For a couple of years now, both myself and fellow TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk reporter Mike Trusler have been walking the motorsport paddocks of the UK, covering the best national racing has to offer.
Like many, we both hold those childhood dreams of becoming racing drivers, but rather than being out on track battling it out, we’re left frustrated on the sidelines watching on.
Therefore when we got an invitation from top national single-seater outfit SWB Motorsport to try out their brand-new simulator, we decided it was a perfect chance to see what we’re made of and pretend, even if just for a couple of hours, that we’d made it.
Our tool for the evening was the new simulator at the Northamptonshire base of the Formula Renault and Formula Ford outfit, with team boss Simon Baldry and driver Jack Dex on hand to keep a close eye on our progress.
Based around one of the team’s Formula Renault chassis’, the simulator uses the car’s original steering wheel, pedals, hydraulic brakes and gear shift. These are combined with state-of-the-art simulator equipment provided by team sponsors 3M, Thrustmaster and Exo Online to provide the most-realistic experience possible for the team’s car-racing and karting drivers.
“It’s a great tool for our drivers, and it’s perfect for us and them, as rather than send them to facilities elsewhere, we can do it all in-house,” explained Dex. “We have a lot of first-time drivers, those from karts; that need to learn the circuits and it’s perfect for that, to practise techniques and the circuits so they’re not so alien when they arrive there for real.”
Set up with an unrestricted version of the current Formula Renault BARC car, we started off with a ten lap run around the Donington Park national circuit to get ourselves acquainted with the sim. Despite spending a considerable amount of time in the track’s various gravel traps, Mike emerged with a best time of 1:09.85s, just over a second clear of yours truly.
The Challenge – Jack Dex v Team TCF
With both now familiar sim, it was time for things to get competitive. Our challenge would take place on the iconic Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, with each of us given a ten lap run to set our best time. Dex jumped in first and he used his experience to set us a competitive marker of 44.6s.
After squeezing myself back in to the rather tight Renault tub, I was the first to try and beat his time. Struggling throughout with the tricky Surtees/McLaren/Clearways complex, I only managed to set a rather measly time of 47.2s.
Trusler hit the track next and in completely anti-climactic fashion, went on to beat my time in just three laps. As hard as he pushed, he couldn’t better Dex’s time though, but he went on to finish with a best lap of 45.3s, only seven tenths adrift.
Thanks to Simon Baldry, Jack Dex and all at SWB Motorsport for inviting TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk down and giving us a taste of their simulator.
This season SWB Motorsport will be competing in the Protyre Formula Renault Championship and the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, while they will also be taking their first steps out of single-seater racing with an entry into the new-for-2013 Michelin Clio Cup Series.
All Photos: Simon Paice