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video game review

Manage your own racing team with Motorsport Manager

Racing simulator is a great intro to sports-management games for those unfamiliar with the genre

Motorsport Manager puts you in the role of a racing team principal.

There's time for one last check of your two race cars before the start of the race; setups are good, right tires fitted, fuel load is spot-on, driver strategies set.

The lights go out and your cars accelerate to the first corner with the rest of the field, squeezing through three or four abreast. After a couple of laps, the race settles down to a rhythm and the next phase of decision-making arises – when to start making pit stops.

This is the typical start to a race in Motorsport Manager, which puts you in the role of a team principal. As well as looking after big-picture issues such as what facilities to build at team headquarters, the game also requires you to fine-tune car setups in practice to squeeze every last ounce of speed from them.

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Motorsport Manager has been out since 2016 for Mac and PC (preceded by a mobile version), and I've put more than 100 hours into the game. It recently received an update that adds endurance racing to the two existing leagues: open wheelers and GT sports cars. The GT cars are my favourite with the need to pit several times for fuel making for thrilling races.

And yes, the races can be thrilling. Sure, you're watching the race from a god-like perspective, looking down from above as little cars zip around the track, but you can't help but become invested in what's unfolding. For every heartbreaking part failure that has led to a last-place finish, I've nursed a car with worn tires running on fumes to a first-place win.

Among your responsibilities in the game are looking after big-picture issues such as what facilities to build at team headquarters, fine-tuning car setups in practice, choosing what new parts to develop for your cars and improving the parts you have, and dealing with other random dilemmas.

Between races, you're called upon to choose what new parts to develop for your cars, improve the parts you have and deal with random dilemmas that range from getting a boost to fuel efficiency to spending thousands on a driver's birthday party. Come a race weekend, there are practice and qualifying sessions to guide your team through, ahead of the race itself.

The most engrossing way to progress in Motorsport Manager is to start out at a lowly team, where finishing in the top-10 is a major achievement. With smart investments in your headquarters, drivers, staff and parts, your team will move up the ranks, making the first podiums, then race wins, all the sweeter. And just like in real racing, throwing tons of money around can improve your team's performance, but at the risk of being bankrupt before the end of the season.

Motorsport Manager has some distinctly "gamey" aspects. You can "fix" your car's engine in about 30 seconds, bringing it back to full health from a sputtering hunk. I can't image what miracles the pit crew are performing, but I'm sure real Formula One teams would love to be able to do that.

And while there are single-vehicle crashes and cars can run wide on corners, cars can also appear to slam into one another, or literally pass through one another, with no effect. It reminds you that the race you're watching is a representation of many factors happening behind the scenes and not a simulation of a wheel-to-wheel battle. This is not a licensed product either, so there are no real-world tracks, teams or sponsors, but modders have made add-ons that mimic the real thing.

Motorsport Manager is great intro to sports-management games for people unfamiliar with the genre or an engaging change of perspective for those who usually like to be in the driver's seat of their racing sims.

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