From armchair to asphalt – part four
We got a little held up with our daily insights into the whole GT Academy process. Sorry. But here’s a former F1 legend, Le Mans winner and current sportscar driver to give you the inside track on the Inside Track
“It’s a fine filter for working under pressure and it means these guys can handle hard work and react quickly – making the correct decision – when things get touch.” That’s Martin Brundle’s take on one of the main positives the GT Academy instils into its graduates.
He should know. He’s raced alongside inaugural winner Lucas Ordonez for 24 hours straight – sharing the car with him at this year’s Le Mans back in June.
According to Brundle it’s just like progressing through the ranks of junior formulae, just in a different world and in a massively compressed timeframe:
“The serious candidates get sorted out quickly – it’s a competitive environment and the guys who are focused and hard working will definitely emerge.”
Obviously you have to have talent, but it seems as with many things, what you put into to racing – digital or virtual – is what you get out.
And there’s the crux of the matter. The virtual racing world shouldn’t be written off as a geeks’ place to go and hide – not if it can produce the basis of world class racers such as what we’re seeing come through the Academy.
It’s not all positives though. There’s a big gulf between getting ‘into’ an LMP2 car on the game and actually getting into an LMP2 car in real life.
“These guys haven’t grown up in karts and Formula Ford, so wheel-to-wheel racing is something they’re not as good at. You can learn that, but it takes time to become comfortable and familiar with being millimetres from other cars at 200mph.
“The GT Academy is an instructional learning system too, so there’s always someone telling them what to do or what they’re doing next. Sometimes, in conventional racing that’s not the case. You have to figure it out for yourself where you need to be quicker and therefore how to do it.”
It’s the lack of experience of when things are going wrong that hurts the unconventional crop of modern racers, progressing from console to car, too.
All they’ve had to do is fill in the missing space, reckons Brundle. “If things aren’t going right they tend to chase it,” he says.
A lack of knowledge concerning car setup doesn’t help either:
“The race track is a formidable place and these guys have hardly spent any time on it. You need to be able to set a car up properly and the perceived ‘normal’ route of graduating your way through racing and different formulae helps.
It gives you the experience and helps you build up resolve to call upon for when things might not exactly going to plan. But you can learn this in time. Speed you’re either born with or you’re not. You can be coached to go quicker, but you have to have the raw attributes.
But there’s hope for the digital world of racing – Formula 1 teams wouldn’t spend tens of millions of pounds on F1 simulators if they didn’t think racing on a computer worked. It keeps an F1 driver’s eye in and helps them fine-tune setup changes.
A personal console game isn’t up to the same standard as a full-on race sim, but it’s getting better – to the point where the step from a control pad to a steering wheel doesn’t seem that great to some.
Brundle isn’t a fan though. “I’ve had a go on Gran Turismo – the game that the GT Academy guys are always playing. I’m hopeless. I suppose I’m old school.
“It’s too binary; there’s not enough feedback for me. To an extent, it’s the same with F1 simulators. I just don’t think they’re realistic enough and they’ll never replace time in the car.”
You can’t have a solely digitally created drive step on to the grid having never driven a car and expect a win. That’s why the Academy whittles down the applicants then puts them in proper cars to test their mettle and seek out the cream – “it’ll always rise to the top”, says Brundle.
More so than ever though, the digital and mechanical worlds are colliding.
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