By now the motorsport winter season has started for many championships and, for others, it is about to begin. For this reason, "The Racing Journal" moves away from the circuits for a moment and dedicates itself to a very particular part of preparing a driver to tackle the track: the use of the professional simulator.
Thanks to the lockdown due to COVID-19 in 2020, the simulator as a hobby or as a sporting activity spread rapidly among professional drivers and enthusiast amateurs. Real sim racing championships were born on different simulation platforms with a lot of registration fees and prizes of a certain level for the winners. What we are dealing with in this article, however, is not to be confused with this kind of simulation activity. In fact, the professional simulator has been used for much longer by teams to develop both driver and car performance, keeping costs and risks much lower than the classic test on track. In short, over time the professional simulator has become one of the most important keys to unlock the potential performance of the driver and the car even before reaching the race circuit.
Simutec Motorsport Simulation
Considering the importance of the professional simulator during the preparation of a driver, it was just logical for A Cup of Racing to offer this opportunities to both real drivers and sim racing enthusiasts. The winter off-season have arrived and, together with it, also the opportunity to have a space where everyone can train himself with a professional Formula simulator: a simulator studio based in Milton Keynes, UK. Partnering with A Cup of Racing and with our founder, Davide De Russis, owning a part of the total company share, Simutec Motorsport Simulation Simutec Motorsport Simulation Ltd. is born.
A professional simulator, like the one we have in our Milton Keynes studio, can be used to reproduce an interactive virtual reality that makes drivers and teams able to maximize potential and experience. Simutec Motorsport Simulation professional simulator consists of a Formula cockpit and a 180 degree screen that wraps around the cockpit which helps create a fully immersive driving environment. The room where the simulator is in is dark and the driver is surrounded by ultra-high resolution floor-to-ceiling graphics. The professional audio system completes the immersion in the driving environment to make it as realistic as possible. In some cases, professional simulators can be found that include hydraulic actuators that can also simulate the various dynamic movements of the cockpit. Pedals and steering are fully adjustable to allow it to be used by drivers of different heights and builds at Simutec, as well as to replicate the driving position that is typically adopted in a real racing car. Our simulator is also equipped with a live telemetry system and a two-way radio communication system for driver-engineer communications. In short, everything is designed to simulate what happens at the track in the most realistic way possible.
Physical and Visual Models
The car model is created and finished by professionals, both visually and physically. We spend hours working on physical models in order to replicate the static and dynamic characteristics of the racing car in the simulator in the most realistic and reliable way possible. Only in this way the simulation experience is equal to a preparation to face the real circuit. Despite this, there is always something to take into consideration when testing: a percentage error between what was obtained in the simulator and what was tested in the real world. This means that, although a professional simulator is of vital importance for the preparation of cars and drivers, there are natural variables that cannot be replicated with the same precision with which they are found in the outside world, as they are unpredictable. This is something to always keep in mind: the correlation between simulation and real world is what makes the difference.
In any case, the calibration of the physical model is vital to ensure the realism of the simulation. The best way to validate a physical model is to perform calibration with a mix of real drivers and professional sim drivers. Working with real drivers who drove the real car on the track, the data acquired on the track can be used as a basis for the simulation model correlation. Once the model is 85% ready, the professional sim driver spends a day testing it and creating the data that will then make a difference in refining the simulator model so that it is accessible to every driver.
The circuit model is also vital for a professional simulator. In fact, the physical model of a circuit checks the following parameters: surface of the track and its roughness, curbs, the coefficient of friction of the grass or gravel in the off-tracks, the height of the curbs and their roughness, the gradient change, etc. Any surface that generates friction is simulated so that the dynamic model uses a coefficient of friction as accurate as possible so that the car behaves as it would in the real world. The visual correctness of the circuit is normally developed with the same kind of precision because, although it is the physical precision of the model that makes the difference between a video game and a professional simulator, the visual references of the track are also essential for the preparation of the driver, especially when using the simulator to teach a circuit to a driver ( Circuit Learning).
Circuit Learning is one of the most common operations performed by a driver with the simulator. The driver is prepared to tackle a track that he does not know. In this way, when he is driving at the actual circuit, he knows where and how to brake, which trajectory to follow, etc. to get the best performance possible starting directly from the first free practice session. The engineer's task in this case is to use telemetry and onboards to coach the driver on the best way to tackle the track, corner after corner.
Engineers can also benefit from the use of a professional simulator, as it is possible to virtually model different setups in order to evaluate directly with the driver which start setup might be the best once you get to the track. Normally, a setup is studied from the dynamic point of view through multi-body dynamics software and, subsequently, through a laptime simulator before arriving at the driver-in-the-loop simulator where the driver actually tests what has been simulated on the computer.
In short, whether it is a professional driver who wants to improve himself for the next season or race or a just an enthusiast who wants to see what it feels like to be in the "driver's office", Simutec professional simulator, with its right physical car models and circuits and its professional hardware, it is an excellent start to unlock that performance that would require time and kilometers on the circuit at a cost in economic terms and risk certainly much higher than those that can be had in a simulation study. In addition, it guarantees any enthusiast a real full immersion in the driver seat. Even if simulated.
If you would like to know more about what Simutec Motorsport Simulation Ltd. could offer you as a PRO driver looking for a complete driver development support or as a Sim Driver who wants to try the immersive experience of a professional simulator, just visit the website www.simutec.co.uk where you can directly book your session or contact us through Social Media or email.
Davide De Russis