How a race simulator improves your track driving
“The first time I tried our simulators, I was amazed at how real everything felt,” says Sascha S, a specialist in fleet, track and racing at Porsche. “The movement of the seat, the feel of the original pedals, the steering wheel, all the feedback. In a nutshell? You can feel that you are sitting in a real car.” For drivers participating in the Master, Master GT and Racing Experience Level 1 training programme, the specially developed simulator means that they are optimally prepared for the racetrack – without having to lay down rubber on real tarmac.
Unlike in many other simulators, the seat position here is not in the middle. Instead, it’s on the left – just like it is in the real vehicle – to prevent motion sickness. In both the car simulators – one, the legendary Porsche 935 track racer of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the other a 911 GT3 Cup – drivers see monitors in all of their mirrors. The simulator runs state-of-the-art racing sim software, rFactor. When drivers look ahead, they see three screens, each 98 inches in size with 4K resolution, while a 120-degree panoramic view ensures an extraordinary training experience.
In 90-minute slots, drivers are helped to achieve their best possible performance by an experienced motorsport instructor. “It guarantees adrenaline, driving fun and training success within a very short time,” explains Sascha S. “Our simulators are the perfect preparation for the subsequent days of active driving on the track.”
“There are definitely parallels between virtual and real driving,” confirms Frank from Leipzig, a loyal participant on the Track and Racing Experience. “But when else do you get the opportunity to drive a Porsche 935?” Frank isn’t wrong – just 77 of them were actually built.
“The participants in the Racing Experience Level 1, who start in a current Cup vehicle, are usually sitting in a Porsche racing car for the first time. It’s very reassuring to familiarise yourself with the buttons and settings of the hardware beforehand,” says Sascha S of how beneficial the simulator is to rookie drivers. An added benefit is that they also get to know the tracks in the simulator too. How tight is this upcoming bend? What’s the correct line of sight? Where are the possible blind crests? All these can be answered without actually driving on the physical racetrack. “After a certain amount of training time in the simulator, most of them get into the real car and know their way around quite well,” says Sascha.
But it’s not just about sitting in a car running racing sim software. The use of VR glasses – sent in advance to Level 1 participants before the five-day racetrack training – are also great preparation. “I was not only able to remember the different turns, but also the correct gears and speeds,” reveals Gustavo, a Brazilian who has completed Level 1 of the Porsche Racing Experience. “With the VR glasses, our participants immerse themselves in the Cup vehicle,” says Freddy, project manager of the Porsche Racing Experience. “Each button is explained with a video.”
Joining the Porsche Racing Experience
In Level 1, the Porsche Racing Experience prepares its participants for the tasks in motorsport and for Level 2. This includes acquiring an international racing license. Other components of the training are the track walk, physiotherapy, mental coaching, vehicle technology lessons, safety car training, overtaking manoeuvres and intensive data analysis after each session. It’s all rounded off with the simulation of a final race. Using the VR glasses, participants can get into the racing car digitally in advance and get used to the complex cockpit and the many buttons. “Right from the start, my favourite was the ‘Start Engine’ button – after all, it’s the ‘where the magic happens’ button,” says Gustavo, who mastered Level 1 with his wife, Carol.
Learning the rules of the racetrack in advance
“For me, it’s important to check the experience of prospective customers in telephone interviews,” explains Sascha M, who works as a driver consultant and head coach for the Porsche Racing Experience. He is the first voice that participants hear when they start their Level 1 adventure. “The best preparation for Level 1 is our Precision, Performance and Master programmes, as well as the GT Trackdays,” says the 52-year-old, who has already conducted almost 250 such telephone interviews. “I quickly developed a feel for whether or not an interested party is suitable. From the beginning, it was important for me to find out their motivation.” Whether the goal is future participation in the Porsche Carrera Cup or simply to experience a new personal challenge, instructors take the participants by the hand and provide them with the best possible support right from the start.
I personally prefer to get into a real racing car. Nothing beats the real racing experience.
Once interested parties have been interviewed, they receive access to the e-learning portal of the German Motor Sport Federation (DMSB) explains Florian, who is responsible for the Porsche Racing Experience Level 1 as project manager at Manthey-Racing. “The next step is a digital driver briefing, where the women and men can optimally prepare for the program,” says Florian. There will of course be a personal briefing on site, but it is still an advantage if the participants get a feel for topics such as flags, pit lane speed, correct overtaking and general safety rules at home beforehand. All Level 1 customers also receive access to a special data portal which hosts the likes of track books, driver evaluation and individual suggestions for improvement, as well as videos – “We’re always closely networked with our drivers,” adds Florian. The Racing Experience team is also always open to suggestions for improvement, he says. After taking part, volunteers can fill out a feedback form and answer questions via an iPad.
The younger a racer is today, the less likely it is that they started their career in karting (traditionally one of the most popular routes into driving race cars). Many take their first laps on a game console in their room and then progress to the simulator. And amateurs and professionals alike now pass the time between races by participating in virtual motorsport.
The greater the skills of the driver, the higher the demands on a realistic simulator. You can train your technical understanding and driving potential with both the VR glasses and the simulator, but you usually take significantly greater risks virtually than you might in a real car. Yet, while both worlds have their merits, Gustavo knows what he likes. “I personally prefer to get into a real racing car,” he says. “Nothing beats the real racing experience.”