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Posted: Jun 22, 2022 @ 09:51 pm GMT-0600
Updated: Feb 17, 2023 @ 01:24 pm GMT-0600
Sorting Tags: Article Developer, Article Software, Articles, IndyCar Racing 2, News – Papyrus Racing Games,

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced their Indy FanFest attendees in April, 1995; The list included IBM (promoting OS/2 Warp) and Papyrus, who were expected by followers to show off their upcoming IndyCar Racing sequel. What they did show, in fact, was a special version of their engine which at that time included SVGA 640×480 resolution, NASCAR Racing-style menus and perhaps most disappointingly, considering its absence from IndyCar Racing II and subsequent cancellation of all future modern open-wheel titles from Papyrus, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.

The Display

I reached out to Indianapolis Motor Speedway a few months back and asked them for any photos of the FanFest that year. They sent these images, all that seem to exist in their records, showing gaming setups on-site. The first, heavily sponsored by Marlboro, was a Virtua Racing arcade row.

Thank you to IMS Photo.

As always, the arcade racing titles draw a bigger crowd and manage to look a lot more interesting. You can see just how appealing that stand is compared to the IBM and Papyrus stand below. The ‘all business’ style of display and the partnership with IBM reflects Papyrus’ position at the top of the industry at the time despite their relatively new team; an industry where being at any event with Big Blue was an enormous achievement.

Thank you to IMS Photo.

The Software

Unfortunately asking ex-Papyrus developers at iRacing didn’t yield a lot of information about the software running at the event except to say that “if it ran SVGA, it wasn’t IndyCar Racing (1)”, so I have to rely upon an old reply on from Rick Genter that did confirm this was a special build with network multiplayer, but also confirmed that it wasn’t IndyCar Racing II and that network play would not be a part of that title.

Looking at the photo doesn’t yield masses of information either, but you can clearly see an open-wheel car on the larger screens, a similar user interface to NASCAR Racing (re-released that year with hardware acceleration), and at least two IBM PS/2 Personal Computers that don’t appear to be running Papyrus software at all.

The FanFest Experience

Ten year old Adam Pfenninger is my source of information here, as is the newspaper from 1995 (bottom of article) that reported on his victory. He tells it like this:

I was 10 years old, obsessed with IndyCar, and visited the exhibit in the infield under a large white tent. Queue times before driving were 15-20 minutes and there were 6-8 cockpits setup for people to use. They had wheels and pedals that weren’t secured very well because they moved during my race, and a monitor right above the steering wheel. The cockpit had a few buttons inside that allowed quick access to keyboard commands.

The multiplayer race ran 4-8 laps and was certainly Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I used the line my uncle would always point out during qualifications and unfortunately got tangled up in someone else’s wreck out of turn 4, but damage was turned off and one of the staff helped me get back going in-time to cross the finish line first.

I won a white IBM shirt with the “There is a difference” ad slogan on it and a copy of IndyCar Racing (1), and picked up one of the IBM OS/2 Warp stickers from the tent on the way out.

I played the IndyCar Racing prize for hours at my aunt’s house afterwards, and eventually persuaded my parents to upgrade our PC with a CD-ROM so I could play it at home.

Looking Back

Adam has remained involved in sim racing and is an IndyCar fanatic to this day. Why wouldn’t he be? He had the best possible introduction to it. I think this underlines a couple of things I want to highlight, which is that this was about the age I got more deeply involved with sim racing as well (Indy 500 and Formula One Grand Prix for me), and despite the fact I grew up in a house where getting up at 3am to watch a race overseas was very, very normal, I became a much bigger fan of racing once I had a product I could race that allowed me to develop a greater understanding of the sport, and perhaps more importantly, allowed me to roleplay my way into the races I watched each Sunday.

I would edit the AI myself, every week, I would run full-length races in Formula One Grand Prix, NASCAR Racing, IndyCar Racing and put myself on-track against the drivers and teams I idolized. They’d finish in roughly the right order because I’d set them up that way, and I would find myself developing rivalries based on a mixture of a drivers actions on TV and what the AI did to me inside my fantasized version of the sport. Young fans have been without this opportunity to truly connect to IndyCar for decades.

Looking Forward

For many years, too many years, major licenses have been squandered, unavailable, or no game has even existed – especially for IndyCar. Despite the fact that Papyrus intended to create more CART titles (this was published in the press and in Sierra’s own insider magazine), there’s no doubt that Sierra were wary of the lack of appeal the series may have had without Indianapolis, and whether backing CART over the Indy Racing League was the right decision at all. It’s excruciatingly sad that – much like IndyCar itself – it’s taken so long for IndyCar gaming to recover from the split.

We’re now seeing cars from this era popping up in simulations as licensed content (screenshot above) because kids like Adam have grown up, as have I, as has Renato at Reiza Studios (developer of Automobilista 2), and we’ve started working on our own racing games. We’ve even seen an actual IndyCar game announced to try to cater to the kids of today as well.

Is IndyCar back? Is IndyCar gaming and sim racing back? It remains to be seen whether IndyCar Racing II will ever be knocked off its perch as the go-to platform it’s been for more than 26 years, but I’m very happy to see someone try.

Here is the press coverage in the Indianapolis Star, which began the story of Adam’s victory on page one.

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