Grand Prix Circuit

Released: 1988
Published by: Accolade, Inc.
Developed by: Distinctive Software, Inc. (DSI)
Author(s): Don A. Mattrick, Brad Gour, Frank Barchard, Amory Wong, Rick Friesen, John Boechler, Tony Lee, Kris Hatlelid


EGA graphics


Actual game running on an 8-bit CGA card


Game running on a VESA Local Bus VGA card with CGA graphics option selected

 

System Requirements

System Requirements System: Intel 8086/8088, 384 KB memory.
Graphics support: Hercules, CGA, EGA, and Tandy/PCjr only.
Audio support: PC speaker.
Other: Keyboard and joystick supported.
Original Media Two 5.25" 360 KB (DS/DD) floppy diskettes or one 3.5" 720 KB (DS/DD) floppy diskette.
Installed Size 787 KB

Introduction

Grand Prix Circuit from Accolade is an arcade-style Formula 1 simulation, released in 1988. With 8 tracks to choose from and 3 cars you could take part in a single race or enter the Championship with a goal for glory. Each car has different characteristics ranging from easy to control and slow, up to fast but difficult handling.

To add more to the game, there are 5 difficulty settings that impact the performance of your opponents, whether you have an automatic gearbox or manual, and how much damage you can take on.

Read the full review at the bottom for an in-depth look at this classic!

 

From where can it be run?

The game can be run directly from floppy disk. When playing in either EGA or Tandy/PCjr graphics mode, disk 2 will also be required, but only upon initial loading of the game - once fully loaded, no further disk swaps are necessary.

Copy Protection

The game has no copy protection.

How to Setup

There is no setup utility for Grand Prix Circuit. You can run the game using the GPCGA.EXE, GPEGA.EXE or GPTDY.EXE files, which will run the game in that graphics mode, but if you start the game by running gp.exe, you are presented with this set of options:

Once you have selected the graphics option the game will be loaded fully into memory. If Disk 2 is required (as mentioned with Tandy or EGA selected), you will be prompted to insert Disk 2 at this time.

There is no separate joystick calibration utility, but once the game has loaded you can press Ctrl-J at any time to bring up the calibration feature. This will ask you to move the red box into each of the other dark boxes, and when you are happy the joystick is centered, press one of the buttons.

This, in my opinion, does not go far enough to ensure the joystick is really usable when driving. The steering wheel goes off-centre too much, so you're forever 'trimming' the stick's centre point left and right (at least, that's what I found). I guess we're spoilt these days being able to set deadzones for each axis but I would have liked to see some sensitivity adjustment at the least.

As it stands, I cannot recommend playing this game with a joystick - I eventually reverted to using the cursor keys to play this game, as the steering wheel will auto-centre whenever you aren't pressing left or right. It might be easier on different joysticks - I only tested this on my CH Products' Mach I. Perhaps I will retry on a digital gamepad....

Problems

Symptom:
Cause:
Resolution:

 

Keys

Racing Controls

Cursor Left/Right = Steering
Cursor Up = Accelerate
Cursor Down = Brake

A = Shift Up (manual gearbox only)
Z = Shift Down (manual gearbox only)

B = Show/hide Map box
I = Show/hide the Race Information box (pos, lap, time)
D = Show/hide Gear Shift box
P = Pause/Resume the game

C = Show clipboard with track's high scores (on Track Selection screen only)

To Quit the Game

Keep pressing the ESC key until you are back on the "Accolade" screen. Hitting ESC once more will bring up an "Exit to DOS? (Y/N)" prompt. Press "Y" to return to the DOS prompt.

Supporting Documents

There is an Italian-language manual for the DOS game online.
There is also a manual for the Apple Mac version of the game.

Additional Files, Drivers and Utilities

Sadly GPC was not written with user-tweaking in mind. There are no custom tracks or utilities that I am aware of to allow you to extend the game in any way. Despite its successor, The Cycles, using pretty much the same game engine, tracks are not interchangeable.

Save Games

You can only save your game when in a Championship. At the end of each race when you are presented with the Standings table, press F1 to Load from, or F2 to Save to, any one of ten save game slots. Just press the number from 0 to 9 and hit <Enter> to confirm.

Save game slots are in 10 separate files, called 0.STM, 1.STM, 2.STM, etc up to 9.STM. The high scores are all stored in a single file called SCORES. The file is not text-readable or editable. You can probably edit .STM files to adjust your name or the number of points you have without corrupting it if you are careful - if doing this, I would recommend using a hex editor to make your changes, and of course backup the file beforehand.

 

Versions of the game known to exist

Version Date Comments
1.0 (?) November 1988 Original release.

 

Original Floppy Disk Contents

The floppy disks have no specific volume label.

Disk 1 of 1 (3.5" 720 KB DS/DD):

Directory of A:\     
ACCOLADE PCS         1,710 07-18-02   8:58p
ACCOLADE PES         2,824 07-18-02   8:58p
BRAZILIA PCS         3,073 07-18-02   8:58p
BRAZILIA PES         4,940 07-18-02   8:58p
BRITISH  PCS         3,355 07-18-02   8:58p
BRITISH  PES         4,918 07-18-02   8:58p
CANADIAN PCS         2,823 07-18-02   8:58p
CANADIAN PES         5,331 07-18-02   8:58p
CAR1     PCS         6,113 07-18-02   8:58p
CAR1     PES         8,635 07-18-02   8:58p
CAR2     PCS         6,030 07-18-02   8:58p
CAR2     PES         9,025 07-18-02   8:58p
CAR3     PCS         6,091 07-18-02   8:58p
CAR3     PES         9,287 07-18-02   8:58p
CARSEL   PCS        17,860 07-18-02   8:58p
CARSEL   PES        30,910 07-18-02   8:58p
DETROIT  PCS         4,117 07-18-02   8:58p
DETROIT  PES         8,264 07-18-02   8:58p
DSITITLE PCS           883 07-18-02   8:58p
DSITITLE PES           969 07-18-02   8:58p
ENDGAME  PCS        10,411 07-18-02   8:58p
ENDGAME  PES        15,089 07-18-02   8:58p
F1SELEC3 PCS         4,569 07-18-02   8:58p
F1SELEC3 PES         7,728 07-18-02   8:58p
F1SELECT PCS         4,457 07-18-02   8:58p
F1SELECT PES         7,031 07-18-02   8:58p
F1TITLE  PCS         7,158 07-18-02   8:58p
F1TITLE  PES        13,999 07-18-02   8:58p
GERMAN   PCS         3,932 07-18-02   8:58p
GERMAN   PES         5,681 07-18-02   8:58p
GP       EXE         1,106 07-18-02   8:58p
GPCGA    EXE        78,005 07-18-02   8:58p
GPEGA    EXE        87,411 07-18-02   8:58p
GPTDY    EXE        77,909 07-18-02   8:58p
HISCORE  PCS         4,651 07-18-02   8:58p
HISCORE  PES         3,472 07-18-02   8:58p
ITALIAN  PCS         3,404 07-18-02   8:58p
ITALIAN  PES         5,525 07-18-02   8:58p
JAPANESE PCS         3,892 07-18-02   8:58p
JAPANESE PES         6,622 07-18-02   8:58p
MONACO   PCS         4,427 07-18-02   8:58p
MONACO   PES         7,983 07-18-02   8:58p
MUSIC    BIN           382 07-18-02   8:58p
PITSTUFF PCS        16,081 07-18-02   8:58p
PITSTUFF PES        27,758 07-18-02   8:58p
SCORES               2,448 01-01-94  12:38a
START    SND           183 07-18-02   8:58p
STATUS   PCS         6,641 07-18-02   8:58p
STATUS   PES         5,386 07-18-02   8:58p
VOICES   BIN           288 07-18-02   8:58p
XTRACKA  PCS        10,457 07-18-02   8:58p
XTRACKA  PES        11,974 07-18-02   8:58p
XTRACKB  PCS        23,771 07-18-02   8:58p
XTRACKB  PES        21,466 07-18-02   8:58p
XTRACKC  PCS        26,402 07-18-02   8:58p
XTRACKC  PES        19,306 07-18-02   8:58p
 56 file(s)        673,779 bytes 
28,672 bytes free

 



Installed Directory Contents

Once installed, the following directory structure exists in the game directory. Some files may have been created after the game was played, e.g. save game files.

Directory of C:\GAMES\GPCIRCUT
       .            <DIR>         04-14-20  10:30a
       ..           <DIR>         04-14-20  10:30a
       0        STM           314 07-18-02   8:58p
       1        STM           314 07-18-02   8:58p
       2        STM           314 07-18-02   8:58p
       3        STM           314 07-18-02   8:58p
       4        STM           314 07-18-02   8:58p
       5        STM           314 07-18-02   8:58p
       6        STM           314 07-18-02   8:58p
       7        STM           314 07-18-02   8:58p
       8        STM           314 07-18-02   8:58p
       9        STM           314 01-01-94  12:38a
       ACCOLADE PCS         1,710 07-18-02   8:58p
       ACCOLADE PES         2,824 07-18-02   8:58p
       BRAZILIA PCS         3,073 07-18-02   8:58p
       BRAZILIA PES         4,940 07-18-02   8:58p
       BRITISH  PCS         3,355 07-18-02   8:58p
       BRITISH  PES         4,918 07-18-02   8:58p
       CANADIAN PCS         2,823 07-18-02   8:58p
       CANADIAN PES         5,331 07-18-02   8:58p
       CAR1     PCS         6,113 07-18-02   8:58p
       CAR1     PES         8,635 07-18-02   8:58p
       CAR2     PCS         6,030 07-18-02   8:58p
       CAR2     PES         9,025 07-18-02   8:58p
       CAR3     PCS         6,091 07-18-02   8:58p
       CAR3     PES         9,287 07-18-02   8:58p
       CARSEL   PCS        17,860 07-18-02   8:58p
       CARSEL   PES        30,910 07-18-02   8:58p
       DETROIT  PCS         4,117 07-18-02   8:58p
       DETROIT  PES         8,264 07-18-02   8:58p
       DSITITLE PCS           883 07-18-02   8:58p
       DSITITLE PES           969 07-18-02   8:58p
       ENDGAME  ESH        15,089 07-18-02   8:58p
       ENDGAME  PCS        10,411 07-18-02   8:58p
       ENDGAME  PES        15,089 07-18-02   8:58p
       F1SELEC3 PCS         4,569 07-18-02   8:58p
       F1SELEC3 PES         7,728 07-18-02   8:58p
       F1SELECT PCS         4,457 07-18-02   8:58p
       F1SELECT PES         7,031 07-18-02   8:58p
       F1TITLE  ESH        13,999 07-18-02   8:58p
       F1TITLE  PCS         7,158 07-18-02   8:58p
       F1TITLE  PES        13,999 07-18-02   8:58p
       FSITITLE PES           969 07-18-02   8:58p
       GERMAN   PCS         3,932 07-18-02   8:58p
       GERMAN   PES         5,681 07-18-02   8:58p
       GP       EXE         1,106 07-18-02   8:58p
       GPCGA    EXE        78,005 07-18-02   8:58p
       GPEGA    EXE        87,411 07-18-02   8:58p
       GPTDY    EXE        77,909 07-18-02   8:58p
       HISCORE  PCS         4,651 07-18-02   8:58p
       HISCORE  PES         3,472 07-18-02   8:58p
       ITALIAN  PCS         3,404 07-18-02   8:58p
       ITALIAN  PES         5,525 07-18-02   8:58p
       JAPANESE PCS         3,892 07-18-02   8:58p
       JAPANESE PES         6,622 07-18-02   8:58p
       MONACO   ESH         7,983 07-18-02   8:58p
       MONACO   PCS         4,427 07-18-02   8:58p
       MONACO   PES         7,983 07-18-02   8:58p
       MUSIC    BIN           382 07-18-02   8:58p
       PITSTUFF PCS        16,081 07-18-02   8:58p
       PITSTUFF PES        27,758 07-18-02   8:58p
       SCORES               2,448 01-01-94  12:38a
       START    SND           183 07-18-02   8:58p
       STATUS   PCS         6,641 07-18-02   8:58p
       STATUS   PES         5,386 07-18-02   8:58p
       VOICES   BIN           288 07-18-02   8:58p
       XTRACKA  PCS        10,457 07-18-02   8:58p
       XTRACKA  PES        11,974 07-18-02   8:58p
       XTRACKB  PCS        23,771 07-18-02   8:58p
       XTRACKB  PES        21,466 07-18-02   8:58p
       XTRACKC  PCS        26,402 07-18-02   8:58p
       XTRACKC  PES        19,306 07-18-02   8:58p
 72 file(s)        715,343 bytes
 

 

Grand Prix Circuit - Game Review

5th July 2022

I have vague recollections of playing this game in the late 90s. Grand Prix Circuit pre-dated Indianapolis 500, Ferrari Formula One and Vette! by a whole year, 4D Sports Driving by two years, and it would be three years for the mighty Formula One Grand Prix to appear in our shops. As such, by 1988 there really hadn't been any Formula One racing titles on the PC with which to compare. In fact, only Pole Position (1986) comes to mind, to which GPCircuit is streets ahead (mind the pun).

The Distinctive Software team of Don Mattrick, Rick Friesen, Brad Gour, John Boechler, Amory Wong and Tony Lee worked off the back of their successes with Test Drive (1987), and put their gained knowledge to good use with this title. What a shame they missed the sales whirlwind of Ad Lib audio by just a smidge, as having nicer FM synthesis for music and sound effects would have made this game so much better!

So let's get into the game...

Grand Prix Circuit gives you the option of racing in 3 different Formula One cars: Ferrari 187/88C, Williams FW12, and McLaren MP4/4. That's in order of power/difficulty, so the Ferrari has best handling of the three but is a bit slower. The Williams is middle of the pack speed-wise and also with handling and braking. Finally the McLaren is the fastest, but is therefore more difficult to drive when it comes to handling, braking, etc. It makes sense based on the 1988 season, as the McLaren Honda car was just unstoppable. In 1987, the Williams Honda car was pretty exceptional, and over both years, the Ferrari picked up a few wins here and there.

Tracks-wise you don't get the full complement of an F1 season, but there are 8 circuits. These roughly resemble the actual track layouts at Brazil, Monaco, Canada, Detroit, Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan. The ones that are missing are San Marino, Mexico, France, Hungary, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Australia.

When you are on this track selection screen, you can highlight a track and hit 'C' to bring up the 'Clipboard' that shows all the high scores logged against that circuit.

The game has a great selection of difficulty levels which significantly improve the game's replayability. There are no less than 5 difficulty levels ranging from Beginner to Pro. The manual describes them like this:

Level 1: Very forgiving: automatic shifting; you can't blow your engine, you can't damage the car if it goes off the road and you can't spin out. Opponents treat you wIth kid driving gloves - you can even bump them sometimes without crashing.
Level 2: A little tougher: still has automatic shifting and you can't blow your engine, but you can damage your car if you go cross country. Spin outs are possible from this point on. Opponents are a little less forgiving.
Level 3: Real driving: from now on you shift yourself. It's getting easier to damage your ride, and your engine can blow. Watch for spin outs, and don't let Sakamoto get too close.
Level 4: Your opponents take off their gloves. Engine destruction is quite possible. Watch your gauges and don't go over the red line.
Level 5: Race against the best - and everything goes. Good luck.

The damage bar is just above your steering wheel, and starts off empty (all black), but each time you collide with another car or go off the track, this damage meter will go up into the yellow and eventually the red. As long as it's in the green, this is considered normal wear and tear. Any level of damage in the yellow or higher will affect your car's handling and braking ability, and of course if your damage meter fills to the top, you are out of the race.

You have 3 types of race to choose from:

1) Practice is where you can fine-tune your skills on a particular circuit to try and get your lap time down,
2) Single Race is where you will choose from one of the 8 tracks, do a single qualifying lap which will determine your grid position for the race, and then finally the race itself where you are pitched against 9 other drivers!
3) Championship Circuit is a full 8-track championship season.

With the keyboard, you use the cursor keys to accelerate, decelerate and turn the steering wheel, and then A and Z to change gears. If you are using a manual gearbox, be sure not to over-rev or you will blow your engine.

When in a race where damage is a factor, you will need to pit. Just drive in between the two white lines and stop your car to enter the pits. You can select between changing only the left or right tyres, or all tyres.

Any damage to your car will also be repaired, either in full if you chose to replace all tyres, or just partially if you chose to replace just left or right tyres.

All in all, Grand Prix Circuit was by far the best arcade-style Formula 1 simulation available for the PC at the time it was introduced. It was easy to get into for beginners, but fiendishly difficult to master at the higher skill levels. The other driver AI is also good, with each opponent having their own 'style' of driving, which you can get to learn. Don't expect a full-on sim here, though - there are no tyre temps, camber settings or downforce settings in sight. Nor are the drivers named after true Formula One drivers (you can see they are a take on the game's authors).

Your opponents are listed here in order from best ability down to novice:

Number of Laps
For both Single Race and the Championship, the "Laps per Race" on the main game selection screen lets you choose the length of the race.

Even for a single race, my recommendation is to pick 3 as a minimum. At the start, you need to safely allow the pack to get some distance between the cars otherwise it can all be over far too quickly! Once there is more clearance it's easier to overtake each car in turn in subsequent laps.

Car Number Driver
88 Travis Daye (Canadian)
27 Bruno Guordo (French)
01 Don Matrelli (Italian)
12 Enrico Danza (Italian)
04 Vito Giuffre - (Italian)
02 Peter Kurtz (German)
66 Cal Tyrone (American)
05 Tse Sakamoto (Japanese)
09 Nigel Levins (English)
34 YOU

Grand Prix Circuit was succeeded in 1989 by The Cycles: International Grand Prix Racing, which was essentially the same game but with motorbikes instead. It used the same game engine as Grand Prix Circuit, but added Ad Lib audio and hills.

After having a few practice laps around Silverstone, I went straight in for a Championship season in the Ferrari. Here's what happened on the 'Beginner' difficulty setting. The videos are from some 'Single Race' ones I did:

Brazil (Rio de Janeiro):

 
(Left) Hmm.. good, but not good enough for pole, and (Right) Just one little tap

Monaco:

 
(Left) Not too bad, but lots of room to improve, and (Right) I'd have had them if it were a 3-lap race

Canada (Circuit Gilles Villeneuve):


Yep, good clean race, and that's the first time I overtook a backmarker!

USA (Detroit):


Great Britain (Silverstone):

 

Germany (Hockenheim):

Italy (Monza):

Japan (Suzuka):

Scoreboard

Graphics: The lovely 16-colour EGA graphics are very bright and colourful, making this game a pleasant visual experience. The menus and setup screens art is very professional. When racing, the cars appear a bit squashed and 'wrong' - like Test Drive before it, these are basic 2D models. The buildings on the horizon change depending on the part of the world you are racing in, which is a nice touch. 7/10

Sound: Hmm, not great here. It's PC speaker sound only, and no 3-voice audio for Tandy owners. Kris Hatlelid did a passable job of the main theme using the single-channel PC speaker, and given this hardware limitation the in-race sounds are also acceptable with usefully recognisable revs of the engine and the squeal of tyres when you're about to lose it. Shame they never provided an Ad Lib option. 4/10

Gameplay: GPC is extremely accessible for those who are coming to the game for the first time, but gives you a good sense of progress the more you practice. Starting off in the Ferrari with an auto box is advisable to get used to the circuits and how the other drivers behave, and soon your lap times will improve. The driving itself is relatively basic with turns of varying sharpness, so getting your speed right through each corner is important. 7/10

Lastability: Despite the simplicity of the game (it's very arcade-y for a sim), it keeps you coming back for more. This is aided by the number of difficulty levels, tracks and cars you can choose from. There are also a few visual aids such as the map box and info box that you can use in the early hours of playing the game to help you get used to the track layout, then switch them off for more of the challenge. Your opponents can do silly things from time to time, but understanding they're all a bit different gives you an opportunity to apply some strategy to beating them. 8/10

OVERALL: 7/10