Beginner's Guide to Trackmania

Trackmania may be a licence that is almost 20 years old, but it is still relevant today thanks to its simple yet technical gameplay. This is especially true since the release of Trackmania 2020, which offers both an accomplished game environment for professionals and a welcoming entry point for new players. But if you're a beginner who decides to finally get into Trackmania, there's some tips to know in order to get off to a good start and improve your times quickly.

Choosing your controls

Before launching yourself into Trackmania, you'll have to make a difficult choice! Should I use the joystick or the keyboard? For an arcade racing game, one might think that the controller is the obvious choice. However, many players, including professionals, have been getting comparable performance with the keyboard on Trackmania for many years. The joystick has the advantage of offering a better feel and control on the ice, while the keyboard allows for a more binary and raw control of your vehicle. In short, it's up to you to choose which peripheral you feel most comfortable with.

Learn more about the different peripherals


We could give you a billion tips on Trackmania, but the most important of all will remain this one: play the game. You should first get behind the wheel yourself and start to get used to the handling, speed and overall physics of Trackmania, before getting into the more subtle techniques. Start playing unpretentiously and go through the practice tracks, without necessarily trying to set the fastest times. You can then familiarise yourself with the different environments and obstacles that Trackmania has to offer, from chicanes to loops to domed stepping stones.

Managing speeds in Trackmania

Do not maintain acceleration

Now that you've got the hang of it, it's time for the practical tips! If you were used to fun, arcade racing games where you hold the throttle the whole time, you were probably baffled (literally!) by the number of walls you were hitting. As a game based on the Time AttackSpeed management is the main component of Trackmania. It starts with taming your throttle and learning when to leave it alone. It is best to go slowly and make sure you are going to pass an obstacle than driving off the road or flipping your car. There are no hard and fast rules for managing acceleration, however. Each obstacle is different and the speed at which you clear one will determine the speed at which you can clear the next.

To help you stay on track, keep an eye on the back of your vehicle. The number on the display is your speed. Try to memorise the speed you are going when you pass an obstacle complicated. Depending on whether or not you manage to clear the obstacle, you will know whether you can afford to speed up a little or whether you should slow down. Mastering a Trackmania track is sometimes a matter of remembering the ideal speeds for each pitfall.

Learn more about speed management in Trackmania

Learn to drift

To maintain your speed, even in complex corners, you will have to learn to drift. By taking your foot off the accelerator for a fraction of a second, or even braking a little before or during a turn, you will be able to negotiate complex trajectories and negotiating curves at full speed. This is the first technique that you must master to improve your lap times, as it is used at almost every turn in the game.

Please note that drifting is only referred to on the road. When you drift on other types of terrain, you are talking about a slide. Drifting has a very particular behaviour that we detail in our dedicated guide.

Learn more about drift and how to control it

Learning air control

You were driving along, when suddenly a springboard throws you 15 metres above the ground. Don't panic, don't let go of the controller though, as you can still control your vehicle in the air (hence the name Air Control). Once in the void, your only aim should be to position your vehicle so that it is parallel to the ground on reception. You can rotate your vehicle, such as a barrel roll, but you cannot freely change the inclination of the vehicle. As long as you accelerate, your vehicle will maintain its speed, but will dive forward. In order to lock the inclination of your vehicle, you can brake (by pressing back). A jerk will bring your vehicle's angle to a complete stop. But holding back also allows you to lock the angle of the vehicle while allowing you to accelerate.

Air Control in Trackmania

However, you don't need to be high in the sky for Air Control to be important. As soon as your vehicle is off the ground, you need to think about your Air Control. When you come to the top of a hill or go over a bump, even if it's only for a fraction of a second, you're in the air. In these cases, you have very little time to adjust the vehicle's tilt and lock it, but these small optimisations will save you a lot of time.

Learn more about Air Control in Trackmania

Managing gear change

Now that you know the three main points of Trackmania's driving, there is one last point to consider, and not the least. As you may have noticed, acceleration is not linear in Trackmania. And for good reason, since your vehicle automatically shifts gearsThis means that there are speed thresholds where your vehicle is no longer able to accelerate, just as you would in a real car. This means that there are speed thresholds where your vehicle is no longer able to accelerate, while the clutch is engaged.

  • 1st gear: 0-100
  • 2nd gear: 100-160
  • 3rd gear: 160-235
  • 4th gear: 235-341
  • 5th gear: 341

Knowing these thresholds will help you to maintain your speed, or rather not to lose it. If you turn during the clutch, you will lose speed whether you are in the air or on the ground. This loss of speed is even greater when you are on a surface other than the road. This is a good idea, especially when you reach 160 and 235 km/h, which are the most common speed changes. At first you will probably have to rely on the speedometer behind your vehicle, but this technique will come naturally to you as you listen to the sound of your engine.

Learn more about gear changes

Replay and replay again

Once you have mastered all of the above tips, it is time to perfect your skills! You will very rarely be able to get the best medals on a track by riding it just once. First, you will have to learn the track layout by heart. Once you have it in your head, you will have to master all the obstacles, even if it means going over it hundreds of times by returning to the previous checkpoint. Trackmania is a game made for perfectionists. Even if skill is useful, it will never replace pure learning.

Creating your obstacles

Players who buy the standard Trackmania pass can access the track editor! This is not a tool reserved for the most creative players, as it can help you improve. Don't hesitate to create tracks filled with the obstacles that give you the most trouble. The editor is easy to use and allows you to train at leisure on customised scenarios.

Well, there you go. With all this, you already have a good basis for improvement to start Trackmania. We'll say it again, but the real secret is to play again and again to improve and learn more and more.

Please feel free to follow our more detailed guides if you need more information or want to go further.

All Trackmania 2020 guides