We asked Chuck Kuehl to put...
We asked Chuck Kuehl to put his helmet on and see the difference that it made in the simulation. The reduction in Chuck's peripheral vision helped him to see more of the racetrack and less of the warehouse. That was also part of the reason for the drape in front of the BlueTiger to present less distraction for the driver's eye and a higher amount of focus on the monitors.
Our first driver was Chuck Kuehl who got his start racing Pure Stocks, then moved into Street Stocks, and is now racing a Modified on dirt tracks around Arizona, regularly running at the front of the pack. A true racer, Chuck works a regular job, takes care of his family and in the evenings he works on his race car.
Circle Track: Chuck, what did you think of the virtual experience?
Chuck Kuehl: At first it was just a bit difficult to believe that I was in a race car, because I wasn't. But as time went on, I found myself getting more and more involved and my level of concentration went up considerably. I was determined to make every corner and improve my technique entering, through the middle, and on the exit. I was really amazed to be able to feel the tires going away as the laps progressed. What was really surprising was that the track was changing as well as the tires going away. I made several attempts to go high early in the session but when I tried the same move later in the session, the car wouldn't stick and I could feel the difference in the track from the blacker groove and the grey at the top. When I put the helmet on and blocked out a portion of my peripheral vision, I was seeing less of the warehouse and more of the racetrack. That was when things got even more realistic. It was really incredible the difference the helmet made in the believability of the simulation. This thing is way cool. Can I take this one home?
CT: I think that could be arranged. We'll talk to Bob later. Do you think this would've helped you when you were first learning to race?
With the helmet removed Chuck...
With the helmet removed Chuck told us he was much more aware of the warehouse and his level of concentration was reduced. It's all about making the simulation as believable as possible.
Chuck: When I first started? This would help now. The idea that I could practice every day would be a huge positive and it would give me a clear advantage over the rest of the competition on race day. I would roll into the gate having already driven in multiple races over the week with a complete mental tune-up. When I first started this would have helped identify and correct some bad habits I had to work through as a new racer.
CT: How would you evaluate the ability to develop communication between a driver and his crew chief?
Chuck: I think that this simulator could be a real benefit. The idea that you can make many changes quickly, drive the "car," and then talk about the change in a very stress-free environment would be a very real advantage. I can see having a Thursday night with my crew chief and just take turns driving the BlueTiger and compare notes. This is something that every racer who wants to win should have in the shop or in the living room.
Nathan High is currently racing Sprint Cars and Midgets on dirt. While he started out racing Karts on dirt, he has competed all over the country.
CT: Nathan what did you think of the virtual experience?
Nathan High drives a prototype...
Nathan High drives a prototype sports car at Lime Rock Park, a major departure from the 750hp Sprint Car he is used to racing on a weekly basis. From a race car driver's perspective, it is sometimes a good thing to get other experiences in cars that they may never get the opportunity to drive otherwise. The simulator offers a great way to get some exposure and experience in different types of cars on different tracks.
Nathan High: That was a great ride. I could feel the car underneath me all the time. It took a bit of adjustment, but once you got your mind right, it was very easy to really feel the car. If you let yourself, you can get truly convinced that this is a real race car. The tracks and the graphics on the iRacing tracks were very realistic even the landscaping was realistic. You never completely think you are in a real race car but it's really close. In each session I could see improvement. I have never driven a sports car on a road course, but I think using this simulation I could learn to race that type of car and be really ahead of the curve should I get the opportunity at a later date. This thing is really cool.
CT: Do you think this would've helped you when you were first learning to race?
Nathan: I started in Karts and this would've made the transition to Sprint Cars a bunch easier. Learning how to handle the increase in power would have been a real advantage. Some of the cars we drove on the simulation required a very controlled method to applying power. You couldn't just mash the pedal down and go; too much throttle and the car would get loose or it would spin. Even as a Kart racer this would have paid some huge dividends learning about car control and learning when to start and finish a turn. The ability to travel without leaving home would be a huge cost savings, especially when it came to learning tracks that you were going to race in the future. This would be a great way to make learning much faster.