From first glance, what looks to be an accessory for the video gaming industry has a much more important and significant value to individual racers and to the racing community at large. The introduction of the Blue Tiger motion simulator is just what the doctor ordered for developing communication pathways, also known as team chemistry, along with sharpening driver skills and reactions. The best part is that all of these benefits can be accomplished without leaving the shop and without traveling to the track. So how does the Blue Tiger motion simulator accomplish this transformation from a recreational device to racer development tool? We're about to find out, but first a little background on the philosophy of the system's development.

Developing solid communication within a race team is a difficult process at best. Team owners seemingly trade personnel trying to obtain that chemistry component, one of the most critical and sought after commodities in motorsports. The developers behind Blue Tiger asked "Is there a better way to create the needed chemistry in a team? Or, is chemistry something that can only be developed over time?" The problem is that in today's "do it now," "need it now" mindset, the time to develop complex communication structures and personality cues is just not available. But can that communicative ability be learned at an accelerated rate? They theorized that it may be possible to compress the time required to develop that chemistry.

The transfer of complex physical inputs to the driver through the car's actions on the track into and through the spoken word is not as simple as one would think. For example, just how do you communicate with the spoken word, the degree of push or at what point in the corner the car starts to get loose? It becomes more difficult when what you're trying to communicate is as subtle as a feeling that only one person experiences. It would be much simpler if we could quantify that feeling into a number or an action that is understood from a universal perspective. Or, if we could duplicate or "simulate" the same feeling for another person so that cycles of learning can be communicated to multiple people in the same fashion in real time. Instant communication!

Until now, that kind of additional instant communication was just not possible. However, the utilization of the Blue Tiger motion simulator facilitates just that type of communicative ability. The Blue Tiger places the driver (or any other team member) in a controlled situation that simulates the same type of situation you would find on the track. Only this can be completed in the relative comfort of the shop or even in the home.

It's now possible to establish and define a setup and have the driver go through the practical execution of driving the setup in a simulated track experience. The driver can then go through the required physical inputs, experience the feelings, and then communicate the experience to the crew chief or race engineer, instantly. The crew chief or race engineer can watch the experience real time, see what the car is doing through the motions and the monitor and if that isn't enough, he can change positions with the driver and actually experience the simulation himself.

Using the correct software, such as that from iRacing.com or others like it, you can replay the situation in question multiple times and walk the rest of the team through a replay of the racing condition in question. It gives a whole new dynamic to engineering a car and communicating with the driver. Not to mention, very realistic seat time for the driver. It's just this type of spaced repetition that fosters accelerated learning cycles in the driver and the team. What would take multiple days to set up and many hours to accomplish at the track can now be accomplished in minutes at the shop. And, it can be repeated multiple times with no additional costs.

The Blue Tiger allows you to develop a multitude of chassis setups and test them in minutes. This same testing process would take up to multiple days at the track, placing the car and driver at risk. This change in the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) could equal savings to the team of hundreds of thousands of dollars in test and travel costs, for one single test session. This is real money, not Betty Crocker dollars, those savings that are just cooked up.

We've long heard from the younger drivers in the sport that the video game is a very real option to help a driver familiarize himself with a track he has never raced. This is, and continues to be, a very common thread in the NASCAR, Formula 1, and racing world in general. Even the drag racing guys have developed "games" to help them with learning during the past several years. Many of the sport's current superstars have utilized video games and game simulations to learn tracks, develop and sharpen driving skill, and as a general form of practice. And, these "games" have netted real positive advances in driver performance.

The problem is that the games offer very little in the way of real world stimulus beyond the visual aspect and/or a methodology of communicating just what the car is really doing as it traverses the various virtual tracks as the game progresses. Many still view the video game as just that, a game with no redeeming value. The time has arrived for the next step in video learning and realistic simulations scenarios.

The Blue Tiger motion simulator is affordable, extremely realistic, tunable, and the level of learning is east to see. For those readers who may have made the trek to the PRI show in Florida this past December, or the Barrett-Jackson auto auction in January, you would have had the opportunity to see the Blue Tiger motion simulator in action. Comments, including some from high-profile racers, were all very positive. They could not believe the realism and connectivity that they were able to experience in a very short period of time. It's not uncommon for a driver to get out after "driving" the Blue Tiger and be covered in sweat. The experience is just that realistic. So, how does all this work?

The electronics and the mechanical interface are all in the base of the simulator. All you need is a PC, some free floor space, and a couple of electrical outlets and you're ready to start simulations. All of the linkage is mounted below the seat and covered by a fabric bellows, keeping them out of the driver's way. The "sled" or driver platform, includes the seat, pedals, and the monitor(s). The Blue Tiger comes with one monitor but there is an option that allows three monitors to be mounted on the sled. The monitors and the seat-sled all move as a uniform action to more closely replicate the real experience.

The Blue Tiger is constructed from steel and aluminum components, it's made to last in a very aggressive environment. The sled and all of the interfaces are adjustable to suit the individual driver. The pedals are completely adjustable both for position and feel. The accelerator is adjustable for pedal force through various springs that will simulate the car the driver would be racing on his/her home track. Brake and clutch pedals have rubber spacers of various durometers to simulate the feel of the brakes and clutch to further enhance the simulation.

Another great feature is that the Blue Tiger is completely electric and consequently there aren't any hydraulics or pneumatic actuators that will leak or degrade the performance of the simulation. Plus, there is no possibility that a puddle of oil will end up under the simulator. The rate and degree of motion are all adjustable to suit the simulation. Setup is minimal and doesn't require a factory trained person to accomplish. From a facilities perspective, all you need is a floor space the size of a medium-sized sofa. From the perspective of the computer interface, it's simple enough for a person with the most rudimentary of computer skills to run.

The reality is the illusion, the motion simulator endeavors to create the same environment that the driver would be experiencing in the car. The more closely that the real world situations are replicated, the more real the simulation will be to the driver, and consequently the more immersed the driver will be in the whole process. This includes not only the visual experience but the motion and aural inputs. The video game or internet gaming program delivers the sound and the visual inputs, while the Blue Tiger provides the kinetics and the realistic motion cues that make the simulation more realistic.

The trouble with many motion simulators is that they tend to provide linear motion only associated with the general motion of the vehicle and often the motions are not linked to the visual portion of the intended simulation. What are often missed are the other subtle motion cues that complete the experience. The experience of broaching the edge of the track will generate the vibrations and feel that you would expect when you drop a wheel off of the track or when you brush a wall. It's these experiences that complete the total simulation experience and make it more realistic and believable.

It's the people on your team that are the ultimate differentiator, and that having the best and the brightest people, mobilized effectively, properly trained for the tasks at hand, and motivated for action, that will make a huge difference in the performance of your team. By mastering the skill of becoming an effective communicator and coach, you can help ensure that your team is always working up to its highest performing potential. Assessing your peoples' performance, providing solid and honest feedback, and offering the needed development opportunities and tools will ensure good team members become great--which will further your chances to develop a winning team. After all, this is all about performance.

In part two of this feature, we'll have a group of real race car drivers all experience Blue Tiger and give feedback. It's our intent to develop a profile of each driver based on his racing experiences and, through post "driving" impressions, really determine if this simulator could improve on-track performance, the level of communication with his team, and overall general impression of the Blue Tiger experience.

SOURCE
Blue Tiger LLC
www.bluetiger.com
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