After a morning spent at the excellent Base Performance Simulators in Banbury working for a client with track familiarisation, it reminded me of setting a clear goal to your testing or even race weekend. We’ve touched on this subject before in Today’s Tip, on the 25th May 2016. Today I’m going to look at the goal to set when using a simulator.
Simulators are a great way to go testing, tyres are inexhaustible, damage is free and instantly repairable and the weather can be anything you want it to be. As such it can be a great, cost effective solution to honing your technique before the season starts. There are limitations however. For one, it is a simulation so by its very essence, it isn’t real. As such there is no sense of danger to driving the car: mistakes cost laptime but not money, repair time or health. This means it can be hard to get yourself to drive in a similar way that you would in real life, its easy to be too gung-ho in the sim and whilst this might help you unlock some performance characteristics in the car it will inevitably give unrealistic expectations in the real world.
Also, even in the best motion simulators, there is not a direct correlation between what you would feel in real life through ALL your senses and what the sim can replicate. Feedback through steering and pedals can be fantastically replicated but no sim can ever replicate sustained high G or even instant G effects felt when hitting the brakes for example. Most high end motion sims will tend to use subtle ‘cues’ to give your brain some of the information it is expecting but it can still be a big leap for a lot of people to translate what they see on the screen and feel through their hands to the multi dimensional real world.
As such, simulators are great at a couple of main areas:
Firstly, circuit familiarisation. Quite simply, which corner comes next, when do I need to turn over this blind brow etc.;
Secondly, Engineering Setup. If the model of the car is a close representation of your own you can try setup changes and see roughly what result it will have on your car in the real world. This obviously depends of the quality of the car model in the sim and the complexity of the simulation computations the system runs and it will not be 1:1 for your real experience but it helps you get into the ballpark before your test day begins.
Thirdly, driving technique. If the vehicle in the simulation has similar driving characteristics to your real car the sim can help you try different techniques and quickly work out if your car prefers, for example, a faster entry, or a slightly different turn in point
In summary, don’t go into a sim session expecting it to be like a wet and windy day at Snetterton, go in with a clear goal of what you want to achieve based on what the sim is able to give you and maximise your time behind the wheel.