NASCAR Racing 2003 Season is still widely regarded as the best NASCAR simulator available besides iRacing. While the graphics are certainly dated, the gameplay is still great with realistic physics and AI. The amount of mods for new tracks and cars, including entirely different race series, continually breathe new life into it.
The Thrustmaster TMX and T150 play very well with it. The only settings we can control are the steering angle and the force feedback strength. You will find that the force feedback strength needs to be adjusted on a per-track basis. There is just no way to accommodate the differences in downforce between a fast, high-banked corner and a relatively slow, flat corner.
In this guide, I will show the settings I use for the different types of tracks to get the best force feedback.
Thrustmaster Control Panel Settings
It's important to set the steering angle correctly. I use 270°, but you could try 340° or even 400° if you want to have more rotation in the wheel and make the input a little less sensitive.
|Overall Strength of all forces||100%|
|Auto-Center||by the game|
Spring and Damper are not used by NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, so the value actually doesn't matter. Some games require these to be on for their force feedback to work, so I keep them at 100% as a general rule.
BOOST should always be turned off. For an in-depth look as to why, see my BOOST Force Feedback Analysis.
NASCAR Racing 2003 Season Settings
In Options > Controls > Calibrate:
When you first open the game, it should ask you to calibrate the controls, but you can always manually calibrate in the Control Options. Turn the wheel all the way to the left and right and press each of the pedals down to 100%. If you change the steering angle in the Thrustmaster Control Panel, you should recalibrate just to be safe.
In Options > Control Assignments:
You will need to manually bind the steering, pedals and shifter, either H-pattern or paddles.
In Options > Control Assignments > Advanced:
|Boost Steering at Low Speeds||Unchecked|
|Use any keys for Driving Input||Unchecked|
The Input Momentum and Steering Assistance values should be set to 0% when using a wheel. These are meant to be used when playing with a gamepad.
Steering Linearity should be set to 100% when using a wheel.
Boost Steering at Low Speeds is unnecessary, since we are already using a small steering angle.
Use any keys for Driving Input is also unnecessary when using a wheel.
In Options > Controls:
|Controller Options||DirectInput Driver|
|Strength - Short Track||30-40%|
|Strength - 1.5 Mile||45-60%|
|Strength - Superspeedway||60%|
|Strength - Road Course||25-40%|
Strength controls the weight of the wheel and strength of the forces you feel. It is different for every track. I have found that the major categories of courses will have similar strength requirements, but there is always variation. Tracks with fast, high banked corners are going to need to be lower than tracks with flatter corners. Generally, I like to keep the forces quite high, as it can make it easier to hold the car steady when in a pack.
Damping is unnecessary on these wheels.
Latency was probably useful on slow computers when this game originally released, but there is no need for it now.
In Options > Driving Aids:
|Stability Control||On / Off|
|Show Ideal Racing Line||Off|
These values will depend a lot on your equipment and skill level. If you want the most realistic experience, turn everything off. If you have a set of pedals without a Clutch, or just don't want to use it, you can enable Automatic Clutch.
Anti-Lock Brakes is personal preference. They may be particularly useful on road courses where you have to do a lot of heavy braking or to make getting onto pit road easier.
Traction Control may be useful when just starting, but I don't find it makes the cars any harder to drive when turned off.
Stability Control, on the other hand, makes a big difference in how the cars feel. I find these cars very difficult to drive without it. They are very easy to spin.
NASCAR Racing 2003 Season has the reputation it does for a good reason. The racing is great and the driving can be made as easy or as difficult as you like. With the addition of mods, you have an incredible amount of content to play with. It really is amazing that a game this old still stands as one of the best simulators out there.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.