Simulators can not only help a driver learn an unfamiliar track, but can be a reasonable alternative to seat time as well
Mazda’s factory racers in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the drivers of the Mazda RT24-P prototype, have access to one of the most advanced simulators in the world, the Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) simulator at Muiltimatic’s Toronto, Canada, headquarters. That simulator cannot only simulate tracks with laser-scanned maps that reproduce every bump, but also accurately reflects the effects that setup changes have on the car so that the team knows what direction a particular adjustment will have in the real world. While the typical club racer doesn’t have access to such advanced equipment, the typical simulator setup can pay big dividends in a racing program.
Learning new tracks is part of it, but getting plain old, not-quite-old-fashioned seat time is a big thing as well. Simulator time is cheap compared to actual track testing, so if they can achieve similar results, that’s a bargain.
“Imagine for a test day, a big change could take an hour; a smaller change is 5, 10, 15 minutes,” says Oliver Jarvis, driver of the No. 70 Mazda RT24-P and a relative newcomer to IMSA racing and racing in North America. “[The DIL simulator] allows you to do a full spring sweep or roll bar changes in a matter of seconds. While the changes are realistic and they do give a feeling, what you have to be very careful of is that you really focus on what the change does and you don’t focus too much on car behavior. You don’t want to set the car up for the simulator; you need to understand what the changes do and then…apply them once you get to the racetrack. It’s more gathering that knowledge, so when you arrive you’ve got certain tools that you’ve already tested, you know exactly what they do, that you can plug straight into the car.”