While you’re all familiar with my rivals in the Australia V8 Supercar championship – names like Jamie Whincup, Craig Lowndes and Rick Kelly – you might be surprised to learn that some of my fiercest competition this year has come from guys named Down, McLeod and McLaughlin. With the exception of my “junior” teammate at Stone Brothers Racing – Scotty McLaughlin — you won’t find their names in the results of the V8 Supercar Championship Series or Fujitsu V8 Series. Instead, you need to go to inRacingNews or the “online series” portion of the V8 Supercar web site, where you’ll learn about some of the best racing on the planet or, I should say, in cyberspace: the iRacing.com V8 Supercar series.
iRacing.com is the world’s leading online racing service, with digital versions of more than two dozen types of cars (including the Ford Falcon FG) and nearly fifty of the world’s great race tracks – from Indianapolis and Daytona to Spa, Silverstone and Phillip Island. All you need is a computer, gaming steering wheel and pedals and high speed Internet and you can be racing against top sim racers from all over the world, not to mention guys like Dale Earnhardt Jr, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud who use the service.
For those of you in Australia and New Zealand, checking out www.hyperstimulator.co.nz is a great place to start. These guys will hook you up with some awesome sim parts to get you started.
When my “day job” permits, I compete in iRacing’s version of the V8 Supercar championship. Although I’ve enjoyed some success, believe me, racing against the top sim racers in Australia and New Zealand – there’s a few of them who can pretty consistently dust me! And I take it pretty seriously.
When my “day job” permits, I compete in iRacing’s version of the V8 Supercar championship.
Most of the front runners in the iRacing V8 series are young guys and any of them could have a shot at a professional career if they got that opportunity I reckon. There’s some great potential there and you can see guys like Madison Down and Mitch McLeod already have great race-craft and great car skills. That’s all thanks to the sim racing they’ve done and how accurate the simulation is. I’ve seen where another iRacing champion named Greger Huttu got the chance to drive a real race car and he did pretty well, so maybe one day for these guys . . .
Speaking of accuracy, one of the features iRacing recently added is McLaren Electronics’ ATLAS Express data acquisition system. You read that right: Sim racers now have access to the same telemetry data as F1 drivers. I’ve been using ATLAS Express quite a bit in my efforts to improve car setup and driving style in the iRacing V8s. As with the MoTeC system we use in the V8 Supercar Series, you try different things and overlay the traces versus your previous laps and see was it good or not. You can teach yourself with the system and it certainly makes you a better driver.
In any form of racing, your most direct competition is your teammate. And just as I do in the V8 Supercar Championship Series with my SBR teammates Tim Slade and Alex Davison, on iRacing I compare my data with Scotty McLaughlin and a couple of others for a look-see at how our different driving styles work, where what you’re doing is a little quicker than your teammates and vice versa, then make some changes where it’s necessary and – ideally – blend the best of both. From an engineering point of view, if you have access to all your teammates’ setups and driving styles, you can learn what people are doing to help their car – or maybe you’re doing something better that they can learn from.
Atlas Express is a feature of the second generation of the iRacing system – iRacing 2.0 – which is being introduced in its entirety in August. Along with Atlas Express, iRacing 2.0 includes a whole range of major improvements including new cars, new tracks and enhancements to the system.
I’ve been pretty heavily involved in the development of one of those enhancements – iRacing’s revolutionary new tire model — as it applies to the Ford Falcon FG. Up until now, race simulations have based their tires on a sort of “reverse engineering” process, where they take the performance numbers of real tires and try to mimic them as closely as possible. Instead, the iRacing people have made a massive effort to understand the fundamental physics of tire performance in order to create virtual tires that inherently behave like “real” tires rather than as the result of “artificially” tinkering with their performance to make them match-up with a set of arbitrary numbers.
As you can imagine, the ATLAS Express data acquisition system is a critical part of the testing process, as I can actually overlay the data from the iRacing V8 compared to my real V8 at Phillip Island. Unbelievable! The effects of changes in tire pressures and temperatures, camber, toe, ride height, dampers and springs; aerodynamics; different driving styles . . . it’s all there. The notes I’ve made comparing the sim car vs the real car are all backed-up by the data, which really helps develop the accuracy of the new tires.
The new tire model has such huge potential and is already a massive step forward. There’s a bit of work to do yet, but it’s definitely more realistic already. You can feel the tire and the road, the gripping and when it slips away . . . the feeling is definitely more positive. We need to make it better and make the car a little better as well, but it’s definitely going to be awesome when it’s finished. I can’t wait!
The new tire model is currently only available on iRacing’s equivalent of the NASCAR Nationwide Series car. Myself and a few development drivers are working with the Ford Falcon FG. A few of the guys from the iRacing V8 Supercar series are in the process of getting into it and all the iRacing cars will be equipped with the new tires in August. Also, a few of the other Championship Series drivers are in the process of signing up — so come on, join in the fun and take us on!
Note: After several seasons as an emerging star of Australia’s V8 Supercar Series, Shane van Gisbergen is enjoying a breakout season in 2011. Driving the Stone Brothers Racing SP Tools Ford Falcon FG, the 22 year old New Zealander scored his first V8 Supercar Series win at the Hamilton street race in April and backed that up with another win at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Raceway in June. “The Giz” currently occupies third place in the overall series standings.