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Diary of an all-in race

8th September

It’s a fight to the death. The winner will win the league and the loser will lose. After the 5th of the seven rounds of the Unskilled Stunts League, the leaderboard is tight. Bonzai Joe 11 points, Ayrton 11 points. If ever I can conduct the complicated and mysterious act of motivating myself for a Stunts race, it would be now. I use the words ”winner” (the sound of the word), ”1st place” (the visual (phallic? :-S) representation of the number ”1” mainly, ”legendary Stunts master” (including a strange mental image of kalpen.de, an Indy from above, Stunts news and awed faces by computers) to make the win desirable and thus to justify spending time on this track. It’s with the Corvette. I hate the Corvette. Or do I only hate it because I’m playing Ayrton, who seems to be able to beat anyone whenever he feels like it, with quite a margin? To start the hard work off lightly, I downloaded all the Corvette winning replays from Zakstunts and Unskilled Stunts, put them in their own folder, fetched some raspberries, put on my ”Racing” playlist and watched them, studying the behaviour of the car while revelling in the feeling of being Bonzai Joe, not just Jacob. I noticed some special traits of the car and ”got the feeling” of it. Mental note not to race with other cars during this race. My smile was weighed down. I love the other cars... So I reminded myself again of the above mentioned motivation factors. The following step was to make a plan. I would make sure to max out every section before moving on to the next. I would try to have fun racing, race far ahead of the deadline and never accept a section before I did something extraordinary on it. Open Stunts. Track menu. More tracks. Geartest. Main Menu. Opponent. Skid Vicious. Countach-Jeep-Ferrari-Carrera-Indy-Corvette. Main Menu. Let’s Drive. I had seen Alain shifting at 55, Argammon shifting at 58 and Ayrton shifting at 60. And the second shift should be around 107. Let’s find out... 60-86-115 seems to be it. And then somewhere around 137...

9th September

Ayrton has sent a strong time to the scoreboard. 1.08.15. Undoubtedly he is trying to psych me. I feel the effect of it spreading like a cancer in me. My awareness makes no difference. However, I am still too determined, and I am going to continue working on the beginning. I believe I have figured it out. Jump from the left side of the corkscrew, bounce on the edge of the tunnel, land quite far to the left on the tunnel, jump to the right, skid hard to the left, land straight on the dirt corner with a high speed. I’ve got to perform that, and not just perform it, no, I have to perform it at the highest possible speeds. My arms are troublesome again, but I’m fighting the temptation to use this as an excuse and give up the race. I still want to win!

15th September

There are so many things in life to take my mind off racing. This weekend was a mess of strange thoughts, depression, alcohol, wildness, songwriting, night skies... So today I am kind of ”hung over” after this: perfect situation for racing. I’ve just spent 30-40 minutes racing the beginning of Rijad: I found out that after the small jump on the corkscrew, the angle and height of the jump towards the tunnel, which I had to hit exactly at the beginning of the roof of, was largely determined by the timing of my shifting to 3rd gear. I tried back and forth for some times and finally found the optimal time. Then the question was how far to steer to the right in order to get the car straightened up while also going as far into the middle as possible (I already had to think forward to the dirt corner and the following banked corner). Then the task of getting the car as far to the left as possible followed. I had to move to the left to get an angle onto the bridge that allowed me to gain spin on the bridge by steering left, and still hit the hillside to the right of the bridge. If I didn’t do this, I would land on the grass on the hill and lose too much speed. One problem is with Zak gone, I have nothing to compare my beginning with. I did the first corkscrew-tunnel jump in a reasonably difficult way now, but could it be done faster? I don’t know. Maybe it can always be done faster. Maybe Ayrton has easily done it much faster. It’s hard to say. Anyway, at one point I decided to move on and after quite a large number of tries, I had a breakthrough in at the dirt corner, allowing me to drive it at 146mph and go around the banked corners at about 195mph. Now I’ve come through 22 seconds. Still quite a way left, but I’m proud of myself for focusing on the beginning first! It’s the only way to ever win in Stunts. About the standings, it struck me that if CTG wins this track and not me or Ayrton, then the standings at the last round will be 13-12-12, the winner of me vs Ayrton with 13 points, loser and CTG with 12 points (assuming loser of me vs Ayrton takes best loser bonus). Then whoever wins the last track can claim shared 1st place. I must win this track, because then it will be 14-12-11 for me, which will only require me to beat Chulk in the last track. Not so much focus on hypothetical results now, focus on racing.... Finished quickly in 1.06.55 to compare my performance with Ayrton and CTG, but with 39 seconds of penalty time. I should still be able to do better than 1.08 though. I wonder how far this will get me. Finished in 1.05.50 without penalty time... I imagined the headlines if I won: ”BJ wins with heavy time-hiding”. I consider sending 1.08.05, but that would scare my opponents into thinking I have something really strong in my hand. I then considered sending 1.09 as a decoy, but remembered that CTG watches other people’s replays. I am going to send nothing except maybe a re-driven listfiller. Now, I still think there is 2 seconds more to be saved in this replay by taking the absolutely fastest power gear way. It will be hard, but it will have to be done. Evening: improved my power gear line and finished in 1.03.60. It makes me wonder what CTG and Ayrton have in their pockets. Race description tomorrow.

16th September

Rijad after the double banked corner. You need to get past the slalom blocks somehow. You could go between them, but you would get an inferior small jump at the end of the banked road. You could go past them to the right, doing a big small jump, but you would inevitable land 2 wheels on the grass, losing some speed. In a serious race, you have to exploit the bug that allows you to go right through the slalom. In my 1.05, my speed entering the jump was 198 mph (using option 2). That was not good enough, so I upped it to 205 mph by going through the block. Every fifth centisecond counts. Okay, up the jump and to the left. I have to think of 3D-lines now. It is always important to keep straight and direct lines in Stunts, but one tends to think of lines in 2D. Jumping is bad if you don’t get a lot of speed from it, as you usually do. At this loop, even a small jump will propel me into power gear, so I have to stay as close to the ground as possible. Not easy. Eventually I have to settle for a rather big jump. Okay, power gear mode begins! From now until the end of the track, only one thing counts, and that is finding the shortest possible way to the finish line without getting penalty time. Power gear racing is simpler than regular racing because the relationship between grass and roads isn’t a factor, nor is the speed advantage you can get from jumps, nor is the outcome speed after a curve or a trick/sequence. Only the line counts. In regular racing, outcome speed is extremely important, depending on how the track continues. I go to the left of the road because I know the track goes left at the top of the map. There’s a banked corner which has to be cut, but I keep getting penalty time. A Stunts track is divided into squares. Penalty time comes when your car fails to touch a square. In the case of track elements consisting of more than one square, though, you only have to touch one of the squares. Theoretically, the car can touch four squares at once, so penalty-dodging is possible to a high degree. I wish I could push my car left of the loop without getting penalty time, but I fail, so I have to go under the loop and then find exactly the right angle to let me squeeze between the end of the tunnel and the beginning of the next banked corner. This does seem to be faster then using the road. Only use the road in an emergency. I like this part of the track. It reminds me of sunshine and summer! I then go as far to the left of the following straigh road-high jump-bridge sequence. You can test if you are keeping the right distance to the road. If a white arrow is blinking on the screen, you are safe. If it is there constantly, you will get penalty time. If it’s not there, you could go further off. I’m keeping left because the road will turn left, as they always do in USC because CTG likes left turns better than right turns. The next part is tricky, and I’m not totally sure what’s the best way to cut it, but it will only matter few splitseconds. Eventually I employ the bridge side for a jump. A big cut of the following chicane-corner-corkscrew up/down sequence and then I’m at the final part. The key to this part is when to let your car go and lose control. When you let it slip, it will spin in a less sharp curve on the ground and a more sharp curve once it gets into the air. Try to watch your car from F2 angle to experience this. To avoid penalty time but still cut to the finish, you need to cut with steering and then jump with heavy spin. If you steer all the way to the finish, you will cut way too well and get penalty time. If you skid too early, you will miss the hill and/or fly too far to the right, either missing the finish line or taking too long a line. So, I used a typical RH trick: I went back to a point where I was sure I would skid too late, skidded from there, failed, then went back to 0.05 earlier, skidded from there, failed, 0.05 earlier again, skidded from there, failed, 0.05 earlier again and success! Just to test my method; I went further back too. Got the same time then started getting worse time. So I know my finish is perfect. 1.03.60, let’s see how far it goes. Sometimes a strange thing happens in Stunts. You are sure you can’t do your replay any better, but then an opponent submits a time 3 seconds faster than you. Then you KNOW you can do it better, and the knowledge makes you see things you couldn’t see before. I wonder if that will happen on this track.

17th September

Did a noRH replay to send in. 2.17... I wasn’t happy with that – is RH really that much of a difference? 1.03 to 2.17? It was an empty feeling... Later I improved 10 seconds but didn’t send that in. No improvement on my real replay.

18th September

CTG seems to be worried about my performance. He’s certainly not expecting me to have 1.03 in my pocket at the moment. I told him I didn’t want to talk about Rijad because I was also racing against him. I have had quite some difficulty improving on 1.03.60. In fact, I sat down very enthusiastically today, determined to find the best possible power gear way. But as I went through the parts one by one, I just couldn’t really find any better way than the one I had already done. In the end, I redrove the last 20 seconds, cutting exactly at the edge of the hills, and eventually, after doing the same RH trick as last time, saved 0.05. Hmm. This is the kind of progress you have to love in top Stunts. Ayrton is still a mysterious figure in shadows. I see him as a kind of robot, capable of anything if he wants it enough. But there is also, somewhere, a belief in myself as the wisest and most experienced pipsqueak – could I really miss anything significant? The answer is probably yes.

21st September

The last day. Even with so much meticulous planning and determination, I have structured my race wrong. Several times during the last days have I sat down, determined, wanting to improve my replay, but finding no splitseconds in the power gear part that I raced on. I missed either the time or the guts to go back to the beginning and improve, so my determination was spilled on the floor. I should have spent 2 hours more on the first 20 seconds of the track. If Ayrton has succeeded in this, he will win the track, and he will have won it with his mind, outsmarting me. My 1.03.55 stands as my final replay, now is the time for the cards to be shown and the USL to be won and lost.

22nd September

What an ending! I actually won the track by 0.05... What could possibly be a better reward for all my racing? Every splitsecond counted! And truer words were never spoken than ”saved 0.05. Hmm. This is the kind of progress you have to love in top Stunts.” Those 0.05, more than any other 0.05, will win me the USL if I can beat Chulk in the last round. It was all worth it.... The tight finish also adds to my image of this as some kind ”battle of the titans”. Another vision to feed my vanity, and how wonderfully it does. Yet vanity never loses its appetite... Did I beat him with experience? With skills? With time-spending? With smarts? Experience is most likely, as that is what I have over him and nearly everyone in the Stunts community. So let this be a lesson: every 0.05 counts, and if you spend 30 minutes saving 0.05, you might have won the competition! Thank you for reading, you can download my replay to see what it’s all been about.

2nd October

After a series of delays, everything is official and the replays are up. My replay is attached to this article so you can see what I’m talking about. With a feeling of pride and a little excitement, I sat down to watch Ayrton’s replay. Where would he be faster and where slower? It was very simple. He did the dirt curve wrong, had too low a speed in the banked double corner, but was faster everywhere else. I beat him with strategy even though he had the better skills. I knew his skills were better. It turns out the double-cut by the loop was possible even though I had given up on doing it. CTG did that too. If I do well in the last round, then there is a championship won and a lesson learned: no matter how much I try, no matter if I really do the best I, Bonzai Joe, am possibly capable of, I will be quite far from the perfect replay. I cannot win with supremity, but I can with other people’s inferiority. When you look at Ayrton on ZCT86, that is winning with supremacy. Doing tricks the others just couldn’t do however they want to. In any case: mission accomplished. Thank you for reading.

Submitted by Bonzai Joe on 2008-10-02.