I moved office towards the end of last year and once I had set everything up, I decided to add a Sim to the place- just to see what all the fuss was about!
I have written before about my “casual” visits to the Digital Motorsports HQ at Mondello- shooting the breeze until they offered me a run- and then staying as long as possible. I found I was absolutely useless in the single seaters but slightly less useless in the slower, or older machines. It was no surprise then, that those guys were my port of call when I decided to purchase! I immediately decided that I couldn’t have it at home- no way! I knew I would end up staying on it half the night and probably most of the day too. That was the reason I got rid of all of my Xboxes etc a few years back. All that remains at home now is an old Space Invaders arcade game (which does have a very primitive “Rallycross” game, but that’s another story).
With lockdown in full force, I had the unit assembled by the guys and delivered direct to the office, whereupon Rob called me and talked me through it all. After that it was a matter of picking a car, they recommended the MX-5 as a good car to learn in, and heading off on some of the more familiar UK circuits, namely Brands and Silverstone. After much blood, sweat and tears, and quite a few expletives, I finally managed to win a few races, with the competition level turned up. If you haven’t tried a proper Sim, you really should. Far from being a game, it is probably as close as you will get to motor racing without actually doing it. The absolute stress of taking the lead with five laps to run and seeing three MX-5s side by side in your mirrors, with one about to take a dive at you…..
I also had a go at some other cars, finding a Group A E30 M3 to be great fun, and even having a few half decent runs in an F3 car at Silverstone. I had been using Assetto Corsa initially, but I had also signed up for iRacing so decided to give that a go. I purchased a Radical SR8 and the Oulton Park circuit. It was good fun but I found if difficult to manage a flying lap without dropping a wheel off or spinning under power. I was obviously concentrating too hard on lap times. As ever in life though, pinpointing your problem is one thing, dealing with it is another!
I decided to finally try racing online so gave Rob (King from Digital Motorsports) a quick call. In fairness, I suspect his days are full of calls from ludites like me asking stupid questions but if that is the case, he hides it well! Rob explained to me that you have to start as a complete Rookie, severely limiting the races you can enter, and subsequently you build up points and upgrade your licence. “You have to race against a load of kids in Mazdas for a while Leo, just let them off when the lights go out and complete the race in any position without going off track- you will get loads of points!”
Well that’s what I COULD have done I suppose….. The only race open to me was an MX-5 race at Oran Park. Never heard of the place, but sure how tough could it be? Practise was open so off I went, my enthusiasm to tackle the aforementioned pesky kids, immediately rewarding me with a penalty for speeding in the pitlane! Within ten minutes, I thought I had made a reasonable fist of it and recorded a lap of 1:20.5. Having pitted though, and checked out the times, I realised I had a LOT more to learn. The fastest time was a 1:16 and there were five others in the 1:17 bracket! Now we all love a challenge, but I was slightly confused as, having done my time above I thought I had plateaued as I began making mistakes and going slower. Off onto track I ventured to try and run with some quicker guys. I saw a car behind so got the head down. All seemed pretty even until he/she just drove by me on the uphill drag out of the last corner. Now, assuming he/she hadn’t been fiddling with their engine (!) this meant I must have been making a complete haymes of the final corner- Recaro Corner for those of you in the know. I had tried it in third but found it hard to keep it from brushing the wall on the exit and second was easier to get it turned in too. Anyway, a few more laps following cars and a later turn in and I managed to get the hang of it. Into qualifying- where I was horrified to find out I was only to get two flying laps, and I somehow managed to dip into the 17s. My delight wasn’t even tempered by some whippersnapper with a name like a wifi code grabbing pole with a 1:15, I was getting there!
This put me 8th on the grid- I held my own off the line and into turn two, followed another car down the inside to make a place. Next thing, BOOM, a Kamikasi pilot hit me square on, sending me into the car in front, all the way across the gravel trap and into the barrier!
To be continued….