There’s no doubt that every race team keeps quiet on some of the tricks to their success, but the use of simulator technology has become so mainstream that everybody’s doing it. Why not? An advanced virtual machine saves teams millions each year in testing costs alone. The positive results of virtual training are so impressive in fact, that almost every professional race team is trying to get its hands on one.
Formula 1 teams have pushed the simulator tech the furthest, with Red Bull and Ferrari having openly discussed simulators as part of their training regimen. Both teams train their up-and-coming drivers on simulators to familiarise themselves with the track before entrusting them to drive the real thing. The trend is also gaining popularity with other motorsports including Touring, Karting, Stock Car, Rally and more. IMSA GT3 Cup driver Bryce Miller is known for his frequent virtual training laps. He has used racing simulators as part of his training since the beginning of his career and claims that it has made a very noticeable impact on his on track driving skills.
Drivers agree that the simulators help them memorise the track by repeating visual cues like landmarks and walls. This can translate to better positions on the track and avoiding dangerous mishaps in tight areas. The advancements in simulator technology also allow drivers to experience the effects of g-force at the cockpit. Motion integrated systems move the seat in all directions to recreate every last bump, turn and slide.
Racing simulators are also extremely valuable to the other members of the team. Crews are able to closely examine how minor changes affect the race and prepare for upcoming events in a variety of scenarios and weathers. There will always be more changes made on the track in practice, but the closer the team can get to the perfect set up before they arrive, the better. With the teams saving so much money on parts, track reservations, fuel and travel, there is more money put into development.
ALMS driver Patrick Long was recently spotted preparing with Richard Lietz at CXC Simulations in Los Angeles, California. Both are regular visitors to the facility and agree with other drivers that simulation is an important part of their training. Currently, Infinity Red Bull Racing is preparing its team for the Canadian Grand Prix with several hours of trial runs on the simulator. The track, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, is known for its challenging surface with very slow corners. The team has been analysing the tyres and suspension to hopefully get better prepared than its competitors.
Now that the simulation technology has been unleashed on the professional racing world, teams are not only looking to build the best car but also the best simulator as you’ll have seen here.