and a great resource for the improving sim racer. Perhaps the requirement for using your real name reduces some of the toxicity rampant in other esports.

So why isn’t iRacing my favorite title? Because esports racing isn’t my #1 priority when it comes to virtual driving.

The Numbers

  • 73,267 Grand Theft Auto V
  • 6,485 Rocket League
  • 1,344 TrackMania2 Stadium
  • 732 iRacing
  • 726 Euro Truck Simulator
  • 415 F1 2019
  • 302 Forza Horizon 4
  • 199 American Truck Simulator
  • 58 Gran Turismo Sport
  • 51 Assetto Corsa
  • 48 Project CARS 2
  • 42 Assetto Corsa Competizione
  • 36 DiRT Rally 2
  • 10 rFactor 2
  • 10 DiRT Rally
  • 0 Automobilista

Simulator roundup 2017

At the start of 2017, there are around 10 platforms that call themselves realistic driving simulators. If you’ve never tried sim racing, I highly recommend it. In my mind, it’s 90% as good as the real thing and so much less expensive. But which software is best? There’s no simple answer to that. It depends on what you want to get out of it. Regardless of the software, you will need a force feedback steering wheel and a set of pedals. Logitech, Thrustmaster, and Fanatec make good gear. You’ll also need a Windows computer. Some of the platforms work on Mac or Linux, and some on Playstation 4 or Xbox One. But performance and stability are generally best on Windows.

The simulators below are listed in historical order in which they appeared on the PC market. Because I’m focusing on PC software, the very popular Gran Turismo and Forza titles are not listed. Although the current price is given for each, it’s the last thing that should concern you. Simracing software is the least expensive part of racing, virtual or real.

My computer has quad 2.67 GHz Intel processors, an nVidia GTX 650ti video card, and a 1920×1080 display. The video card has a 2662 rating on the PassMark benchmark. Keep this in mind when looking at the FPS (frames per second) numbers below. Once FPS gets below 50, it can negatively impact your simulation experience. Purchasing a video card with a higher rating will net you more FPS, but there is generally some software tuning you can do also.

A Word on Modding

There is a long history of hobbyists modifying simulation software to add more cars and tracks to the official distribution. Some of these mods are of the highest quality but others are downright awful. Mods are typically not licensed reproductions (and therefore copyright infringements) and can have major errors. On the other hand, a mod may be the only way to drive a specific car or track of interest. Modding is a mixed bag. Some simulators openly embrace the modding community while others shut them out. Even among the open ones, software updates to the main engine can be incompatible with older mods, which can cause great frustration if you favorite car/track no longer works. I personally have a couple mods I really like, but I find most of them more trouble than they’re worth.


When putting a simulator through its paces, I like to use Brands Hatch (Indy configuration). Brands Hatch is one of the most common tracks and despite its simplicity, the turns have a great deal of variety. Another track I like to employ is Laguna Seca. This is also quite popular and has the added benefit that I’ve raced there in real life. For cars, I like using a Miata and a junior/vintage Formula car. I race a Miata in real life, so I know the properties of a Miata reasonably well. The reason for the junior/vintage Formula cars is that they have a decent power:weight ratio and not much grip. This means they tend to slide around quite a bit, and without any driving aids, this gives one a good feeling of how the sim models vehicle dynamics.


Image Space Incorporated and rFactor play a particularly important part of simracing history. Their isiMotor2 engine is the foundation of not only rFactor and rFactor2, but also Automobilista, RaceRoom Racing Experience, Simraceway, and several older titles. rFactor costs a flat $25 with no fees for additional downloadable content or online fees. It has a HUGE number of free mods, and my personal installation has hundreds of cars and tracks. Quality ranges from good to terrible. Despite its age, rFactor is still popular, and I found about 150 people racing on a Saturday at 1 PM. System requirements are very low. My rig managed 150-170 FPS with all graphics settings on maximum. If you have an older computer, rFactor is the best game sim in town. Next to the other titles below, it does feel decidedly old.



iRacing is known for having a large online racing community. It is unique in that all drivers must use their actual identity. There is no hiding behind an anonymous avatar while calling people fucktards. I think that’s a good thing. But on the other hand, using your real name online is always a risk. iRacing also has both a safety rating and performance rating. This means you can’t get into a race against the really good racers unless you yourself are a really safe and fast racer. iRacing has no AI (artificial intelligence), so everyone you race against is a real person. iRacing costs $6-12 per month depending on when you renew (so always renew during a sale). The base install comes with several cars and tracks, but you’ll want more, and they run ~$12 each. The combination of fees makes iRacing the most expensive simulator. I found about 4,100 racers online (not necessarily racing) on a Saturday at 1 PM. System requirements are fairly low. I got a solid 85 FPS.


rFactor 2 (rF2)

Studio 397 recently took over development of rF2 from ISI. This is good news because rF2 development was pretty quiet for a while. The main distribution doesn’t have many cars or tracks, but they are all excellent. Like the original, there are mods and the quality varies. Some are carry-overs from rFactor 1 but some are modern laser scanned jobs. rF2 costs $32 and is free to play online (it originally had online fees, but those are now gone). I found about 600 racers online and about half that number actually racing on a Saturday at 1 PM. System requirements are high. The default graphics settings were unplayable but I got 58 FPS by turning off anti-aliasing. It’s not very smooth or gorgeous at 58 FPS though. On the plus side, it feels darn realistic.


RaceRoom Racing Experience (R3E)

While it is advertised as free to play, that only gets you a couple cars and tracks. It’s more like a demo. But the are lots more you can purchase with their in-game currency (which you buy with real money). Once you get a couple car and track packs, you may find yourself $20-100 lighter. It’s a little annoying that they charge you for every little thing, like liveries, but it’s not that expensive and doesn’t affect the driving. I found about 150 racing online on a Saturday at 1 PM. System requirements are modest. I got 60 FPS on medium settings, which look fine. But when switched to high, I got 37 FPS and it was not very playable.


Assetto Corsa (AC)

AC has a decidedly European flavor. There are a nice selection of European cars and tracks, but not so much from elsewhere. Surely that will change in the future. New downloadable content arrives regularly. The $30 base cost gets you quite a few cars and tracks. Additional cars and tracks can be purchased in bundles. AC is very popular. I found about 2,800 racers online and several hundred racing on a Saturday at 1 PM. There are no online fees. System requirements are modest. I got 65 FPS.


Project CARS (pCARS)

Unusually, this title was partly funded through crowd-sourcing. Lots of people contributed and lots of people play. I found about 2,300 racers online and 300 actually racing on a Saturday at 1 PM. Cost is $30 plus extra for more cars and tracks. No online fees. System requirements are on the high side, but the graphics are jaw-dropping. I got 49 FPS, but it plays very well at that frame rate.


DiRT Rally (DR)

Rally simulators are a rare breed. Most rally software is decidedly on the arcade side. The main exception to this is Richard Burns Rally, which is so old that it doesn’t have multi-player support. You can’t even buy it anymore. If you want RBR now, you’ll have to pirate it (I found a download link without too much trouble). However, there’s a better choice.. DiRT Rally is the first modern rally simulator, and it’s awesome. I found 700 people online. Rally is more of a solo thing, but there is multiplayer racing in rally cross. DiRT Rally is $60 and there are no additional fees and no downloadable content.


Automobilista Motorsports Simulator (AMS)

Reiza Studios is from Brazil, and their base simulator features Brazilian racing series and tracks (which are very cool). But they also have downloadable content should you wish to get the typical cars and tracks you find elsewhere. I found about 150 racing online on a Saturday at 1 PM. System requirements are amazingly low. I got 116 FPS and the quality of the graphics was pretty good.


Initial Conclusions

All of these simulators are worth owning. Each simulator has its own character and you may prefer one to another. If your computer is 10 years old, get a new one if possible. If not, rFactor will work but AMS may as well, and it is far superior. If you have a really fast computer, try pCARS and rF2. pCARS may have the best visuals and rF2 feels pretty authentic. If you want to drop into well-organized multiplayer races at any time of the day, iRacing is best. But if your internet is spotty, you’ll be racing against AI, so you don’t want iRacing. If you like driving on dirt then DiRT Rally. Want to try something for free? R3E costs nothing at the outset. If all of this boggles the mind and you just want to start with something good at everything, you can’t go wrong with AC. But if you’re like me, you’ll find something useful in each sim and you’ll get more than one.