With the release of the ‘Project CARS 2: BUILT BY DRIVERS – “As Close As It Gets” Featuring Chris Goodwin’ film this week, Vehicle Lead Casey Ringley, and Physics R&D Lead Andrew “AJ” Weber recall the one pivotal moment that altered the trajectory of handling and feel in Project CARS 2 

​The day when Casey and AJ, along with Pirelli’s Vitale Maffezzini, and McLaren’s Senior Vehicle Dynamics Engineer Mattia Saluzzo convened to work alongside McLaren’s legendary chief test-driver Chris Goodwin will go down as a pivotal moment in the development of Project CARS 2.

The story begins in the early spring of 2017, on March 20. After two years’ worth of co-development with McLaren, Chris Goodwin, McLaren’s chief test-driver, had already signed-off on the handling and feel of all the McLarens in Project CARS 2. All, that is, except for “his” new car, the 720S that will come to Project CARS 2 in late 2017.

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“We started with a small amount of data on the 720S, and built a rough draft from there,” Casey says. “In the end, it’s all about fine-tuning, and key to the ultimate feel of the car is the driver. Goodwin, who’d just spent years working on the real-world 720S, believed that the in-game 720S still needed to be refined.”

Goodwin and Casey had worked together on two other occasions already, testing and tuning the in-game McLarens. “The second test had provided really good feedback,” Casey recalls. “Chris clearly has a particular type of setup he likes on his cars, and hitting it with the 650S GT3 gave us a very good target for where to take the 720S. The 720S, with all the active suspension and aero’ elements, is a bit of a moving target, even when trying to match it against telemetry data. Having that baseline in the GT3 car, which isn’t allowed any active stuff, was a perfect snapshot of how a ‘Chris Goodwin’ car should handle.”
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Still, while the 720S was close, Goodwin remained reticent to sign-off on the feel and handling on behalf of McLaren. More refinement was necessary. To finalise the fine-tuning of the car, Slightly Mad Studios organised for Casey and AJ to fly to the UK in order to sit down for one final crunch session with Chris Goodwin.

“The plan on our end—if the McLaren guys knew this or not, I don’t know!—was that the day would be more of an engineering session than pure testing, and McLaren would be a full-on part of the dev’ team,” Casey says. “We were set up to do fresh builds of the game and change all manner of fundamentals in the model as needed in order to suit Chris’s feedback.
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“So we perhaps dumped them in to the deep-end quickly, with all the debug telemetry, scanning through source data and all, but they acclimatized quickly and ran with it,” Casey recalls, smiling. “Turns out, with the 720S being so heavily computerized, the way we work is actually similar to how they dial-in the real thing. That basically means Chris will be driving, and Mattia will be on a laptop in the passenger seat. Feedback comes in, some numbers in the programming get uploaded to the car’s computer, and there is an instant feedback loop. Kinda like working virtually on a game. Once they got comfortable with our process, which, as I said, is almost exactly how they go about things, things began moving fast.
“We made probably 20 significant changes on the car throughout the day, and only two or three were a step backwards; that’s a great batting average for a race engineering session. It wasn’t more than a few hours of work before the car got to the point where you could see Chris’s focus change and go into the ‘just one more lap’ mode, where it’s as if a different part of the brain is activated, and he starts driving in a way that feels natural to muscle memory or something.

“That was a great sign.”
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Goodwin’s test-driving capabilities are legendary—and it turns out that he drives in the simulator with the same precision. That capability was about to pay off big time for Casey and AJ.
“He drives in the simulator much like it’s a real car, which is a good thing. Things get more difficult to interpret if it’s approached in a ‘gamey’ way, with harsh inputs that you would never do in a real car.”

With the day’s shadows thickening, and Goodwin driving the 720S with Casey monitoring the session alongside him, AJ was upstairs in the control booth.
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“Vitale and I were flipping through what Pirelli had brought to the session—sort of a ‘prepare’ or summary mode, which helps us choose areas to dig into,” recalls AJ. “The moment I saw the patch pressure distribution sheets, all sorts of bells started sounding in my head. I knew immediately that we’d just stumbled onto something crucial. I ran downstairs to tell Casey.”

“It was a really simple thing with a big impact!” recalls Casey. “See, our SETA tyre model breaks down the contact patch of each tyre to 36 individual points of contact, and we can visualize the contact patch pressure profile of each tyre while driving. Pirelli does similar testing on real-world tyres, and AJ had seen what the contact patch pressure of the real tyre looked like compared to ours. Most crucially, he noticed a disparity between the two models.
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“We immediately began fiddling with our 720S tyre to make it look more like the real thing. With Chris testing the changes, we realised there was a direct correlation to making a tyre that looked right, to having a tyre with the right handling and steering feel. Just like that, we’d transformed the feel of the 720S, and Chris was absolutely delighted.”
Not only the 720S. Armed with Pirelli’s contact patch pressure profiles, Casey and AJ immediately got to work altering the tyre model on all the cars on Project CARS 2. It wasn’t long before drivers such as Tommy Milner, and Vaughn Gittin Jr., and Ben Collins began sending them exultant feedback on the handling of the cars in-game.
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“That session with Chris Goodwin was a homerun for us,” concludes AJ. “It really was a pivotal moment in the trajectory of the development of the game.”

Project CARS 2: BUILT BY DRIVERS – “As Close As It Gets” Featuring Chris Goodwin

showcases the development of the new McLaren 720S. It was filmed in location in London and at McLaren’s Technology Centre by Outrun Films, specialists in automotive and action features, and the makers of “McLaren 720S Reveal”, and the brutal “Nürburgring & Bentley Racing”. Watch online today, and stay tuned for another 5 films throughout the summer showcasing the “Built by Drivers” philosophy that underpins the development of Project CARS.
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