Grand Prix Legends

From Academic Kids

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Grand Prix Legends
Grand Prix Legends Cover
Developer(s) Papyrus Design Group
Publisher(s) Sierra Entertainment
Release date(s) 1998
Genre Racing game (sim)
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer
Rating(s) ESRB: K/A
Platform(s) PC (Win)

Grand Prix Legends (GPL) is a simulation of the 1967 Formula One season.

The 1967 season was probably chosen by the developers of GPL because this season is widely viewed as a turning point in Formula One. The cars were powerful but had no aerodynamic wings or slick tires (both were introduced in 1968), which made them very delicate to drive. It was also the last full season before sponsors' colours replaced the teams' traditional liveries. At that time safety was not felt to be a particularly important issue - it was the shocking crash of Lorenzo Bandini at the Monaco chicane during 1967 that got Formula One as a whole thinking on the topic seriously.

The game, developed under the direction of Dave Kaemmer and Randy Cassidy, was published in 1998 by the Papyrus division of Sierra Entertainment. To this day it maintains a reputation as a very realistic race car simulator. Its strong points are fairly accurate car physics (how the car responds and feels on the track), reasonably attractive graphics, and solid Internet online support from its user community. The major weak points are a very steep learning curve as the cars are quite difficult to drive well, and some minor, but very annoying physics flaws. (For example, tire wear is not modelled at all.)


The cars

The cars available include the Lotus 49, the Ferrari 312, the Eagle-Weslake (widely considered to be one of the most beautiful F1 cars ever built, and one of the rare US cars to have won a Grand Prix), the Brabham BT24 and the H 16 powered BRM P115 (which though striking was not a success; Jackie Stewart called it the worst F1 car he drove in his entire career). There are also two fantasy cars to choose from, the Murasama and the Coventry - thinly disguised stand-ins for the Honda RA300 and the Cooper T81B (licensing issues precluded these marques from being included in the package). There are third party patches available to put the Cooper and Honda back in the game.

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The Brabham BT24
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The BRM P115
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The Coventry
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The Lotus 49

The drivers

The player races against the top drivers of 1967 including Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, John Surtees, Pedro Rodriguez, Dan Gurney, and Lorenzo Bandini.

Unlike the real 1967 season the make-up of the teams remains stable throughout the year. The driver list is not entirely accurate, since some of the computer-controlled drivers appeared only rarely in real life. For instance, the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Beltoise is driving a BRM in the game, although in fact he drove a Formula 2 Matra (at that time it wasn't unknown to see a F2 machine entered in an F1 Grand Prix) on three occasions in 1967, and never drove a BRM before 1972. The presence of the Belgian Jacky Ickx who had a minor role in 1967 (driving only at the Nürburgring - also in an F2 car - and at Monza) is also noteworthy in this regard.

There are third party patches available to change the driver list.

The tracks

There are 11 vintage 1967 tracks included with the simulator. These include the high speed Monza circuit in Italy, the roller-coaster-like Mosport track in Canada, the tight streets of Monaco, and the original 14 mile long Nürburgring Nordschleife in Germany.

All but one of the races in the game are held on the tracks used for the real 1967 season. The French Grand Prix is raced at Rouen in GPL, even though the actual Grand Prix that year was held at the Le Mans Bugatti track. This change from reality met little opposition from players: while the Rouen track passes through beautiful landscapes and is pretty interesting for the driver, the Bugatti track and its surrounding landscape is generally considered somewhat lacking in interest by comparison. In fact, the Bugatti circuit proved unpopular with the drivers at that time, Denny Hulme calling it a "Mickey Mouse" track. However, eventually a version of Bugatti was released by the community (see GPL Track Database ( ).


Dave Kaemmer said that "Driving a 1967 GP car is more difficult than driving just about anything else, and the simulation is more difficult than driving a real car...many people think that it feels like driving on ice."

In some way GPL is more a virtual sport than a game. The essence of GPL is the talent required to drive these classic cars around the challenging circuits of the 1967 era. As in learning to play a fine musical instrument, the player must have the patience and the light, smooth touch to get the most from these machines.

It's also needed to have an intimate understanding of how the car setup parameters affect the handling. Luckily, there are several GPL web sites that cover these issues very well. Once the player have a handle on how to drive these cars correctly the feeling of accomplishment is very tangible.

Hardware requirements

When it was launched, GPL required what was for the time quite high-end hardware. While a software renderer was available, for smooth gameplay a 3D card was all but essential, and GPL supported only two types: 3dfx and Rendition Verité. GPL's box stated that the minimum CPU required with hardware acceleration was a Pentium 90, and without it a Pentium 166, but in reality both these figures were well short of what was needed for a satisfactory frame rate.

Commercial success

While acclaimed by the press in 1998 as the most realistic racing simulator ever, GPL did not sell very well, especially in the US, where a Formula One-based game was less appealing than in the European market. Also, the cars were difficult to drive, while the game's hardware requirements meant that it did not run well on many computers at the time of its release.

GPL's lack of inbuilt support for 3D accelerator cards other than those produced by 3dfx and Rendition contributed to a decrease in sales when those cards became obsolete, since at the time there was no Direct3D support.

As of 2004 total sales were around 200,000 units. Many of these sales came quite late in the game's life, when increase in CPU power made the game run more smoothly, and after Papyrus had released patches to allow GPL to work with modern graphics accelerators. The addition of Force Feedback support also helped. The release of the game on budget ranges, and its giveaway in Germany with a 2001 issue of the magazine PC Action, also encouraged newcomers to GPL.


An out-of-the-box copy of GPL lacks several features that one might expect from a modern driving simulation, and so most people add as a matter of course several patches: the official version 1.2 patch that adds Force Feedback; a second patch to add Direct3D and/or OpenGL support; and a third patch that get around a problem that prevented the original game from working on computers with CPUs faster than 1.4GHz. It is now considered best to get the new "all-in-one" patch from GPL Track Database ( to get this sim working at its best. There is now a new Grand Prix Legends 2004 Demo ( that has all the required patches and upgrades to the cars and the one track included.


The backbone of this game is its strong community. There are updates and addons for all tracks, cars, menus, AI, drivers and tracks. There are more than 400 tracks made by the game's fans, which are listed at the GPL Track Database ( On-line races were organised using Virtual Racers' Online Connection (, in short VROC. Many other tools are available, including those allowing telemetry-like analysis and various degrees of customisation.


In the spring of 2004 the first community made mod for GPL was released. Since there were no official tools or SDKs available from Papyrus, almost everything had to be worked out from scratch, and this meant that the whole process took about four years. The mod represents the 1965 F1 season. It contains all the cars and drivers and a changed physics engine. Download and Instructions (

Later games

In 2001, an improved version of the GPL engine was used for NASCAR Racing 4. This game was a big hit in the United States, although as usual with NASCAR games, much less so in Europe. The most current incarnation of the GPL engine can be found in NASCAR Racing 2003 Season which is considered by many to be the current standard of motorsport simulation excellence.


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