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..: GT2 Life Lessons

I have been playing PlayStation's Gran Turismo series of games for years. I've logged about 2000 races across both games, and have had a lot of time to think while my lowered, turbo-charged Honda speeds through lap after lap. Lately, I've come to enjoy the game even more because of what I've learned in the way of life lessons. Here are a few, put in GT2 terms:

- Know your car. In each race, you must know the characteristics of your vehicle. Weight, drivetrain, tires and brakes will all affect your car's performance, and if you don't know what your car will and won't do, you will spin out, and possibly lose the race.

- Drive your own line. If you are in a rear wheel drive Supra, you cannot follow the agressive line that the all wheel drive Opel is taking. Don't set your sights on what the Opel is doing; instead, make sure you are following the line that is best for your car. Not doing so can cost you the race.

- Following is hard. If you find yourself following another car, you will be enticed into following that car's line, braking when he does and turning when he does. If the car in front of you is similar to yours, and he is a good leader, than following won't be as difficult, and you may even improve your lap time. But if the car you are following is a different kind of car, or if the driver is poor, his driving will distract you, and it will be difficult to pass him -- he will be difficult to predict, unless you study and understand his inconsistencies.

- Spinning out doesn't mean you have lost. In most races, a poor turn or spinning out is ok if you do it early in the race. Messing up early is better than messing up later. Spinning out in one of the last laps will almost always cost you the win.

- Brake early. The key to handling most of the race's turns is to know when to slow down. Watch the roadside for milestones and indicators that will tell you you must slow down in order to negotiate the direction change with maximum grip, allowing you to hit the apex and come out of the turn at a higher speed. This is especially true of hairpin turns. Do most of your braking before you enter the turn, and not during the turn.

- Know the course. Study the course, memorize it like you would the periodic table. Know the turns, and the best lines to take in each. Determine where your car should be at each part of the course, and do your best to make that happen during your practice laps and the race itself.

- The race is always uncertain. No matter how many practice laps you do, the race will always be different. Mostly, because of the other drivers. They will get in your way and make driving difficult. Be sure you race with other drivers often, so you get a sense for how to keep a safe distance but also pass them when possible.

- Be generous with your car. Invest in the things that will help you finish the race, not just the things that will make the car look better. Your priority should be upgrading the interior things: the engine, suspension, brakes and tires -- not the showy wheels or performing the race modification.

- Some of the modifications to your car have to be done in a certain order. For instance, a stage 3 weight reduction can only be done after a stage 2 weight reduction. Be patient and wait for resources to purchase each new incremental performance boost. Do your best with what you have.

- When you are always winning, you need to change venues. If you find yourself constantly winning, you need to move on to tougher competition. If you don't, you will become complacent, and you won't push yourself to drive better. Being in the company of excellent drivers is a good thing, even if you are the worst of them.

- You always finish where you started. In the races, with the exception of Pike's Peak, you always finish at the same line you started from. So make your driving count, because ultimately, you haven't physically achieved anything.

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