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Such finely turned athletes can't compete on empty stomachs, so we put ourselves through an arduous pre-event warm up firstly at Yo-Sushi in CMK where after several New Orders we collected an impressive array of Blue trays (well it was Blue Monday after all) before washing it down with a quick(ish) trip to Starbucks.
Then it was on to SimplyRace for the main event. The venue has a suite of 15 linked racing simulator 'pods' running rFactor2. Each pod featuring triple 40" screens, Thrustmaster force feedback wheels and pedals, racing seats, bass shakers (for tactile feedback) and crucially intercoms so that we could hurl abuse at each other, in theory in private amongst our own race group. I say 'in theory' as in practice the audio is also broadcast over speakers for all and sundry to hear. More on that later!!
The event was a four race challenge meaning we got to pick four different venues with a choice of cars for each. So the first decision was where to race first. We settled on Donington Park. A tight circuit but with some interesting sequences of corners and some good undulation with the plunge downhill through the Craner Curves being particularly challenging. Clio Cup Turbo were picked to drive - the theory being that front wheel drive with limited horse power they should be relatively easy to control. Plus not having exposed wheels there would be less chance of us flipping each other over during the inevitable contact.
We then received a quick briefing to tell us how to turn off the pit lane speed limiter, how the intercom worked, how to flash our headlights (a crucial tactic for night racing) and how to toggle the Stability control between Low/Med/High/Off and the same for Traction Control. We also had to decide whether to use Automatic gears or manual. Given the gears were of that flappy paddle variety most of us opted for manual.
The race proved eventful, with James S making good use of his intercom in a one man bid to improve driving standards! Happily Hayden managed to get some laps on board and Craig begun to find his mojo with a fastest lap time an impressive six seconds better than this qualifying lap. But at the front it was James W who had an untroubled race having hung left into turn one having seen both James S and Craig making better starts only to collect each other at Redgate in the process!
During our briefing we had been told how to flash the headlights on our cars, but there seemed little point in the daylight. However, at night it turned into a perfect weapon as doing so lit up the cockpit of the driver in front making it virtually impossible for the driver of said car to see the track!
As the race progressed the flickering of headlights became an increasingly common sight across the darkness of the East-midlands venue, with Craig in particular treating others to a frenzy of flashing. Craig also continued his progression in lap-pace, recording the second fastest lap of the race edging James S by just 4 hundredths of a second on his way to third place in the race.
Qualifying was headed by James S closely followed by Craig in second place, with James W complaining that he hadn't managed to get a clean lap in all session. Welcome to the real-world!
James W found his form for the race though and led the field home for the final time of the day, albeit having left Craig beached nose in to the barriers after some rather robust tactics at Pohon. Take heart though Craig - James W was clearly sensing the presence of a challenger resulting in some very Vettel-esque driving!
Until next time?
Hayden: "Thanks for organising - Great day! The racing simulators were great fun, despite spending half the time facing the wrong direction!"
Al : "Despite being almost the slowest person there (thanks Hayden!) an enjoyable afternoon was had pretending we were all racing drivers. Thank heavens for the traction and stability control, or there would have been a few less virtual Aston Martins in the world!"
James S : "A superb way to spend the last afternoon before 'breaking up' for Christmas!"
James W : "An enjoyable lunch (that was some stack of plates in Yo-Sushi) and a really fun afternoon. Thank goodness there weren't any 13 year olds around to show us all up!"