July 7th, 2016 by David Phillips
Kamil Franczak is no stranger to speed or technology. In his day job as a pilot in the Polish Air Force, Franczak employs technology to go plenty fast. But these days he’s looking forward to flying on the ground, specifically racing a Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway this fall.
Franczak earned the opportunity to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional racing driver thanks to iRacing.com and Mazda. Earlier this year the Boston-based online motorsports simulation service partnered with the Japanese automaker to stage the iRacing European MX-5 Cup, a series of 12 sim races that sent three top performers to the Friends of MX-5 Training Event in Spain last weekend. There Franczak, together with fellow iRacers Jeremy Bouteloup of France and Spain’s Aday Coba Lopez, joined more than a dozen other hopefuls for two days of rigorous training and assessment under the tutelage of professional race drivers at Barcelona’s ParcMotor circuit.
When the dust had settled and the judges had made their decisions, Franczak was one of five drivers selected to represent Europe in the Global MX-5 Finale later this year.
“Being selected for the Global MX-5 Finale is an unbelievable opportunity. I will be living out my dream of having the chance to start a real life racing career,” says Franczak age 26, who hails from Kraków. “My competition was super tough, so being selected to participate in the Global MX-5 Finale is a really significant achievement and proof that iRacing is the perfect software to develop real life driving skills and racing abilities.”
If there was a down side to Franczak’s experience at ParcMotor circuit it was that only one of the three iRacers was selected to advance to the Global MX-5 Finale. While he was certainly happy to be the one moving on, he couldn’t help but be disappointed for his fellow sim racers. Although he had never met them in person, Franczak had become good “cyber friends” with Bouteloup and Lopez sim racing against them week in and week out in the European MX-5 Cup.
“I was so happy I could finally meet Jeremy and Aday,” Franczak says. “They are very nice both in the sim and in person. We were spending most of the time together in Barcelona. Of course we knew that we were competing and that only one of us would have a chance to be in the top five of the Friends of MX-5 Training Event, but we were still happy to be there together. We all agreed that even if we didn’t win a spot in Global MX-5 Cup race in Laguna Seca, we are still winners. The experience and skills we gained during the Training Event were just unbelievable.”
Although a number of their competitors at the Friends of MX-5 Training Event had the benefit of real world racing experience, the iRacers had no trouble transferring the skills they developed racing the digital versions of the Global MX-5 online to the real Global MX-5s at Barcelona. That should come as no surprise, given the fact that Mazda engineers used the iRacing simulation to help design the Global MX-5.
“The real Global MX-5 felt surprisingly familiar to me from the very beginning,” Franczak says. “In my opinion, the iRacing version of the MX-5 is spot on compared to the real deal: vehicle dynamics feels completely the same; both versions feel natural and progressive, and I experienced the same tendency of the ‘real’ tires to stick and slip in certain situations just like iRacing’s tire model.
“I am sure my adaptability let me quickly transfer my virtual driving skills to the real car. I tried to use the same driving technique I developed with the virtual car and it worked as I expected. I think that being 100% familiar with a virtual MX-5 Cup car was my advantage compared to the more experienced and professional drivers . . . perfect job iRacing!”
Now it will be up to Franczak to do a “perfect job” of his own, namely preparing for the Global MX-5 Finale at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway. And while Kraków is all of 6,000 miles from the California circuit, Franczak will be able to practice to his heart’s content on iRacing’s laser-scanned version of the race track in his virtual Global MX-5 Cup.
“I am very grateful for this chance and will give everything I can to properly prepare myself for the race at Laguna Seca,” he says. “Being selected to participate in Global MX-5 Finale is a really significant achievement and proof that iRacing is the perfect software to develop real life driving skills and racing abilities. I want to prove that – again – in the Global MX-5 Finale.”