A couple of months ago through word of mouth (well, a retweet on Twitter actually), an organisation called PureTech Racing came to my attention. The news piece reported that Mike Conway, who suffered a broken leg and back injuries after his huge crash at the Indy 500 in May, visited PureTech Racing to help him with the recovery process.
PureTech Racing offer members of the public the chance to use advanced computer driving simulators, which aim to deliver the feel and thrill of real life motorsport. The organisation has an emphasis on making motorsport more engaging to a new and wider audience. This it may well do, but sim-racing aficionados and motor racing drivers will also want to be satisfied and feel engaged.
Based in Surrey, the Pure Tech Racing racing centre is home to 10 full motion simulators. The simulators were made by Ball Racing Developments, whose clients include iSport and Carlin.
Paying a visit
A stressful day at work made me want to do something and take my mind off things after work. A quick call to PureTech Racing and I was booked in to do a ‘test session’ that same day at 9pm. The centre is open until 22:30 which on a personal level is good as it allows you to get home from work and get sorted, before going out.
On arrival at the centre, I got signed in and ticked the box of ‘first time visit’. The building, a former showroom, is light and airy giving a good sense of space. At the time of my visit a 1988 Tyrrell Formula One car and a 2008 McLaren model adorned the centre area of the building. A number of motor racing pieces including spare wings, fuel hoses, and framed photos are also on show and add to the environment. Once signed in, I sat in PureTech Racing’s cafe while I waited to be called to the briefing room. There were to be 10 of us taking part in the session, 3 (including me) using it as a test session, and the remaining 7 using it as a qualifying session for a race. Our names were called and we were lead into a room to be briefed by Nick Dunn, PureTech Racing’s centre manager.
Nick gave us an informal and friendly briefing and introduced us to the concept of PureTech Racing and what is involved in using the simulators. We would be racing on a fictional circuit called Aviano, a circuit initially developed in NetKar Pro. After the briefing we moved into the simulator area. Once assigned our own simulator, I got in the ‘car’ and found out the ‘lie down driving like an F1 driver’ line proved to be true. It was a bit strange getting comfortable at first but then it became quite natural. A quick adjustment of the pedals later, I was strapped in (4 point race harness), and ready to go.
The simulators are set to manual gears with paddle shift on the back of the steering wheel, so just two pedals, no clutch. Fine with me! We all started the session in the pitlane and proceeded to go out on track. The feeling of movement (and force feedback if not experienced before) is initially quite surprising and unusual but after a couple of laps, it felt natural. For your first test session, there’s a lot to take in, the simulators, the track, the experience. After 3 or 4 laps of the Aviano circuit, I felt I was able to push further, brake later and enjoy myself more. I have to say that a personal favourite was driving turn 10, a slightly uphill left hander, where you really feel the feedback in the wheel, your arms needing to be strong to keep on the racing line. Great stuff.
Naturally the 15 minute test session flew by and as a group, we sat down together in the cafe area to chat about our thoughts and to share notes. Nick provided everyone with a print off as part of the debrief. The paper displayed laptimes and a potential optimum laptime. Along with that was some telemetry information. Nick spent time going through the telemetry with each driver and giving advice on where they could improve. It was a nice touch and a good idea, as i’m sure that it encourages continual custom. Owners of kart tracks take note!
The test session was an enjoyable experience made by the fact that it is a friendly and professional setup. To me it appears that PureTech Racing can deliver whatever you want it to. From a one-off visitor looking for a bit of fun, to those who regularly take part in motorsport and wish to spend some time in a simulator.
- PureTech Racing (link)