Posted by and filed under Meet the team.

Next up in “Meet the BPS team” features, we feature Matt George. Despite being the most junior member of staff, Matt’s experience and attitude more than make up for his relative youth!

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How did you come to work at BPS?

I wanted to make a step into the future of motorsport in terms of driver training and track time. I had been working as a mechanic for a single seater team alongside coaching in karting, and I wanted to develop my data analysis skills and the basics of engineering. I saw an opportunity at BPS to do all those things and grabbed it with both arms.

What does a typical day at BPS entail for you?

Usually my day is spent with customers on our rental simulators working on helping to improve drivers of all ages and ability. My role in sessions is to make sure that everyone gets the most they can out of their time here. When I’m not sat in the dark in the simulators, I’m building systems for our customers around the world and then travelling out to install them and train their operators.

What do you think makes BPS different to other companies?

I think BPS is different because of the drive the whole team has to create a good experience for the customer. We try to tailor everything we do to each and every individual customer that comes through our doors. It is a big job, but it isn’t something you always see elsewhere and it’s great to be a part of it.

What is the best day you’ve had at BPS?

I would say pin pointing it to one would be very hard; I actually always enjoy the corporate days – helping people to experience something new. Some guests have never seen anything like this before. Seeing how much enjoyment they get out of the day is great. Another highlight was probably the day we were finally gave our motion platform the thumbs up, driving it and being able to see how far we had come in such a short period of time.

What do you do when you aren’t at work?

When I am not at work you can find me driver coaching around the country at karting or car tracks, if not racing myself. This year I will be competing in the British GT championship, so you will be able to find me in the cold and wet paddocks of the UK and Belgium!

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to your 15 year old self?

Keep doing what you are doing. The harder and more focused you are, the better and easier things become. No matter how hard it seems if you want something go and get it.

Now for the quick fire round!

Tea or coffee?

Tea.

Single-seater or GT?

GT.

Favourite track?

Bathurst.

Favourite car?

Aston Vantage.

Favourite workshop/office radio station?

Radio 1.

Posted by and filed under Meet the team.

This month we learn a little more about the most junior member of Team BPS. Ralph is at the very start of his motorsport career as our Technical Intern.

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How did you come to work at BPS?

Having worked with BPS before through its sponsorship of Oxford Brookes Racing Formula Student team, I was lucky enough to do few weeks work here over my summer holidays, and now continue to work here part-time around my studies.

What does a typical day at BPS entail

My days at BPS are always different. It can vary from testing new car models and tracks, to assisting Matt, Ella and Simon on whatever our customers need that day.

What do you think makes BPS different to other companies?

Its tenacity. Despite being a young, small company in the sector, I think BPS acquits itself very well. As is shown by its extensive and contrasting list of global clients. I’m pretty lucky to be exposed to so much.

What is the best day you’ve had at BPS?

One of my first projects at BPS was to audit our entire car library, ensuring the models were consistent with our high standards. The project included driving every single car… how could I possibly say no!

What do you do when you aren’t at work?

I work towards my degree in Motorsport Engineering at Oxford Brookes University. Both Simon and Ella studied there, so it is a well trodden path.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to your 15 year old self?

If you want something, go get it.

Quick fire round

Tea or coffee?

Tea.

Single-seater or GT?

GT.

Favourite track?

Nordschleife.

Favourite car?

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate.

Favourite workshop radio station?

Spotify for me.

Posted by and filed under Meet the team.

In the first of our “Meet the BPS team” features, we talk to Simon Lock. Simon is the company’s secret weapon when it comes to all things electronics, code and modelling.

How did you come to work at BPS?

I became interested in Driver-in-the-Loop simulation after using various bits of DIL data for Formula E modelling in my previous job. I went to Oxford Brookes University to study engineering, and then worked for a couple of Formula One teams. I then became involved in Formula E for their inaugural season. The cars are obviously very different to F1, and the nature of the one day events was a real challenge, but an experience I enjoyed a lot.

What does a typical day at BPS entail for you?

A bit of everything! One minute I could be building up some electronics boxes for a new build, then I’m code writing, and modelling. Sometimes to develop our own solutions for customer hardware, and sometimes working with rental customers “live” to help them develop their car models. Whatever is top of the to do list really.

What do you think makes BPS different to other companies?

You get to work with your mates. There is a really good atmosphere at BPS. We’re a small team and we’re permanently busy, but we always make sure we have to time to sit down on a Friday lunchtime and have fish and chips together. Everyone has worked in different parts of racing before this, so we all have the same attitude to life, but have different experiences. It makes for some good story telling!

What is the best day you’ve had at BPS?

The end of our first motion platform tuning day, just a couple of months back. It was amazing how far it came in a few hours. After more than a month’s worth of building work, designing and making the interface for the chassis, and then coding the communication between our simulator and the motion platform, everything just came together.

What do you do when you aren’t at work?

I like to get outdoors as much as possible. Running, biking, swimming, triathlons, mountain climbing. Preferably up in Cumbria for the mega scenery.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to your 15 year old self?

Don’t be scared to cock stuff up!

Quick fire round

Tea or coffee?

Coffee all the way.

Single-seater or GT?

Single-seater, as it is closest to a motorbike!

Favourite track?

Laguna Seca or Oulton Park.

Favourite car?

Formula E test car – although it can be my least favourite as well.

Favourite workshop radio station?

Country 105.

Posted by and filed under Uncategorised.

We regularly get contacted through all forms of media by current students, recent graduates and professionals looking for a career change, looking to get started in the world of motorsport – and not always as a driver. Being a small organisation BPS is limited in how many internships and work experience placements we can offer each year. So in this month’s blog we are going to offer some advice on how to get onto the starting grid of professional racing for those who don’t get the pleasure of our company for a week or two.

Wash wheels

Don’t be too proud to get stuck in. Whether that is cleaning out a simulator and filing data, or washing wheels for a race team, one of the best ways to enter motorsport is to show willing and get involved in whatever is on offer. It’s quite unlikely that you are going to be invited to engineer a grand prix car straight out of college or university, but there are plenty of places around that do want help with the less glamorous jobs. Racecars aren’t quite clever enough to clean themselves yet, and trucks don’t pack themselves up either. If you show you are keen enough to do these types of tasks, you’ll get up close to great technology and spend time with people with bags of experience and knowledge. If you prove yourself reliable and a good team player, you put yourself in pole position for a promotion. Every single staff member at BPS started their motorsport journey this way, and we think that contributes to the great relationships we build with our customers. We understand what it feels like to pack up an awning in the rain on a Sunday night, and we also get how amazing a race win feels.

Ask questions (and listen)

Once you’ve got an opportunity, make the most of it. Remember that just about everyone loves talking about themselves. There are people that have forgotten more than you know about motorsport at this point. These guys and girls could write great annuals of stories about their experience. Most of them are just too busy racing to write those books, so once you’ve finished washing those wheels or filing that data, make sure you ask them why they do what they do, and why they do it that way. They’ll be a time-old reason that you can’t learn from a book or an online tutorial. The vast majority of people will be willing to share it with you if you ask nicely.

Respect people’s time and opinions

We know we just told you to ask questions, but be respectful of when you ask them. When the car is about to pull out of the pit lane for an install lap it might not be the best time to ask the data engineer what the logging rate for a sensor is. When we’re coding a car model, please don’t ask what we think the future of simulation lies. Trust us, it won’t end well. Make yourself helpful at that moment (maybe bring them a coffee) and when we’ve got a quieter time later, ask that burning question about suspension geometry. Racing requires a lot of concentration at times. Respect busy people. Ask for feedback and advice about jobs you’ve applied for or work you are doing, but bear in mind that most people in motorsport already have a to-do list as long as the Nordschleife, and they can’t always answer the phone or pick up an email straight away. And always remember to say THANK YOU when they eventually do.

Send in a great CV

One to two pages maximum. The BPS record is 32 pages – needless to say we didn’t read until the end and that person didn’t get the job. Clear and concise communication is key in fast-paced motorsport. This also should apply to your CV. We don’t need to know if you captained the under-8s cricket team. We want to see what skills you have that might be useful to us and what experience you have to prove this. By all means show us you are a well-rounded individual who we would want to talk to over lunch with, but keep it short and sweet in that first approach.

Think outside the F1 (pit)box

The UK motorsport industry – coined “Motorsport Valley” by the Motorsport Industry Association – is full of varied opportunity, from cutting edge suppliers to World Endurance Championship teams. There is life outside of Formula 1. The media might not show you that very often, but the industry boasts an annual turnover of £9 billion. Approximately 4,500 companies are involved in the UK motorsport and high performance engineering industry and 41,000 people work for these companies. By all means, aim high and apply to those big name organisations, but don’t be disheartened if they aren’t recruiting. There are opportunities to travel the world, work with outstanding drivers and teams, design clever stuff and cover fantastic races in plenty of other series. Working in the supply chain is also a great way for young professionals to quickly make a valuable network of peers and mentors from a variety of backgrounds and witness different methodologies, rather than a single team-focused perspective.

Be a team player

Whether you go into a team or a supplier, you need to be a team player. Motorsport is full of highs and lows. Remember for each race winner there is probably somewhere between 21 and 65 losers dependent on your championship. So statistically you’ll lose a lot more times than you win in your career. Its when you are losing you need the team. It’s when we are trying to manhandle a simulator chassis up a flight of stairs, and we find it’s a spiral staircase, that we need the team. Yes, that has really happened. Thankfully we have an awesome team and we always work to each other’s strengths and weaknesses to get the job done. We also each know how everyone takes their tea. That’s an important part of team building in the UK!

Communicate

If you don’t understand, say so. If you can’t do what you’ve been asked, say so. If you haven’t done what you’ve said you’d do, say so. We think we speak on behalf of everyone in this industry in saying, honesty is the always the best policy. Because unfortunately you’ll get found out if you don’t in this world of data, part numbers and scrutineering. It is very unlikely you’ll get fired for saying “I’ve never used that before. Do you mind if you show me how to do the first one?” or “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer. But I’ll go away and find out for you ASAP.” Don’t compromise the rest of the team by keeping your head down. They’ll appreciate it and support you to make sure the job does get done safely and in on time. We’ve all been the new guy or girl. We’ve all had to learn it at sometime. But if you don’t communicate they can’t help you and in turn you can’t help them.

So there you have it. We’d love to hear from you if you think you’ve got something to bring to the BPS team, but in the meantime, remember the above. We look forward to welcoming you all to our facility during your long and illustrious careers!

Posted by and filed under Customer view, GT, Guest blog.

Just a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the very first time. Heading into the race there was no shortage of drivers telling me what a unique experience Le Mans is, and without a doubt it lived up to the hype. The event is totally overwhelming in every way, from the opening day of scrutineering in the city of Le Mans, to the incredible spectator turnout at the pre-race drivers’ parade, and then the grueling flat-out nature of the actual race itself.

One of the biggest challenges of Le Mans for a rookie driver is coming to grips with the circuit—no small feat when you consider that the Circuit de la Sarthe is 8.47 miles long and features four separate areas where speeds regularly exceed 175mph. To be quick at Le Mans, drivers have to have the confidence to optimize late braking into the chicanes and tight hairpins, inch-perfect car placement to carry the most rolling speed over the punishing curbs, and total commitment in the ultra-high speed Porsche curves where there is absolutely no margin for error.

Le Mans is one of the most difficult circuits I’ve ever encountered for getting up to speed, and the challenge faced by the driver is compounded by the fact that the majority of the circuit is comprised of public roads, so there is no opportunity to do any extra testing in the build-up to the race. Track conditions change frequently during practice, and with such a long lap-time there isn’t much repetition to help find the limits of the car or track.

Sharing the car at Le Mans with two other rookie drivers, I knew that it would be vital to minimize my learning curve in any way that I could, as it was unlikely that any of us would get to run very many laps before starting the race. Fortunately, as advanced motorsports simulation technology has become more readily accessible, I was able to take full advantage. In the weeks prior to flying to France for the race, I logged hours and hours of valuable seat-time around Le Mans from the seat of the GT simulator at GPX Driver Development Lab in Miami, Florida.

Segal-05

There is no question that the time spent in the simulator was a massive contributing factor to my ability to get comfortable at Le Mans almost immediately, but the benefits of modern simulators go far beyond simply getting familiar with the basic layout of the circuit.

At the professional level, it isn’t unusual for an engineer to brief their drivers on an upcoming event by providing a sample data trace of that car and track from the prior year. Typically this would be used to illustrate very basic things like gear selection, braking intensity, and the like.

In my case, I was able to get much more benefit from the data sample provided by integrating it with my simulator sessions. Like this I was able to focus my efforts on trying different driving techniques and approaches to emulate what I saw from the other drivers’ data. By comparing my data output from the GPX Lab simulator with the sample provided by the team, I was able to see very clearly what worked and what didn’t before I ever turned a lap on the actual circuit.

The time spent preparing for Le Mans in the simulator was quickly validated when we hit the track for free practice during race week—though all three drivers in our car were rookies at this race, I definitely had a tangible edge in confidence and time spent getting up to speed. While my teammates were still working up to the limit even through their stints in the first half of the race, it took me less than 10-laps in practice to get within a second of my fastest time for the weekend.

As impressive as it is that the current simulators are highly immersive and lifelike in their feeling and experience for the driver, for me the really exciting part is the ability to integrate professional level data and analysis tools to make the learning process so much more efficient for drivers at any level.

At Le Mans my teammates and I joked that the simulator was a bit of an unfair advantage for me. In the end, we finished 3rd place, which isn’t bad for a couple of rookies. Somehow I’m betting that next year I won’t be the only one on the team looking for an unfair advantage in the simulator—but that’s fine by me as long as we come through with the win!

Posted by and filed under Guest blog.

By Matt Hunter of The Online Racing Association (TORA).

Back in January I was asked by a member of the motorsport industry what the value of ‘virtual motorsport’ really was. It’s an interesting question and one which has gained a lot of momentum in recent years.

My first ever recollection of a top level driver using sims as a tool was Jacques Villeneuve back in his F1 days. He claimed that driving around on the Playstation assisted in initial track knowledge of venues he’d yet to visit.

That sentiment is probably shared by professional and amateur drivers more and more. With technological advancements, the accuracy of track modelling and relative physics it can be extremely useful to grab a few laps on your sim at home before jetting off to a new circuit and heading into FP1 with at least a general appreciation for where the circuit goes!

What about looking a little deeper though? How does virtual driving/testing then become proper racing in its own right? There will be a number of people who would, fairly, argue that it can never be considered a real part of the sport as you’re not really ‘driving’ in the true sense of the word. However, the competitive aspects are all there whichever way you look at it. From out-qualifying a team mate, engaging in a race long battle, sharing a car in an endurance race or even discussions on balance of performance, it all happens and this is why places such as TORA and other similar communities exist.

Increasingly, virtual drivers are now able to prove their worth on the real race track as they make the jump from gamer to real racing driver and clearly there are some exceptional talents. There are also two distinct routes to the race track. Competitions such as the GT Academy are fantastic ways for big numbers to try their hand at an entry to what has become the most prolific virtual driving competition in the world. The initial stages are largely based around ‘hotlapping’, essentially producing the fastest time possible. Once whittled down, the finalists find themselves in real cars with traning that many of us can only dream of.

On the other side there are the growing virtual racing communities run by fans of the sport often using categories of racing that are popular such as GTs, touring cars and grand prix style racing. Where the process differs here is that while those drivers making the transition are extremely fast, by being ‘brought up’ in the sim racing community they have learned a lot about acceptable racecraft in a safe, secure environment. I would argue that this was the better way around. Surely it’s more acceptable to have a safer driver who becomes quick over one who may be extremely fast but often prone to errors in judgement?

I believe this is the other major benefit of virtual racing. With proper procedures and rules packages in place and being able to mirror the expectations of the MSA, TORA and others like it are fantastic environments for budding racers of all ages to develop a range of skills from team management and livery design to set up work and media coverage. Most of all, however, competitors can safely learn acceptable racecraft without incurring expensive bodyshop bills at the end of the day!

For eight years we’ve made it our mission to be as close to reality as possible and that’s why I think a good number of karters, club racers and enthusiasts use our championships to get a feel for what it may be like should they ever reach that far up the ladder. It’s why we have the trust and support of major teams, drivers, technical partners and championships like British GT.

There is clearly a change occurring and virtual motorsports is rightly taking its place in the e-sports arena as an exciting alternative to actually being there. Virtual series even get coverage on tv nowadays. It’s a safe, cheap way to go testing for professional teams. It’s a learning tool for those drivers heading to new circuits for the first time. It’s a great way to learn about real world championships and it’s also a fantastic amount of fun!

Posted by and filed under Guest blog.

I am fairly new to driver coaching, but have been racing myself since 2008. I am happy to announce that I am Lamborghini Super Trofeo Am World Champion after winning all 4 races out in Malaysia, Sepang in November. I owe a lot of my success to winning the world championship from being able to learn the circuit with Base Performance Simulators.

Being totally honest, I have always been a little put off coaching due to the inherent risks of getting into a car with someone you may have only just met, and the last few years peoples fears have become a reality with the sad passing of Sean Edwards whilst instructing in Australia. Tragic events like this unfortunately is a massive part of people’s decisions to stay away from coaching, which then in turn makes it harder to help people get into the sport, and to improve driving standards as quickly as possible.

There is now a new way of coaching with virtually zero risk to your safety. Instead of being at a freezing cold track in early February, all wrapped up trying to keep warm, after a 3 hour drive to the track first thing in the morning, you can use a simulator in the warm and dry! I have been very lucky to be able to use Base Performance Simulators for coaching in the last year, which is great to use. I have used both their single seater simulator and the GT simulator for coaching and it is such a simple and straight forward way of being able to interact and guide new drivers all the way around every lap throughout the day. It isn’t every day you can sit alongside a novice racing driver in a Aston Martin GT car with a great bunch of really helpful people around you, risk free!

coaching_02

With everything in the fast world of racing constantly changing I see this being the best coaching tool. Not all coaches encourage the use simulators with their customers, but even without the potential for damage bills on a track day, using a simulator is much more cost-effective for your customer whilst they are still covering the basics, which might help save their funds to take their racing further down the line.

Whilst it may be cheaper, it’s certainly just as good, if not better, for teaching than a normal days coaching on general admission trackday for a few reasons. When you are coaching on a normal track day, can you pause the customer half way around the lap and talk about the corner you just went through? Can you guarantee no traffic and no red flags? Some circuits on the British and European racing calendar don’t have a huge amount of availability. A simulator gives you such a massive selection of tracks from every part of the world, which you just wouldn’t be able to get to otherwise.

Every time I have used BPS for a day of driver coaching my customers have come away extremely happy and wanting to book another day straight away because they can see the improvements they’ve may in the course of a few hours, in lap time, consistency and confidence.

It is not just safer for yourself and for your customers to use a simulator for driver coaching, it also develops them technically. They are able to review every part of each session with same detailed telemetry they will see at the track, which both the coach and customer can take home with them. I love the simulator for coaching for its simplicity and easiness for both customer and coaching. If you haven’t used it yet, now is the time to get involved and have a try.

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.

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Posted by and filed under Guest blog.

Unlike most racers at the level I’m at, I didn’t start karting until I was 16, which is 8 years later than many of my competitors. Once I made the switch to cars, starting with Formula Renault, I began to use simulators to supplement my testing programme before a race.

Using a simulator makes such a difference because at race meetings you don’t always get loads of track time and you can’t waste all your sponsor’s money on testing every day in the week instead. I started using the simulator at Base Performance for a few hours before each race and made loads of improvements in my driving technique straight away. In the sim you don’t have any distractions or excuses. If your lap time goes up then you know it is something you’ve done. If you go quicker, you know that what you’ve tried works. You can’t blame it on the tyres or the weather.

My first full season in cars was in the BRDC Formula 4 championship, which I won. It was a really close championship with a lot of different people taking race wins in the early part of the year. It really kept you on your toes because the cars were very evenly matched, so it came down to the drivers a lot more than in karting. Using the sim made a big contribution to bringing the title home. I had a lot to learn in a short time as some of the other drivers had already been racing for a few years in other junior series, so I had to make sure I had the pace, and the consistency over a race distance, even if I didn’t have as much as experience. In the sim we could look a different elements of my driving (like braking or wet lines) one by one. I could try and find the limit without any fear of crash damage!

As I progressed from BRDC Formula 4 to Formula Renault I’ve switched teams to Mark Burdett Racing. Before a race I work with my race engineer and driver coach that I will work with at the track in the sim. That way we get the most of the session as they know exactly what my weak points were from the last race and we can get straight on to improving them. They are both very experienced guys, so when it is a track I’ve not been to before my coach can drive some reference laps for me and we can go through that data and videos to make sure I’m confident when I get there. Learning to use all the data tools and how to communicate with my engineer as well really helps, as racing is a team game at the end of the day.

This year I have been selected as a BMW Motorsport Junior driver, which is a great privilege. So as well as my Formula Renault 2.0 racing I participate in various tests and races with BMW Motorsport. My first race for them was around the Nordschleife – probably the hardest track in the world! It was also in a GT car. Other than a few laps at Silverstone as part of the shoot out for the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award last year, I’d never driven anything like it. I spent an afternoon in the sim with Darren, as he has competed at the Nurburgring 24 hours many times, and we went through the whole 20km that makes up the track in short sections. Once you get more comfortable with each section you can link them up. I definitely wouldn’t have be able to learn 172 corners in a practice session that I was sharing with my co-drivers! Using the GT sim got me more used to what sitting in the GT would feel like as well, as it is very different to the Renault. The only thing it couldn’t prepare me for was what it was going to feel like getting up after a couple of hours sleep to do a stint in the dark!

Posted by and filed under GT, Guest blog, UK circuits.

It’s not every day that you get an offer from the head of a car company to race a ‘works’ GT4 car. Not in my world at least. I do have a race licence and for the last couple of years I’ve turned out as a bit of fun in the 360 MRC 6 Hour event. This was different though; two 18 lap sprints against aspiring BTCC drivers, who had done at least three-quarters of a season, were mostly a third of my age, on a track I’d never even driven in a road car. Oh and to top it off at least one of the races was on live national TV. The potential for personal embarrassment, or worse still, damage to the car was sky-high. The only option then was a polite but firm “thanks, but no thanks.”

Except, and to repeat what I said at the start, it’s not every day that you get an offer from the head of a car company to race a ‘works’ GT4 car. “Thanks. Yes of course” I heard myself saying. Lawrence Tomilinson of Ginetta was the man making the offer, a run out at the Rockingham round of the BTCC-supporting Ginetta Supercup was the drive in question. The G55 is a 355BHP V6 slicks and wings, paddle shift GT4, running times quicker than the BTCC cars and only marginally slower than the far more powerful Porsche Carerra Cup 911s. However unlike the designed for ‘gentleman driver’ GT3 cars the GT4 class eschews ABS and traction control. Great… I think.

Thankfully I had reported on Base Performance Simulators a while ago and had accompanied the Team USA graduates there for a session last year. So after a swap of emails with Ella Barrington, the incredibly well organised manager of the facility just outside of Banbury, I was booked in for a session on the GT simulator.

I was trying to be calm but this is different from the other times I’ve been there. This is serious, this is work. What if I can’t get it? Hell what if I can’t even get in the Aston Martin cockpit…? I know from previous visits that the whole team at BPS are top quality and a great cup of coffee is the perfect welcome. The GT set up is brilliant, and great news I CAN fold myself in. As I locate the steering wheel on the splines, the familiar view of the Rockingham pit lane is visible through the windscreen.

BPS has a massive variety of GT cars modeled in the system (and single seaters in the open cockpit room just on the other side of the corridor) so loading up a G55 takes no time at all. Before I venture out my ‘engineer’ helpfully gave me a few pointers as to the circuit, a briefing on controls and slammed the door.

Suffice to say my first laps are nothing short of a disaster. All I learn is how to do is how to reverse flick turn after spinning, and that most of the inside kerbs can’t be used. After a particularly lurid spin exiting the fast left before Tarzan, I’m startled when the passenger door opens. The wrap around screen is so immersive and the feel from the pedal and steering were so lifelike, I had completely forgotten I was in a simulator. The only thing missing from that first run was the huge repair bills I would have had in the real world.

With a little coaching from BPS staff and an unexpected visit from a very well respected team manager and engineer who was working with one of his young drivers on the single-seater rig, I progressed quickly, even with my novice capabilities, from just trying to survive and keep the car on track, to actually honing my breaking and turn in and having the confidence to try different approaches to corners and sequences of turns to see how it affected my lap times. I even managed a full 18 lap race simulation run without an off.

An hour passed in no time and after further discussion with my ‘engineer’ I was happy with a best lap of 1:23.8. I knew this was off the pace of the quick guys I’d be out there with but at least I was in the ballpark.

So to the track with just a single 20 min qually Saturday, two 40 minute practices on Friday were my only real opportunity to get familiar with the G55. Suffice to say I kept it on the island in FP1. Taking turn one on the oval flat in 6th and hitting 235KPH before breaking for the T2 hairpin is surely one of the best feelings in British national motorsport. The result was 5.7 seconds away from the fastest time. Not bad, especially as the guys at the front all slammed on new tyres at the end whilst I stayed on old rubber all day. I learned the racing driver excuses from Darren Turner not from his staff at Base performance by the way!

FP2 was awful. I struggled with the balance of the car on old rubber and committed the cardinal sin, overdriving! My lap times suffered by several seconds but ironically I was a little closer to the front of the field. BTCC rubber on the track was the general consensus of opinion for the slower times for all. A blow out exiting T1 did little for my confidence, but at least all that practice of recovering spins at BPS kept the Ginetta out of the wall.

The rest of the weekend was much smoother and a new set of Michelins for qually helped me find 4 seconds of pace from FP2 and now I was even closer to the front of the field… but still off the back of the grid. A 12th place in race one (from grid 14) was followed by me running in the heady heights of P9 in Race 2, having actually overtaken several cars and had a decent battle before a safety car bunched up the field. Ultimately a rear upright mounting failed causing retirement half way around the last lap but 2 signatures from the C of C was proof I’d performed in a satisfactory manner.

So here’s the thing. This very occasional racer (I won’t even call myself a racing driver) was able to be safe and enjoy an event that was frankly far beyond my experience level and probably my talent. So unless I’m a woefully undiscovered talent (oh I wish) there has to be another reason.

Simply put the difference was Base Performance Simulators. My time in the GT simulator and the expert help afforded to me by the staff at BPS, along with the data analysis of my laps, engendered me with technical knowledge of the Ginetta G55 and the Rockingham circuit, learned in an entirely safe environment. That was invaluable but just as important was that the BPS experience was so close to real life that I took confidence into the driver’s seat. That confidence would have taken me, with zero experienced behind the wheel of a GT4 racing car, many hours of expensive testing (and possibly crashing) on the track to gain. That experience allowed me to concentrate on being in the race and ‘racing’ not just in the car hanging on.

Did I make mistakes on the track at Rockingham, yes of course. Did I spoil anyone else’s race, crash the car or hurt myself, absolutely not. Was I slow – yes, but at least I know why and I got faster quicker than I thought I would. Do I want another drive in the Ginetta – what do you think? By the way in the real world in race 2 I got down to a 1:24.7 – less than a second away from my BPS time.

If Base Performance Simulators can make such a huge difference to an occasional racer, imagine what it could do for your as an up and coming professional racer or indeed to a driver (of whatever level) in learning a new circuit, a new technique (left foot braking, paddle shift, transferring front to rear drive) or a new car or series. Given the cost of track testing – and spares – it’s surely an easy choice. I’m still not a racing driver but BPS was the best racing decision I’ve made.

John Hindhaugh