The GTA Online racing scene is both lively and competitive, full of both the best and worst the game has to offer: dedicated racers with both skill and experience, as well as unruly newcomers who only popped in for the unlocks but have no actual interest in the sport.
If you're being left behind in the dust by the former or being constantly rammed off course by the latter, you could definitely use some pointers in the right direction. There is more to racing than mere stats, which is why a skilled driver in a mid-range car can still beat someone who has the best ride fully upgraded, but no skill to go with it.
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The two techniques you need to master is redline starting and curb boosting. A fan of GTA Online and user of Reddit compiled a great set of tips to get the hang of both of these methods, which you can check out here.
Firstly, one of the most crucial sections of each race is right at the beginning. Oftentimes it is your start that will decide whether you lead the race or fall back, and few players know how to get it just right. The part that everyone knows is that when "GO" flashes on the screen, hitting the accelerator at the right time gives you a bit of a boost.
What most people don't know is how to maximize this effect. Simply keeping the accelerator pressed down during the whole countdown will blow your speed boost. However if you rev up your engine, let go of the accelerator right before the "GO" prompt appears, then re-press is at the right moment, not only do you gain the normal boost, but the engine retains the bonus from revving it up as well. This should launch you ahead of those who simply hit the pedal upon seeing "GO".
This method produces a marked increase in speed. Yakhunt, who compiled the guide linked to earlier, tested the method with a fully upgraded Jester, and the redlining method shaved 0.4 seconds off his time in the drag race. While that may seem inconsequentially small to newcomers, you'll soon learn that every millisecond counts.
The other main method is curb-boosting, which is a little oddity made possible by GTA Online's strange relationship with physics. The game is coded in a way that causes a compressed suspension to boost acceleration and speed, which is the source of a number of speed bugs associated with spoilers.
However, regardless of whether or not you're using a bugged car, driving right on the raised sections on the sides of tracks, most often found in Stunt Races, will give you a constant speed boost that is most significant when accelerating. Though it pays to stick to the curb even at top speed.
Sure, you'll need some practice before benefiting from the second method, as the risk of going off course is increased. Higher speed makes the car more difficult to handle, and by driving on the edge of the track you don't exactly have much room for error. Curb boosting may shave a whole second off your lap times.
When you're still starting out as a racer and don't have a lot of practice, selecting cars that potentially sacrifice speed for handling is a good choice. A car with good handling will get you a lot further along than one that can hit higher speeds but suffers from over/under-steering or has poor traction, which will lead you to spin out.
Most experienced racers will tell you that pushing the pedal to the metal and never letting up is hardly a viable strategy when it comes to crossing the finish line first. You need to know when to break and how to take turns - something a car with good handling will make much easier. Once you are more experienced and can control a testier car, it will be time to upgrade.
Get familiar with the track
Knowing the racecourse is half the battle. You need to practice a lot - just race and race and race - so that the layout of the course will be as familiar to you as the palm of your hand. Once taking turns becomes muscle memory, your lap times will start decreasing steadily.
Avoid early collisions
While sparingly used, tactically deployed collisions in the late game can help you knock rivals out of the race, collisions early on will simply slow you down. A typical phenomenon is when racers bunch up into a large multi-car collision at the very beginning of the race. It's better to avoid this mess by hanging back if you see it about to happen, as getting mixed up in the crash will set you back a great deal.
Tailgating is a typical tactic that can get you a speed boost. When you go behind another racer and close the distance, you'll see streaks of air appear on the screen. This means you are in their slipstream, which will increase your speed while you stay right behind the other car. This might give you the necessary boost to overtake them too!
Thanks to u/poops_all_berries for some of these tips. What methods do you use in GTA Online races?