On the edge of the carbon fibre triangle in Buckinghamshire lies Milton Keynes. Already home to the highly successful Infiniti Red Bull Racing, along with at least two smaller teams and the Daytona karting circuit, now Stacey Bushes, one of the suburbs of ‘the New City’, is host to yet another motorsport attraction.
Last time I was in Stacey Bushes it was almost pre-historic. Motor parts shops, the local scout shop and an array of light industrial concerns as you would find on any industrial estate in the UK. A few things have changed since then and the motor factors I mentioned has now changed hands and changed purpose. That’s why theCheckeredFlag.co.uk dispatched me on a dark and chilly Friday night to take a look.
Simply Race is the brain child of Ben Turner and Mike Yau, both of whom began their careers at Daytona karting, and it’s designed to make simulator racing more accessible.
It was officially opened on Friday 30 January by Mark Lancaster MP and the Mayor of Milton Keynes, Councellor Derek Eastman in one of the trade counter units on the estate they have installed ten high tech simulators, powered by R-Factor, complete with force feedback wheels, tactile response and a trio of very nice 40 inch monitors.
The computers were all built by Ben to exacting specifications then networked to provide ten pods, each providing a car to one overall race. It is an impressive LAN party to be sure. On those computers is a selection of cars and tracks giving you the chance to race everything from a Touring Car Skoda to the 2007 Sauber Formula 1 car. There are McLaren F1 GTR Longtails, there are GP2 cars, prototypes, Formula Ford, the list goes on.
You can also race anywhere in the world from Donington Park or Silverstone to Sepang or Monaco. Le Mans is available, as is the Nurburgring, its attached Nordschleiffe and Portimao. Pretty much anywhere in the world is available as a race track.
Up until now I have preferred the lightweight sims, the Forza Motorsports and Gran Tourismos of the world. The better graphics have always appealed to me, as has the lower price tag. I’ve tried the R-Factor and SimRaceway models before and found them hard to get into.
In the Simply Race pods it was like a different world. The high end computer equipment no doubt helped. Running a sim like R-Factor on my overworked laptop is like watching a picture book. The design of the pods helped too, the wrap around screens put you in the driving seat, the high quality steering wheels and bucket seats, with force feedback and a proper thump in the coccyx on up shifts immerse you in the experience in a way that only a real car can better.
The launch event was a great success for Simply Racing. Twenty drivers, myself included, were allowed to participate in a touring car race on the simulators. Qualifying and practice were rolled into one and like the new racer I am, I forgot to set a flying lap! Thanks to my team mate we managed to qualify in fourth place on the Donington Park Grand Prix grid.
It was at this point we found out we had been slipped a ringer. Pod ten was qualified on pole by one William Tregurtha, who makes his Ginetta Juniors championship debut at Brands Hatch in March.
Of course come the race it was a runaway at the front. Tregurtha shot off like the proverbial scalded cat while I started the Skoda Octavia controlled by Pod 1. I held fourth place into Redgate, keeping it wide into the entry and awaiting the carnage. Thankfully one of our competitors wiped out third place in a big shunt while I picked my way through the victims. I settled into third place and set off in chase of Pod 9 in second.
We had a good dice until we came to lap slower traffic, Goddards hairpin on lap four was the site of my first drama. While lapping Pod 8 he lost control and pitched me into a spin, an attempt to rectify the situation by adding more speed showed the limits of my talent at Old Hairpin.
I had managed to get back on terms with second place by the time the call, or rather the tap on the shoulder and hand signal, came for me to head to the pits for the driver change. A quick stop got us out in third place where we stayed until the end of the race.
For those of us who don’t have access to a proper simulator rig, something like Simply Racing is a great idea. Prices are reasonable, there are refreshments available and parking is free. I am not here to tell you what to do but I’ll be back for more practice next week.
As a route into motorsport sims are not the devil many people think. They are relatively inexpensive, they are incredibly detailed these days and they are far less likely to result in a visit to A&E. When they get race series under way, I’ll be signing up and starting my racing career.
- Simply Race website: www.simplyrace.co.uk