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ST Blog – Silverstone09/10/15

Simulating Success

I had a great build up to Silverstone with a whole day spent on the Simulator. I have been preparing for race weekends slightly differently in 2015 and I now go to Strakka Performance regularly to use their Simulator, usually after Shakedown on a Thursday afternoon. If I am honest I was always sceptical of the benefits of Simulator’s since because it is not real and you can ‘cheat’ on a Simulator, I often thought well there isn’t much point using one then. But this year I have proved all my doubts wrong.

The thing with simulators is that you have to be disciplined. Yes on the sim you can try Copse, Silverstone flat out but in real life you would never do that in a million years (in a Touring Car) so why do it on the Sim?! You must drive a Simulator as close to real life as possible for it to be useful and that might mean doing a slower lap time on the Sim. But who are you kidding by doing things not achievable in real life?! Only yourself really.

Thursday was different though because finally we had found a BMW 125i BTCC replica for the rFactor programme that Strakka use to power their Simulator. Previously I had been using a Ferrari GT3 car on the Sim which clearly is not ideal for my BTCC development. I spent the day with Bradley (Strakka’s Sim Expert) and slowly we fine-tuned the ‘Sim BMW’ until it was as close as we could get it to the real thing. By the end of the day I had lapped Silverstone on the Sim in 58.3secs. By comparison, Mat Jackson’s pole position time on Saturday was a 58.0 – so I think we did a good enough job for Day 1! More importantly our Sim Minimum Corner Speeds were within 3kmph of reality so I was pretty happy to say that it was 99% accurate. I know this because on the Simulator we use all the same telemetry that I have at my disposal in real life. The level of detail we can go into on the Sim is scary and I genuinely now can and do use it to improve my driving.

The biggest benefit of the Simulator however is circuit familiarisation. I will probably do 100 Sim laps on a Thursday of the track I will be driving come Saturday morning. In my opinion I think this puts me at a massive advantage when it comes to working through a programme in Free Practice 1 and 2. This is because I have all the circuit knowledge at the forefront of my mind thanks to Thursday’s session and I can get on with worrying about what the car is actually doing and not figuring out which way the track goes.

Whether it is an advantage or not – who knows?! I am aware that some driver’s use Simulator’s and others hate them. But in a championship as competitive as the BTCC, you try anything if you think it might make you fractionally quicker. What I am convinced though, is that it most definitely helps me and on Saturday afternoon I qualified P3 on a track not suited to the BMW and 9 places ahead of my teammate. That’s all the proof I need.

Get to Strakka Performance!