The new Forza Motorsport is nearly here, and many a Car and Driver staffer has already played it. In anticipation of its arrival, we converted an empty cubicle into an anti-work zone. The antithesis of productivity has three pedals, a steering wheel with shift lights, and a gaming console shaped like a Tootsie Roll. In fact, we had so much fun playing Forza Motorsport that one Friday evening we took the return-to-office policy a step further—we didn’t go home.
Our gaming headquarters is a mix of old and new. There’s the TV we grifted from one of the lesser-used meeting rooms, an Xbox Series X provided by the Forza Motorsport team for our review, and some rather exciting sim-racing equipment from Logitech.
Timing-wise, it would have been appropriate to race our own Petit Le Mans, as the upcoming 10-hour race at Road Atlanta takes place in October, but that track hasn’t returned for the new Forza Motorsport game—not yet, at least. We could, however, run as long as 24 hours at any of the 20 racetracks available at launch. So we picked Watkins Glen and promised associate editors Jack Fitzgerald and Caleb Miller the keys to the long-term Corvette Z06 for the weekend if they set the fastest lap.
It’s Time to Play the Game
Our rules were simple: three editors, following IMSA’s 45-minute minimum drive-time requirement, with only two stints for each of us to chase a big fat W. That meant roughly two hours each behind the wheel of the game’s Chevrolet Corvette C8.R during our virtual evening at Watkins Glen International. We opted to enable full damage, fuel and tire consumption, and rewinds—a Forza Motorsport feature that does exactly what it sounds like, should you experience a major goof-up. We left ABS on and turned off other driver-assistance features like traction and acceleration aids. With the weather set to clear and the time adjusted to allow each driver to experience both night and day, we were ready to game.
Forza Motorsport, which comes to Xbox Series S and Series X and PC on October 10, offers more than 500 cars, including a bunch you won’t find in other games. The new Cadillac LMDh-V.R isn’t available in Sony PlayStation 5’s Gran Turismo 7 or the arcade-style Forza Horizon 5, nor can you drive the new 655-hp Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray in iRacing, but here these cars rub shoulders among many legendary greats. People feeling let down by Forza Motorsport‘s car and track libraries at launch can hold tight; updates will bring more cars and tracks in the coming months.
The three of us have been to many endurance races; the Rolex Daytona 24, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the 12 Hours of Sebring all have suffered our attentions. But unlike at least one legendary senior-level staff member, none of us have ever driven in an endurance race. Because we are serious and this is serious stuff, we decided to reach out to the pros and ask them how they prepare.
Will Plummer, head of human performance for Chip Ganassi Racing, humored us with some advice, explaining that the main focus leading up to race day is generally a three- to five-day calculated increase in carbohydrate intake. Once race day rolls around, Plummer told us, a balanced macronutrient breakfast is a good place to start, along with some additional carbohydrates three to four hours before the green light. With an hour to go before hopping into the car, most drivers will opt for easily digestible sugars, like fruit, yogurt, or a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. Sticking to the rules of the office, we were allotted $25 worth of food expenses. Here’s how two of our editors prepared for the big night:
Since we started our six hours at 6 p.m. instead of noon, I wasn’t looking to fuel with breakfast food. Instead, a turkey and cheddar wrap served as my main course. I supplemented with a handful of chocolate-mint energy bars, and my mid-race snack was a handful of Reese’s Pieces. I washed all of that down with two Red Bulls to keep me from dozing off. Unsurprisingly, that combination of junk left me feeling like a toddler after a fistful of birthday cake. —Jack Fitzgerald
I’ve been on a fast-food kick lately, so why disrupt the violent storm that is my digestive system? My pre-race meal took me through the drive-through lanes of four fast-food chains. Eating it required putting my insulin pump into track mode.
In a year when the average price of a new car reached $48,000, the sub-$8 20-piece McNugget meal makes me feel safe. I started with three mozzarella sticks, which were included simply because of my love of cheese. The single-patty cheeseburger with bacon and all of the toppings is from Culver’s. To wash it all down with Taco Bell’s much-lauded Mountain Dew Baja Blast Zero Sugar felt like something, but it didn’t feel like winning. —Austin Irwin
Austin Irwin: 6:09–7:00 p.m.
Using what I learned in practice, I gave Forza‘s 23 computer-controlled (AI) drivers lots of space. We began the race midpack on medium tires, and after the first few laps of avoiding Ferrari 488 Challenge Corse Clienti cars parked in the middle of the chicane, I worked my way into eighth place.
Experiencing the force feedback in the direct-drive Logitech steering wheel was like trying to wrestle the remote from the maw of my Great Pyrenees. It’s so strong, and once things get really sideways, it’s best to just keep your hands away from it. From the fifth lap on, it was clear that the higher difficulty we selected for the AI drivers would be too great a challenge for us newbies. I managed to slowly build a gap from the pack behind me but couldn’t drive hard enough to gain sight of those ahead.
For most of my stint, I sat staring at the C8.R’s dispassionately detailed interior. I found myself often smacking into the rev limiter between shifts, as the giant glowing shift indicators found in the real car didn’t make it into the game. There are some truly beautiful things in the new Forza Motorsport, like when I rounded the Glen’s Turn 10 and the sunlight nearly blinded me. However, I wonder whether the Forza Motorsport team didn’t showcase much cockpit-view gameplay on purpose. At times, the stuff I saw didn’t hold a candle to the processed images taken in Photo Mode for marketing.
Initial impressions of the physics in the new Forza Motorsport had me spinning—literally (or, I guess, virtually). The audible re-creation of curbing and tire noise in this game is stunning, but I heard it often as the C8.R reacted to quick blasts of opposite-lock correction as if its tires were made from Michelin-brand paraffin.
I used four rewinds during my stint, but my biggest mistake was selecting the “recommended fuel” option at my driver-swap pit stop. The horror on the team’s faces when the car exited pit lane with only two additional laps of fuel. Sorry, Caleb! —Austin Irwin
Caleb Miller: 7:00–7:52 p.m.
Driving directly back into pit lane for fuel isn’t how I expected to start, but there I was. Despite having just 40 minutes of practice, I felt ready to rock ‘n’ roll after getting in the seat that Austin so kindly warmed up for me. What I wasn’t at all prepared for was Watkins Glen under the lights.
In the dark, my braking-point markers were harder to spot, and I had difficulty delivering consistent sector times. I was forced to use several rewinds in the heaviest braking zones. I also struggled with focus—unlike in a real race car, my co-workers were sitting beside me engaged in deep political debate. There were even more lapses in my attention as my stint went on, and I often found myself alone on track, using far too many rewinds. The rewind button became my only and closest friend. One that I spoke with regularly at Turn 1 and mid-chicane.
Overly aggressive AI competitors didn’t help matters, and the Ferraris were especially fierce, with one of them rear-ending me into Heel (Turn 8), forcing the C8.R into the tire wall. Even so, I also enjoyed driving in traffic, where I began to find my footing again as I watched other cars’ lines and braking points. I felt particularly quick through the first five corners, where I began to execute a few overtakes, albeit on backmarkers getting lapped. But just as I was getting into a groove, the stint came to an end. Climbing out, I was shocked by how much my left ankle and right knee hurt from the repeated motions of pushing the pedals for just an hour. —Caleb Miller
Jack Fitzgerald: 7:52–8:50 p.m.
Like Caleb, I came to this virtual Sahlen’s Six with almost no racing-sim experience and no Watkins Glen experience whatsoever. Over the two days leading up to our race, I managed to sneak in about 90 minutes of practice, settling myself into the rig and slowly mapping out the track between other assignments.
The poorly oiled team we are, we managed to mess up not only the first driver change, but the second as well. I took over as our third driver, and—once again—somehow skipped fueling. Emergency second pit stop complete, I took to the track in earnest but elected to use soft-compound tires, as it was obvious we needed all the help we could get.
I spent the majority of my first 45-minute stint in open space, which wasn’t all bad, as it allowed me to relearn the track without the distractions of AI competitors dive-bombing corners like George Russell. We went into this project with the goal of using the in-game rewind as little as possible—a goal thrown out the window with prejudice.
While the race setup in Forza Motorsport allows for multiple groups of different cars, just like the real multiclass IMSA events, the game ignored our instruction to include a five-car Cadillac LMDh-V.R group. Instead it filled in the field with more Forza GT cars, such as the Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R, the Dodge SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R, and a 2018 Audi R8 LMS GT3 that sounded absolutely beautiful, even while it lapped us. Not that we needed even-faster cars to compete with.
The biggest issue was certainly skill—Austin used rewinds far less frequently than Caleb or me—but we also encountered some goofy driving physics along the way. Where were my front tires? What’s going on with my rears? Ope, I’m starting to understeer, better catch it like a normal car—nope, not possible. At times it felt like even though we had lifted the throttle in hopes of correcting a spin, the car carried momentum like the accelerator was still flat to the floor. The Logitech wheel and pedal setup are capable of immense amounts of feedback, but using the suggested settings for this race, the game wasn’t loving our driving. —Jack Fitzgerald
Austin Irwin: 8:50–9:55 p.m.
Jack announced his tire and fuel swap with a scream from the rig while I was in the kitchen getting carne-asada’d out of my mind. My hands, still covered in lime juice, took the racing wheel with some pangs of regret, knowing this party was halfway over.
Following Jack’s strategy, I chose soft tires and felt the difference immediately. Forza Motorsport has a setting that simulates on-track rubber buildup that progressively adds grip to the racing line with each lap. It promises to also simulate slippery patches of the track during racing in the wet. We had this enabled, and with the soft tires, you could feel a sense of that additional grip in areas, especially while climbing up the esses and braking into the chicane. We may have overwhelmed the Xbox Series X or Fora Motorsport a bit, as we had been building rubber for more than three hours—the detail that illustrated rubber buildup would sometimes blink on and off as we raced.
I was in traffic for most of this stint and able to build some consistency to effectively navigate around some on-track silliness. Just like in real races, drivers do the darndest things. A 911 RSR that spun while exiting the chicane reentered the race line in reverse. Without any yellow flags to warn us, luck prevailed. The next two overtakes I made would be on the outside of the curbing at Outer Loop’s corner exit, sending our C8.R airborne for a bit. We were so far behind at this point that none of our passes were for position, but we weren’t about to give up.
Warming up to Forza Motorsport’s physics took time, at least with our steering-wheel setup, but with the soft tires, I began closing the gap on the cars that were way ahead of us. The team cheered as my stint managed to cut 30 seconds from an 80-second gap. Those pit-stop refueling mishaps really cost us, but we were having fun. —Austin Irwin
Caleb Miller: 9:55–11:20 p.m.
If I thought the first stint was tough, the second was even more demanding. I got back behind the wheel as the virtual sun began to rise, and I was no longer in the same focused zone where I was when the last stint ended. Driving toward the low-hanging sun was blinding—a very realistic touch from the artsy Forza Motorsport team—and it took several laps to get comfortable again. I spun in Turn 1, thankfully avoiding the barriers and any damage but losing all the ground that Austin had made up not long before.
But eventually, I got the hang of it again, and the laps began to flow. As I found some consistency, I finally gained ground on the car ahead. By this point, I had the first half of the lap down pat, but I was still being thwarted by the tight, late-apex Turn 9, and as the fatigue returned, rewinds became a common occurrence at that corner. It was nearing midnight in real life, my eyes were strained from hours of staring at the screen, and my lower back began to ache. After one final pit stop, I entered a sort of autopilot mode, simply trying to make it to the end of the stint. Somehow, this helped me regain some consistency, and I used only a few rewinds over the remaining 25 minutes. Still, when my stint was over, I was grateful to climb out. —Caleb Miller
Jack Fitzgerald: 11:20 p.m.–12:44 a.m.
The team’s final stint rested on me, but because of how far back we were, there was little pressure to come home with the win. During the majority of my first drive, I managed 10 minutes or so without sliding off the track or braking too late. It left me feeling like a pro, until the inevitable. Shortly thereafter, I would lose focus or simply mess up and wreck with vicious enthusiasm. It was crickets from my teammates each time I had to click rewind after crunching into the blue Armco at Watkins Glen. At least something was consistent.
My second stint proved even worse. It was well past my normal bedtime when I hunkered into the seat for what would be the final drive of the evening—and both my body and my brain were starting to tire. The feeling of defeat from spending about three hours behind the leaders consumed me. Eventually, mercifully, the clock timed out with us having covered over 600 miles in the virtual C8.R. After an evening of rewinds, which added an extra 35 minutes to our endurance race, we were thankful that automotive insurance companies don’t use sim racing as a factor in coverage. —Jack Fitzgerald
Reviewing the Tapes
The race ended with some interesting results that we assume were made in error and could be fixed in an update. The award for quickest lap went to a Ferrari 488 Challenge Corse Clienti that managed an impossible sub-14-second lap. Although our best lap time was a 1:47, the group of cars that finished ahead of us had best laps as high as 3:42. While that math doesn’t quite add up, we were impressed that the game allowed us to save the entire race’s replay for later review.
Forza Motorsport’s new car-centric progression system is how new cars, parts upgrades, and the coin to purchase them are unlocked. After more than six hours of racing, we’ve reached level 50 in the C8.R, which unlocks a discount for purchasing other Chevrolets. We also gained 228,000 experience points and 608,000 in-game credits, the latter being enough to add more than a few new horses to our stable. Your results may vary, though, as our game was a prelaunch version, and there may be launch-day patches or progression-system balancing to contend with.
Forza fans can preorder to get early access to Forza Motorsport beginning October 5, and it’s available to play on Xbox Series X and Series S, as well as on PC. PC gamers who prefer Steam to the Xbox store can wish-list the new Forza to be notified when it’s available for preorder on that platform.
There are also multiple special editions that come with their own perks at an extra cost. The Premium Edition ($99) brings five days of early access, a Race Day Car Pack, a Car Pass (one new car awarded weekly for 30 weeks), VIP membership, and a welcome pack. The Deluxe Edition ($89) gets everything the Premium Edition includes, short of the early access.
The Standard Edition ($69) is the cheapest way to purchase the new Forza Motorsport, but if you’re already subscribed to Xbox Game Pass, you’ll be able to play on launch day for no additional coin.
Reviewing the Rig
We can blame our many mid-race misfortunes on a variety of factors, but the gear isn’t one of ’em.
The Logitech G Pro Racing wheel is the brand’s first direct-drive wheel. Direct-drive steering wheels mount directly to a motor, instead of the belt or gear often found on cheaper units. Good for up to 8 lb-ft of maximum torque, this leather-wrapped wheel packs a strong punch, more than tripling the force from previous Logitech wheels. The base can be tightened to a table using the provided clamp or bolted directly to a sim rig using multiple cap screws.
Logitech’s metal shift paddles use magnetic Hall-effect sensors to translate clicks to in-game gearchanges, and the G Pro’s LED shift indicator lights can be configured to your liking. Force-feedback strength and a multitude of other settings can be adjusted from the steering wheel’s base, and those data points can be saved as profiles if you’re sharing a rig with others.
Logitech’s best wheel yet currently sells for $999.99 with Xbox and PC or PlayStation and PC compatibility. The foot pedals are sold separately.
Logitech’s Pro Racing Pedals offer clever customizability. The unit can be used on the floor or bolted to the tray of a more dynamic rig setup. Pedals can slide left or right for adjustment, and the clutch pedal assembly can be removed entirely to maximize foot space. The unit includes four springs of differing strengths to change the pedal resistance and personalize the stiffness to your liking.
The load-cell brake pedal is a little more complex. Load-cell pedals measure the physical force needed to move the pedal, instead of tracking pedal position or distance, to modulate brake input within the game. The load-cell brake pedal can be tuned even further using different elastomers to soften or firm up brake pedal feel. Additional springs and elastomers, as well as a little lubricant bottle, are included with this setup.
The Logitech Pro Racing Pedals come at a discounted price of $261.75 when bundled with the G Pro Racing steering wheel, or $349 if you only want the pedals.
What good is a set of the fanciest wheels and pedals if they’re sliding around every time you step on the brake pedal? The Playseat Trophy Logitech G Edition is a pretty fantastic unit for people who want a little extra realism. Its tube-steel frame weighs approximately 35 pounds and can be assembled in less than 30 minutes using the provided allen wrenches. The steering wheel and foot-pedal trays can tilt to adjust for proper driving position, and the frame itself can be extended to accommodate all shapes of sim racer.
The PlaySeat Trophy Logitech G Edition is available on Amazon.com for $599.
Yes, he’s still working on the 1986 Nissan 300ZX Turbo project car he started in high school, and no, it’s not for sale yet. Austin Irwin was born and raised in Michigan, and, despite getting shelled by hockey pucks during a not-so-successful goaltending career through high school and college, still has all of his teeth. He loves cars from the 1980s and Bleu, his Great Pyrenees, and is an active member of the Buffalo Wild Wings community. When Austin isn’t working on his own cars, he’s likely on the side of the highway helping someone else fix theirs.
Associate News Editor
Caleb Miller began blogging about cars at 13 years old, and he realized his dream of writing for a car magazine after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University and joining the Car and Driver team. He loves quirky and obscure autos, aiming to one day own something bizarre like a Nissan S-Cargo, and is an avid motorsports fan.
Associate News Editor
Jack Fitzgerald’s love for cars stems from his as yet unshakable addiction to Formula 1.
After a brief stint as a detailer for a local dealership group in college, he knew he needed a more permanent way to drive all the new cars he couldn’t afford and decided to pursue a career in auto writing. By hounding his college professors at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he was able to travel Wisconsin seeking out stories in the auto world before landing his dream job at Car and Driver. His new goal is to delay the inevitable demise of his 2010 Volkswagen Golf.