Forza Motorsport tips: seven ways to win more races and master the handling model
No one enjoys P2, so here’s how to avoid being the fastest loser
Forza Motorsport is here. A feast of wildly desirable automotive machinery, fastidiously modelled in a sim-flavoured driving game that rewards nuanced handling inputs, clean racing and, look, just doing racing properly. In our review we call it a platform more than a game. It’s a box of maximum insurance group toys with which to create fantastical and gruelling motorsport misadventures. A real driving sim, which is gaming speak for ‘it’s really easy to ask too much of the cars and hoy them into a tyre wall’.
And it’s the latter point that has manifested the tips you see before you. We’ve spent hours upon hours in Forza Motorsport, and not to brag or labour the point but we’re absolutely brilliant and borderline unbeatable at it. And we want you to be very nearly that good too - obviously not good enough to actually beat us if we meet in an online race - so apply these principles and watch your race results improve.
Drifts are your enemy
Both Forza Horizon and Motorsport titles have a distinctive feel: you have loads of turn-in grip, until you have absolutely none. While you can get away with styling it out with a drift in the rambunctious little tyke that is Forza Horizon 5, Turn 10’s Motorsport punishes you more severely for losing the rear.
The first and most important principle when you’re guiding any car around any track in this sim, then, is to maintain traction with all four tyres, at all times. Even though it feels like you’re going slower through a tight turn by dropping your corner speed to achieve it, over the course of a lap it’s worth scrubbing off more speed before the corner to get better traction on corner exit, and then getting back on the power earlier once your chassis is lined up squarely.
You’ll feel the difference. It’ll feel like you’re driving on rails. You’ll notice yourself getting better traction out of corners, maintaining tighter control mid-turn, and able to overtake cars who skid in or out of turns.
Brake later, but come off the gas earlier
Let’s take that ‘driving on rails’ principle into the braking zone. It’s crucial to brake in a straight line for the first phase of a braking zone. Then when you’re down into lower gears, you can tip the chassis in towards the apex while you’re still trail braking, applying the cheekiest touch of rear rotation without losing revs or forward momentum.
Once you have a feel for that, you can make yourself harder to pass in online races and find some extra tenths over a lap by coasting into corners. There are three benefits to coming off the throttle but pausing before hitting the brakes.
First, you’re giving the car a chance to settle and distribute its weight evenly before you chuck all that weight forwards, and that minimises the chances of drifting or losing control.
Secondly, by letting the engine do some deceleration before dropping the anchors, you’re finding a fraction more lap time. Obviously you need to time this just right - we’re talking half a second between coming off throttle and onto the brakes.
Third: technically, your ‘braking’ point is going to be later than most other online racers’ when you use this style, and that’s going to make you really hard to pass. Because most human and AI opponents will try to get overtakes done either in the braking zone or mid-corner. That in itself is what Christian Horner acolytes might call sub-optimal, but we’ll cover that below.
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What a great sense of weight you get from this game. With either a pad or a wheel, you can feel the suspension shifting each car’s weight left to right through turns, and back to front in corners. The downside: all the spins. All the interminable, humiliating spins.
When you hurl all that weight into a corner at too high a speed, your tyres reach their traction limit. They can’t handle the lateral forces being applied to them anymore, so they basically rage-quit and send you into the gravel trap, billowing out an embarrassing cloud of dust.
You can feel when this starts to happen. The car goes light and you start to hear screeching. So your natural instinct is to counter-steer, but you’ll quickly realise that doing so sends the car into an irretrievable side-to-side wobble, ending in a spin. This is how you lose a race.
When you feel one of these tank slappers coming on, instead of applying countersteer it’s better to come off throttle and centre the steering. You might try giving the brakes a dab, and then getting back on the power.
Overtake on the straights, not the braking zones
Since time immemorial, racing game AI opponents have lined up in polite little queues in the braking zones before corners, waiting patiently for you to overtake them. If they’re really lucky, you might even use their side panelling as an armco barrier to help you round the corner. And that’s ingrained some bad habits in us. It’s stunted our sim racing growth.
So it’s great to see a newer take on the genre like Forza Motorsport challenge that old habit. The AI takes different lines into each corner on each track, and it defends its line dynamically. That means that while you can send one up the inside if you really want, you’ll be compromising your corner exit speed at best, and at worst outbraking yourself trying to get the move done.
In this game where traction and momentum are paramount, penalties are handed out like sweeties and even light contact kills your speed, it’s much better to attempt your passes on the straights than into a corner. Focus on taking the ideal racing line through the turn, carrying as much speed as possible, and getting on the power before the car in front. You’ll have them before the next braking zone, and you’ll be in control of your car while you do it. You don’t lose time to the opponent two positions ahead when you pass this way, whereas divebombing into corners will allow positions higher up the order to waltz away from you and your compromised lines.
Put in the track time
Seriously though. We’re not putting ourselves up for ‘reductively obvious driving game advice of the year 2023’ with this one. To nobody’s surprise, it turns out that knowing tracks really well and practising driving around them makes you go quicker.
The thing is, there are over 500 cars here and Turn 10’s done a stand-up job of modelling their individual characteristics. An Alpine 110R feels like an Alpine 110R. Try and drive a Mazda 787B prototype with the same roughness and you’ll be on the phone to the virtual insurance companies for a long time.
So it’s not just that you need track time. You need car and track time, in combination. You need to figure out exactly how a Civic Type-R rolls over that bump at Watkins Glen and how much you can coast into its 90-degree turns before stamping down on the brakes. Knowing the layout isn’t enough here. You need to know how the model you’re racing in this event responds to that layout.
Apply a five-star community tune
The more time you spend in a a particular car, the more you’ll level it up like the hero it is, and the more performance parts you can apply to it. But that’s not the whole story when it comes to making Forza’s vehicles more drivable.
You can also fiddle with the tuning settings. The individual values for granular stuff like toe-in and suspension rebound. Understandably not many drivers touch these tuning settings because there’s a hundred ways to make your car more of a handful, and just one that makes it faster.
We’re not even saying you need to learn all about an Audi TT RS’s suspension forks: we’re saying copy the homework of someone who already did. Applying a tune that’s been shared to the community can shave tenths, or even seconds, off your lap time. There’s a bit of trial and error here, but looking out for tunes that have been rated five stars by users who’ve downloaded them is a good start.
Pick a faster car
This just in: some cars are faster than others. A devastating blow for the Renault Twizly’s marketing team, but very useful news for anyone looking to win online in Forza Motorsport. Online and solo events both have vehicle restrictions, and these will either specify a model or manufacturer, or keep it broader and require only vehicles of the same class.
It’s here in the latter that you can find gems of cars that simply have an unfair advantage over their contemporaries. For example, if you need to hit a Performance Points rating of 700 or under, it can be worth down-tuning a GT or race-spec car with aero parts and a rollcage to hit the right number, instead of upgrading a road car.