Sim-Racer’s Second Real Life Race
My second race on Sunday was in some ways better than the first, but the result was not as good. The nice thing was the track was not nearly as wet and the team already had one race under the belt so the stress levels were much lower when I arrived in the morning. Everything felt more familiar and my suit was fitting better; maybe I lost a few pounds over the course of the past few days! The Covid quarantine has not been kind to my mid-section so I can only hope…
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
Because of my tight suit or cramped seating position in the race-car, I have been shuffle steering through some of the slow corners and I can’t stand to see it on film. I don’t want to form any bad habits so I need to upgrade my suit as soon as possible.
Assertive vs. Aggressive
Another area I need to work on is getting my passes done as soon as possible and not get stuck in traffic. I had a heated prolonged battle with a V8 muscle car and really had a lot of trouble getting past. He was pretty aggressive and was pushing other cars off line and risking contact with other drivers all while I was looking for a place to pass him. His driving style made me pause and try and pass him in a safe place on the track. The problem was, his torque was getting me in a straight line every time I got side by side with him coming out of a corner. I put a ton of pressure on him for 15-20 laps but simply could not find a place to pass where I was not risking contact. I ended up refocusing on the big picture that this was an endurance race. No need to wear the car out getting into a red mist battle with a car that didn’t matter in the grand scheme.
The Sunday stint was pretty smooth until a bunch of the fastest cars on the track converged with a few of the slower cars after the longest straight at Pacific Raceways. It was pretty wild, there were about 6 cars of different speeds converging in the T2 braking zone and an RX-7 locked up a wheel and started spinning. Sensing danger on the straight, I backed off and watched the whole thing transpire. When the car started to spin I had to make a quick decision which side of the track to try and get around him on (hopefully not the area where he was drifting). I guessed right and chose the inside as he slid off the far side of the track. I was relieved when it all worked out with no damage done! All the wild spins in the iRacing Rookie MX-5 cup had prepared me well for this moment.
An hour and a half into my 2 hour stint, I started getting a red triangle with an exclamation point intermittently showing up on my dash. I tried checking in with my team over the radio but unbeknownst to me, my microphone had fallen out of my helmet so they could not hear me. I had to keep calm because I had no idea what the red triangle was signaling but it didn’t look like it was indicating anything good. The car felt fine, but with about 20 minutes left in my stint, the flashing triangle stopped flashing and went full solid. With no radio communication, I made an executive decision and pulled into the pit early. It turns out I made the right call, the alternator was about to die and I would have needed a tow in. A quick run to the auto parts store nearby by a team-mate and the car was back on track in 25 minutes. Unfortunately, we went from second place with a pretty size-able lead on third, to out of contention for a podium. That’s how it goes with endurance racing.
After two races, it’s clear I am way behind other drivers in the seat of the pants “feel” department where a lot of the fast guys are over-steering a lot and on the ragged edge all the time. From what I can tell looking at data, watching on-board video and ride alongs; the simulator produces a more “clinical” driving style where I feel more comfortable modulating understeer and focusing on corner exit. Despite the differing styles, my times were very good relative to the field. My plan going forward is to focus on feeling the car as much as possible and trying to get more comfortable over-steering / over-driving the car. I’ve been given the advice to “get messy” to get faster.
– Conor Murphy, Performance Engineer, Sim Racer Academy