Though there are plenty of newish games to choose from in the sim world, standout classic Assetto Corsa is that boomer that shows up to track days in a C5 ‘Vette with 295 square stance R-compound tires and a big brake kit to totally and utterly embarrass you. Sure, Assetto may be old, but it’s got lots of life left in it.
While the developers of the game did the initial goodwill of making their game moddable, it was up to the community to take advantage of that. I’m happy to report that they did, and in a big way. Big, like, there’s a full-scale driveable map of Angeles Crest Highway and adjacent roads.
User Phoenix77 on Racedepartment.com has authored a masterpiece of a game mod, with plenty of on-the-ground contributors to making it remarkably realistic. A limited version is available for free here on Race Department, which is cool, but if you’re very cool you’ll donate a little bit for the full-bore map to support these madmen recreating a beloved road. Now that we have the mod itself, let’s hop in.
You can pick a few different starting points. The best ones are the LA Canyons – Freeroam or Mt. Wilson. They have the most central locations on the map, being on Angeles Crest Highway close to Angeles Forest Highway and Upper Big Tujunga Canyon Road (affectionately called 9 Mile by the locals). I think the best route, for someone unfamiliar with the road, is to make a left and go downhill to La Cañada. If you get a little lost, heed the useful road signs!
Going downhill to La Cañada or going on Angeles Forest Highway are my favorite routes, and mirror exactly the roads I’ve driven for years on my normal commutes to Los Angeles. I’m lucky enough to be pretty familiar with the road, and I know the twists and turns very well. I can report to you that this mod damn near nails it on the head.
The camber (banking) of the road is reasonably accurate, while the elevation change is spot-on. This is because of the elevation data being pulled from Google Earth, an ingenious way to build up a nice framework for a map. Race Department user @BenO’Bro is credited as doing the detail work on the road itself, and he did a stellar job. It’s missing only the tiniest minutiae like those familiar bumps in the road and narrowness in some sections of the road.
You may ask me: why not just go drive the road yourself? I do live about 15 minutes from the spot this virtual “track” is based off, but of course it’s nice to play around without burning fuel or tires, or meeting traffic, or hitting something. On top of that, I can’t just go out and absolutely cane these very public roads at will, I can’t drift corners at will in real life. In the mod, I can do whatever I want.
Virtual driving, even in a digital world as realistic as this one, doesn’t provide the visceral thrill of the real thing but it still connects neurons in my grey matter. I see a familiar corner, landmark, or even the joy I get from seeing Los Angeles from the top of the road after a long drive, and feel something warm inside. It’s nice to get reminded that the roads that I just drive are beloved across the world, and it even helps me enjoy it more when I do my weekly drive up to Newcomb’s Ranch. And if you’re not local, you can get a pretty good taste of this famous route you may have heard about.
Excuse me while I pick the Ruf Yellowbird for another virtual mob session on 9 Mile road, something that I otherwise am not able to do… for now. I can, in fact, do this on the many online servers that host the mod so you can drive with players across the world. Honestly, this is the best feature of the mod. There is no other game or community that has offered this level of content, ever. It’s unique to Assetto Corsa and that is something the community can be proud of.
Catch me online sometime, maybe we can rip down the virtual canyons together.