Should be amazing. At the risk of suggesting something you've probably tried, make sure that your graphics drivers are the latest (from the manufacturers website, not the disk in the box), check any readme files with the game to see if any known conflicts, check your joystick is compatible and also has latest drivers, and check your DX setup (and compatability with the game again - I think 8.1 should be OK but there's some issues with DX9). May also be worth disabling your sound card and trying with the on-board.
By the way, when you disabled your onboard sound did you also disable the onboard game/midi port as you'll be using the one on your new card or USB. If not, then try that first as two gameports clammering for attention will be trouble!