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Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Nov 2011   |  9:01 pm GMT  |  41 comments

Two JA on F1 readers got the chance to experience a 3 hour in-depth driving session on a real state of the art driving simulator today with coaching from Darren Turner, who has over 10 years experience of F1 simulator design.

Turner is an experienced racer and F1 test driver who now runs Base Performance Simulators in Banbury. He has become an expert on F1 simulators in particular. He did the initial development work on the McLaren simulator from 1999 to 2006 and has worked with two other F1 teams developing their simulators.

Our two competition winners, Joe Consiglio and Sean Craddock, had both driven computer games before and Joe had a lot of experience of racing R Factor games at home, but nothing prepared them for the huge step up to a real racing simulator.

Starting out on a Formula Renault sim, they progressed through F3 to a current GP2 car, on a model tested earlier this week at BPS by one of the leading GP2 drivers. And they did really well; Joe in particular did a 1m 39.1s lap, only 4/10ths slower than Darren Turner around Silverstone GP circuit.

“It was a totally fantastic experience. It is totally different from what I feel at home,” said Joe. “The forces you feel through the wheel and the mental concentration is another step. I’m used to doing a 90 minute race every Thursday night. But even doing a 10 lap run around Silverstone in a GP2 car, I couldn’t believe how mentally tiring it was. I was just thinking ‘Don’t make a mistake!’

“It gives you a much better idea of what these racing drivers are going through and it’s been a fantastic insight into what drivers have to concentrate on.

“Darren did a baseline time, we then went out for a run and then studied the telemetry with him, so he could show us where we were losing time, which was especially in braking. We were doing what road car drivers do, which is to brake progressively rather than the other way round, braking really hard initially and then releasing the brake.”

Sean agreed, “Darren’s a really good coach. He’s really good at telling you what needs to be done. It’s great you can compare your lap times and see where you’re gaining and losing time. I’ve only played a few video games. This is miles away from that. When you come here you really feel you can put the car where you want it. I’m addicted! I want to stay here!

“The surprise was how difficult it is. I lost concentration over my 10 lap run at the end and just couldn’t improve, I hit a cliff.”


Darren was very impressed with our JA on F1 readers, “They both did a fantastic job,” he said. “Joe does some online gaming with R Factor, but his feeling for what’s going on was good. He was only 4/10ths slower than me, which is fantastic.

“The GP2 is a lively car, I’ve gone a few tenths quicker but you could see he’s got good reflexes and he could deal with the oversteer, it’s a pointy car which one of the GP2 drivers was working on earlier this week.”

Turner believes that the “I’ve got ten years experience now of developing simulators, working with McLaren on developing their sim, I realised that there was a gap in the market for sims for young drivers and gentlemen drivers to get more track time. They can go out and practice their sport. It’s only in the last couple of years that there have been simulators that are at a decent level so you can use them as a tool.

“Now sims are only going to get more and more integral to our sport as the software and hardware improves and get closer to reality.”

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41 Comments
  1. goferet says:

    First of all, thanks to the JA on F1 readers Joe & Sean for not embarrassing us out there. They fully deserve a pat on the back for putting us on the map.

    And yeah, with all that mental war going on in the cockpit, I think am begining to understand why F1 drivers get the big bucks and why F1 races have a two hour cut off point.

    Makes one wonder how the likes of Jenson & Alonso are able to post consistent lap times, lap after lap, meh it’s like those two have blank brains or could it be small brains?

    Hey, thanks JA on F1 (aka Father Christmas) for organizing this outing for those chaps, am pretty sure you made their dreams come true.

    1. DeepBlue says:

      Blank or small brains? Quite the opposite!. They have such finely tuned brains, honed in this discipline since they were kids, that a lot becomes instinctive and they have spare capacity to do all the other stuff… think strategy, KERS, DRS, brake balance, engine maps etc.

      Did you here Nigel Mansell on The Flying Lap. He said a similar thing – his brain could slow the action right down so that what would overload us mere mortals was a walk in the park. He gave an example of being invited to have a go at Pro Baseball when racing in the States and, when faced with 120mph deliveries was knocking out home runs after just a few tries. Everyone else was surprised. He wasn’t cos he could slow it all down. He said when you’re used to making millisecond decisions at 200mph, hitting a ball at ‘only’ 120 is a piece of cake.

      Hats off! (Btw, if you didn’t catch that episode, you must get it from iTunes. Seriously one of the best hour’s F1 chat i’ve heard)

      Well done James for organising. Another USP for JA on F1!

  2. HFEVO2 says:

    A fascinating article and congrasts to Joe and Sean for doing so well.

    The obvious next step is to get Joe into the McLaren F1 simulator and see how he does compared with Lewis and Jenson.

    If he came within a couple of seconds that would be amazing. Perhaps a run out in a real car would then confirm just how good the sims really are as a training aid ?

    1. Joe Consiglio says:

      I’d be well up for that! haha

    2. Seán Craddock says:

      As would I!

  3. Stephen Kellett says:

    Computer racing games are a waste of space. I tried one of my nephew’s recently. I could not believe how divorced from driving it actually was.

    So I’m puzzled why anyone would mention playing computer racing games in the context of using a Simulator which is going to a huge improvement.

    Once again I’m puzzled by the comments on this blog (articles and comments) about time improvement under braking. Its obvious this is where the gains are (and cornering). Well, perhaps not so obvious to most people.

    You can see all of these things in road car driving. Any fool can go fast in a straight line, but it takes skill to corner well and brake well. That is true on the public highway and true on a race track. As such I’ve always been surprised at the comments here that they didn’t realise braking is important. I’d have thought its blindingly obvious.

    Most of the idiots killed in their CarSuperPartsStore decked out Peugeot 205 are fast in a straight line – drive up your exhaust folk. No clue about car control at all.

    There is a 3 mile straight road I drive regularly and some of the fools power past at over 100mph and very often nearly cause head on crashes due to their lack of ability. Meet the same folk on a windy fen road and you can leave them behind without even exceeding the speed limit.

    All that said, impressive that a non-sim user got so close to the professionals. Would like to see how they fair in a real GP2 car. Can you arrange that James? And I do mean the same people – so we can see if their Simulator skill translates to the track. If you just do a competition for other JA readers we don’t get that feedback.

    1. john says:

      Try F1 2011 (game), with all the aids turned off, or likewise forza with aids turned off.

      they are pretty good, the racing games can be like driving on rails with the aids tured on, and as you say far removed from how you would really need to drive, but you can amke them as easy-as realistic (as you can get) as you like.

      there is a video on you tube ( im at work so cannot get the link )at silverstone where they drive round the track in a lotus elise…set an ok time. they then go round on the forza game and practice on there, take what they learnt from the game i.e. lines, braking, when to power out of the corners, and then go back on the track, greatly improving their time with what they learnt in the game.

      1. coefficient says:

        This is a good point. The thing with F1 2011 and the like is that they need to make it appeal to a wide range of age groups. Young kids that just want to race will more than likely prefer the plug and play version of the game with all the TC, ABS, Brake & Throttle Assist whacked up on full and the A.I set to Rookie. Anyone with a driving license would not be challenged by this and could lap the field in a 3 lap race. Also the pad detaches you from the experience because there is no feel or feedback.

        The real fun starts when you introduce the technology. If you have a large screen it helps to focus on the Braking zones and 5.1 surround sound enhances the audio information you receive from the game. You really can feel a car coming up the inside into the corner.

        Next you need a good force feedback wheel and pedals and a decent cockpit. Openwheeler make a great cockpit (£270) and Thrustmaster make a Ferrari F1 steering wheel replica. It isn’t cheap (£549) but as with so many things in life you get what you pay for.

        Then you turn all the driver aids off and see how you do, you’ll think you’re flying and then you’ll pit to look at the lap board and you’ll be in 24th place. Then you start with set up and pushing a bit harder to find the knife edge and going beyond it into spins and crashes. Keeping the car dancing on that knife edge is where the time is at but it’s really tough to achieve! It really is a much better experience than having a quick go on your nephew’s playstation set to the easiest setting.

      2. john says:

        indeed, i have all the aids off, and pro levels AI, flying round melbourne like a boss ( after a vertical learning curve for 6 hours , only, like you say to come back to the pits and be 24th and 6 seconds off the pace.

        its bizzarre, when i first played it you were thinking whay the hell would they put the full practice sessions…simple answer you bloody need them to get sat on that knife edge.

        It does feel pretty good when you eventually get there and you fighting to get those last few tenths and not destroy your car in the process.

        i have the 50″ tv, and surround sound and it does emerse you in it alot more, unfortunatley funds and space put a killer on my in house sim dreams…..and a partner who would likely prefer to have a sofa in the liveing room as opposed to a cockpit!…one day…one day.

      3. APASUNOC says:

        F1 2011 isn’t at all realistic…. even with all the aids off the physics is very much detached from reality. Forza 4 makes it seem like mario kart while Gran Turismo 5 barely beats Forza 4.

        The real sims like iRacing (which I haven’t had a go at) are (according to tests and actual drivers opinions, no people like I who haven’t raced in real life) much more realistic.

      4. Luke McKee says:

        Even better than F1 2011 is rFactor by ISI, the sim Joe uses over at the GPVWC. Some of the F1 teams use it to practice before the official practice sessions on track.
        Consider this Stephen, where do passenger airline pilots start before jumping in the cockpit of a Boeing747? In a simulator, and some airlines train their pilots in Microsoft Flight Simulator X, which is a ‘game’, in a loose sense of the word, just like rFactor is.

    2. Mee says:

      What “racing game” did you try since there are huge differences between them. F1 2010 or 11 isn’t a simulation, just so you know… rFactor, iRacing, Live For Speed and netKar Pro, those are the proper sims you’re looking at.

      This article in fact ‘proves’ to me that the racing simulators you can have at home really are improving (even though rFactor is 5 years old now) and this translates to the real, proper simulators like this one.
      4 tenths compared to a professional, that’s very impressive and (in my opinion) for a large part down to his previous experiences with the consumer-simulation rFactor.

      1. coefficient says:

        The Codemasters latest effort is getting very close to the sims you mention. It’s been quite deliberate as the intention with the F1 2011 title is to enter the on line racing community in a more serious way. They intend to develop this aspect of the product further still for future versions and it will eventually catch up and surpass. There is an enormous difference in terms of handling and feel between 10 and 11 when you set the software to its most unforgiving now and employing Anthony Davidson as test driver is really beginning to bear fruit.

      2. Sim City says:

        You’ve haven’t got a clue if you think F1 2011 is anything like a sim. They talk the talk and then release the standard arcade game that are all Codemasters games – it’s a business not a passion. iRacing, Live for Speed and NetKar Pro are focused on being a sim first, and raising money is secondary in order to supporting the primary purpose.

      3. coefficient says:

        No, you haven’t got a clue. I’m veteran of all forms of sim racing and to post an uninformed comment like that is unfair. ….[mod] Trust me everyone, the new codemasters title is a step in the right direction to being a respectable sim and if you’re new to it all its a more than adequate place to start and it will only get better with each iteration. Inverted snobbery is still snobbery.

      4. john says:

        i agree, with coefficient, with aids on it is very much an arcade event, but with them off……it is definately getting there and i have no doubt that it will.

        as for forza 4 making f1 2011 seem like mario kart, i actually find it the otherway around, love both games,but, it takes alot more skill to come out on top in f1 2011 ( all aids of and pro), and certainly alot to stay there.

        like i say i love both games so im not been a fan boy

      5. jonnyd says:

        Sim city is correct here.
        I played f1 2011 in the hope that the car drove something like a real car but it still has canned physics, and the controlling system is built completely around a joypad, rather than a wheel.

        it cannot even be compared to the likes of rfactor/iracing etc. (the games that Sim City mentioned)

      6. Sim City says:

        A veteran perhaps, but your judgement on simulations is way off. Proof in fact of why it’s so hard for the proper sims to survive when the masses are content with flashy mediocrity like F1 2011.

        I would recommend anyone who wants to try a decent effort at a sim should look at iRacing: Commercial simulations still have a long way to go but by supporting them, rather than arcade racers, development will at least be continued.

      7. coefficient says:

        No, if you had read my original comments they concede that the various online racing communities offer a better Sim experience currently but the Codemasters effort is really good for a product in the early stages of development and is pitched perfectly to entice the young/new F1 fan (of which there are many) into the world of Sim racing, which of course is something we want. You can’t blame them for rushing out a few interim versions initially because they have to recoup some of the massive outlay to research and develop. I bet Anthony Davidson doesn’t come cheap for a start!!

        The vitriol from my fellow on line racers at my comments just smacks of egos being rattled because our elite little club is being opened up for the mass market. Well the secret is out and I say the more the merrier, the “racing masons” are due some company and it’s coming in the form of the officially licensed F1 game from Codemasters.

        Granted, the physics models are somewhat lacking in terms of handling and feel but that will come with time as the developers better understand what they need to do and I was pleasantly surprised when I tried it because the effort they had made in this area since the last version was obvious! Other than that the circuits and cars look great so all in all a very decent effort for such a young product. There will always be driver aids in this game for those who don’t want the hassle of feeding the throttle in etc, instead preferring to mash the gas and letting the software do the rest. But, from what I’ve read and seen from Codemasters, the “aids off” experience is set to come on in leaps and bounds, year on year and it makes sense because they won’t want people graduating from their product to something else so they will want to make sure their users remain satisfied as the level of Sim racing knowledge evolves amongst their users.

        Looking at the blogs by the codemasters chaps they seem to be genuine racers and are keen to improve the realism and feel of their product as the years go by. This is born out by this year’s iteration being a leap forward compared with last years and I’m happy to say good luck to them.

        Why should it cost a beginner a huge chunk of cash to get started? I’ve often got the impression that the online community enjoys the fact that to get set up to race properly it isn’t cheap, meaning only the most determined ever bother. It’s a bit snobby (What kid do you know that can afford a hi end PC, race seat, wheel and pedals). Well, if there’s a way to get more people interested I’m all for it and for a cheap one off fee of as little as £18.80, there is a lot of racing fun to be had!

        If Codemasters stick to their word, I see it challenging any Racing Sim for quality inside of 5 years. Lets and wait see before castigating the open minded.

    3. Mark says:

      Stephen, you are obviously trying the wrong games/sims. There are several great sims available for the PC which simulate car physics well even if they can’t replicate the physical forces on your body. Sure it’ll never be like the real thing but there are many real world racing drivers racing over the internet at http://www.iracing.com so there must be some realism involved.

  4. davissi says:

    Cool thing this sim v reality thing it’s getting bigger and bigger. Now make way for the proper sim fast guys like Edward ‘EDDSKILL’ Dunford who would leave Darren Turner in his wheel tracks!

  5. K says:

    When will these things become available to ordinary home users? LOL!! I’m seriously looking forward to that day!

    Much like how the internet was a military thing 50 years ago before becoming an ordinary family utility these days.

    1. coefficient says:

      Darren sells a simulator for home use.

  6. Mee says:

    It’s rFactor ;)

  7. coefficient says:

    Well done lads! Helps us sim racers feel good about ourselves! LOL!

    James, maybe you could arrange a back to back and take these boys for a single seater experience at silverstone. Would be fascinating to see their times!

  8. A few years ago I embarked on a personal project to build a Formula 1 simulator of my own. The simulator I built has full motion unlike the simulator featured here. I run the same software as this sim using rFactor. I use Motec telemetry software and have a three PC setup for realtime telemetry and car tracker. For those who are interested you can see a video of my simulator here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRiItXxzy6Q&feature=channel_video_title . I would be interested in getting in touch with the two guys who had a go on this simulator and letting them have a go on mine for comparison.

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks, I’m sure that would be great

    2. Luke McKee says:

      Joe can be contacted over at the GPVWC forums: http://www.gpvwc.com/forum/

      Awesome sim by the way!

  9. Aussie Rod says:

    James it would be fascinating to see how the best sim-racers would fair in some of these top of the line professional simulators. I would bet that if you took a handful of the best guys out there from iRacing (for example), give them some time to acclimatise, then they would better the best times set by the pro drivers.

    There’s always been a lot of speculation about the simulator vs reality comparison. That’s a great topic in itself, however what is spoken about much less but is equally interesting in my opinion is putting the world’s best sim-racers into the world’s best simulators and seeing how they fair. I think they would raise some eye-brows.

    Here’s some names for you:
    Greger Huttu (world’s fastest alien… google it)
    Klaus Kivekas (iRacing road champion 2011)
    Richard Towler (iRacing Oval champion 2010)
    Jon Tanko (Ferrari Virtual Academy winner)
    Bryan Heitkotter (GT Academy winner)
    Luke McLean (had to include an Aussie)

    James, can you make it happen ? :)

  10. Richie Hezz says:

    Thanks for the article James!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p_sCrM1CcI

    This is a very interesting video that you guys might like. Basically iRacing invited one of their fastest members to a real test session, on circuits and cars he had only driven online. He had never raced or even driven a car before. Lucky guy.

  11. APASUNOC says:

    Interesting, and maybe something JAMES ALLEN could comment on.

    The GT Academy has produced several drivers by having people set times times in Gran Turismo 5 and then in real life as a later round. The winner ends up driving sports cars for Nissan.

    Lucas Ordanez (spelling???) is one who, admittedly has karting experience but not cars, won the GT Academy and has since competed the LMP2 category (the 2nd hardest, the one behind the main Peaugot/Adui category) at LeMans and has done the LeMans series even putting the car (team car) on pole himself in one race from memory!

    What do you think of these people with some racing experiene (karts) but who don’t go on to cars but can drive through games?

    1. Will Ponissi says:

      Argentine driver Agustin Canapino, who is a champion in the Turismo de Carretera series (where he is an official Chevrolet driver) only started racing in real life a few years ago after being a successful sim-racer for years.

      It is definitely possible to translate on-screen success to on-track results!

  12. It was an amazing day and I just want to thank James and the BPS guys once again! I loved every single minute.

    I’m really into my sim-racing and I race regularly with my trusty Logitech G25 every Thursday night. I’ve won multiple rFactor championships in a top league but I have to say no amount of home gaming can truly prepare you for what it’s like in a proper simulator.

    Firstly the steering is completely different to what you get at home, I was experiencing forces through the wheel I had never even imagined possible. Honestly it felt like the wheel had a mind of its own at times and it took me a while to filter out those forces and therefore become smooth/precise with my steering inputs, eventually I cracked it.

    Then there’s the fact that your driving position is essentially sitting on the floor. This really affects how you apply the pedals and again this takes some getting used too. Basically there’s very little room to rest your heel and I’m actually used to racing in socks rather than clumpy trainers, hehe. Also because you are so low down you feel like you’re just peering over the top of the cockpit and that makes it difficult to spot braking points, turn in points, etc…

    Having said that all that, the experience I have on rFactor certainly helped in a lot of other areas. For example, racing lines and car positioning wasn’t a problem for either of us and Darren really helped us with correct braking technique. Once I became comfortable with the steering, seating position, pedals, etc…I was able to push the car harder and harder.

    Sean and I were sharing the 3 hours and moved through 3 different cars during the day, first Formula Renault, then Formula 3, then the monster GP2’s. It was tough at first because each car felt very different so you’d just be getting used to one and then it would be time to move up a notch.

    We spent the last hour in the GP2 cars at the new Silverstone. We got to do 15 laps each altogether, i.e. 5 laps then some data analysis then another 10 laps. As every wannabee racing driver would say, I felt sure I would have gone quicker if I had more time in the car and longer to analysis the data.

    Anyway I did my final 10 lap run and was pretty happy with my efforts. Darren was impressed with my laptimes and jumped in to see if he could beat my 1:39.1xx. At first he was a bit slower but after another few laps he went 4 tenths quicker. I really wanted to jump straight back in and respond (yeah I’m a competitive little blighter!). I noticed he took Chapel in 4th gear, were as I was taking it in 3rd. I had a feeling 4th gear was possible but before my run I was told 3rd was the correct gear for that corner so I stuck to it over the stint, hehe ah well.

    Anyway both Sean and I would have been quite happy to spend another 6 hours there, learning, improving and driving but alas the day had come to an end. Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I hope we did us “sim-racers” proud.

    Btw, here’s a couple of links to see some of my sim-racing exploits.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hHC-8OpiA8 (this years championship review)
    http://www.youtube.com/joeconsiglio (my youtube page)

    1. Aussie Rod says:

      Nice write up Joe, thanks for sharing. I’m still very jealous though :)

      Were you allowed to take photo’s?

    2. Seán Craddock says:

      Really well said Joe, couldn’t have said it better myself.

      I didn’t realise you were a sim-racer, I’ve only played F1 2010 & 2011 which are nowhere near sim racing (although I obviously didn’t expect them to be).

      As you said, the seating position was really cool as well, the fact you can only barely see over the cockpit I’m not surprised we see so many front wings being knocked off in races. The onboard cameras in F1 and other open wheel sports really don’t show you how difficult it can be.

      The concentration is another thing, it amazes me how a driver can fiddle with their steering wheel, or look in their mirrors, or listen to their race engineers and still spot braking points time and time again. I found it difficult, and I think you mentioned it too Joe, to look at just my lap time on the wheel and then look back at the track.

      It was great as Darren said, that we were both similar to each other at the start, setting similar lap times, we could make good teammates :P. In the end my lack of experience got the better of me and you were flying with your lap times.

      Well done again Joe, very impressive pace. Unlucky you couldn’t hop back in and challenge Darren again!

      I don’t think I can thank James and the guys at BPS enough for an amazing experience! A day I’ll never forget. I would definitely jump at the opportunity to do it again, and would’ve loved to stay for longer.

      Thank you James!

  13. Pyare says:

    Why does the titles sound like commits suicide :-?

    Given the number of cooks they have hired in mercedes kitchen recently, I hope Nico and Schumi don’t fall victim of food poisoning :D

  14. Mark V says:

    I am very interested in computer simulation in various fields (music being my chosen field).I wonder if there is a way to better integrate the real world with simulators, particularly with respect to how the tires behave under different loads, temperatures and track conditions.

    Does anyone know if an attempt to build an actual working tire that is subjected to various loads/surfaces/temperatures that is connected to the simulator via sensors? ie] a tire that spins is mounted on a sliding axle with a piston that pushes it from side to side against another wheel with an abrasive surface on it to simulate the track, and it would react to the driver’s input from the steering wheel and/or throttle. This might give a more realistic sense of grip or lack thereof. Spray some water on the rig to simulate rain, add or subtract ambient heat, tire pressure etc….

    I want full credit for this idea if it leads to an actual prototype! ;)

    1. coefficient says:

      Sims are in part aimed at reducing the cost of testing. I think this might fly in the face of that.

      1. Mark V says:

        If cleverly done I don’t think such a thing has to be so expensive. But then, that’s the rub, isn’t it? There is only so much clever to go around, which is why throwing money at F1 almost never guarantees results. All things considered, in the end talent and creativity win out regardless of money. ie; if every team could buy an Adrian Newey they would, except there is only one of him.

  15. Will Ponissi says:

    As Joe’s team Manager at GPVWC, I can only say I am so proud of my driver!

    Simulators are such that you can only succeed with a huge dose of practice to add to your natural talent and I never met anyone with as much of both as Joe. Keep it up man!

  16. Rodrrico says:

    This article is fantastic, it gives us a real person’s perspective of how difficult the professional grade simulators are to master. Those who prefer Need For Speed and consoles should take note here. It is unlikely that those video games will help you become a better driver. Rfactor with all the driver aids off – well that might just be another story it seams. Great read!

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