Gulf between F1 & Caterham Racing……

Today is a poignant day to be comparing F1 and Caterham racing. The F1 fraternity launch their 2011 machinery at Valencia for thousands of kilometres testing before the season starts in March and I fired the Caterham up having not started it since October last year. However this is not the comparison I was looking to draw however obvious a gulf it is….

It has been in the news this last couple of weeks that Michael Schumacher suffers from “Simulator Sickness” ( In brief where testing has been limited in F1 to 15000kms per annum F1 teams have invested millions replicating their on track machinery back at the factory with hi-tech computers, mock up chassis, screens and of course sickness inducing hydraulics in a bid to get one over on the competition. Caterham racers are not faced with such strict governing laws, but ones where their wallet dictates how much time you spend behind the wheel instead.

The Caterham calendar this year takes in Zandvoort in Holland for the first time, a track no-one has driven before and a ferry journey or tunnel and a long drive away. Either way, it’s a few days out of your life, and a few thousand out of your wallet if you are planning on going over before the race weekend and the scheduled testing.

Over the Christmas period I therefore pondered how much use a simulator would be to the clubman racer…but of course on a far less grand scale and I came up with a fairly simple solution that did a pretty decent job.

I managed to find a popular race simulator package, decent wheel and peddle setup then found the tracks, car and car setups, plugged it all in and fiddled around with the whole thing for a few hours until the car behaved pretty much like the real deal. Ok, I could only get a Caterham R500 K Series, with a very spikey power delivery, and the setups that work in the sim in no way reflect real life, but you know its proving, at least in my opinion a pretty effective method of learning the track, lines  and general layout.

Things I’ve learnt so far.

Race Sims are not like PS3 games or Xboxes. They punish every mistake.

Zandvoort looks an amazing track, I can’t wait to drive it for real.

Whilst I have my race car handling exactly the way I like it, I still have some fettling on the race sim. I’ve certainly not got all the lines sorted as the video shows.

In many respects its more difficult getting a near perfect lap in the simulator than it is in real life.

Crashing in a simulator isn’t as costly, or life threatening as the real deal.

You don’t get sickness by looking at your PC in the study.

So, in summary Caterham racers still get all the toys our very distant F1 cousins have… F1 tracks to drive, fantastic cars, race simulators but we do so on a budget so small compared to many levels in motorsport. Ultimately though, we all have fun going round in circles….and I’m pretty sure that’s what it is all about. Will it be of use? Ultimately I can’t tell you that until we get back in July…….

Enjoy the lap….

About Paul Wilson

Having a father who raced and a passion for motorsport it was always an ambition to go racing at some point in my life. In my twenties I raced Motocross and Enduro with some success, but I moved onto 4 wheels in 2008 and have not looked back. 2014 will be with Aston Martin Racing in the Vantage GT3 at the VLN with Stuart Leonard. When I'm not racing, I generally spend my time working out how to go quicker and how I'm going to pay for it all......

Posted on February 1, 2011, in Caterham, Formula One, Motorsport, Racing, Video and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Nice piece. I’ve often gone on about the inaccuracy of setup modifications in alot of sims, alot depends on the complexitiy of the sim in question. rFactor does alot to skip around genuine vehicle dynamics simulation by using canned fixes to problems. When it comes down to it though, it’s 6 years old, and that reflects in it’s technology.

    It would be more costly but maybe worth looking at iRacing briefly, as they have laser scanned the Zandvoort track down to the nearest 7mm bump, which makes the track learning aspect much more apt. Justin Wilson openly admits that this aided him to win at the Glen in 2009. Of course, this apprach means there are less tracks as the time it takes to make them takes much longer.

    The only sim that has real accuracy with setups, for me, is netKar Pro, but it’s mostly single seaters, bar an Osella PA21S. You can see me having a time in the rain here:

    I’ll stop going on now, nice post though. And yes, it is easier to put in a good lap in real life, I’d say it’s down to arse feel! 😉

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