Phil Mishaga on sim racing and using telemetry and coaching

A Californian iRacer currently living in Europe: Phil Mishaga is a driver for the Positive Simracing team, as part of the VRS-powered Driver Development Programme. We catch up with him to talk about sim racing.

What do you do during the day?
Well, for the past eleven years, I’ve worked in the medical field, and it has pretty much taken me all over the world. The US, the Middle East, Europe, Asia – basically every continent apart from Antartica. I’m now living in Europe.

I’ve been enjoyed racing my entire life. My grandfather and dad are big car guys and with my dad, we’d watch Nascar, IndyCar and Formula One. I like the spectacle which oval racing brings, but I love the technical aspect of road racing.

And how did you get into sim racing?
Years ago I stumbled on an online Forza league which was ran very similarly to iRacing, and they had lots of racing tutorials on their website, including ones made in iRacing. While watching that, I wondered, ‘But what’s this iRacing?’. I had never touched a PC before then, but I bought one to give iRacing a shot, and the next weekend I bought a full fledged gaming computer, and later a full rig. In 2016/2017 I had to stop sim racing for a while due to traveling and occupational obligations, but now I’m fully back again.

So why do you love racing? Or sim racing specific?
Well, couple of things. I looked into getting into any kind of road racing, but it’s pretty difficult, as I have a few things not going for me. I relocate a lot, and then there’s the financial aspect of it. Yet sim racing gives me exactly what I’m into. The technical aspect of the setup of the car, and even the technical nature of the tracks, how they rubber in and heat up. It feels like a very complete experience, as if I’m actually on the track. I even get the thrill from it, an almost abnormal sense of nervousness, during the loading screen before the race.

When did you start using telemetry?
Well, I always knew of telemetry, from watching different kinds of racing on television. I knew it was something I should use in iRacing too, but I didn’t realise just how powerful tool it was, until I did a coaching session with VRS. It’s like an x-ray of your racing, showing everything.

After the session I cut down on how much I raced, and focused on making time count. I worked with Rens (Broekman) for a good part of last summer, and he steered me into the direction I needed. I saw what he was doing in the car, and it improved me massively.

You went from 1k iRating to 3k within 8 months. How did you do it?
When I first started working with Rens, I was told something so simple it hurts to hear it: ‘You can’t win a race you don’t finish.’ It’s common sense, but it’s so easily forgotten in the heat of a race. With that in mind my first focus was on finishing races. Then my priority was to finish in top 15, then top 10, and now it’s top 5, but I always focus on finishing the race. So, I contribute the gain in iRating more on becoming a smarter racer, not taking unnecessary risk. It’s a lot easier said than done.

What helped me most is how to brake correctly. With learning how to use the brakes correctly improved my car control, which helped improved my consistency. Once I was doing consistent laps it was very easy to compare to the telemetry and then change one thing at a time like turn-in, braking point, apex, etcetera. Then I would just keep changing one thing at a time until I hit the goal the coach would set for me at each track.

What cars do you love driving?
I love closed wheel cars. My favourite cars to run are the GT1’s. But I also like the GT3 cars, they’re very manageable. And then the endurance aspect adds a whole new dimension of strategy to the races.

Did you drive with a team before?
I was in a team last year, and it was great. They had just started their road program, and it really opened up the world of iRacing to me. Later, we parted in good terms though, and I did a ProtoGT season on my own, and then the Positive Simracing program came up.

Which now I think is going really well. Obviously, when you put so many new people together, you need to get used to the new routine. But I think we solidified really well. Everyone chats, and of course everything is sim racing related, so we are very focused. We’re all able to run a similar pace, and all motivated and like minded. We all aim to be competitive at a pro level. And I think we’ve been getting some good results. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

And to end, any advice to fellow simracers?
I would say, practice a lot more than you race, and don’t use race sessions to learn the track. Also, find a class and car you’re really passionate about, one you enjoy driving, and stick to it.

Javi Part 2: Eyes on the Pro License

In March 2017, the Positive Simracing Driver Development Programme, powered by Virtual Racing School, kicked off with eight talented drivers. One of the them is Ecuador-born and USA-bound Javi Utreras, who we had interviewed last September. Javi’s has gone from 1.5k to 5k iRating in under a year, having only used the setups from the datapacks to get there.

Javi! You’re in the Positive Simracing DDP, how is it going?
I feel blessed to have been selected. Javier, the team principle of Positive Simracing, has done a great job. There’s a lot of chemistry in the team, we’re all very motivated to go faster and to win. And everybody is similarly paced with a similar driving style, so it’s not hard to put a setup together that works for all of us.

The circulation of drivers depends on availability, and soon I’ll also be driving with Roque Garcia and Roy Kolbe. The first race of the season, the Blancpain Endurance race at Road Atlanta, I drove with Justin Richesin. We qualified in third, and I started the race, Justin would finish it. I was saving fuel to extend the stint, but somehow we only refuelled for 100 litres instead of 120, so Justin had to pit again. Luckily for us, the leader had the same issue, and they also choose not to change tyres. So we passed them and won our first race with the new team! That was an amazing feeling.

How is your personal development going?
I finished the Blancpain Endurance championship in third place overal. It has been a journey from me, from 1.5k to 5k iRating in one year, and I’ve been enjoying it a lot. The higher you go, the more competitive and demanding the racing becomes, and everything needs to be more accurate. David and Rens have helped me so much, they’re amazing coaches. I’m now training very methodically, very goal oriented, and I’m keeping track of my races in a Spreadsheet, writing down the biggest events of the races, what I did well, what I did wrong, and what I need to do better next time.

What has been your biggest improvement?
I think it’s racecraft. It’s super important, because that’s how you stay out of trouble and keep the car on the track. Before, I sometimes had the pace but made mistakes overtaking, being too aggressive. One of my biggest challenges was to be patient, where and how to pass, or to wait until the guy ahead makes a mistake. I’m now more aware of my surroundings, more patient. And being able to pass really fast drivers, that’s an great feeling.

And your goal is still the same?
Yep, qualifying for a Pro license has been my goal since day one. Now I feel more confident I can do that. I gave it a try last year, but I wasn’t the level yet. Now I have the speed and awareness, and I think with the Positive Simracing Driver Development Programme team we can qualify with two teams, and I think we can fight for the championship.

What’s your advice to other drivers? 
We’re humans, sometimes we do things in the wrong way and nobody is telling us. The most important thing anyone can do is be nice and listen to a coach. You can have racing experience in real life, like me, or some experience with telemetry, but when you have a coach who identifies the thing you can improve, who analyses you with a different pair of eyes, and when you start addressing those things, that’s when you’ll improve.

And Rens and David are very honest. When I think it’s not my fault, they says ‘no, it was your fault’. Ouch. But then they explain it, and they’re right.

 

 

 

2.1: Oval or road?

The stereotype of oval racing is that racers just turn left, full throttle, and that therefore oval racing is easy. But there’s lots of skill involved in oval racing, especially with around forty cars with 725 horsepower fighting for the same piece of tarmac.

Whether you should pursue either oval or road racing (or both) is completely up to you. But here we dive into some of the differences here, as well as some of the similarities.

Differences in race procedures
In road racing, the car attempting to overtake should have its front tires up to the leading driver’s side before the corner, or else the corner is considered to belong to the leading car. On ovals, having any sort of bodywork next to the leading driver is enough to challenge the leading driver into the corner. This is because racing side by side is way more common on ovals, compared to road racing, where going side by side is potentially much more detrimental to each driver’s race.

Regarding pit strategy, road racing generally has very few, if any, full-course caution flag period in a race, which in turn allows the team to set one or two main strategies for the race. On ovals, because of the frequency of full-course cautions and how short the lap times are, strategies are often made on the go. Stopping for fuel, tyres, or both all depends on when the caution flies, who pits around you, and your track position.You’ll probably also go a lap down when pitting under green and be trapped a lap down if a yellow comes out directly afterwards. All these factors make oval racing strategies very diverse and improvisational.

All race starts on ovals are of the rolling kind, whereas road racing sometimes features standing starts.

In NASCAR oval racing, there is a ‘free pass’ or commonly known as ‘lucky dog’ rule. This means that the first car which is a lap down when a caution flag flies, gets to go around the track and regain a lap. Lapped cars can also receive a lap back if all lead-lap cars ahead of them pit and they don’t. This puts them directly behind the pace car, and they’re allowed to pass it and regain their lap on the last caution flag lap.

Oval racing is much more affected by dynamic track rubber buildup than road racing. Road racing usually has a fairly defined apex in each corner, and does not vary much throughout a race. On ovals, many of the turns have a wide radius, and some are extensively banked. This allows drivers to run the outside line. Due to ovals being usually much shorter in length than their twisty counterparts, this means that many more cars go over a certain groove on the track – and often. Races can consists of over 200 laps. This means more heat transfer onto the track, as well as rubber buildup. In NASCAR stock cars, more heat and rubber usually means a lower amount of grip. This causes drivers to ‘search’ around the track in the corners for more grip. Some will run the inside line, others the middle, and some may dare to go up by the wall if there is enough grip up there to compensate for the longer distance traveled.

Differences in setup approach
Since oval turns go in only one direction, the car is setup to be stiffer on the right side (because a left turn shifts weight to the right). On a road course, you would generally have a balanced (symmetrical) setup since you have left and right turns. On the ovals, the car is optimized to turn left. Everything in the car is made to turn in that direction. If you try a right turn with an oval setup, the car will not turn well at all.

Difference in skills required
One of the biggest differences between road and oval is the length of the turns. Road courses put more emphasis on hitting the apex, as more turns are short in comparison to ovals. On the oval side, turns are generally divided by the drivers into entry, center, and exit. When describing handling characteristics, the car may for example behave completely different at the entry of the turn compared to the exit. Drivers have to be able to split the turns of the track into different sections, and construct their setup for each phase of the corner. The driving skills required are fairly similar, but can have some key differences. The road side is more focused on quick reflexes and precise apexing, while the oval side centers on car control and adaptability to changing track conditions.

Similarities
At the end of the day, whether road or oval, all drivers push their cars to the limit to try and beat everyone else on the track. Oval and road racing are more similar than they are different. Drivers have to find the grip limits of their respective cars, and maneuver around traffic in order to get to the checkered flag first. Many drivers can run both disciplines competitively, but few can do them at the top level. As similar as these two sides are, they still take a different mindset to compete in each, and at the core have different cultures attached to them. But with that being said, racing is racing, and a true race fan will enjoy anything on wheels that goes fast!

5.5: Ride Heights basics

Static ride height is one of the key setup adjustments, and also one of the easiest to get right. For example, for many cars converting a qualifying setup into a race setup (or vice versa) only means adjusting fuel and the static ride height. In this article we’ll explain what ride height entails, how you can adjust it, and how it affects other setup adjustment.

Static versus dynamic ride heights
Ride height (measured in mm or in) defines how far off the ground the chassis sits. Static ride height is what you configure in the garage. Dynamic ride height is the actual ground clearance at any moment in time as the car goes around the track. The dynamic ride height changes throughout a lap, for instance when a car goes over a curbstone, or when downforce compresses the springs. The dynamic ride heights also changes throughout a stint, for as the fuel burns off and the tank empties, the car becomes lighter and therefore ‘rises’.

Depending on the location of the ride height sensor (e.g. splitter, tire, etc) and its vertical offset, the ride height as measured in the garage (and as reported in telemetry) does not necessarily equate the actual ground clearance. For example, the splitter ride height sensor (on cars that have one) may be positioned a few centimeters above the bottom of the splitter. As a result, you’ll get a non-zero reading even if the splitter bottoms out. And obviously every single car is different, so the first thing you need to find out when you start setting up a new car is what “bottoming out” means in terms of ride height reading.

Purposes of changing the ride height
1: Lower center of gravity means less lateral weight transfer, which means more grip
For cars that are not very aero dependant the ride heights are primarily used to affect the center of gravity. A lower sitting car generally has better handling because a lower center of gravity means less lateral weight transfer. And we’ve discussed in 5.3, lateral weight transfer reduces the total available grip.

2: Balance between downforce and drag
For cars where aero is a defining factor in car setup, the ride height is the key to optimizing aero performance. Each car is different, but in general there’s an ideal ride height range that produces maximum downforce. Similarly, there is an ideal ride height range that minimizes aero drag. These two ranges may or may not overlap. Each car is different and it takes a bunch of experimentation with each new car to find out what works and what doesn’t. By statically and/or dynamically adjusting the ride heights, you can optimize the aero performance of the car.

3: Ground clearance
The final factor, relevant for both downforce and no-downforce cars, is clearance from the ground. You may want to adjust the ride heights to avoid bottoming out on bumps and curbs. Like discussed in the spring rates article, bottoming out can cause handling issues as one or multiple tires may become unloaded or lose contact with the track altogether, and it can also severely lower speed when the car is dragging onto the track.

Example
One of the most common setup scenarios is converting a qualifying setup to a race set. In most cases the additional weight due to the added fuel is bringing the car ‘out of tech’, which means it’s too close to the ground and isn’t legal to race. To pass tech inspection, you need to raise the ride height.

Typically, it’s best to keep a note of the target ride heights as they are in the qualifying setup and try to resemble those as close as possible on the race setup. In order to increase ground clearance, you’ll need to decrease the perch offset on each wheel, or increase the pushrod length (when available). Matching front and rear ride heights may be all you need to convert a qualifying setup to a race setup.

For cars where the gas tank is located far from the center of gravity of the car (e.g. the BMW Z4 GT3 has it’s tank fairly far back in the car), setting the race fuel ride heights could be trickier. As fuel is burnt throughout a stint the front or back of the car will get lighter, increasing the ride height. You may have to take this into consideration when determining the static ride heights with a full tank.

How suspension geometry affects ride height
Different simulators implement this differently, but in iRacing you cannot set the ride heights with one parameter. Instead, on each wheel you can adjust the spring perch offset, or increase the pushrod length (when available). Adjust these properties until your achieve the desired measurement for ride height.

Keep in mind that many suspension elements are connected. Significant changes to spring perch offset, or to pushrod length could also impact camber and toe. Each time you make a change to ride heights you should remember to also take a look at camber and toe. If your camber has changed, change it back to the old (desired) value. This may change your ride height again, so you may have to do a few iterations of ride height adjustment, camber adjustment, until you achieve the desired result. The same applies to each wheel’s toe-in.

When adjusting ride heights
You need to keep ride heights in mind each time you change any of the following:
Spring rates: Stiffer springs raise the car, softer springs bring it closer to the ground. When changing spring rates you want to make sure that you maintain the ride height from before the spring rate adjustment (otherwise you’ll be applying two changes to the car).
Tire pressure: The tire is effectively a spring, and significant changes in tire pressure affect ride heights too.
Camber & toe: As already discussed, camber and toe adjustments may affect the ride height. Modify the suspension geometry so that you achieve the new desired camber (or toe) at that same ride height.
Fuel load: Added fuel (per the example above, for full race distance as opposed to for qualifying) adds more weight to the car, which compresses the springs more, which reduces the ride heights. Each time you add and remove fuel you’d generally want to do so without actually modifying the static ride height (with some exceptions, depending on car or track).

Up to you

Once you understand what ride heights are and what interactions ride heights have with suspension geometry, you need to spend a lot of time testing and experimenting with different settings in order to find out what works with each specific car. And in a later article we’ll look more closely how to approach dynamic ride heights.

Competitive cheerleader, GT Academy finalist and pro sim racer Simon Feigl

Competitive cheerleader, GT Academy finalist, and driver and marketing manager of Evolution Racing Australia. There’s plenty of stuff to tell about the thirty-one year old Simon Feigl, who, despite his German name, is fully Australian. Living in Melbourne with wife and daughter, we ask the sim racer to tell his own story.

So, what do you do during the day?
I work at Oracle Marketing Cloud as a Team Lead of Professional Services division, specialising in data-driven marketing campaigns and programs. I love all sports, but most of them competitive cheerleading, cricket, and tennis.

… and racing?
Yes. I’ve always been into cars, and I think Australia also has a strong racing culture, with V8 Supercars. As a kid living in Melbourne, I was fascinated by Formula One. With the time difference, I’d stay up late on Sunday’s to watch the race in the middle of the night. That 90’s and 00’s era with the V10’s was amazing. At first I was just a spectator, but later I did some public-hire karting myself but I’ve always been into racing games and simulators. My dad runs a computer business, so being surrounded by computers made that easy. I started with Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix games on the Amiga, and from there I progressed to the most realistic games I could get my hands on. At one stage that was Gran Turismo and then other sims, but I was kinda on-and-off with iRacing, until I made the commitment to dive into the sim racing realm. Now it’s something my dad and I share together. He has an insanely detailed and realistic airplane simulator rig, and I’m doing the same but with racing. So it becomes quite clear where I get my simulation passion from.

How was Gran Turismo as one of their top drivers?
Well, I mostly played solo or with friends, and I knew I was pretty quick, but when in 2010 the GT Academy competition started I really got competitive. Once I saw the top laptimes of the competition, it was intense as I could see how good the competition was. I’d practise one or two hours every night during time trials finishing second in Australia, but Australia only had one spot for the Academy that year and I missed out. In 2015 though, there were six spots for Australia, and I progressed to the final qualifying fourth quickest. The national phase of the Academy then consisted of multiple subjects, such as real and simulator racing, but also fitness and PR. And sure enough, I went through that phase too!

How did the next phase go?
The finals were at Silverstone, in England. Before then, I had only done a single track day in my completely standard commuter, a Hyundai Excel. It certainly isn’t a racing car! It turned into a three-wheel car at every corner with insane amounts of weight transfer. At Silverstone I did well on the track being one of the quickest from Team Australia, but I was eliminated in the Gymkhana knockout round. It was pretty tough, I had never done anything remotely similar to Gymkhana, not even in my own car, and it’s a unique skill that being quick on a track can’t prepare you for. In the end I was knocked out by Matt Simmons who went on to become the overall winner and race in the Blancpain Endurance Series in 2016.

How does Gran Turismo, I mean the game, or simulator if you want to call it, compare to iRacing?
It’s different in a lot of ways. Gran Turismo is almost two-dimensional, whereas iRacing is three-dimensional. I mean that in a sense of depth. In Gran Turismo, the car characteristics are minimal, and you can barely notice setup changes, while in iRacing, you can tell the different dynamics between the cars, and notice the difference between spring or anti-roll-bar changes. Another big difference is the braking. Gran Turismo taught me some bad braking habits, which I had to unlearn in iRacing.

How are you finding iRacing? And VRS?
While at Silverstone having recently been eliminated from GT Academy, I was contacted by Evolution Racing Australia (ERA), who asked if I wanted to race with them on iRacing. I’d been very infreqent with iRacing before, but once I committed to iRacing, I started to improve but I had a long way to go compared to my new ERA teammates. I improved through working with my new team, and in late 2016 I started coaching sessions with Rens (Broekman) to further improve. Those sessions had one clear goal: qualifying for the iRacing Blancpain GT World Championship Series. I knew I could do OK, but wasn’t going to improve with just seat time alone, especially within the timeframe. I missed that extra little bit of edge with speed. Instantly we noticed that my braking was an issue, especially trail-braking, the intensity and the way I put the brakes on. I’d actually had similar feedback at GT Academy from the instructors there, so clearly had some bad habits to resolve. Later, Rens also taught me about race strategies. When I arrived at ERA, nobody in the team used VRS, but now all twenty odd drivers are. We’ve gained a lot of benefit from it, especially for those who want to collaborate and learn from the fastest in the team at that time. But even then, the fastest people are also learning and finding ways to improve.

And did you qualify for the World Championship?
Yes! We finished fifth in the qualifying series, while the first twenty-eight in the standings qualify. As for our car, the #726: Zachary Hanlin ran the final stint that secured our spot. Andrew Kahl is an exceptional talent, and he does a lot of real life Formula Ford racing too. Also Tim Ryan an off-karter national champion (yes, off-road karting is a thing here) and he’s awesome when it comes to car setups. As a group of four we gelled really well, improving the car each week. ERA already had one team in the World Championship in 2016, but with my car we now have two cars in the world championship. With both teams running the same car, there are eight drivers sharing telemetry with each other this year, so that’s going to be great.

What are your goals, looking forward?
Initially to retain our World Championship status is our goal, but second to that, I’d like to finish top fifteen, maybe top ten, in the championship. There are fifty cars in the series and everyone is competitive, but we did finish fifth in the qualifiers so if we can improve our qualifying pace we might achieve our stretch target. When in the race, our pace was always excellent, and our strategies bang-on. So I think we can do it.

Datapacks are coming out of BETA!

Untitled-1In early 2016 we opened our BETA program, and in the past year we’ve made significant progress with the VRS platform. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The ranks of our coaches include three 2016 iRacing World Champions from each of the categories (road, oval and endurance), along with other top WCS drivers. Whether you use datapacks or take 1:1 coaching, you can literally learn from the best iRacers on VRS.
  • We vastly expanded the selection of datapacks and we now cover the most popular road and oval series.
  • The datapacks page was completely revamped, making it very easy to browse to and download datapack files (.sto, .rpy, .blap, .olap), as well as to quickly compare driving against the datapack.
  • We’ve built a new video driving analyzer. From the cockpit and chase views, you can study the positioning and orientation of the car at each of the important points around the corner (e.g brake point, turn-in point, throttle point) as you compare your laps against datapack laps or teammates’ laps.
  • We redesigned our navigation to make it quick and easy to compare yourself against one or multiple targets (e.g. datapack or a teammate) session after session.
  • We also made it easy to track setup changes stint to stint and to collaborate with teammates on setup building.
  • We started a series of detailed driving tutorials that not only explain how to get around the track but also explain why the car is driven in this way. Watching these tutorials over several weeks will give you a better understanding of topics like car balance, handling, grip changes, etc.
  • We started and have been expanding our Academy knowledge bank with articles and videos on a wide variety of topics, ranging from driving technique, through ergonomics to car setups.

There is a ton more we want to do in terms of both content and software features and we want to be able to continue this work for years to come. In order to be able to do that, we need to build a sustainable business around VRS. Hence, effective March 21st 2017, we’ll be introducing several subscription tiers to VRS:

  • Casual (FREE) is our free subscription tier, which is ideal for the casual iRacers, who only get to practice about once per week. Access to datapacks and teams data is time-limited (to e.g. one evening per week) and advanced features such as side-by-side video comparison and advanced telemetry are not available.
  • Dedicated (4.99/mo, 49.99/y) is our low-usage (or low-budget) tier. It is nearly identical to the Casual plan. The difference is that you can unlock full access to a single datapack or team and still causally compare against other datapacks. Side-by-side video comparison and advanced telemetry aren’t available.
  • Competitive (9.99/mo, 99.99y) is ideal for active iRacers who are serious about improving their lap times. You get full and unlimited access to all current and past datapacks, as well as to teammates data, and advanced features. This plan also allows you to request 1:1 coaching.
  • Pro (128.99/mo, 386.97/q) is ideal for the highly-motivated simracer who aims to develop their skills rapidly and who wants to be competitive at the highest levels on iRacing. This plan includes weekly 1:1 coaching and offers a 15% discount on all 1:1 coaching.

For a full comparison of available plans and features, take a look here.

5.4: Spring rates basics (Formula Renault 2.0)

Untitled-6(If you haven’t read article 5.3 about anti-roll bars, please do that first, because this article builds on the same basics of physics.)

From the Skip Barber, we progress into a faster and more complex car: the Formula Renault 2.0. The FR 2.0 has more setup options available, including an important one, which will vary greatly between circuits: the selection of front and rear springs. The spring rates hugely affect mechanical grip, but also aerodynamics, which may surprise you.

The most common type of spring used in race cars is the coil spring, which is typically installed together with a damper (see picture). For this article though, we’ll focus solely on the coil spring, and ignore the damper until a later article.

Spring rates and their effects
The spring rate is the measure of spring stiffness, and represents the amount of force required to compress the spring a certain distance. It’s measured in Newtons per millimeter (N/mm) or pounds per inch (lbf/in).

  • A higher spring rate gives a stiffer spring, so there’s less displacement per unit of force (the spring compresses less easily).
  • A lower spring rate gives a softer spring, which allows more displacement per unit of force (the spring compresses more easily).

A spring rate adjustment affects the following:

  • Weight transfer causes the ride height to change. For instance, during braking a car with softer front springs compresses more on the front, which pitches the car forward (dynamic reduction of ride height at the front). This impacts the mechanical grip of the car, because it changes the center of gravity. Aside from mechanical grip, an increased pitch (also known as rake) may also have aerodynamic effects, because the angle of the car changes. And during cornering, lateral forces cause the body to ‘roll’ which compresses the springs on the outside tires. Stiffer springs will reduce body roll. See the illustration for the difference between pitch and roll.
  • Aerodynamics will cause the ride height to change. For example, softer springs will compress more on the straights, as higher speeds generate more downforce. Lower dynamic ride heights are advantageous in reducing aero drag (unless the floor is scraping the track!).
  • The ‘bounciness’ of the car. For example, with stiffer springs, going over bumps and curbs may cause one or more tires to get momentarily unloaded or completely lose contact with the track, which would cause handling issues. Going with softer springs could solve the ‘bounciness’, but in return could hurt the pitch and roll attitude of the car, and may influence suspension geometry (such as camber), and consequently hurt aerodynamic effects and possibly cause aero-related handling issues.

3v2small

As we see, springs don’t control a single variable in a straightforward way. So, finding the optimal spring rate is a matter of finding the right trade-off between the above effects, which is often a compromise. In practice, when setting up the car, adjusting spring rates comes in handy when optimising aero effects, and the tradeoff is typically between aero related time gains (lower drag on the straights) and car handling (more downforce in the corners).

The nature of the track would typically determine the baseline you start tuning from. With this we mean the bumpiness of the surface, and the lengths of the straights, and whether there are many fast or slow corners.
On tracks with fast straights and many flat, slow corners (such as Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal), you’d like to start with stiff front springs and soft rear springs. Such a setup would produce more rake (and downforce) in the slow corners and less drag on straights.
On tracks with short straights and a wide range of corner speeds (such as Motegi), you’d like to start with stiff springs on both the front and the rear. This would allow you have a car with more consistent aero performance in all corners regardless of speed.

Most tracks are in-between, so you’d want to pick a baseline for the overall profile, then look at the track specifics. For example, a bumpy slow track like Sebring could need softer springs.

Applying it to the FR2.0
Let’s get to know the suspension layout for the FR2.0. As you can already see in the setup-screen, there is only one center mounted spring and damper in the front, with non adjustable ARB. In the rear are two separate spring and damper units. Unlike the front ARB, the bar in the rear is adjustable in stiffness.

fr2.0-illuUntitled-1

This single spring design at the front is called a monoshock. It is characteristic of a monoshock that the front spring has no effect on roll-stiffness. It only provides stiffness in heave (vertical) motion. This essentially causes spring stiffness to have no significant effect on the mechanical balance (lateral load transfer distribution and roll) of the car. And so the front roll-stiffness is solely controlled by the front ARB, which is adjustable in the real car, but is fixed in iRacing.

In contrast, with the two springs at the rear of the car, roll stiffness is influenced by both the adjustable rear ARB and the rear springs. In practice, you wouldn’t make spring rate adjustments to affect roll-stiffness. If a spring rate adjustment (for a different reason) results in undesired impact on roll-stiffness, you’d counter that effect with an ARB adjustment.

The regulations allow the FR2.0’s ride height to be very low, as a consequence you can run the stiffest front springs and still achieve your desired front ride height. This simplifies the front spring rates setup. In general, aim to run the stiffest springs that still allow you to go over bumps (if a curb is giving problems, you may not want to counter it through setups, but just avoid hitting it). Finding out the optimal rear spring rates will mostly be a matter of how much you want to vary the dynamic ride height in the back. Stiffer rear springs give you a more consistent handling through the corners, while softer rear springs will give less drag on the straights.

Over to you

Try fiddling with the spring rates, and see if you can improve your laptime with it. For instance, load a session at Silverstone Historic. The circuit has fast corners and fast straights, so a compromise is needed between the two baselines suggested above. You pick either baseline as a starting point, for example stiff front and soft rear. From there stiffen the rear and see if it leads to laptime improvements. Because the rear spring rate changes multiple parameters of the car, such as the ride height, you could correct those accordingly to maintain the same static ride height. You can also use the anti-roll bar to help restore the balance of the car, just never change it together with the spring rates, because it makes it hard to tell which change is causing which effect.

The real & virtual Formula Renault 2.0 and Brad Dias’ racing life

Untitled-1Having recently signed with reigning Asian Formula Renault champions BlackArts Racing for the 2017 season, the twenty year old Brad Dias from India is making progress on the motorsport ladder. He’s also an avid simracer, being coached through VRS by Martti Pietilä.

Brad, you’re from Goa, India. From a European perspective, motorsport culture doesn’t seem as dominant as over here. There was the Indian Grand Prix, we had drivers like Karthikeyan and Chandhok, but now everything seems settled down again. Was it difficult for you to get started?
There are plenty of affordable four-stroke karts and tracks to be found, which is where I started too. I moved onto a small league, and the national rotax max championship after that. Last year I moved into cars, as I was awarded a scholarship to do a full season in the Indian MRF Formula Ford 1600 Championship. But it’s true that there isn’t a lot of grassroot motorsports in India, which is why many Indians, like me, are going abroad to race in higher classes. Motorsport is one of many things that is growing in India, but it will take time.

Brad onboard of the Formula Renault 2.0.
Brad onboard of the Formula Renault 2.0.

Now you’re in Hong Kong, readying for the Asian Formula Renault series. How’s iRacing
helping with that?
I’m practicing the same techniques and skills which you need on the real track. In iRacing, whatever good habits you pick up also apply in real racing. iRacing has the Formula Renault, which is nearly identical except for the tyre I’m racing with. I’m also practising a lot with the Skip Barber, which because it’s slower, I tend to better analyse my driving style. Another benefit is that it helps me become more adaptable with my driving.

I really wish I could go back and have started sim racing years ago, when I started racing in real life. I think my progress would have been even better.

How’s the VRS telemetry software helping?
I use it all the time. I’m comparing my own laps to each other, and to the datapacks, because those are the laptimes I’m striving to achieve. I’ve been working with Martti (Pietilä), and he’s helping me with setups, fuel levels, and to figure out where I can progress. I think if you understand where or why you’re losing time, you can apply what you’ve learned to real life. Right now, my focus is mainly on getting faster by improving car control and consistency. I can see what it takes to go fast, but putting it together without making big mistakes on the sim, that’s a real challenge.

Sidequestion here, why do you love racing?
Hmm (pause). That’s actually a difficult question. I think why I like it so much is that you can always search for more. You never stop improving. To never be perfect is both interesting and humbling. The great thing about racing, is that it works in various ways in your life. To succeed in motorsport, you need to be physically fit, especially in a real car. You need to work well with people, also in a top sim racing team. Racing teaches you many life skills, I think it even teaches you to be a better person. Apart from the speed and adrenaline, that’s probably the biggest motivation for me. Competition means you’re always pushing for more. Racing others, that’s the best part.

Exiting the pits.

And this applies to both simulator racing and real life racing?
Yes, it’s very much the same – that’s why I’ve taken to iRacing. I really enjoy it. Apart from the lack of physical demands, I couldn’t ask for something better at home.

Are there differences?
Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Right now, I feel sim racing is so competitive. And what I really like is that there’s no excuses. In real racing it’s really easy to blame the car, and other factors. But you don’t really have that in sim racing. It’s completely down to the driver. That’s why I love sim racing. In real racing, the adrenaline is really there. You’re sometimes inches away from having a crash, always striving to be on the limit. That’s the most exciting part of real racing

Looking long-term, what’s on your mind?
My focus is on my racing career in real life. I’d like to continue the progress I’ve been making, and this year my goal is to win the championship, and to move from Formula Renault to Formula Three next year. And from there to keep moving up the motorsport ladder.

Oval datapacks & Slip Angle Motorsports partnership

VRS_SAMTHWith the growth of VRS and the positive feedback that we’ve received on our driver improvement software from road competitors on iRacing, we’ve been frequently asked when ovals would be covered by the VRS platform. One requirement for us was always to work with the best coaches, to allow our users to compare their data against the best drivers on iRacing. If that wouldn’t be possible, why bother?

We’ve managed to do just that, and hence we’re thrilled to announce that we’re starting a partnership with Slip Angle Motorsports to help optimize the VRS platform for oval racing.

Two of their NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series drivers, Ray Alfalla and Bryan Blackford, will be supplying datapacks for the most popular oval series. Additionally, Ray and Bryan will be available for one-on-one coaching sessions, and, as part of the partnership, their team’s cars will prominently feature the VRS logo.

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Ray Alfalla, three-time iRacing World Champion:
“I’m happy to kick off the 2017 NPAS season with VRS on the car! This is a great opportunity, and I can’t wait to hit the track at Daytona as a VRS driver and coach.”

Bryan Blackford:
“I’m proud to be affiliated with VRS, and look forward to utilizing their service this coming NPAS season! I’m also excited to begin training others through their coaching platform.”

Lisa Pineda of SAM:
“VRS is the perfect match for SAM. Mixing sim racing and education has been a winning formula for us for the past four years. We look forward to working together in 2017 in NPAS as well as in the virtual classroom.”

Peter Dimov of VRS:
“Being able work with the best, like we’re already doing on the road side, is amazing. Ray and Bryan are super fast and some of the nicest guys you’ll find in the community. We really look forward to working with them to make VRS the go-to tool for all oval iRacers.”

Stay tuned for updates on when the first oval datapacks will become available, as well as detail on a fan contest we are putting together.

CORE’s Alexander Voß on endurance sim racing and the use of VRS

alex1Meet Alexander Voß: one of the top drivers in endurance sim racing, and driver of CORE Motorsports, a sim racing team that uses VRS, and a team that is making inroads in iRacing’s competitions, coming second in last year’s Blancpain Endurance Series, and winning the iRacing VLN championship, as well as the ADAC Sim Racing Trophy.

Can say you something about yourself?
My last name Voß often leads to confusion, thanks to the traditional German ‘ß’ capital. Basically this is a ‘sharp s’ and means no more than double s, not a b. I’m a 27-year-old IT specialist, and I live in Paderborn, Germany. In my spare time I’m usually watching Borussia Dortmund, doing weight training, and obviously sim racing.

How did you get started in sim racing?
I started sim racing in my early childhood, with titles like Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix Series. From there I moved to GTR, GTR2, rFactor, Race 07, and I almost raced every single sim out there, except Live for Speed.

I was always fascinated by comparing myself against other players, as I’m searching for competition. Even when online sim racing was in its early stages (at the end of the 90’s), offline leaderboard competitions gave that opportunity. I wanted more and more, and that’s how it’s like today at iRacing!

When did you start to use telemetry?
I started to use telemetry in rFactor and GTR2. Even then it was to get some kind of advantage over the competition. As a team we helped each other and tried to find ways to compare racing lines, and to improve the setup, especially on tyre degradation.

How did CORE Motorsports form, and where you part of it? Or how did you join?
I joined CORE Motorsports in 2013, when the team had huge success in the German competitions of rFactor. Since then the team had a lot of breaks, changes and new management, but since last year we’re an associated non-profit organisation, and have built a very strong relationship over the last years, which makes us very proud!

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How does CORE use VRS?
VRS evolved to a very important tool for our team. For already a year now there hasn’t been a single race where we didn’t use it. After talking to some VRS coaches, it was clear to me that VRS takes care of the data which the telemetry logger is capturing. That gives us security in terms of setup data and related stuff not everybody should maybe get their fingers on.

Since we’re using VRS it’s a lot easier for us to be aware of other drivers problems within the team, to find weaknesses and to see where you can improve yourself. For now VRS is indispensable in our daily use, as it’s a lot easier to handle than telemetry Tools like MoTec and Atlas. Due to real life commitments we usually start with preparation a few days before a race, which leads to the point that telemetry usage is a huge factor for us to be time effective. Gone are the days when ‘hotlapping’ was the only method to improve your laptime.

Are there different driving styles within the team?
For sure the driving styles in our team varies from driver to driver. For example, a huge factor in endurance races is fuel usage. I’m known as someone who’s always burning lots of fuel, but by using telemetry it was easy for me to copy Nils’ (my teammate) driving style and let the car roll more, brake less, and therefor reduce fuel consumption and tyre wear when necessary.

Core Motorsport finished 1-2-3 at the 2016 ADAC Sim Racing Trophy. From left to right: Alexander, Angelo, Kay.

What are your hopes on the 2017 season?
Sim racing is always about competition and success. But as a team we don’t want to lose the focus to the most important thing, which is clearly the fun we have to race against other competitors and top-tier teams. We don’t do sim racing to earn prize money, although it’s certainly a nice propulsion to invest more effort than we’d normally do. But in general, our focus is to strengthen the team spirit, continuously improve our racecraft and compete in the WCS Series and other highly competitive endurance races.

We’re looking forward to the next years, and we surely hope that sim racing itself will also continue to grow as an eSport!