Posted by and filed under Formula Student, Guest blog.

Everyone in motorsport knows how important lap time is. And if you don’t, you should ask yourself what you’re doing in such a fast paced industry. A good lap time has always come down to two core components; a good car, and a good driver. In the past, the only way to ensure a good driver and a good car, was to go testing. However in the last 20 years, simulators have stepped into the breach to provide teams from all areas of motorsport with the opportunity to optimise their set-ups and drivers without the cost of going testing, or even the need for a fully built race car.

DIL (driver-in-loop) simulators are now used by all the teams competing in top level motorsport. This is one of the reasons we at Oxford Brookes Racing use the Base Performance DIL simulators to great extent. We use DIL simulators for 4 mains reasons.

The first is set-up. There’s no point turning at up any competition, let alone the international ones we compete at, without a properly set-up car. Regardless of how good it is, if not properly set-up, the car/driver combination won’t be competitive. The joy of using DIL simulators to set-up a car is that we can make adjustments and have the driver back on track in seconds. Where in testing it would take 15 minutes to lower the ride-height on all 4 corners, with a simulator, it can be done in seconds. And when you’re paying hundreds of pounds an hour for the use of a race track, you really do have to ask “is it worth it?”

The second being major changes we wouldn’t even be able to do at a testing session. Implementing possible changes for future cars like wheelbase, track, engine and gearbox changes can be done in seconds with a simulator. But would take weeks of design, development and manufacture at a huge cost. We can prototype test different engine configurations, different suspension designs and even different engine aerodynamic packages in the space of a few hours.

Driver training is probably the most common use of DIL simulators. They provide a driver the opportunity to drive round almost any track of their choice, without the cost of flying, paying a test team and renting the track. We use the simulators as an opportunity to test new drivers alongside current, more experience drivers with years of Formula Student experience. Base Performance Simulators has helped us replicate the track configurations from competition to allow prospective drivers an opportunity to drive the track and familiarise themselves with it, months before competition and long before the car is completed.

The last – and in my opinion – the most important advantage of using DIL simulators is the ability to extract data from everything we do. Be it driver training, set-up tweaks or major car changes, we can collate data easily to allow us to systematically analyse and quantitatively verify any changes we make. Base Performance Simulators output all their sessions in a common data format, as used by most top level race teams. Not only can engineers present at the session analyse the live telemetry there and then for possible set-up improvements and tips for the driver, but we can also take all the data with us for a full analysis and debrief in the following days.

Without a doubt simulator development has made huge steps in the last 10 years and a good simulator is definitely a key asset to any race team or driver, regardless of size or financial backing, from Formula One down to Formula Student.