Beginners Guide to Assetto Corsa Competizione

This post will help you quickly get up to speed with Assetto Corsa Competizione. There are six chapters designed to walk you through the process of starting out with ACC, feel free to jump to the point you want to start reading below;

  1. Before you begin (content, simulation, steering wheel & pc-hardware)
  2. Initial start-up (graphics, controls, view settings)
  3. Achieving the ratings (track rating, safety rating)
  4. Getting set up (fuel, tire pressures, traction control, buying setups)
  5. Racing etiquette (free practice, qualifying, turn 1, lap 1, duelling, blue flags, penalties, finishing)
  6. Communities (join them!)

1. Before you begin

So, you consider playing Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC), huh? Well, there’s some things you should, or maybe want to, know before you begin.

Content: This game chooses quality over quantity for its content. It operates on a license by SRO (Stephane Ratel Organisation), and contains the GT World Challenge Europe (formerly Blancpain Sprint & Endurance series) 2018 & 2019 season, as well as the 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge as a paid DLC. As such, the base game has eleven tracks to choose from, fifteen if you count the DLC. The cars are all GT3 cars, but a GT4 paid DLC featuring the 2019 GT4 Europe season has been announced. If you rather have quantity over quality, might I suggest you start off with Assetto Corsa (1)?

Simulation: ACC is a deep simulation. It’s not a racing game, it’s a racing simulation. Don’t call it a game unless you want to have hordes of angry simracers breathing down your neck. It being a simulation, you need to treat the car you’re driving like you’d be driving a real car on a real track. If you want to drift/wallride through corners, you might be better off not bothering with this one.

Steering wheel: Treating it like a real car, you get the best experience using a wheel with decent force feedback. A Thrustmaster T150/TMX or Logitech G29/G920 would be the minimum I suggest. This game IS playable with a gamepad (hell, I know someone who can wipe 99% of the player’s asses with just mouse and keyboard), but you’d lose 90% of the simulation experience and thus 100% of the fun driving with anything other than a wheel. Wheels, however, are hard to come by at this point during the pandemic and prices have soared. I would understand if you aren’t willing to dish out 200€ or more on a hunch.

You can find a more detailed breakdown on Sim Racing Equipment requirements here.

PC hardware: On another note: ACC is very resource intensive, and is biased towards newer hardware. Your 5-year old Intel i5 might run Doom Eternal on medium to high settings with a constant 60 FPS, your processor will feel wholly inadequate calculating the physics and AI in this game. The same goes for your GPU. Once there are more than 20 cars visible, you can see your performance melt away faster than an iceberg in 2030.

2. Initial start-up

When you first boot the game, there are a couple of things you need to do before you are able to drive. A lot of these will be trial and error based, and you need to find whatever suit you best.

Graphics: since this game intensively uses your PC’s resources, you might need to fine-tune your graphics settings. Depending on how strong your PC is, you might want to start out with the low, medium or high pre-sets. I would advise against using the epic settings for racing unless you have the beefiest of beefy PC’s. Be sure to lower the mirror quality, mirror distance, visible opponents (sixteen suffices) and to turn on HLOD for an optimal experience (for an extensive list, read here). Also, make sure you do a practice race against AI to test your settings, since the AI is very CPU intensive whereas the game itself is very GPU intensive. In a game like this, more (and consistent) frames per second equals a better learning experience. If you find your performance is fluctuating, don’t be too proud and just turn on v-sync. Smoothness is key.

Controls: the controls too would need a bit of fine-tuning. Ideally, you put the gain as high as you can control. This makes it easier to spot when your car goes sliding. Minimum force at 0%, dynamic dampening at 100% (unless you have a budget wheel), and road effects at 0%. Frequency should be at 333Hz for mid to high-end wheels. And, make sure you map the buttons the way you want it. It’s important to map “Cycle HUD MFD Up” to an easily accessible button on the wheel, since it allows you to change the Multi-Functional Display (MFD) and through that allows you to make changes to the car and/or pit-strategy during races.

View settings: getting your view settings sorted properly is very important in order to be able to judge your speed and position on the race track. You want to reflect the track to what you would see in real life from your seated position. You can change the view settings from a practice session, showing real-time results to your input. First, use a (vertical) FOV calculator to calculate the correct setting. Next, change the height, lateral position, distance and pitch of the camera to reflect your real world seated position. Make sure to make it feel natural, while also optimizing what you can see. Don’t be afraid to change your seated position as well to try out what works for you.

3. Achieving the ratings

Before your online racing career can start, you need to work on your ratings (read all about the ratings here). Ratings are Kunos’ way to measure driver level, and allows server owners to throw up thresholds to keep certain (low) levels from entering. The big hurdles are track- and safety rating.

Track rating (TR): these are easily gained if you know what you are doing. If you don’t, you are going to have a bad time. Remember how I said you need to drive these cars like you’re on a real track? This is a test to see whether you are able to do so. You can get one star for completing one clean lap. Sounds easy enough, but you also need to maintain a certain pace for it to count. Two stars for two subsequent clean laps, and three stars for four subsequent clean laps. This is a good way to learn the tracks and the cars behaviour. Feel free to take an easy car to drive, like the Aston Martin AMR V8. You might also want to start with an easy track, like Monza.

Safety rating (SA): Safety rating is the other big hurdle. Before you can train your safety rating, you need to achieve a minimal value for both consistency (CN) and car control (CC) by putting in clean, consistent laps. Safety rating on the other hand, is gained by driving closely against other drivers. You need to get within 0.7 seconds of a car (and stay within 1.2 seconds) to get ‘Trust’-points. Hit the other car, and you gain penalty ‘OBWP’-points. The more KM you drive closely to others, the higher your SA will become. You also get bonus Trust for finishing races. The best way to gain SA when you have none is to do 20-30 minute quick races against the AI. Put the skill of the AI on a similar level to your own so you can stick behind them closely and don’t crash into them. Note: just because you have enough SA to get into a server with a 30 SA threshold, doesn’t mean you should enter it. It is better to boost your SA further (preferably to at least 60) to skip the trench.

4. Getting the setup

When you are just starting out, you don’t need to bother with setup. You need to focus on driving cleanly, hitting your brake markers, etc. Just take the safe (or, if you are daring, the aggressive) pre-set setup and hit the track. Now, there are a few things you do need to keep in mind.

Fuel: you need to put in enough fuel for the race. If you want to do an easy calculation, you simply multiply the race time in minutes by 2,2. This will be a ball-park estimate. If you want to properly calculate the fuel you need for any race, you can use one of the widely available fuel calculators. Or, you could remember the formula “FR = ((TR * 60) / TL ) * FL + (2 * FL)”  (FR=fuel for the race, TR=race duration in minutes, FL=Fuel per lap as calculated by the game, TL=Laptime of the leader in seconds).

Tire pressures: A lot of things influence tire pressures, track temperature being the main thing. This temperature varies wildly per server so you kind-of have to change the tire pressures accordingly if you don’t want to overheat your tires. Go out for a few (3) laps and see what the pressures are like. You should aim for ~27.7 PSI. Anything within 27-28 PSI is good, but ideally you want to be as close to 28 without going over to maximize performance.

Traction control: I’ve seen people who came from (presumably) the F1 games and who take pride in being able to drive cleanly without using traction control. When playing ACC, the first thing they do is turn off TC and complain about others using the system. Don’t be that person. GT3 cars are designed to run with traction control on, they use it in real life as well. The power delivery is not intended to be used without traction control. Please use traction control if you don’t want to be a spinning idiot. 

Engine modes: These cars have different engine modes. Most cars have at least a qualifying mode, a race mode and a safety-car mode. You can use these modes to save fuel during the warm-up lap or during the race. Some cars (Mercedes) even require you to change from qualifying to race mode for the race if you want to do a 60 minute race. Mode ‘1’ often gives the most power but also highest consumption. There are notable exceptions, see all of them in this thread.

Buying setups: if you don’t want the hassle of adjusting the stock setups (which are already pretty good) to your liking, you could also buy ACC setups which have been developed by the best drivers/engineers in the business. If you’ve got the money to spare, buying a setup is a great way to save time, especially for beginners.

5. Racing etiquette

Now that you have lined up on the grid for your first race, there are a couple of things you should know.

Free practice: use this space to get used to the car, the track, and try to find input for getting your tire pressures right under the weather conditions present in the server. You are allowed to race against people in free practice, as long as you don’t overly block. If someone flashes you, it’s better to leave him by.

Qualifying: use your mini-map to judge whether people on a fast lap are close when exiting the pits. If you get blue flags during qualifying, that means someone on a timed lap is approaching so please let them go by. When starting a flying lap yourself, make sure there is about a 2-3 second gap between you and the person in front in order to make sure you don’t hinder each other.

Starting procedure: There are two procedures: a short one where all cars are released simultaneously as they drive in double file to the start. There is a longer, full lap warm up procedure (recognizable by it starting on the starting grid). In this one, cars are released one by one as they drive single file to the end, where they need to start driving double file again. Follow the instructions of the widget on screen. Cars are ghosted, so you dont have to worry about bumping into anyone. Another tip: holding your brakes is a better way to warm up your tires (and brakes, duh) that weaving. Use this to your advantage!

Turn 1: the race starts with people driving 2 or even 3 or 4-wide towards the first corner. However, the corner offers only space for 1-2 cars wide at most. This means that there will be a accordion-effect of people trying to find their place for the first corner by braking A LOT earlier than you would expect. It’s a good thing to start lifting and braking in order to anticipate this. You don’t want to be that person, causing a multiple car crash on the first turn, believe me.

Lap 1: the whole first lap will be a continuation of small constantino-effects. The field will be very nervous as it stretches out to a thin single line.  There will be some clutches or groups of drivers fighting for position, and inevitably, there will be a big crash at some point. Be prepared for this to happen and chances are it won’t happen to you. Still, make sure to slow down in order to maximize your chances of evading death.

Duelling: once the tension has eased, you can try to find your pace during the race. This will also be the time where you notice you are either gaining on the car in front of you, or the car behind you is gaining on you. It is the responsibility of the car behind to make a clean(-ish) pass. Rubbing is racing, but crashing isn’t. Only make a move if you fully believe you can make it stick. This also means that you shouldn’t poke your nose into someone’s rear at an unrealistic place and then be a surprised Pikachu when your opponent blames you for crashing the both of you. Be respectful of each other, the end result isn’t as important as you think. It’s the fun you can have getting to the end which is the important bit, but first you need to get to the end!

Blue flags: contrary to Formula 1 regulations, backmarkers in GT racing don’t have to move over under blue flags. They are allowed to, but they don’t have to. Blue flags in GT racing are meant as a heads-up that a faster driver is approaching and wants to pass. It is up to the faster driver to make this a clean pass. The backmarker, however, is not allowed to block the move of a faster driver. In the relative MFD-menu page, orange names are a lap ahead of you, blue names are a lap down. If you want to let a faster driver by, don’t suddenly brake. Get off the racing line first, then just lift. I found the best way to let people pass you is to go a bit deeper into hairpins by braking later. This minimizes time lost on your end if you let someone pass!

Penalties: ACC has an automated penalty system for cutting. This system measures how fast you go through a micro-sector after you’ve had four wheels over the white line and compares it to the fastest time you’ve set through that micro-sector. If you’ve gained time, you get a warning. If you lift (and thus lose time) you won’t get a warning. This system needs time to calibrate (you need to put in fast, clean micro-sectors) at the start of a race so be careful of warnings early on. Four warnings means a drive-through. Serve the drive-through within three laps or be disqualified. Watch out though: speeding in the pitlane means you get a 30 second Stop&Go-penalty. When you serve it, make sure that in the MFD-menu page for the pitstop “serve penalty” is checked.

Finishing: if you crashed, got a penalty or are otherwise at the back of the field, it might be enticing to just quit the race and join another server. Don’t. Use the remaining time to build experience driving clean laps and to just have fun driving without any pressure. Someone in front might have a spin offering you a chance to do battle with them. Not only is it more fun for everyone if everyone stays inside the server for the duration of the race (and tries to make it to the finish), you also get bonus trust points for making it there. This could off-set the OBWP you earned earlier on, and make sure you can get into higher-rated servers later!

6. Communities

In general, it is a good idea to join a community. There are a lot of communities organizing events which are friendly to (safe-driving) newcomers, be it 12 hour endurance leagues with driver swaps, or simple one-off 60 minute races. Communities are also a good way to learn from other members by being accessible platforms to ask your questions. And, racing against people you know and whose skill you can gauge is a much better way to have close fights than with someone you don’t know.

A great place to start is the ‘Coach Dave Academy’ discord, where he and his alien-level drivers are ready to help get you better. 

There are a lot of other great communities, most of them have their own servers they use to advertise their communities. If you find a server where you liked the people and/or driving experience, be sure to check the server name as it might contain a link to their community!

Looking for Super Fast Car Setups?

Gain the upper hand with super fast Assetto Corsa Competizione setups, developed by Aliens for Humans.

Compete against the best in ACC on The Sim Grid

Tired of getting smashed to pieces in turn 1 of Public Lobbies? Join The Sim Grid and compete against clean, fast ACC drivers.

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