VRS Coaches and Coanda SIMSPORTS Drivers Set to Compete in the VCO ProSIM Series Starting in November

The Virtual Competition Organisation VCO ProSIM SERIES kicks off on November 18th, 2020 where pro racers and the top drivers of the sim racing world team up in pairs and compete for $50,000 in prize money.

Numerous VRS and Coanda SIMSPORT drivers are competing in the series including, Martin Kronke, Josh Rogers, Mack Bakkum, Jeremy Bouteloup, Sindre Setsaas, Pablo Lopez, Alex Arana and Tommy Ostgaard.

Just some of the professional drivers competing include Max Verstappen, Romain Grosjean, Antonio Felix Da Costa, Sage Karam, Timo Glock and many more.

In fact, Mack Bakkum is teamed up with Sage Karam, Martin Kronke is teamed up with Bruno Spengler and Josh Rogers is teamed up with Ayhancan Guven, one of the fastest pros in sim racing.

The races will be broadcast on the VCO Youtube channel, and additional live streams from VRS and the Coanda team will give viewers an inside look at the race. The series lasts through March 2021 and it is going to be some great real-world excitement on iRacing. And, the format is quite interesting too.

The field consists of 44 teams with two drivers each. The car that each team will use will be the Dallara Formula 3 with fixed setups, so the winner will be determined by which team drives the best together. Before each race, the public will vote to determine which track they will race on.

There will be one 20 minute fun race for the pros before the championship race qualifying each week and is sure to be a fan favorite. Then, the championship race will be 40 minutes (plus one lap) for the teams.

So, if you love racing, here’s your chance to watch the best pros and the best sim racers compete with the best seat possible. We will post links before the first event. You might want to put this one on your calendar.

4.2: Surviving the first corner

“You can’t win a race in the first corner, but you can lose it in the first corner” is one of the oldest racing adages (another being ‘To finish First, you first have to finish’). And it’s one of the most valuable (and least adhered) lessons, as merely surviving the first lap can ensure a points finish, especially in the lower splits of road racing. But does first-corner-survival come down to mere luck, or is there some skill or strategy involved? We catch up with some of the VRS coaches.

Martti Pietilä:
“The most important thing about starting a race (and the first corner) is also one of the most fundamental concepts of racing overall: look where you want to go. When driving alone, this is quite natural, and most of the time we just need to think about how far we look, at either the apex or the exit. However, at a start there’s so much going on around us, we tend to forget this very basic requirement, and start to look at the cars around us. Especially if there’s a crash in front of us, we get so fixated on that and continue to plow in to the mess, even though there was plenty of time to avoid. The key here is to be aware of whats happening around you, not just looking at the cars around.

Lastly, if possible, I try to stay away from the middle of the track, so that an ‘escape’ plan is available if things go wrong!”

Jeremy Bouteloup:
“The best way is to think of all possible scenarios during the approach of the first turn, different racing lines and how you’ll have to position the car. This will help anticipating what will happen and will allow you to react in due time. A second thing is; don’t do anything unpredictable because that will increase the chances to be hit. Other than that, there’s no magic for this and with experience, you’ll learn when and how to react, and it’ll come naturally.”

Olli Pahkala:
“Keep up situational awareness, stay sharp and smart and try to avoid any sudden movements in a steady flow of cars.”

Martin Krönke:
“Heh, the easiest thing is just to qualify on pole. Less issues then! But still you can’t really prevent people running into the back of you. Perhaps if you notice in time that someone is going to overshoot the corner, you may prevent contact by not turning in. But if someone is messing up real bad, chances are you can’t do much at all. So really, if you’re in the pack, just expect the worst and be ready to react. Be prepared to brake and not run into the carnage. If the worst case doesn’t happen, good. If it happens, at least be prepared for it.”

David Williams:
“Regardless of where you start, your initial focus should always be on having a clean, disciplined launch. If you’re on the front row, try not to be distracted by drivers behind you. Be prepared to defend into turn 1 if necessary, and try and visualise the line you wish to carry through the corner before you get there. However, if you find yourself starting in the middle of the pack, it’s important to realise that you must give yourself the opportunity to react to, or take advantage of situations which will change and develop quickly. Be willing to brake much earlier than normal if closely following another car, as it’s likely they’ll be reacting to cars ahead and the pack will be backed up. Avoid erratic or aggressive inputs which may catch other drivers unaware, potentially causing a collision with you. At the same time however, be ready and aware of opportunities which may present themselves to you, and remember how much later you can brake if you choose a line with no cars immediately ahead.

One more thing, I consciously balance risk versus reward on tracks where it’s hard to overtake, or for sprint races compared to endurance races. But it’s also important to be aware that the rest of the grid are more likely to take extra risks as well, and to make allowance for mistakes from others to be made and ultimately capitalise on.”

2017 Summer update

It’s now around one and a half years since our BETA launch, and we’ve got a lot of improvements to report in this summer update.

Launched paid subscriptions
Back in February we announced that our datapacks are coming out of beta, then a month later our paid subscription tiers came in effect. We’re pleased to so see minimal churn at the transition and steady users and subscriptions growth since. Special thanks to all of you who are are supporting us with a paid subscription: you are enabling us to continue to improve and grow the VRS platform!

New VRS coaches
The ranks of the VRS Coaches grew with the addition of top simracers from France and Australia:

  • Madison Down: WCS Driver for TTLR in the Blancpain GT Series, and driver for Trans Tasman Racing in the V8SCOPS. Nine-time V8 Supercar champion on iRacing.
  • Jake Burton: WCS Driver for TTLR in the Blancpain GT Series, and driver for Trans Tasman Racing in the V8SCOPS.
  • Jarrad Filsell: WCS Driver for TTLR in the Blancpain GT Series, and driver for Trans Tasman Racing in the V8SCOPS.
  • Jeremy Bouteloup: WCS driver for Coanda Simsport in Blancpain GT Series.

New datapacks
We now offer a total of 31 datapacks. We have quite a few new additions for Season 3:

  • Advanced Mazda MX-5 Cup by Jarrad Filsell
  • Chevrolet C7 Daytona Prototype (IMSA) by Jake Burton
  • Dallara DW12 (Indy Fixed Oval) by Christian Steele
  • Ferrari 488 GTE (IMSA) by Rens Broekman
  • Ford GTE (IMSA) by Jeremy Bouteloup
  • German GT3s / IMSA by Rens Broekman & David Williams
  • Spec Racer Ford by Jake Burton
  • V8 Supercars (both iRacing V8S & V8SCOPS) by Madison Down

We frequently get requests for datapacks for special events. We cannot make a datapack for each and every special event (if you really want help, you can always request personal coaching), but we will prepare datapacks for the most popular events and cars.

New driver development classes / group classes
During 2017’s season 2 we kicked off the Positive SimRacing Driver Development Programme. Interest was so strong that we decided to open a pilot group coaching program for drivers who didn’t make the initial selection. We’ve learned from this pilot and received positive feedback and in 2017’s season 3, we started several driver development classes using the group coaching format. We currently have Driving Style classes for the MX-5, FR2.0, Porsche, GTE’s and V8’s. We are also preparing curriculum for Racecraft and Car Setup classes. Last but not least, we’ll be adding weekday evening classes for folks in various timezones. For the latest class schedule, take a look here.

Software improvements

Sectors
We introduced new track sector definitions. Our old algorithm works quite well most of the time, but not always. It also had the downside that the numbering of the sectors didn’t match the official track corner numbering. We can now define the track sectors definition for each track layout. The new sectors follow the official corner numbering and combine series of turns, when these turns need to be analyzed together. For example, you may see a sector S0 (for the start straight), followed by T1-2 (for turns 1 & 2), followed by T3-5 (for turns 3 through 5), followed by S5 (straight after turn 5), etc. Over time we’ll add sector definitions for all track layouts. If you notice that the new definition is missing for a track, or if you notice bugs, or if you think that the grouping of turns is not appropriate, drop us a line and we’ll fix it!

Driving stats
We now keep track of your driving stats per iRacing season, so you can see how much you drove any given car and track this season. This makes it easier to keep track of your recent practice time.

Browser history now ‘works’ and you can navigate back and forth within the VRS web app. If you want to share your selection in the analyzer, just copy and paste the link in your browser URL.

Servers
We’ve improved our server efficiency and performance, and optimized our backend, which reduced latency as much as 10x, resulting in a much snappier page loads for most users. (A side effect of this is that we’ve reduced our server cost by 60%, which helps towards building a sustainable business.)

And a lot more small improvements and bug fixes. Stay tuned for a revamped (and hopefully smarter) members home page and more!

5.7: Differential basics

The differential (or diff, for short) allows the left and right wheels to rotate independently, which helps balance the car through corners. Its configuration determines how much of the torque coming off the engine is transferred to each wheel. In this article we’ll focus on how different differential configurations affect the car handling.

If you’re interested in the mechanical workings of a differential, we recommend you check out the following videos: ‘How a Differential Works?’, ‘Understanding Limited Slip Differential’, and ‘Working of Limited Slip Differential’.

Locked differential (also known as a spool)
The spool is essentially a solid axle connection between the left and right wheels, or a fixed differential. Some people weld their differential fixed, for instance to allow easier drifting. A spool ensures both left and right tires rotate at exactly the same speed.

A spool gives you good traction accelerating on a straight line, but the handling of the car is compromised during turning. When going around a corner, the outside tire has to travel a longer distance. So, the inside is forced to rotate faster than it needs for the turn radius and hence spins. This causes stress (wear) on both tires and the drive train. In terms of handling, this causes understeer when decelerating, and oversteer when accelerating.

Spools are typically used in karts, drag racecars, some oval race cars and some road race cars. Notable road car examples on iRacing are the V8 Supercars.

Open differential
A completely open differential allows the left and right tires to rotate entirely independently. This helps with turning. The open diff also allows more torque to be transferred towards the less loaded tire. This is quite unfavorable when one tire is on a slippery surface like mud, grass, ice or wet track markings, as the tire on the slippery surface will end up spinning, consuming most of the available engine torque. Consequently, there may not be enough torque going to the tire on the grippy surface, so acceleration would suffer.
In terms of handling, an open diff gives you oversteer at the entry of a corner, and will understeer at the exit. Most open diff cars are underpowered, however, high-powered open diff cars (or cars with open limited slip differential), may spin the inside wheel on corner exit. Excessive spin on the drive axle cause that axle to lose grip causing sudden oversteer (on RWD cars) or understeer (on FWD cars).

The open diff presents challenges in low traction conditions. In addition, the balance changes suddenly through the corner, which is not desirable for a race car, as you are giving up traction. On iRacing, the Pro Mazda, Skip Barber and Spec Racer Ford are open diff cars.

Locking differential
A locking differential can behave both as an open differential and as a spool. The locker mechanism unlocks the wheels during corner entry and mid-corner and locks them on corner exit, when on the power. A popular locking differential is the Detroit Locker, used in NASCAR.

Limited slip differential
As we saw, both a spool and an open diff have their issues, especially in racing conditions. Most race cars thus use a limited slip differential, which offers the best of both worlds. You can tune the differential to behave as an open differential in certain conditions. And you can tune it to apply a certain amount of “lock” between the left and right tires. By optimizing the diff setup, you can improve your car handling through a corner.

Adjusting a limited slip differential
A limited slip differential might have any (or none) of the following adjustments available, but here’s what they do:

  • Number and/or type of of friction & clutch plates: the more friction and clutch plates, the more locking happens through all corner phases.
  • Preload spring: defines the base amount of force that is applied on these friction and clutch plates. With small enough (or negative) preload, you can open up your differential. The heavier the preload spring, the easier your differential will lock.
  • The Ramp angle: this can be used to tune the amount of locking under deceleration/acceleration. For instance 50/80, where 50 stands for the locking during deceleration into corners, and 80 for acceleration out of corners.

Each car in iRacing has a different differential settings available, under different names and configuration values. For example, here are the differential settings for the McLaren MP-30:

Up to you

You can achieve identical handling with completely different diff builds/configurations. As always, it’s important to experiment with each setting to gain experience with the car and to develop an instinct for how to approach differential setup. However, here’s a starting point when you think about each diff setting:

  • You want to start with changing the number of plates to control how quickly the differential builds up locking force. The more locking force, the more it behaves like a locked diff and vice versa, the less locking force, the more it behaves like an open diff.
  • You may consider the preload as a form of general trigger for sensitivity. It set a minimum amount of locking force that is applied at all times.
  • You’d consider changing the ramp when you want to modify handling under braking (entry) without impacting the handling under acceleration (exit).

Managing a simracing team: Javier Álvarez, team principal of Positive SimRacing

Javier Álvarez Benedí from Valladolid in Spain is the principal of the Positive SimRacing team, both spiritually as well as functionally; making the team grow with a business-like determination and can-do mentality. And it’s in this role that Javier is hugely influential in tutoring new sim racing talent.

What do you do during the day as your full time job?
In the government of the Castile and León region of Spain, I work a lot with people and teams as a strategist on long term plans and future innovations. And I’ve also been a scientific writer for over fifteen years.

How did you get started with Positive SimRacing?
In 2009 I was competing as a driver in Spanish sim racing championships, in sims like rFactor and games like F1 Challenge. Back than many Spanish drivers didn’t speak English, and didn’t have an international orientation, but I could see that sim racing would become an international eSport.

So, in 2012, I started to look for international championships, and joined Formula Sim Racing (FSR), in rFactor. There I found it was very difficult to start a team in that environment, because there was not enough drivers’ market. Basically, three teams dominated the grid and each had about ten drivers, which made very difficult the growth of new teams. But we had a different vision and philosophy: we saw the sim racing as something to be carried out beyond the sim racers, involving the general public and sponsors. Then, I met Jackson Wendt, and we started Positive SimRacing (PSR), maybe against the odds. Around this same time, the Royal Federation of Automobile of Spain hosted a sim racing competition, and we thought ‘let’s use this ‘, so we recruited some drivers from the top ten of that competition.

The first two years were a big challenge, because we weren’t such a strongly bonded team, more a group of drivers. For other teams it was really easy to steal our best drivers. Yet some people stayed and from this we grew into a team, more structured and moving up the ladder.

In 2014 we moved to iRacing, because there was more potential to grow and the competition was bigger. But because only three or four drivers joined the switch, we basically had to start the team from scratch again.

How does a team bond?
Some drivers, particularly young ones, may be very ambitious and don’t want plans spanning multiple years. They want to grow fast and become frustrated if they think they don’t have a good car setup. For them, it doesn’t matter if their driving style still needs work. With people who need results quickly like that, it’s nearly impossible to build a long term project.

But then, there are drivers that think long term and stick to the team. They have what you could call a philosophy, and we build a shared vision for the team. We’re very people focused. For instance, we don’t like to ‘steal’ drivers from other teams, we develop our own drivers. And that’s also why I think the PSR Driver Development Programme (DDP) with VRS is going so well. We invested lots of time in selecting the right people, and collaborating with drivers already in the team. The personal touch is what makes this strategy work.

How can philosophies differ among teams?
Maybe identity is a better word. There are teams who are elite and they only have to call a certain guy and he’ll join. Their main goal is to be at the limit and to win races. Although we won the SkipBarber 2K World Cup and took wins and podiums in other big events, we’re not at that level yet. We want to get there of course, but we need to develop the drivers and that takes time. This is our vision and we want to generate added value this way.

For this, we work together as a team. For instance, if a driver is in P4 and his teammate takes in P1, that’s like a win for both. We don’t have scenarios like Hamilton versus Rosberg in 2015-2016, or Hamilton versus Alonso in 2007. Everybody is committed to the success of the team. The identity and the sense of belonging to a project are essential parts of a team spirit, and I believe this is our niche.

Teams like Coanda don’t have a team manager role. Is this a different philosophy and
do you think one philosophy is better than the other?
I think it’s different, because Coanda may not have anyone in an official team manager role, however, drivers certainly assume leadership. It may not always be one and the same person, but they must have leadership within the team. They may have few but elite drivers, and they seem to aim to be an elite team with only a few elite drivers. A very good model, if you can make it work.

Coanda is perhaps the reference in modern sim racing, and beyond their sportive success and impressive results, their collaboration with VRS in improving the driver development constitutes a huge added value, which should be recognised by all the community.

Could you say you’re like a learning institution? To use an F1 comparison, like the
Sauber team?
Yes, that’s part of our philosophy, and it applies even to non-driving-related learning. I try to pair up Spanish drivers with English speaking drivers, so they learn English. And we focus on driving analysis and collaborations, like with VRS now. We think this is our added value to the drivers and the sim racing community.

How is the VRS DDP programme going?
We had over fifty applications for the DDP, but it was hard to select eight people. So we did extensive interviews and analysed profiles, and it looks like we’ve did a great job. Despite everybody having real life commitments and not always having 100% attendance in the practices or races, we’ve finished with two teams in top ten of the Blancpain Endurance Series.

Now we also have a junior programme with less intensity, and they’re improving at an incredible rate. They’re ready to join the main programme or be reserves (some of them are as fast as the top guys). So yes, I think the programme has gone well, in terms of results, as well as in terms of team building and driver development.

How do you manage that, how time consuming is it?
The management ‘overhead’ is significant. We had to spend a lot of work on this new structure, organising coaching and testing sessions, monitoring every driver individually, with individual meetings. This is huge! Can you imagine eight drivers and another eight drivers in the junior programme. Lots of work involved. But now we’ve appointed drivers as the ‘captain’ for each team, and this works quite well.

What prepares you for managing a simracing team? I mean, there’s plenty of tutorials
on racecraft, but nothing on managing a simracing team.
It’s not just life experience that helps, but also training. I mean, not just to practice and experience, but also through courses. I did this kind of training with my real life. I think my experience from work also helps, working with people with very different backgrounds helped me a lot.

Do you talk to other team managers?
Not really, with a few exceptions. And, until my knowledge, there is no team manager association. There was one in FSR, a team owner association, which is the only example that I know. However, team associations demand a clear common vision and managers working for the benefit of the group, which is very ambitious, if even realistic. So I don’t miss it. However, nowadays we have good contacts with managers of several teams, such as Blue Flag Racing and others. These contacts are usually very beneficial for the course of the competitions.

As the team principal. What do your tasks involve?
Team management is very demanding on time. For example, this morning I was scared to open Facebook, but maybe there are between fifteen and twenty messages. Some weeks I have to devote twenty or thirty hours. It’s like a second job. So we’ve decided we need to make it more sustainable, and that the team mustn’t depend on one person. If I can’t make it then the team shouldn’t stop. Two years ago we segmented the team into small and strongly bonded sections, and so for instance the Skip Barber team is six driver and one manager. I work with the managers, mostly all the time.

They can also work independently. In my dream, I would only decide on the strategy, budget and time. But often you’ve to talk and ask people what they want, and have the opinion of everybody. It’s always a balance between leadership and a full democracy.

What are difficult decisions you have to make sometimes?
To decide to let a driver join when he asks to join the team. When we were small, we always let everybody join. Now we’re careful, not to upset the balance. It’s difficult to really analyse someone and to anticipate, because when you say no to a driver you may have lost a good opportunity for the future. But then, if you decide to add a driver and he’s not a good addition to the team, he can upset the balance. So that’s one of the most difficult decisions.

Maintaining that balance can be difficult in another way too. In 2012 we had just started, but our philosophy changed a bit, so some of our core drivers sometimes feel a bit out of the team, and they don’t want to analyse their performance every week. But they still want to be part of the family, not all the new things, so we had to make that compatible with the evolution of the team. We had a lot of discussions to find a solution, so now we’ve started the ‘Positive Drivers Club’.

So what does it mean to you, when one of your drivers succeeds?
Several levels of happiness. First your project is succeeding and you get rewarded for all the work and patience, and also because you see your friends, people that you’ve helped and who’ve helped you, you see them succeeding. Maybe that’s the best feeling in life, when someone achieves something. When it has been a difficult journey, there’s also more happiness.

This applies to simracing, but maybe also to all of life?
For sure! Sim Racing is not only competition. It’s a sport that fosters personal and brain development, and there are scientific journals and that publish the benefits of gaming and development. Also concentration. I can do a race two hours without a mistake. But then I can’t sleep afterwards because my brain can’t sleep. And beyond that, as you say, it’s like everything in life. We put time, money, energy, to achieve something. Achieving something, at the end of the day, is the meaning of life.

What’s your goal looking forward?
For myself, I’d like my role to be less important so I can step back from day-to-day to focus on growing the budget and sponsors. It’s a matter of maturing the team. Now we’re working with the segmentation and managers, and I think in the next few years we can consolidate this.

As a team, we want to be in the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series, the Blancpain Endurance World Championship and the Skip Barber 2K Cup. Then we enter the top twenty, go to top fifteen. Maybe those are the last steps for the team, in terms of maturity.

You don’t aim to win those championships?
I think that’s too far. We want to be realistic. We would like that, but it’s too far. We don’t think this will happen within the next three years. For 2018 to 2020, the top 15 is a more realistic target, and later we will go for the top 10. Also, we are not obsessed with that.

2.3: Getting started on oval racing: your first week

Your first week of oval racing is just about the same as when you try anything for the first time, so take it easy! One of the biggest mistakes that rookies make is trying to go too fast, too early. At first glimpse, an oval looks very simple. It’s got a couple straights and a couple long turns. This makes new drivers want to exit pit road and set a world record time on the first lap. However, you’ll soon realize that because the turns only go in one direction, and because the turns are generally longer than those on road courses, that the cars will be set up to only go left, that the car’s setup will be on the ragged edge of spinning out, in order to achieve competitive lap times.

There are fewer opportunities to make up time on an oval, so it ends up being a competition of who can go through the corner the fastest. Of course this applies to all of racing, but since road racing includes heavy braking zones and shifting, mistakes are more common and making up lost ground is a bigger possibility. You won’t be shifting at most ovals, and there won’t be much braking unless at a short track. So, you better be ready to put the “loose is fast” theory into practice!

But, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, remember that you’re just a rookie at this. Some day you may be burning rubber and hanging out the rear end through the corners, but for now, take baby steps. A good way to learn a track and car is to join an open practice session and simply observe other drivers, preferably the fast ones. There are also plenty of tutorials on VRS’ YouTube channel, and another, perhaps the best option, is to head into the VRS software and open a datapack (learn more about datapacks in 2.6).

Inside each datapack is a replay file you can load in iRacing itself, or you can open the Driving Analyzer (as seen on the image below) to see the inputs as well as the cockpit view. Make notes on how the driver is positioning the car, where it touches the outside and inside of the corner, where it picks up the revs. These minor details are very important on an oval. Missing your mark by a foot can be the difference between running up front or in the back.

Once you’ve seen how the fast drivers go around the track, try it yourself in an offline session. Make sure that you can complete a clean lap, and then two, three, and so on. Eventually, you should be able to complete ten consecutive laps without incidents and achieving a very consistent laptime. If you’re having trouble accomplishing this, simply slow down. Eventually you’ll find a comfortable pace that will allow clean laps. Sure, it may be slow, but being able to complete clean laps and finish races is the most important thing to do as a rookie. Overdriving the car and crashing is highly unproductive.

After you’ve learned to race cleanly, it’s time to join others on track. Go back into an open practice, and run clean laps just like in testing. There is usually quite a bit of crashing in these practices, so you’ll get a chance to practice wreck avoidance. Intentionally find packs of cars and pretend you’re in a race. Get used to having someone right in front of you, blocking your vision into the turn, and someone right behind you filling the mirror. This is what will happen in the race. Practice pit road entry and exit as well. Basically; do your homework. Once you’re comfortable and confident in your ability to run clean laps and not cause an accident, sign up for a race! Remember, you’re a rookie. Don’t ask too much of yourself, and focus on finishing the race. Have a good time out on the track, and learn as much as possible with every single lap. Most importantly, have fun!

David Williams on the lessons of online coaching

One of sim racing’s veterans, expert on both race and vehicle dynamics, driver for Coanda Simsport, and one of the VRS coaches: David Williams from Southampton, United Kingdom. We catch up to talk about what it’s like to coach sim racing online.

First of all, how did you get into sim racing and this role?

A still from Clownpaint’s promotional video from Live for Speed, 2009

From as early as I can remember I’ve loved cars and racing. I watched a kart race in person as a small child, and it captivated me. Most of my toys were planes, helicopters or cars. Basically anything with an engine. I dreamt of becoming a Concord pilot, and later a Formula One driver. Growing up on the small Channel Island of Alderney, karting was non-existent, so racing games became my hobby.

My first proper sim was Live for Speed in 2006, where I joined the team of Clownpaint Gaming. We did quite well and won championships, and shortly after the teamed changed it’s name to My3id Gaming where we had further success. iRacing then came onto the scene and most of the competition moved there so we followed suit. Again, the team performed very well, ultimately taking the iWCS title with Hugo Luis and continued to evolve as a whole, later becoming 3id Motorsports.

My3id Gaming in Live for Speed
My3id Gaming in Live for Speed

At this time, wishing to pursue real motorsport, I entered GT Academy in 2011, where I made it to the national finals in person at Brands Hatch, but was beaten badly in the gaming element where random cars and tracks were chosen for three lap races. In 2012, I prepared much better, and made it through to the European final at Silverstone. This to date was the best experience of my life, pushing awesome machinery to the limit under the eyes of current and ex F1 drivers. At the end of the week I lost the chance for the final shootout for the overall win through the judge’s decision, but I have no regrets.

Later, 3id Motorsport’s team founder, Jack Basford, parted ways and took the name with him, and so a new team known as Coanda Simsport was formed from the remaining members. Taking a back seat from sim racing, I entered two more racing competitions, Want2Race and the Team HARD VW scholarship, both of which would prove valuable learning experiences with professional on-track tuition.

My3id Gaming in iRacing

Then in 2016, Virtual Racing School became Coanda’s title sponsor and partner, and Rens (Broekman), Martti (Pietilä), Martin (Krönke), and me took it on ourselves to become driving coaches, which was new to us all. I was confident in my knowledge of vehicle dynamics and racecraft, I knew the theory of going fast and dissecting that thought process, and wanted to share that with other people. I also had a good idea about race coaching, through the professional instruction in the various competitions I’d entered. The only thing holding me back was that I didn’t feel like presenting to people was a strength of mine, so I saw this as an opportunity to develop that.

What’s it like to teach someone online? I mean, you’re not in the same room with that person. Can you connect?

The benefit of real life race coaching is that you can be in the car with someone, so you can get a better feel for how they’re driving and how the car is reacting. But despite that, providing feedback while the student is driving can actually do as much harm as it does good. The advice maybe be good but it may also prove to be distracting. So in that sense, I think the format of coaching we provide is actually really good, because there’s enough time to carry out a very thorough analysis for which the student can take one or two key thoughts back out onto the track and manage at their pace. In addition, the VRS software is a hugely powerful tool, which is essentially an x-ray of the students driving, meaning nothing can be missed.

David (far right) on the 2012 Gran Turismo Academy

At what level should you look into coaching?

Many people have the preconception they need to reach a certain level before they can get coaching. But I believe that when you first start sim racing, that’s the best time to get coaching, before you’ve had a chance to enforce any bad techniques. The longer you continue with bad habits, the more difficult it will be to unlearn them. So my answer is; straight away!

Who would you like to teach?

Someone who is eager and willing to improve, and will do what it takes even if it requires a struggle. Many people write themselves off as not having enough “talent” before giving it a proper go, or make excuses for themselves such as blaming the setup. I also have friends who have a similar attitude which is very frustrating.

If you’ve learned the telemetry software, then why could you not go from there and learn yourself?

Yes, that’s very true. It’s worth saying I always try to make my student proficient with the software so they can analyse their own driving without me. However, it’s impossible to pass on everything there is to know about racing in one session, especially with regards to car dynamics and technique. I’ve had students who’ve had over ten sessions, and we still have plenty to talk about. Sometimes you just need a second pair of eyes in case you’ve missed something, and although you might be able to see where you’re slower, you might not understand why. Most of us coaches on VRS now have more than an year of experience, so we’ve already seen many different patterns and repeated traits among our various students, meaning we can more efficiently assist new students better than ever before.

What’s the most common area your students need to work on?

Since most are already quite quick and within a second of the datapacks, most laptime is typically found during the transition from braking to steering, or put otherwise; the period from when you start to release the brake, turn in and reach the apex. For good drivers, that’s where lots of time can be lost or gained. It’s a very challenging part to get right which is why it separates quick drivers from the best, and I always emphasise this in our video tutorials.

If you can analyse everything with VRS, then why isn’t everyone at the limit?

It’s difficult to say. First of all, it’s impossible to define a limit. There’s a physical and somewhat more unknown mental limitation to everybody, which I wrote about here. This limit is the last tiny bit of ability which separates the best, but I also think it’s true that 99.99% of drivers never reach their own personal limit. So if you want to go faster, you must just assume that you have what it takes. The moment you say to yourself; ‘I can’t beat Martin Krönke’, your failure to do so is guaranteed.. But if you say; ‘I reckon I can beat Martin, I’ll put in the hours and do what it takes’, then it just might happen. The problem for most people is that they don’t have that attitude. It’s a lot easier to just say ‘well, he’s just better’, and give yourself that excuse. Martin is relentlessly determined, and that’s the main reason why he’s so near the limit.

So even though we can measure and analyse everything, the single biggest component of getting better is being relentlessly determined. If you want to call that talent, then sure. I think that mindset is true for anyone who’s successful, regardless of which field its in. And the brain is a curious thing. Clearly not everyone is physically cut out to be a top level 100m sprinter, but our mental limitations are way more flexible than we can imagine. For example, I learned to juggle when I was twenty, even though before that I believed only certain people could pick it up. I learned it in over three painful weeks, during which I was constantly dropping balls after just a couple of throws. Eventually my brain rewired itself to the point where I went from focussing like mad on each throw to now being able to have a conversation with you while juggling. It’s now a fully subconscious skill. Driving fast is a skill which can be learned in a similar way.

On of the many videos by David on the VRS YouTube channel

Do all of your students improve after coaching?

This one is actually difficult to answer because not all of my students are immediately faster the next time they drive having had a session with me. Most of them do find time straight away, but for many it’s more about setting them onto a longer term process with the right ideas and goals for how to eventually become a much better driver. I think it’s very important to appreciate that knowing why you’re losing time, and understanding how to be better doesn’t guarantee an immediate improvement. Sometimes deeply ingrained techniques and bad habits must be unlearned and replaced with better ones, which take time and concentration, and will often temporarily worsen laptimes. The important thing is that my students attempt to apply the changes we discuss, because in fixing the fundamental technique, the laptime will come later.

Being an online racing coach is a relatively new job. What would be your advice to people who also want to become an online coach?

I think it’s important to be a fast and accomplished racer before considering coaching, for two reasons. First, I think it’s good for your credibility, because why listen to advice from a slow driver? Secondly, you’ll be conscious of the struggles you personally go through, en route on becoming a great sim racer. So you can pass that knowledge on. To be a good coach, that self awareness and understanding is absolutely critical. So if you’re fast and you understand why you’re fast, well then there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to help others too.

Dirt iRacer & go-karter Tim Ryan on racing on tarmac and mud

Meet Tim Ryan: Aussie from Perth, 19 year old, teacher in learning, driver of Evolution Racing Team (as teammate of Simon Feigl), and racer on dirt, whether it’s on go-karts or in iRacing.

Can you tell a bit about yourself?
I’m studying to become a teacher, and I try to balance dirt karting, studying and sim racing. I’m probably on the sim too much, which is influencing my studies a little bit.

When I was eight, my dad got me into go-karts, on dirt tracks. Since then I’ve always been racing, and I’ve progressed through the dirt-go kart series, and competed at state and national levels. But I love all forms of motorsports. As an Australian, I’m probably most keen about the V8 Supercars, which I think is one of the most competitive touring car championships in the world.

So, dirt go-karting is really a thing? An actual competition?
Yes, it is, and it’s a typical Australian thing. The go-karts on dirt are great. You’re sliding a lot, and since you only have a rearward brake, the kart is very lose. And I’m always getting dirty, heh.

How did you start with simracing?
On the Playstation 3 I had Gran Turismo 5, and jumped to iRacing in 2012, but it wasn’t until last year that I really took iRacing serious. I joined Evolution Racing Team (ERT), and although I think they took me as a development driver, I’m part of the #28 machine in the World Championship. I spend a lot of time on the technical aspects of racing too, so I also help making the setups. Through ERT I also got in contact with David Williams (VRS coach), and we did some coaching sessions together.

How did that go?
Great. Through the software, David and me were able to pinpoint problems in my driving. My lines were fine, but I was lacking lots of trailbraking, a thing I probably carried over from dirt racing, were it’s absent, so it wasn’t something I naturally did. For road racing I think the braking aspect is the most difficult but also the most important thing, because for most people it causes the most amount of time lost. From the sessions with David I also learned how to use the software on my own. I think I used to be half a second off David’s pace, but now it’s quite close.

What do you love about racing, whether it’s real life, sim, road or dirt?
I love the technical aspect of trying to improve and trying to find the competitive edge over the competition, whether it’s on the car or the driver.

Do you think dirt racing, either in the sim or real life, can benefit from telemetry too?
Yes. Actually, also in real life we use telemetry. Definitely not as advanced as road racers though, but we still monitor laptimes, coupled with RPM and GPS. We can see the lines and work on that.

How are you finding iRacing’s Dirt? And how does it relate to real dirt go-karting?
I’m really enjoying it, and I’m focusing on that a lot. I think it relates really well to real life dirt racing, especially the way the track is dynamically changing. There’s a great slot progression, which is the most important thing in dirt racing. In the sim it feels very natural, and I’m sure it allows me to stay sharp for the real dirt racing too, be more consistent on the weekends.

Do real life Dirt racers have an advantage on other sim racers?
Definitely. I think real life dirt racers are doing really well in iRacing too, I mean last week alone I gained 2k iRating. But I’m sure the sim racers will catch up on us, because it’s a different driving technique which they’ll have to learn.

Is dirt racing useful for road racers too, whether it’s sim or real life?
Absolutely. Dirt racing is really intense, you’re countersteering all the time, everything happens very quickly, and you need to pay a lot of attention. Lots of things require different techniques. Braking isn’t very important, but overtaking for instance, you must time your run out of a corner with a different line, position yourself and get alongside and overtake.

I apply dirt techniques in road races too. I find that when conditions are hot or tyres are wearing out, you’re sliding a lot more with the cars, and my dirt racing experience helps me learn to cope with the track progression and car control. So I think I’m smoother on the road than most people, where I’m always trying to limit the amount of slide through the smooth steering and throttle inputs.

What do you think is the secret to dirt racing?
It sounds simple, but it’s difficult. The most important thing to learn is to know where the grip is. It changes every lap. Races typically start using the inside lines from corners, but as cars use that line, the grip decreases. Your lines, whether it’s early or late apex, will change all the time throughout the race. If you can see where the grip is with your eyes, it helps massively.

And lastly, what’s your focus on?
My focus is to maintain my Pro license on the road side, and when iRacing starts a Dirt World Championship, I’m pretty sure that’s where I want to quality and compete at the highest level in.

5.6: Camber & Toe

In article 5.5 we’ve covered ride height, and with this article we’ll continue the setup adjustments on the suspension, namely camber and toe. We’ll go over both of them together, as their effects are tightly coupled.

Click for full-res

Camber
Camber is the vertical inclination of the tire. Zero camber means that the tires are straight, perpendicular to the road and parallel to each other. With positive camber, the top of the tires points outwards of the car. With negative camber, the top of the tires points inwards.

Toe
Toe is the angle the tires are rotated around their vertical axis, looking at them from above the car. You have no toe if the tires are parallel to each other, along the direction of the car. You have toe-in when the tires point in towards each other, and toe-out when they point away from each other.

The effect of camber on available grip
As you go through a corner, the cornering force (as discussed more thoroughly in 5.3) causes the car to roll and the tire to deform, as it twists between the car which wants to go one direction, and the track that’s going the other direction. This is called lateral tire deflection.

With zero camber, the force on the tires are equally distributed along the contact patch when you’re standing still or driving in a straight line. This increases the available grip under straight line braking and acceleration (assuming no camber gain). Cornering with zero camber causes one side of the tire to unload, while the other side of the tire takes more load. This is unequal load distribution and lowers the overall available grip on the tire, just when you need it most: while cornering!

With negative camber, the force distribution along the contact patch is somewhat unequal while driving in a straight line. However, when cornering forces and carcass deflection come into play, they can negate the effect of negative camber, equalising load distribution along the contact patch. This maximises the available grip on the outside tires (which are the ones taking the heavier load), exactly the moment when the car is limited by its available grip. This is the exact reason why typically on road cars you’d use negative camber.

Tradeoffs of using camber
As always, nothing comes for free. While camber can help cornering, it causes additional heat, more tire degradation and uneven wear pattern on the tires. You should also realise that you are trading off traction on a straight line (braking and acceleration) with cornering grip. This means that the track profile is a determining factor on how much camber you want to run. In general, a track with mostly straights and low speed corners, you’d run lower camber; and on tracks with lots of bends or high-speed corners, you’d run more camber. And, as always with mixed profile tracks, you’d have to experiment different settings to see where you can gain more time; on the straights and low-speed corners, or high-speed corners.

Camber and vertical stiffness
Vertical stiffness of the tire is hugely tied with tire pressures, as discussed in 5.2. This is mostly to be considered on tires with high sidewalls. Having the tire inclined at an angle may cause the sidewall to deform a little. The effect is that of a softer tire without changing the tire pressure. As of time of writing, this really is only something to consider with two cars on iRacing, the Williams FW31 and the McLaren MP4-30.

Effects of toe-in and toe-out
There is one more effect of camber that we haven’t mentioned yet. If you roll a free tire at an angle, it would want to follow an elliptical trajectory instead of a straight line. In other words: an angled tire wants to turn. The force that causes this effect is called camber thrust. This results in a bit more friction, heat and wear, which can be offset by a toe-out adjustment. You can also use a toe-out adjustment to get the slip angles of the front tires in a more optimal spot. So you’d typically run some toe-out on the fronts.

Toe adjustments on the rear tires also have an effect on car handling. Toe-in on the rear creates understeer, which can help with cars that are oversteery on exit. The tradeoff is wear and heat in the rear tires. Toe-out on the rear is generally wrong, as you’re likely to get more oversteer on exit.

Up to you

While building a setup, go through the order of tire pressures, anti-roll bar, ride height and spring rates. If you have that set, experiment with the camber angles to find the optimal balance between speed in the corners and on the straight. Use toe-out on the front tires to counteract camber thrust, and possibly toe-in on the rear tires, to optimise handling.