Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Virtual Corvette Racing at Simwerks, Ottawa--April 10, 2019

April 10, 2019--yet another snowstorm hits Ottawa, and brings some freezing rain afterwards.  Although I know our Corvette comes out of the garage on May 1 when the insurance is reactivated, it is depressing to look outside and think that Spring and sports car driving feels yet so far away.  

An alternative is to get behind the wheel of a simulator.  Although I have flown aircraft simulators, I had never tried an automobile version after the people at Simwerks, a four month old simulator centre in Ottawa, told me that I could race a C7.R at the Daytona International Speedway road track, I thought this would help beat the winter blues.

Meeting my Corvette Club friend Graham, we had a short introductory session with Marc, one of the partners in Simwerks.  We were given virtual reality headsets and shown where the various controls were.  We would take a few minutes in BMWs with paddle shifters, although the simulators are also capable of reproducing the motions of an H-pattern manual shifter.  The first few minutes are a bit disorienting as we drove around a short oval, spinning out from time to time as well as hitting the barrier walls.  But with some adjustments and helpful instructions, we were set for our 30 minute session with the Corvettes.

There are a vast number of cars and tracks to choose from.  We had selected the Daytona track as it is one of the more interesting tracks, featuring some nice banking, and Corvettes, well, obviously.  Seated in the comfortable racing seat and strapped in with shoulder belts, looking through the VR headset was amazingly real.  Rolling out onto the track, it first became a question of familiarization with Daytona, as I missed two turns market by orange pylons as they came up so unexpectedly.  But soon enough you get the hang of it and I was comfortably doing laps, hitting 272 km/h on the banking.

From what I had seen on YouTube as Tommy Milner did a nighttime drive-through on the course, the simulator is very realistic in terms of the cockpit of the C7.R and the track itself.  It was a terrific experience (and as close to driving a C7.R as I will get) and a lot of fun just to do laps.  It is possible to race against others in the simulator centre, people hooking in online, or against virtual opponents but we were satisfied to just go around without crashing.  That said, 30 minutes is probably sufficient as it actually is tiring to concentrate.  

And for the real thing, here is Tommy Milner at work:

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