Welcome to The Bugatti Air Racer Adventures, wait a second, Bugatti makes race cars don’t they? Absolutely, Bugatti made beautiful race cars which dominated the European racing scene in the 1940’s, in fact just the sound of his engines were unique enough to easily be identified amongst all the other cars on the track.
Ettore Bugatti was born on September 15th 1881 in Milan, Italy to Carlo and Therese Bugatti. Ettore was born into a very artistic family, his father was a painter and furniture maker, his brother Rembrandt sculpted animals; Ettore chose to harness his creativity and ingenuity towards more mechanical things.
Still a teenager, Ettore Bugatti built a powered tricycle in 1899 to compete in a cross country race; clearly racing was in his blood from the beginning.
At the young age of 18, Ettore built his first racecar which had uncompromising design integrity, and demonstrated a clear understanding of creating a powerhouse engine that he described as a “thoroughbred”. Bugatti was most known for his engines, so he built a factory in Molseim, Germany which became French after WWI in 1918. During WWI Bugatti created an airplane for the French government, a 250 hp straight eight, and a double straight eight 450 hp aircraft engine. The US Bolling Commission was so impressed with Bugatti’s engine designs; they purchased a license for $100,000 dollars where the engines would be built at the Dusenberg Motor Co. The plan was to build 2000 to 5000 engines, however with the war ending, only 40 were ever built.
After WWI Bugatti’s
dislike for the Germans grew, this also furthered his interest in
airplanes; so he decided to take
on Germany in
the Deutsche de La Muerthe Cup Race, also known as the Coupe Deutsch.
Fixated on his desire to beat them, he hired Louis D. de Monge to
construct the airframe.
News of Bugatti’s advanced airplane design was intercepted by the French Government, they offered Bugatti a contract to build a light pursuit plane called the 110P; based on Bugatti’s 100P Racer design.
Bugatti was hard at work completing his design for his 100P Racer to enter the race to blow away the German competition, however a tight deadline was given to all racers to be completed by September 1939, sadly he never met the deadline and his plane was never to take flight.
As the German’s advancement progressed closer to the French Capital, Bugatti decided to hide his unfinished plane in a barn somewhere in the French countryside; where it remained unfinished for almost 30 years. Bugatti unfortunately passed away on August 21 1947 at the age of 66; the plane was then acquired by a Mr. Pazzoli. The plane changed hands again and was purchased by a Mr. Salis, then in 1970 was acquired by Ray Jones who had a sole interest in the engines themselves. The plane was now stripped down to just the airframe and in 1971 sold to a Dr. Peter Williamson, who had a plan for a very lengthy restoration. The restoration was handled by Les and Don Lefferts during 1975 to 1979, and was even documented in SKYWAYS magazine in July 1991.
The restoration ended in 1979 where the plane was donated to the Air Force Museum Foundation, where it was assumed the restoration would be finally completed. It seems time was always against this design, another 15 years went by where the plane found its final resting place at EAA AirVenture Museum in 1996.
It is amazing the history behind this unique airplane, it is almost a tragedy this plane never actually took flight; with such detailed history you can almost imagine Ettore Bugatti himself desperately rushing his plane into a barn somewhere in the French countryside.
There is one thing to know about this package, it was created, and was featured in PCPILOT magazine in 2005 and sells for $10.00.
So what do we get with this package?
8 Airplanes :
- Bugatti R-100 Air Racer
2 Racecars :
- Type 35-C Compressor Bugatti Grand Prix sports car
4 Scenery Packs, 18 Missions, plus source files and even a screensaver :
- Detailed vintage air racing field with grassy runway and vintage hangers,
pylons, static aircraft, static vehicles, trees, etc.
Installation and Documentation
I received this product through a direct link supplied by the developer; it was a very fast 95 meg download. The actual downloaded file comes in a single password protected zip file, which extracts to a 97 meg setup file, a flight plans directory, and a simple installation text file explaining where to copy flight plan files, and key commands etc.
Installation of the program is pretty straight forward with no surprises; the supplied documentation and screensaver are located off the root of your fs install directory. The extracted documentation is more of a read me file then anything else. There are no actual procedures or checklists because there never was any to begin with in real life. It's really a basic overall fact sheet about the plane and some key commands etc. (there are a couple of basic pointers to how the plane should be flown, however it's not in any detail)
8 Planes and 2 Cars? Let ’s See Them!
When you fly the P100 it becomes obvious this plane had the most attention given to it. The P100 and P110 series also have an option to show the engine, this is done by pressing the wing manifold key. You can see the engine on the images above, also note the fuel boost gauge located on the bottom right on the P100 2D Cockpit.
Focusing on the P100 series, the quality of the graphics are not too bad, they are representative of good quality back in 2005. The VC is a little rough; however it is fully functional and does not impact your FPS.
The rest of the planes offered in this package are more what I would call “extras”, not to be confused with “throw ins”. As you can see from the models, the 2D Panels, coupled with the VC and flight dynamics, all are different from each other. In this case, the word “extra” is more defined by the fact they are not quite as polished with the P100 series.
Notice the smoke affect on the Junebug racer image, the smoke effect is an option on all the planes offered. The inside graphics on these planes range from decent to somewhat ugly, however the models themselves are decent. Ok, let us get nit picky, I notice a similar wood grain, I see a similar rounded shape, and all the gauges from a quick look appear almost consistent with the rest of these; in many areas the developer is more then generous in his offerings.
I have mentioned they all feel unique to each other, also they all have different performance specifications in regards to things like top speed, and when choosing the plane, you get a nice little set of facts about that particular airplanes design and or inspiration. It becomes obvious the developer didn’t just dream up a bunch of planes here. A lot of them are based on real world airplanes he has added his creativity to. So isn’t that a fancy way of saying he made up a bunch of planes? Yes, he made them up, however further on in the review there are more details about this developer’s real world design background that might have been translated into these planes.
The Type 57SC Atlantique is a lot cooler looking. The optional 2D panel and the awesome VC are tons of fun! Are these cars realistic feeling? Uh no, but there are many other fun things you can do with them.
First off, you steer right to left with your rudder. This makes it completely awkward and screams of non-realism. Then while diving into the package further, I came to a mission where I was to drive to the Bugatti Estate with a detailed set of driving directions. I started writing them down realizing how real the directions were; drive to this road, turn left here, follow around turn here, stay to right of fork road etc. You got to be kidding?
So here we are, driving in flight simulator and navigating through the set of directions I was given. It was both ridiculously enjoyable and quite surreal as the cars are made to FS2004 scale. So did it feel like I was driving? These are “throw ins”, and a message even stating when choosing the mission “you have to try this at least one time”. The developer wants you to have fun with this package.
There were times where I gave into my curiosity and started driving like a lunatic, pulling some insane jumps while driving recklessly along the countryside, passing barns, grabbing ladies undergarments on clothes hangers. (ok I didn’t do that part, but it certainly had that Dukes of Hazzard feel).
In one of the missions offered, set at your vacation home in Cannes on a cliff, I pulled a Thelma and Louise But I didn’t feel would be appropriate to show the image. So if the cars are to scale, doesn’t that mean that if I have dynamic car scenery it would feel like I was really driving? The last product I reviewed not only had great dynamic scenery, it also had the Autobahn! So I drove on the Autobahn with all the cars coming at me, yes it felt just like a video game; I couldn’t stop giggling! Now back to the planes and the package. How do all of these planes perform?
Performance and Flight Dynamics
There is no need to have a separate section for performance; there was no impact on FPS in the 2D Cockpit, or in the VC Cockpit as expected for a package created in 2005.
When I first installed this package, I chose the P100 Air Racer. I was confronted with a lot of gauges and 3 flap positions. After searching through the supplied documentation for any kind of checklists or procedures I missed, there weren't any, so I contacted the developer. The developer answered promptly giving me an overview of this package and its intent.
He wanted people to have fun racing with the ability to swap out planes on the fly for some racing battles. The developer reiterated that the P100 never did take flight, so no checklists or procedures exist. Therefore, the planes are more of a feel as you fly kind of deal. I am someone who has enjoyed the realism of regimental checklists and procedures flying jumbo jets. So my initial thoughts were that this was more of a “game” then a simulation of some kind.
I dredged on with the P100 performing the first mission, which was a short flight to Paris. It didn’t take long before I felt this plane was very believable in its handling, in fact it took me by surprise. I assumed these planes to be unrealistic but fun, this plane was both challenging and I felt it was a good solid payware add-on.
Again, most of my time has been spent in jumbo jets, however I have clocked many hours in a realistic P38 Lightning and I felt the P100 handled somewhat similar as far as weight of the aircraft and flight dynamics went. Focusing on the core of the package, the P100 series, the plane has a fuel boost meter. When you apply the throttle, there is about a 1 second delay before you feel the power from your engines. When the throttle is set to 50% you are at full normal power, push the throttle forward and feel the roar of the Bugatti engines as it rockets you forward.
You might think with 2 large powerhouse engines in a light aircraft there might be some sort of torque problems in flight. Well part of the unique design of the engine placement is to counter-act each other to eliminate any torque issues. Constant throttling in the P100 almost feels like you're flying in a sled, full power forces the nose up, and you counter by pushing the yoke forward. It really is unique and cool.
The sounds alone of the engines are surprising, it sounds just like a crazy modified car engine. How else would a Bugatti engine sound? Noted in the documentation when flying the P100 series at speeds reaching 500 knots, the controls become unresponsive due to the excessive winds over the surface controls. Bugatti was all about pushing the limits of his airplane design. Although a little scary and unconventional, the controls as stated become unresponsive at 500 knots and you get an overspeed warning.
Pushing the throttles to full power while approaching a pylon is both exhilarating and a fairly solid effort on the controls. Throwing on the airbrakes before you enter your hair raising tight turn to maintaining proper pitch and to exit at full speed for the race to the next pylon. All of the aircraft offered in this package are very agile, built for the purpose of racing around pylons in fierce competition. If you think about it for a second, racing around pylons at high speeds, going all out for the gold isn’t exactly an easy feat. It is equally as challenging in this add-on package.
When I say challenging it is in no means a negative. On the contrary, I expected much more of an unrealistic videogame as opposed to a game-like simulation challenge. Cranking the throttles to full power isn’t just about sitting back and having the wind blow through your hair. The P100 series performs like a quality add-on, forcing you to compensate for the power by forcing forward the yoke. But you must also compensate for the height of the pylons which are about 850-900 feet tall.
I was told the planes were a simple matter of "fly by feel" leading me to believe they leaned heavily on the unrealistic side. I found the P100 series to be very unique handling wise, and take off and landings challenging. In fact, the Junebug was one of the most difficult planes I have ever taken off with. It required you to be in the VC view to monitor your horizontal position, adjusting the rudder to compensate for the movement to the left generated by the torque of the engine.
The landing was equally as challenging, adjusting the rudder to counter-act the swing to the right. All of the planes have a gauge for lean and rich fuel mixture control. I found the altitudes in which fuel mixture adjustments were to be made was at least predictable to what I expected, and it did vary somewhat from plane to plane. All of the planes have the same set of functional gauges available, which are full featured including GPS for anyone that wants to do normal flying. As a bonus, the P100 series also has an option for an IFR panel if you prefer the more standard comm controls for FS2004.
Let’s See Some Pylon Racing!
Well unfortunately it is hard to classify speeding around Pylons by myself as racing, but of course I was able to get a solid feel for what it would be like.
documentation does give you some tips on how to setup for a race
with your friends. Line up side by side on the runway at
the Alsacian Race Field, and away you go racing towards the Pylon.
Seems too simple? Well
it is, imagine sitting with all your friends waiting to start the
race, unless you are playing across a local network, or you are on
some kind of
server. I am not sure how you would gauge a fair start or even log
your laps. Real simple, you have an airfield and 2 poles, the rest
is left up to you.
Just look at the images. Yes, it is fun racing towards a Pylon for a crazy tight turn! The image at the top left shows the Kates Lion rounding the Pylon at the Alsacian Race Field, in the background you can see the hangers and static planes and cars stationed there. The next image shows the Kates Lion rounding the other Pylon from the spot view, and bottom left, the same position from the VC view.
When it comes to views to use, I did find the VC the view of choice. It also makes it somewhat easier to gauge your relationship to the Pylon. What about the image on the bottom right? What is that little red circle all about? Well, if you click on the image to enlarge it, you will see I am showing you where the second Pylon is. The reason I needed to add a circle here is because of the distance, it is really small and hard to see.
If it is hard to see, doesn’t that mean it would be difficult to navigate your turns to be lined up to the next Pylon? You bet it is, your first learning curve with flying these Pylons is getting a good feel for where the other one is in relation to where you are. It is not an easy task. If you turn off all your clouds it is easier to see the other Pylon, but again you must get a feel for just knowing where it is as opposed to seeing it.
On a brighter note, once you do know where the Pylon is, it is an awesome rush of fast racing. Sprinting, braking, super tight aggressive turning, and lighting up your powerplant as you exit the turn. To be fair to the developer, he did supply some helpful tips, as well supplying some graphics to help you understand the positioning of the Pylons.
Let’s See Some Of The Scenery!
The image on the top left shows a closer view of the hangers and static airplanes, the models and appearance are decent, and is what you might expect for 2005 standards. There are a few missions that start you at the Alascian Race Field, the most notable one is the rush to find a barn to hide your P100 airplane; this required you to fly really low skimming the tree tops looking for barns, then even more enjoyable is finding a spot of grass sufficient to land.
The Secret base image is part of a couple of missions also, in one of these missions you are to meet a spy in the dead of night to obtain some secret documents. The meeting point is to the left of the secret base. You need to cut the engines and glide in to stay undetected; I thought this was a really fun mission.
The Bugatti Estate is kind of neat. While you can’t see it well from the image, but as you drive through the front gate the road has trees all the way down on either side; it really feels like you’re driving up to a mansion. There were some visual glitches for me here, the roof appears to be untextured, and also the fence had a flashing white bounding box around it. If all the textures looked as they should, it would be decent by 2005 standards.
The Oshkosh Air Field is alright. It is a neat effect to fly over all those planes which are real models; but when you get too close, you see they are low quality models and the effect is somewhat lost.
The vacation home in Cannes is built right on a cliff with a personal runway to the left. This is where I couldn’t help pulling a Thelma and Louise and jumped my car off the cliff. Surprisingly, the car sailed off the end and plummeted down in a realistic arc to the bottom. I was the most disappointed with the model and visuals of the house itself. It's not even close to the standards of 2005, coupled with some autogen problems we are going to find out about next.
This Seems Amazing, But Were There Any Technical Problems?
One of the beginning missions puts you in the Junebug needing you to taxi to the runway. It was extremely difficult to taxi without flipping it over. When I say difficult, I mean like 14 restarts!
Taking off was equally as difficult requiring precise rudder adjustments to stay on course and not flip. There is challenging, and then there is impossible. It just felt like there was a technical problem. In the air the Junebug is a lot of fun, landing is challenging, but once your wheels kiss the runway, you are back to incredibly precise rudder adjustments compensating for the back end swinging to the right.
The very next mission I believe puts you on approach to the racing field. I couldn’t figure out where the runway was? After pausing for a second to get a good look of the airfield, I realized the runway was completely covered in trees! So I went back to the developer’s website and found an autogen patch addressing this problem I had. So I applied it and was relieved and felt eager to land at the airfield.
On approach, the same thing, the patch did not remedy my problem. I contacted the developer to inquire about resolving the issue I had. He responded very promptly and explained that he was aware of some autogen problems with the sceneries. He also told me the patch did resolve most people’s issues, however some people, even with the patch, were not able to fix the problem.
So when at my main starting point for racing the pylons, I could not use the runway supplied. I was forced to either try and avoid the trees, or I chose to take off width wise on the airfield. An alternate take off was possible because the planes are very fast on the acceleration, and very agile. So it was a work around.
My autogen problems just started here, they continued all the way through missions interacting with the add-on scenery. Some missions you just start and crash instantly, creating an endless loop of FS2004 resetting. The only remedy is to perform a quick slew to reposition. There are 18 missions basic missions here, not all of them start you with the add-on scenery, so they are fine.
Again, according to the developer, the patch does remedy most peoples autogen issues, unfortunately for me it did not. But this doesn’t mean the problem sceneries are a write off. You could always turn off your crash detect which was one option suggested to me.
Closing Comments and Thoughts
Bugatti Air Racer Adventures package is an odd endeavor. The developer wants you to have fun experiencing the thrill of racing with a bunch of planes you can swap out on the fly for a great price. So you would expect with all the offerings you get here, the planes would be unrealistic and videogame like; nothing could be further from the truth in regards to the P100 series.
The P100 series is a great plane all by itself, and this is air racing with realistic planes which is a fantastic surprise. With all of the other planes you get to share similar looking panels and flight dynamics, however they all are unique to each other. Seeing as all the planes are very agile and fast, and even similar in weight and size, how different would you expect the flight dynamics to be? I found again, the P100 series to be drastically different from the rest in flight dynamics, and overall quality.
The Pylon racing portion of the package in some ways is the most weak. You have an airfield and 2 poles, and the rest is up to you. I admire the developer’s intent to create a different flight simulator experience here, and with some cooperation with your friends, this could be a real blast!
My immediate thoughts on what could make this experience much better are simple. Some kind of count down for starting the race, move the Pylons a bit closer so they could be easily seen, or even add a visual marker of any kind to aid you seeing the pylon, and the ultimate would be to have the option of static planes to race against. Even if they moved in a predictable fashion, this would have added a layer of fun with a visual cue as to the direction to the next pylon.
But we are not just dealing with some realistic planes and a racing setup. We also have 2 cars to joyride in, and 18 missions to checkout with add-on scenery.
Let’s cut right to the chase here. The developer is extremely generous for what he is offering. Keep in mind the product was created in 2005, and there may be a chance you will experience the autogen issue which takes away from the add-on sceneries.
The P100 all by itself, with the history and the pretty believable flying dynamics, might be worth it alone for some. If you have some buddies who you could race against, then this is an awesome package and hours of enjoyment. If you buy this package with racing in mind and that part of it doesn’t work out, then you still have one great plane, and another bunch that are pretty good. If you have autogen problems and the add-on sceneries are not really useable, aside from the Pylons, then again the value is still good in my opinion.
One final note about the developer’s background. In a nutshell, he has some very impressive credentials working for some of the top car markers in the world in a design capacity. This instantly gives me a good feeling about the attention to detail that he must have put in recreating this unique airplane.
What I Like About The Bugatti Adventures
What I Don't Like About The Bugatti Adventures
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