The use of simulators for the development of racing technology and the coaching of drivers is not new. Formula One embraced the ‘sim’ as far back as the early 2000s with the release of Cruden’s Racer software developed by Ruud van Gaal.
As simulation technology improved and became cheaper and more accessible, drivers across many series looked to computer simulation to help them prepare for a race weekend.
Today, many driver-coaches combine on-track coaching for their amateur driver customers with time spent in a simulator.
Aston Martin factory driver, four-time British GT champion and 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans LM GTE Pro winner Jonny Adam is an example of a driver-coach who has used simulator work to prepare multiple drivers for championship success in one of the UK’s premier GT series. In 2019 Jonny Adam partnered with Aberdeen-based Graham Davidson and together the Scots duo drove the #47 TF Sport Aston Martin AMR Vantage GT3 to the overall drivers title at the final round at Donington.
EnduranceandGT editor Andy Lloyd spoke to the 2019 British GT champions to better understand how time in the simulator was crucial in developing the driving partnership. In Part One, we look at the role of the professional driver and, at Autosport 2020, Jonny Adam generously shared his thoughts on how to build the skill levels and confidence of his racing customers. Jonny typically uses Base Performance Simulators in Banbury as his simulator coaching centre.
Jonny, thank you very much for your time. What is your plan as you approach a simulator session ahead of race weekend?
“I always try and replicate what we do on race weekend. I make sure that my customer is happy and that they understand why we’re going to the sim, first of all. I like to see their character and what they need and what they can take in terms of information. Some people don’t like too much information and it can lead them to make mistakes and get frustrated in a session that is only two of three hours long. You don’t want a customer to walk out that door and be unhappy and then be in a negative mind space ahead of a race weekend or an important test.
“if they’ve got good experience in the sim, I like to replicate a race weekend. We replicate Free Practice and then we’ll try and do a qualifying session which is where I increase the tyre grip on the simulator. It’s a bit of added personal pressure as well because qualifying is the fastest point of the weekend. I like to set them goals and I want to push them because I want to see where their level is and keep them improving.”
So you’ve run a practice session and qualifying. How do you plan a race run in the simulator?
“We’ll finish off with a race run but how we run it depends on the circuit. If it’s a circuit with high tyre degradation I always try and put that on the simulator. For example, Rockingham was always a tyre killer and you’d lose two seconds from the first lap to the end of the stint. So we’d do a 45-minute sim run and try to degrade the tyre grip throughout so they could change their style and not over-drive the car.”
Graham Davidson has said that he wanted to walk out of those simulator sessions having found the pace so, at the race weekend, he could concentrate on racing rather than trying to find a lap time.
“I play golf and always go to the first tee having been to the driving range. I do that to warm up my muscles and give me a bit of muscle memory. It’s exactly the same when you sit in a racecar.
“You can’t test these cars day-in and day-out because they cost so much money to run so the cheapest and easiest way to improve your driving is to get in the simulator. Being an Aston employee, the sim set-up we have at Base Simulators is perfect. It has an Aston tub, the same brakes and steering wheel and it’s within a couple of tenths of what we do at the weekend so it definitely works.”
In Part Two we talk to Graham Davidson about how he benefited from Jonny Adam’s coaching in his 2019 British GT Championship-winning campaign.