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Lesson 2: Using an Alpha File

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Greetings and welcome to Lesson 2. In this Lesson we will accomplish the following:

1. We will Select the car that we will be using (A car we already have an Alpha Tune File for);

2. We will be selecting a track that is very different from the Brickyard;

3. We will learn how tuning alone is how we adapt an Alpha to a new Track;

4. We will explore just what the different tuning settings can accomplish.

If you have not already tweaked to it, Lesson 2 is basically a continuation of Lesson 1, making use of all of the work we have already completed there.

Bear in mind that in FM6 MP you tune for the track - that is to say you are creating a unique combination of car and track that is unique to, well, the car and the track! That is the best way to accomplish the whole grabbing an edge thingy...

For this and other reasons we strongly suggest that you go to the store and purchase a small notebook or notepad and use it as your Tuning Log so you can keep track of what you did, what cars you have Alpha Tunes for, and what cars and tracks you have paired up and created tunes for so that you know what you have.

Right, so, we are now about to get you up to speed and back in Tuning Mode!

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Racing the 1966 McLaren M2B

Part I: Preparing to Tune

I don't know if this needs to be said but here we are saying it anyway: NEVER do the Quick Upgrade process to prep a car for a track and race. Ever. Just saying, that is wasted credits...

I. Finding that Tuning Mindset

Alright before we get down to brass tacks there are some basic issues we need to address:

Review the Rules O' Tuning One More Time!

These are simple rules, they exist for good reasons, and we will really like it if you take a moment to review them so that they are fresh in your mind!

  • Tune for the Track -- Each track is a rare and beautiful snowflake (woot! Bonus Points for Fight Club homage!) and as such each must be properly considered, respected, and tuned for...

    Generic Tunes will not work here and as the point to this is to not only create a stable and fast car, but to create a stable and fast car for the specific track whose characteristics you know well. This way you know the car, and there will be no nasty surprises!

  • Change One Thing at a Go -- Very few things are more frustrating than making a bunch of changes and then not being able to tell what you did that had the effect - good or bat - that you are now experiencing.

    By making one change at a go, you can gracefully undo it if it was a mistake or had unforeseen consequences. And you can remember and make note of it in your tuning book when the results are good and desirable! Remember when you make a change hit the 'Y' button to test that and see what it did... Test Early, Test Often!

  • Change Small, Break Small -- Knowing how you broke your tune is key to not making it worse.

  • Test Your Changes -- I wish that this did not need repeating but it does. When you commit to a change you should commit to testing it! Even if the change is just an adjustment - no, especially when it is an adjustment - you should be testing it!

    Yeah, we know what it is like to wake in the middle of the night just certain you have dream of the change for that tune that will make ALL the difference in the world! We are NOT saying that it did not happen - that you did not dream it up - what we ARE saying is you don't blow a tune by adding tweaks you dream about -- night time dream or day time dream.

    When you get this hair all itchy you are best off starting from scratch with a stock (new) car of the model you plan to use. Then You don't have to re-create your tune - just go to the Alpha - but never ever mess with a working tune. That is what the Alpha is FOR.

  • Always ONLY Fix What is Broken - Tuning is not about making cars fast it is about making them stable and THEN making them fast.

    But first and foremost it is about fixing problems. And when you set out to fix a problem you should focus on fixing that problem. Ignore the urge to start messing with an area of the tune that is not broke. Fix the broken bits. You can always come back later, once the tune is properly built, and improve it.

  • Tune in the Proper Order -- When you tune in the proper order you save yourself a LOT of headaches and time,. You also get more done sooner and you tune more effectively!So always tune in the proper order!

    UPGRADE ORDER

    1. Aero and Appearance

    2. Tires and Rims

    3. Platform and Handling

    4. Drivetrain

    5. Engine

    TUNE ORDER

    1. Aero

    2. Springs

    3. Anti-Roll Bars

    4. Damping

    5. Tires

    6. Brakes

    7. Alignment

    8. Gearing

    9. Differential

Now that you're reviewed the rues it's time to begin Lesson 2!

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat

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Part II: Select Your Car

We have already started in the previous Lesson working with the 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia, so to speed things along we will go with that. BUT if you want to use a different car, here is what we strongly suggest:

Using a Different Car

Pick the car you want to use then head to the Brickyard at Indianapolis and basically run it through the Alpha Build process just as we did with the 458. Why? Believe it or not that is the track that I use regularly for doing the base Alpha Build for all my Tunes.

The reason is simple - it is a very fast very slick 80/20 Straight/Corner so any tune you do there that you make rock-solid stable is easily adjusted for any other track in the game. The trick is to keep tweaking until that car is solid in the corners at speed.

Once you have run your new car through the tuning process at the Brickyard using Lesson 1, come back here and we can get started!

2009 Ferrari 458 Italia

Alright! Decided to go with the Italia eh? Well that is good, because we already have the Alpha Tune ready to go (assuming you completed Lesson 1 that is...

So when you are ready, navigate to CARS > FIND A CAR > FERRARI and page down to the 2009 Section and buy a fresh clean 458 Italia. Now you should either pick a unique Livery that is very different from the one on your original 458 or, better go with a custom color.

With your car in hand head for the next Section now!

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Part III: The Setup

For the next part do the following:

1. Navigate to TUNE > MY TUNES

2. Select the Indy Brickyard Alpha Tune

3. Load and Apply that Tune to your Stock 458

Once you have paid for all the goodies and the Tune is applied, we've completed this part of the Lesson. Moving on...

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Part IV: Picking Your Track

If you already have a track in mind, head there in Free Play now. For the purposes of this Lesson we are going to be going with Bernese Alps > Stadtplatz Circuit!

Bernese Alps Stadtplatz is a great twisty course of 3.08 miles and allows for ANY Class and up to 24 players / 23 Drivatars. It is pretty much the opposite of Brickyard, which suits our purposes nicely!

Change the Lap Count to 2 and run the circuit to get a feel for what needs to be changed on our ride...

Overall the car is way too loose - it is all over the place and that makes cornering a challenge.

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Part V: Tweaking the Tune

First we need to get some more control on the front-end, and that means adding some downforce to the Aero package.

Change the following setting:

AERO > Front Downforce: 200

Running a Test Lap with just that change is a major improvement. The car is now nice and tight on the turns, with far better control overall. Are you surprised that we obtained such a good and effective result so quickly? Do you think that tuning a car is more magic than science?

What you need to remember is that we started out by picking a track for our Alpha Build that has no special or unique surface elements at all. In fact the Brickyard is the perfect Alpha Build Track because of that. It's a WYSIWYG environment that offers up two long high-speed straight runs, two short low-speed straight runs, and four relative brisk corners, two of which are slightly banked and smooth, and two slightly flat and rough.

What that translates to is a track on which we could create a neutral balance while we added the various upgrades that are required for pretty much ALL of the other tracks, and then we could find a relatively simple tuning formula to make the car as stable as possible there.

The end result of this is that when we take that Alpha Build to another track, we start with a car that has all the performance and power upgrades we need, that presents in a completely controlled and understood configuration, so that we can easily run it along a track and instantly spot every weakness.

Then all we have to do is correct the problems we found and the rest takes care of itself.

So when we ran the car through two Laps at Berne we found that the first problem that we needed to fix was a lack fo control in the more extreme turns found there. There were a number of ways that we might have addressed this, particularly if the car was stock, but we already knew that the car was well balanced, so all we needed to do was find a way to improve the performance of the front wheels.

The easy fix to that was to apply my downforce to them so that they has better surface contact, and the most effective means of accomplishing that was to push the tired against the track surface with more force. Hence a very modest change to the Front Aero that had tremendous results.

When we ran the car through the track for two laps with that fix in place, the next problem we found was in overly loose control in certain turns. Basically the car slides a little bit more than we like.

It is important to note though that the sliding was uniform and applied to all four wheels. We were not dealing with an issue where the rear end was braking loose and the car was thrown into a drift state. That would require a completely different approach. No, what we were dealing with was down to Grip. Period.

2013 Donkervoort D8 GTO
2013 Donkervoort D8 GTO

The most effective and simple approach for this is to look to the tires and their performance, and the best way to do that is to run them in their present state for enough laps for us to see what the heat characteristics are

Tires

At the present time our tires are set up as follows:

Front Tire Pressure = 29.0 Cold

Rear Tire Pressure = 29.0 Cold

In the HUD configuration we have Damage and Tire Heat turned ON.

So when we take the car out on the track look to the bottom right corner of the display and you will see right next tot he throttle state display line four tire-shaped images. THAT is the tire heat and damage display for your HUD.

It will help you to have two people for these tests - one to drive and one to monitor the display. That way your driver can focus on aggressive cornering and, well, driving, while the assistant notes the effects.

With our tires set at 29.0 a few test laps with aggressive cornering and throwing in a few Full Stop tests, we find that the initial heat buildup from normal driving is heating in a easy to see pattern: from the starting line they are all uniformly cold so the boxes that represent them are blue, and then they quickly heat to neutral race temps in a more or less even and predictable manner.

As we move through the first two turns the boxes change - first the left front and then right front followed by the left rear tire are rapidly heating up in a uniform fashion. The left rear is faster to heat due to the turn direction and friction being applied - but overall the heat is happening in a predictable and level manner and after a small gap the right tire falls into line.

By the time we reach the merge point all four tires are clear, which means that they are at the base operating temperature which, for our purposes, is the neutral temperature. Any changes that take place from here forward will be heating caused by friction and force, and cooling back to neutral when the friction and force are removed.

After we run through two or three laps we notice that there is very little heat influence present in the tires and we suspect that their Grip effects are actually close to optimal. There is a problem but we have yet to identify the solution. Part of the reason for this slowness is that we are operating in the middle of Winter on cold surfaces.

To speed things along we need to provide a contrast, so we reset the tire pressure to 31.0 PSI for all four tires and re-run the test.

This small change generates significant results. We have lost the excellent Grip we were enjoying before, and the heating rates are now very much different. More even actually across the board, but the loss of Grip means that is not actually good even if it seems like it should be a good thing. Why does it look like it should be a good thing? That is down to the basic rules we are working with:

Higher Pressure = Lower Temperature

Lower Pressure = Higher Temperature

You see the problem? Applying those principals with the results we are getting means we are getting friction heat changes that are not beneficial. But we also obtained the contrast point we desired. And we now know the direction to head in.

Reverting back to a uniform 29.0 we run more laps and notice that while it is hard to spot, there is a bias on the heat buildup for the front tires.

By increasing the PSI in the rear tiers to 29.5 while leaving the front at 29.0 when we re-run the laps the grip loss is far more noticeable. You will not see the changes in the heat meters but rather you will detect them with your eyes and your ears. The car is more stable in the turns but it is also quieter... The sound of the contact breaks in the corners still emits the easy to ID screech, but at a lower volume and less frequently and at smaller stretches.

We have identified the problem - and the problem is the rear tires.

When we reduce the pressure in the rear tires to an even 28.0 PSI and re-run the laps what we find is that the Grip is a tiny bit better but more significant is that the rear tires are maintaining contact much better,, and when they do break contact it is for less time and at less effect.

When the rear tires break contact the sound that they generate is much lower - it sounds more like the wind than a tire complaining in a turn. Five more laps demonstrates that we have taken this part of the fix as far as it can reasonably go.

Elsewhere we have eliminated the Anti-Roll Bars and Springs as our issues do not concern the weight distribution or recovery, So our next logical place to look is in the Alignment.

Alignment

As the track we are tuning for has lots of curves and turns with very few striaght runs - and none of the straight runs are high-speed straight runs, Alignment is a safe bet.

Camber

When you configure a positive camber it increases the tire grip for straight line racing -- which has the effect of reducing oversteer, and increasing the grip for straight runs. That is particularly desirable for long high-speed straight runs, but it does reduce the grip for cornering.

To set up the car for better control in turns we want to tune for a negative camber, reducing understeer and adding more stability in corners. That should be particularly effective for a track like this one, which has lots of turns and curvy switchy runs to it.

Presently the configuration for Camber is -1.5 degrees Front, and -0.7 degrees rear.

We start by adding an additional -0.5 degrees of negative camber to the current settings, and then running some laps. That changes camber to -2.0 degrees Front, and -1.2 degrees rear.

The results of that simple change are pretty amazing. After six test laps with the camber changed we observed no change in the grip until you consider that it added between 15MPH and 20 MPH to the average safe and controlled speed applied in corners and a full 20 MPH to the speed in curves. The impact on average lap times was also profound.

Adding an additional -0.5 degrees to the camber had the effect of improving grip better in corners and curves but the impact was not as profound as the first half-degree. Until we watched the videos. During the first adjustment test we noticed that the average speed increased for turns and curves but the car usually strayed from the suggestion line during turns and curves (we use the suggestion line for these tests).

When we added the second half-degree we obtained the same speed results but the car uniformly stayed on or beside the suggestion line - there was far less drift and we used far less track from side to side. That is considered an improvement in ou books.

The final Camber setting ended up being -2.5 degrees Front, and -1.7 degrees rear.

Unfortunately these changes caused our old nemesis that rear-end problem to return but only partly. We still have the good grip overall, but the rear end contact was breaking more than it was after we adjusted it and this needs to be addressed.

After giving the matter careful consideration we concluded that we would not be able to fix this by changing the tire pressure because we were right on the edge of increasing tire wear as it is. So we decided to try a more conservative solution in making very small adjustments to the rear Aero...

Rear Aero

The current settings for the Aero are 200 Front, 137 Rear. The problem is that the rear wheels are breaking contact more frequently in the medium and harder turns, whereas before they were not breaking contact at all in the medium turns and less frequently in the harder ones.

Any sort of extreme adjustment to the Rear Aero is going to immediately impact the Front Aero in a bad way, and since the Front Aero is dialed in to provide turn control that would be a very bad thing. So we are going to begin to alter the Rear Aero settings very very conservatively.

The first change will add just a single LB of pressure - whereupon the test laps showed some improvement but not enough. We added a second LB and again obtained more improvement. When we added the third LB we found ourselves in the right neighborhood, but we noticed that while we had the improvements that we were seeking, the car was now slightly less responsive in turning.

1998 Eagle Talon TSi Turbo
1998 Eagle Talon TSi Turbo

What we mean by that is that the delay in turning the wheels and having the car fully react to a commanded turn was now longer than it should be - and that is bad. We needed to fix that. Remember we did say that tuning to fix problems can often cause more different problems. And if we did not say that, then we should have.

Right, so, we are happy with the Rear Aero set to 140 and the Front Aero set to 200 - so now we need to revisit the Alignment and alter the settings for the Front Caster Angle. That will solve the turn delay issue.

Alignment - Front Caster Angle

The angle between the joint and the steering is the caster angle -- when you adjust the caster angle it changes the straight line stability, so when you have positive caster, you get better straight run control, but slightly less control for turns. Negative caster will achieve the opposite effect.

The Front Caster Angle is presently set at positive 5.0 degrees and we have tuned the car so that we need to improve response time for turns. That means removing some of that positive caster angle.

The half-degree change had a noticeable effect not the level of response we are looking for, which is what we had before we started tuning. Reducing the Caster Angle by another half-degree -- putting the settings at Positive 4.0 degrees - was just the ticket!

Now when we ran the test laps we were seeing the "Perfect Turn" flag popping up over and over again where it was not popping before.

Another set of test runs left us happy with what we have achieved. There were no more problems noticed, and since tuning is abotu solving problems, that mean we were done save for one small matter - what was the performance differences achieved with this tune?

To test that we grabbed a stock 459 and ran it through the circuit, and here are the best lap results:

1. Stock 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia Best Lap out of 10 = 01:42:500 Clean

2. Alpha Tune 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia Best Lap out of 10 = 01:38:340 Clean

3. Tuned 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia Best Lap out of 10 = 01:35:140 Clean

Before you quit out of the Tuning System remember to save your tune - 09458italia-sta.

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Lesson 2 Conclusions

So there you go - you have now learned hot to take an Alpha Tune off of a Neutral Track and fine-tune it to make it work for any track you plan to race on MP. You could do the same thing for the Single-Player side if the game if you wanted to, but with the Mod Card Scheme that really is not necessary.

You now have all of the tools to go out and compete on a level standing - of course that will not stop the jerks out there from playing bumper cars with you in MP, but look at it this way - when you DO manage to find a group to race who is serious about racing, at least you can now be real competition.

This concludes our Tuning Lessons. We hope that you have enjoyed this as much as we have - because we had a lot of fun writing this - and playing - and tuning. Now if you will excuse us, we think it is time to start making the tune files for our '70 Chevy Camaro Z28. Lay-Tars!

1967 Eagle-Weslake T1G
1967 Eagle-Weslake T1G

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Starting Value Line Item Ending Value
S790 PI CLASS S790
7.4 SPEED 7.4
6.1 HANDLING 6.1
9.1 ACCELERATION 9.1
6.1 BRAKING 6.1
622 HP POWER 622 HP
416 LB-FT TORQUE 416 LB-FT
3,204 LBS WEIGHT 3,204 LBS
2.854 S 0 - 60 MPH - ACCELERATION 2.854 S
6.012 S 0 - 100 MPH - ACCELERATION 6.029 S
201.2 MPH TOP SPEED - ACCELERATION 200.3 MPH
107.7 FT 60 MPH - 0 BRAKING DISTANCE 108.1 FT
266.6 FT 100 MPH - 0 BRAKING DISTANCE 268.9 FT
1.32 60 MPH - LATERAL G'S 1.32
1.35 120 MPH - LATERAL G'S 1.36
29.0 PSI FRONT TIRES 29.0 PSI
29.0 PSI FRONT TIRES 28.0 PSI
5.14 FINAL DRIVE GEARING 5.14
3.08 1ST GEARING 3.08
2.19 2ND GEARING 2.19
1.63 3RD GEARING 1.63
1.29 4TH GEARING 1.29
1.03 5TH GEARING 1.03
0.84 6TH GEARING 0.84
0.69 7TH GEARING 0.69
-1.5 FRONT CAMBER ALIGNMENT -2.5
-0.7 REAR CAMBER ALIGNMENT -1.7
0.0 FRONT TOE ALIGNMENT 0.0
-0.1 REAR TOE ALIGNMENT -0.1
5.0 FRONT CASTER ANGLE 4.0
30.01 FRONT ANTI-ROLL BARS 30.01
24.51 REAR ANTI-ROLL BARS 24.51
798.3 FRONT SPRINGS 798.3
823.0 REAR SPRINGS 823.0
4.6 FRONT RIDE HEIGHT 4.6
3.8 REAR RIDE HEIGHT 3.8
8.4 FRONT DAMPING REBOUND STIFFNESS 8.4
8.7 REAR DAMPING REBOUND STIFFNESS 8.7
6.2 FRONT DAMPING BUMP STIFFNESS 6.2
6.4 REAR DAMPING BUMP STIFFNESS 6.4
176 FRONT AERI DOWNFORCE 200
137 REAR AERI DOWNFORCE 140
50% FRONT/REAR BRAKING FORCE BALANCE 50%
100% FRONT/REAR BRAKING FORCE PRESSURE 100%
55% ACCELERATION DIFFERENTIAL 55%
14% DECELERATION DIFFERENTIAL 14%
 
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