So here's some tips on how to be good in Sparrow Racing League.
1) Side Boost is Your Friend!
If you are not exhausting your side boost to the point where you are trying to use it once or twice a race and don't have it, you aren't using it enough. You should be using it on many of the turns. That first hard left turn on Mars? You can go from Last to First on that turn alone because of side boosts. Turn your camera into the slightly before you get there, turn your sparrow, and as you begin to drift away from the turn (toward the wall/undesired direction), hit the inside side boost. Left turn? Left side boost. Some turns will take you 2-3 side boosts to pull off the fastest you can.
You should also use side bursts during straightaways. You see a gate coming up that you are slightly off center from? Side boost into the center of it, DONT TURN INTO IT! The reason you don't turn into these gates is because they will most likely boost you a direction you don't want to go. Most gates if you hit them square will send you in the best direction you can go.
2) TRICKS ARE ALSO YOUR FRIEND!"
Tricks and side boost go hand in hand. The more tricks you pull off, the more side boost energy you will have. You want to use both the boots and gloves that have the ability to give you more fuel per trick and consume less fuel per trick.
But tricks are difficult to pull off you say? They are not. Whenever you catch a decent amount of air, you just need to hit a D-Pad button and your rider will perform a trick automatically. Use either the left or right d-pad button which make your rider do a side kick move to that respective side. The up and down directional buttons seem to make the sparrow lose some air when performed and therefore your chance of "landing" the trick and getting the bonus energy is less.
(Note: You must have a "trick" sparrow to perform any tricks. A trick sparrow is any sparrow that talks about R1 & L1 "Releasing the roll stabilizers").
3) "Rubbin' is NOT SLR Racin!"
Even though Harry's words of wisdom still ring true in NASCAR, never intentionally try and bump into your fellow racers. It has nothing to do with politeness, but the chances of you successfully throwing them off course is minimal and the chance of you throwing yourself off course is great.
Other drivers will bump into you and throw you of course, especially early on in the race, but it happens to everyone. If you find yourself getting bumped somewhere you don't want to go, try and wait until you are clear of that racer and use your side boosts to get back on track. Don't battle for position, chances are you will just throw yourself off again and keep missing gates. Gates improve not just your speed temporarily but your top speed for an extended period of time.
Mars is a more interesting course than Venus. It's longer and harder and there are fewer places to pull off tricks easily than on Venice. The gates are pretty key on Mars as missing 2-3 in a row will severely slow you down in some sections.
Start of the Race
At the very start of the race you have the option to go over a left bump or a right bump. The left bump will give you enough air that you can pull off a trick easily, however since it's right in the start of the race you shouldn't need to do this for side-burst fuel. (If you are going for a bounty or 100 tricks for the book, trick away Guardian). To start the race, especially if you are on the right hand side of the starting line, go over the right hill bump and holding forward in your left analog stick. If you are wearing the helmet that allows you to lean forward to get less air, you will go over this bump incredible fast and have a shot at getting in front of the pack early. After that initial lap, goover the left hill, as you shouldn't be in too much commotion and can land a trick which will help build your side burst fuel for the upcoming hard left turn at the top of the hill.
Speaking of that hard left, use your side boosts when taking this turn. If you perform it correctly you can use two side bursts, one to cut the corner quickly to make you drift toward the gate and then another that should should you through the gate and forward.
This shortcut does allow you to perform a trick and get some air. When you land, you'll want to side boost and go over the large gap immediately and perform another trick. If you find yourself in the air Mis-aligned with the upcoming gate, you can attempt to side boost mid air and get yourself on target.
Once you land you'll have to judge your side boost energy to decide if you can hit all 3 of the gates by the Cabal ship, if you don't have enough energy, I suggest missing the second and going straight to the third.
(If you are really good in this area, you can use the cluster of rocks after the second gate as another ramp to go over and use as a jump to perform a trick on your way to the third gate.)
Lastly, there is a gate to the left-hand side that is right before a small jump. If you stay to the left almost hugging the wall, your racer should have enough speed that you will get enough air as you go over the gap to perform another trick.
What makes the pillar tough is not the actual pillar itself but the turn that comes right before it. Because it is such a hard circular turn, you have to use about 3 side bursts at the exact right time if you want to avoid hitting the outside wall. This one turn. If you pull it off well you can hit the first get square and then align yourself so that you will be going to the right of the pillar when you hit the second gate.
You'll want to go to the right so that you get more air, can perform a trick and then have a good angle to hit the next gate and take the "shortcut" where the bomb that slows you down goes off. When you cut this corner you'll want to drift a little out toward the gate, and then side boost into it. I've never been in a situation where going for this shortcut has cost me. Even if you hit the pillar, you still accelerate faster and can get to the next gate faster than most people who go to the outside.
The Warp Jump/Rotating Fans/End
There are times that you will find yourself having an incredibly hard time making it all the way across the warp jump. It seemed like no matter how square you hit it, there was an 80/20 chance that you either wouldn't make the jump at all or you would land on the lip of the jump which would cause my sparrow/racer to pop straight up in the air slowing you down completely, or worse, slowly falling backward into the gap. The workaround to this is to take off the helmet that allows you to lean forward and land quicker, or lean back and get more air.
If you find yourself not making that jump and it cost of you races, check your helmet and switching to one that doesn't have that perk.
The fans ain't that difficult.It's a timing thing that you eventually learn. My biggest piece of advice is to never go through the gates straight unless you are SURE that you won't hit a blade (meaning you can see one just passed by the gate). Instead always try to be going into the gate at a slight angle to the left so that you will beat the fan, or to the right so that you will go right behind a blade. You have enough time to recover for the next gate and you shouldn't be getting boosted too far away from the midline.
From their to the end it is pretty straightforward, literally. One hard left and then you have a bunch of gates that are in a straight line. Again if you feel you are slightly misaligned from hitting a gate square, try to use your side boosts to get you in the right position and don't over steer.
Lastly, try to be on the left side of the starting line as you cross so that you can go over the hill and repeat.
Many racers really love Venus. Though it is short on areas you can pull tricks in the first half of the race, it more than makes up for that in the second half during the temple section.
Start of the Race
Like Mars, the start of the race offers you an option to go to the left or right. I don't know if it's a lot of new drivers, but the right side is ALWAYS the correct choice here.
The right side, while not offering some of the jumps the left side does is faster, especially with a helmet that allows you to lean forward and make jumps land faster. Stick to the right and you will have a good angle at the upcoming gates at the bottom of the hill. You want to try and hit the first straight on, start to turn your camera as you go through the second and drift through it as it boosts you through and then use a side boost to shoot yourself forward and through the third gate heading to the fourth before the cliff fall off.
At the cliff go through the gate and try to perform your trick IMMEDIATELY. If you are even a half a second late performing this trick, you will not have enough time to land it and you won't get the energy from it and also lose speed from hitting the bottom of your sparrow on the ground. Aim to land on the pool of water, as that tiny bit of extra depth gives you just that little bit more space to land your trick.
The Blue Cave
So the cave is fairly straight forward. Stay on the left side of the cave, and hit the gates. When you emerge on the outside of the cave there will be a left turn. You shouldn't have to side-boost on this turn. You should be able to make the turn without losing speed and hit both gates. You may find yourself a little wide and need to use one side boost to help take the turn a little faster and get yourself centered, but that's it.
The Orange Cave & The Jungle
After going through the blue cave and blue hill, there will be a sharp left turn you can side boost on and then enter the orange cave. When you enter the cave you want to stay to the right side of the cave and go up the small overpass ramp. You want to go up the left hand side of this ramp and then at the top go left following the overpass, and then go down the right hand side on the back end of the overpass. If you do this correctly you should be able to drive straight and miss the left wall of the cave that juts out at the bottom of the overpass ramp. AS SOON AS you get past the small part that juts out, side boost to the left, this should allow you to get over just enough to miss the right wall of the cave exit/waterfall and put you in line to hit the first gate in the jungle.
You want to hit the first gate after the waterfall and keep to your right under the overpass. Then go to the left and hit the two gates before the big jump.
Hit the big Jump where there is usually a ship, perform a trick and aim for the right grassy side to land.
Once you land stay as far right as possible without falling off the map. Hit the first gate and head towards the second gate. At the second gate you have a choice to go straight and face a 90-Degree left followed by essentially a 90-Degree right turn that leads you to the temple OR you can veer left immediately after the second gate and go up a ramp that cuts away these two quick, sharp turns. Sometimes in order to be sure you hit this ramp you have to miss the second gate.
More people of late using the ramp shortcut, however some have gotten to the point that they've mastered this turn using two side bursts and feel it's a spot you can make up ground on people if you nail it. If you don't have side boost energy then you'll probably use the shortcut and you'll pull a trick.
The temple is my favorite area in all of SRL racing because it is just one trick after another. Starting from the first gate right outside the temple that makes you hop a shirt jump you can pull a trick. Then the next gate will shoot you out over stairs that allow you to do a trick. When you land you want to give yourself a little bit of an angle around the wall so that you are heading to the right as you go up small stairs where there is a gate. If you are aligned correctly you will catch air, go over the gate (yes it will still give you boost if you go directly over it) be able to pull a trick, and you will be on line so that when you land you can straighten yourself out, hit a left side boost as you pass the wall on your left and be in a good position to get ready for the two gates that come near the two hydras (or the portal if you are doing it when fallen are on the map).
If you are doing it with hydra, my best piece of advice is to focus on hitting the first gate and trying to get your sparrow to the middle of map. Chances are you probably won't be able to see the second gate clearly, but it's basically right in the middle. Hit it, and go through the portal going as straight as possible. If you go through the side of the portal or at an angle you will come out on the other side going that way and even possibly hit a wall.
Immediately when you go through the portal you'll want to pull a trick and then press down on the left analog stick so that you land faster and go through the gate to the bottom right.
For the last two gates you want to use your side boosts as you turn into them. (Ignore the "shortcut" to the right with the enemies that isn't a shortcut at all). If you time it right you can drift/side boost into the last gate, in such a way that it will shoot you forward, and you'll have just enough time to land a trick before you hit the ground.
And that's basically it.
Bonus Tip: the Mars race and that is that your trick meter gets refilled automatically when you cross the finish line and begin a new lap. Because of this, there is no reason to go over either one of the ramps/hills at the beginning of the Mars section unless you are going for trick Bounties/100 tricks for the book.
This also means that there is no reason to perform a trick going over the last jump before the finish line on Venus either.
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Credits: Special thanks to zethrow for the tips.