Month: July 2013

GT Academy: That’s a Wrap

It was a better season for me in @GTAcademy. In fact, my best to date, finishing 317th in my region. That and the fact that I was a full 1.7 seconds away from posting a qualifying lap time, might cause naysayers to poo poo my efforts. C’mon naysayers, don’t start poo pooing already! Let me explain.

There were 12″ of snow and I had to walk uphill both ways to get to my PS3. No? Okay, I’m not as talented as I need to be and I can’t start from a zero baseline on the wheel and catch up in just four short weeks. The last weekend I was still improving massively. I came through with a half-second-per-lap improvement on Saturday to drop my time to the 2:19.5 region. And late on Sunday I started consistently (well twice) running laps in the 2:19’s, so more improvement was definitely in the cards.

I didn’t lose. I ran out of time.

So, what did I learn that I can share? The physics is pretty good in GT6, even on a slightly cludgy Logitech G25 wheel. Going into the sharp left hander that really defines the lap (turn 3 maybe) at Silverstone, when I got it close to right, the wheel would give a violent “gludge” as the weight shifted from drifting thru a right hander to quickly drifting thru a left hander. Awkward, but probably less so than in a real car.

Repetition, as I said before, is critical to quick lap times. As a fan, it really makes you appreciate racers like Moto GP’s young star Marc Marquez who went to Laguna Seca having never seen the place and almost took pole and did win the race. That’s incredible. He really is an Alien.

What else? Well, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute on the wheel. My mental approach was much improved after going through the online competition in 2011 and 2012. I didn’t let set backs and a lack of progress upset me, as I could see my average lap times improving and know that a great lap develops from many laps of making many mistakes and learning. I also didn’t burn myself out on marathon sessions, until the very last day.

As, I mentioned in a couple tweets, I did start to feel that a lack of consequences took something away from the experience, but I don’t have a solution for that. Perhaps if you bash the car so thoroughly into a wall, you can’t log onto the game for 24 hours (while car is being repaired). Anything like that would be controversial, but would certainly add meaning to the sim nature of the event. Going off anywhere at any speed with no regard for the consequences is not sending the right message to young racers. I worry about stunts like a driver intentionally T-boning another competitor and hope that they are not becoming more common in racing as the zero consequences world of online sims smashes into real life physics.

There was some online whining about the need to drift the car. I think this was made more prevalent as it was something some of the competitors lacked IRL in the reality TV show competition last season. They had a hard time getting the back end to break away and feel comfortable controlling a tail happy oversteering car. That’s been a long time complaint about the Gran Turismo series. But, too much throttle induced oversteer begins to feel very arcady fast. So, Gran Turismo has been inching the oversteer up every generation.

Congratulations to the racers who made it through the competition and on to the next round.

For me, there’s always next year. 338 days until GT Academy 2014.


GT Academy Stasis Update 2

How can you be making progress in a race car (even a virtual one) when your lap times aren’t improving? I’ve asked myself that a lot the last few days, and yet, I do feel that I’m making progress. Dare I say, I think I’m improving as a virtual racer.

“But, Captain Slow,” my brain argues, “you’re not going any faster.”

“Neither are you!” I shoot back.

But gaining a scrap of emotional control (thank god a steering wheel and pedal set is too clumsy for an old man to chuck across the living room…it’d have been chucked a long time ago otherwise), I step back and as my mom always told me to do: I look at the big picture. Not the actual living room, that’d be too depressing with empty cans of Red Bull and Gatorade piled on the floor at my feet.

No, for progress I look at the fact that every session now ends with me setting a time very close to my personal best. And — perhaps I’m only fooling myself — but I feel that I know how to make up those two seconds. It might be impossible for me, but at least I can see where they are at in the lap. Where, my best lap consists of several moments where I am easing on the throttle coming out of corners, the best laps run by the fast guys are all about solid, immediate and unflinching throttle input. My hats off to Tidgney and the guys at the top of the time charts.

I’ve cut down a lot of the see sawing on the wheel. My inputs are much more controlled and economical. It feels as if I’m moving the wheel half as much as I was a week ago. I know the braking points to within a yard. I need to know them to within a foot. But the main thing is solid throttle application coming out of every apex. I’m not there yet and I don’t think I can get there by Sunday.

Right now, that type of driving sends me into a wheel spinning spiral into the virtual Silverstone weeds. I then try to chuck my G25 wheel into the ravine behind the house, but my old body just can’t do it. And, maybe that’s the final lesson from GT Academy 2013.

My old body just can’t do it. But, in the end, racing is a young man’s sport. And, honestly, SIM racing (for driver development) should become an even younger man’s sport. If there are kids out there with as much enthusiasm for racing as this old man, then they will make it in racing as far as their money can take them. Racing is a lifestyle. Sim racing is also a lifestyle. Not a glorious lifestyle filled with pit girls and boozy Red Bull sponsored after parties. More a monkish lifestyle filled with funky smelling living rooms, a lack of close personal relationships, and the people around you wondering if you’ve finally, deeply, truly, gone mad.

The maddening thing about each new lap? There’s always that possibility.

GT Academy Stasis Update

See what I did there? Up in the title bit there? I made it so it was changed a bit and it reflects my current lack of progress in the competition. Have I reached my limit? Possibly. But, limits are funny things.

I’m stuck on a time of 2:20.105 (or thereabouts) and I cannot budge off of it. But, I’ve fiddled some settings and changed around my wheel setup, things that I needed to do to move forward, but they’ve left me hanging — a bit.

“You see,” he said as if explaining a lack of progress on a term paper, “it’s like this. Overall, my average lap time is falling (getting better) but I haven’t been able to punch through the 2:20 barrier.” And with days running out, I’m afraid my GTAcademy 2013 dreams end here.

I’m not giving up. I actually enjoy the “driving” when I’m doing it. But it does become ever more awkward for my family. Don’t take pity on the fool addicted to a stupid videogame. Feel some real remorse and empathy for his wife and children. Thank goodness this competition only lasts until July 28th, or I’m sure I’d end up divorced. 

My wife has the patience of a saint. And, of course, she’s pleased that I’m not burning up my pension in tires, fuel and pit pass money. Also, there’s the not inconsiderable matter of a complete lack of risk of me doing any more damage to myself than falling off the couch. Why, if you are really interested in progressing in motorsport wouldn’t you put yourself through a challenge like GTAcademy first. Save time, money, possible injury, all sorts of nastiness that occurs on the track but is easily avoided on the couch.

My progress might be stopped at the moment, but I can feel myself getting better at easing on the throttle coming out of Luffield and onto the old pit straight. If I can just sort that, and the Maggots to Chapel complex, I know I’ve got a chance. The yard will be there to be mowed after this Sunday. Hopefully, putting my life in stasis, won’t have cost me too much.


GT Academy Status Update 5

I have been slacking on my GT Academy updates. I’ve just been grinding away on the wheel. If you look at the GTplanet website, you will see loads of players faster than me commenting on the competition. Still, I’m into the top 600 in my region. Out of about 100,000 participants that’s not bad. But, if I admit that I’m still 2.6 seconds slower than the qualifying lap times, you can see I have a lot of progress to make.

The competition is highly addictive and available to anyone with a PS3. So, I suppose you see the marketing angle right off. If you enjoy the free competition, you’ll definitely want to buy Gran Turismo 6. And, as addictive as it is for me now, trying to slice my time to get into the top 500, if you’re new to online racing or sims, but enthusiastic about motorsports, I guarantee if you spend some time with a controller in hand, you will slice your way through the ranks.

One of the little known secrets of motorsport is this: it’s not how much faster you can go, it’s how much faster you can go faster. Trust me, given an unlimited supply of coffee (your caffeine choice here) I could eventually get a qualifying time. But, the competition has a time limit. Every driving school, every track day, I’ve been to, I always improve. Improvement, if you’re paying attention and breathing is almost inevitable. Every lap is a learning experience in every kind of vehicle.

The good guys, though, the ones who become the great drivers: they go fast faster. They have an innate ability, or they’ve trained themselves, or the physiology of their inner ear that controls balance is just more finely tuned, or something. But, the trick to becoming a racing driver is not going fast. The trick to becoming a racing driver is going fast faster.

This holds true even more so in the real world, where every lap on track counts as dollars spent. Every lap you’re wearing away the tires and brakes, the engine is slowly shaking itself towards a rebuild, the suspension can only take so many bangs over the curbing, not to mention the gas and oil being consumed. So, a driver who can go fast, faster, in the real world, is a valuable commodity. You can almost put a dollar value on getting up to speed on the first flying lap, versus say the fifth. That’s four laps of gas, rubber, etc. not wasted.

Now, if that fast driver provides accurate feedback after just one flying lap: that’s what separates the absolute best from the very very good. But again, that is also a function of getting up to speed faster, then reading the vehicle and realizing what changes are needed. I once asked the manager of a kart track I raced at, how I could get down to the lap times of the most competitive racers at the track, his answer was simple, “Do about another thousand laps.”

So, there in lies the conundrum. The guys who are fast faster might have that inner ear advantage, but more than likely (and here, look no further than the current F1 grid) they probably started in racing at a very young age. I wonder if starting racing at a young enough age can actually change the physiology of the inner ear? Never mind, the point is, you need to get fast faster. Gran Turismo 6 might have finally reached a point of force feedback that makes gaming a valid opportunity to do just that.

This will shock traditionalists, but I am going to make a bold prediction. Within the next 2 years, a national sanctioning body will allow some form of simulated driving experience to be used to replace some portion of ground school for competition license qualifying. Undoubtedly, the requirements will be rigorous and probably involve a lot of the mandatory class room time that feels like waste at a race track. But, why shouldn’t it happen? The GT Academy series has shown us that a level of dedication to online racing shows a correlation to success on track. Yes, GT Academy grads are well supported in racing, but so far they have proved that support justified.

The next step is to go from just promoting the top 0.001% with race drives and sponsorship, to promoting the top 1% with license waivers and contingency programs. It can happen. It will happen. Maybe that’s why this old man keeps grinding on the wheel. I have faith that I can still unlock those magic 2.6 seconds and I believe that simulation is the path that will open up motorsport to a much younger generation.

10 Ways to Make F1 Pit Stops Safer

This post should allow mobile users to see the slideshow I put up this morning.

Once again the F1 supremo has spoken and once again he has decided the best way to save the little people  is to save them from themselves. I’m not saying Red Bull, or any other team should be singled out for punishment when someone is injured in the pit lane. The pit lane and the pre-race grid walk are dangerous places to work and spectate. The fact that F1 organizers have so quickly and unilaterally removed journalists (camera people) from the pit lane reveals, well… …I don’t need to say what it reveals, it’s obvious. They are the people with the power. This is not a news gathering environment. At this point, it’s barely a spectating environment.

I’m an advocate for safety but there are two chronic lies we keep telling ourselves about safety in motorsport. First, that safety has improved uniformly through out the ranks. This is patently false. The big dollar series are able to apply big dollar fixes to safety issues. And secondly, the moneyed few have used “safety” every chance they could to lie to themselves and further distance themselves from the filthy stinking masses (IE. the paying spectators.)

In the early 80’s,  I think I paid $10.00 for a pit pass (on top of the price of my weekend ticket.) I had the pleasure of strolling virtually unmolested through what felt like the vast confines of Cobo Hall at the Detroit GP. I chatted with some of the crew members of various teams. Gordon Murray walked by, followed by Jean Pierre Jarier. Maybe they were harassed to distraction at European races, but in the USA, basically no one recognized them. Now, it sounds like not even journalists will have that kind of access to F1 teams. At what point does it all become too absurd to bother?

Anyway, here’s the list:

F1 Pit Stop 2013

Option #10: Limit the number of crew members allowed over the wall for a pit stop. This is a rule used to make pit stops safer for everyone in the pitlane in NASCAR and USAC. Do 20 crew members attacking the car make for a safer more controlled pit lane environment, or 3 seconds of organized chaos?



F1 Traditions: No Pit Stops

Option # 9: F1 has traditionally been a sprint race involving no scheduled pit stops. Design tires to last the entire race and change rules to make pit stops too lengthy to be competitive.



NASCAR: Five Lug Nuts

Option #8: Simply mandate a design change to wheel specifications (like the 5 lug nut wheel used in NASCAR) making it virtually impossible for a wheel to fly off in the pit lane. A double locking center wheel nut would work.



NASCAR: Official Oversight

Option #7: NASCAR officials watch over every pit stop and strict rules are enforced about what the limited number of crew members can and can not do. Minor infractions, like losing a wheel in the pits, result in big penalties. OK, so maybe I am suggesting harsher penalties for teams that screw up.



Le Mans Pit Rules for Equipment

Option #6: Limit the equipment allowed to be carried over the wall. At Le Mans and in ALMS, limited air wrenches can be used during a pit stop. This slows everything down.



Option #5: Limits on Procedures

Option #5: Le Mans also controls pit procedures. Tire changes can not be performed simultaneously with refueling. Slower is safer, especially in a congested pit area.



Pit Lane Speed Limits are Universal

Option #4: F1 needs to look outside it’s own little box for simple safety solutions. A few years ago, mandatory speed limits seemed radical, now every professional series mandates speed limits. Perhaps a minimum time for a pit stop to ensure safety must be mandated. This could also assist in safer release into the pit lane by the lollipop person.



Indy Car Crew Position Rules

Option #3: Limiting the start position of crew members to avoid equipment being run over, USAC and IndyCar slow the overall pit stop and makes only one tire change (the outside rear in this case) critical. Perhaps similar positional restrictions could be made to make F1 pit stops longer and safer.



A Return to Refueling

Option #2: As much as refueling creates its own inherent risk, it slows the overall pit stop. Gravity fuel flow, further slows the procedure while eliminating the risk of high pressure fuel spills. Maybe not ideal, but teams would no longer be able to get in and out of the pits in 3 seconds.



Will The Rules Be Evenly Applied?

Option #1: The grid is perhaps the only place in F1 more dangerous than the pits, with cars driving in and around the knees of royalty, celebrities and fancy dress grid girls. How is F1 going to get the house of Grimaldi in full face helmets and balaclavas?

So that’s it. Ten ideas, none original, that should be brought into the discussion of making F1 pit stops safer for everyone, not just the media.

Images used whenever possible with the consent of the image provider. If you are aware of an image being used without credit or incorrectly, please contact the F1Jester immediately. Thank You – La Gerencia

GT Academy Status Update 3

This post was deleted by me, before I realized how to use a previous post for a template. I’m dumb as hell. But, I can’t be too mad at myself because I’m just learning how to do this. Besides, this status update was probably pretty boring anyway. So, honestly, you’re lucky I accidentally deleted it.

Hey, you know what’s fun. Adam Buxton’s Internet TV Show. I hate to leave you with nothing, so here’s a link to Bug TV, an odd little show by an odd little man.

There aint no Queue for the Summertime Booze.

Just a quick update. Worked a lot last night on getting thru sectors 3 and 4 efficiently. That is, doing it quickly and correctly. Hopefully that will result in some quicker overall lap times today and tomorrow. The problem new players have with GT Academy is too many aborted laps. I know I’ve done that in the past and still do it. So, you never familiarize yourself with the second half of the lap, at least not to the level of the first half.

So, that’s why I’m working diligently on the back half of the lap. Oh, and I also don’t think the 4 sector times add up to a complete lap. It appears there’s a sizable gap between at least sectors 3 and 4. Though, I might be wrong.

GT Academy Status Update 4

First, let’s not kid myself here. There are multiple real racing series, where real drivers post articles about real racing and real issues and concerns. Concerns that can literally mean life or death. And the world ignores them. I was shocked to see the abysmal turnout at some high profile races this weekend. Probably the most disappointing (at least watching on TV) was the return of IndyCar to Pocono. The main grandstand on the front straight never looked much more than half full. And there are men and women out on the track travelling over 225mph with average lap speeds north of 210mph, literally in the backyard of the Andretti family. And the world rewards such efforts with a collective yawn.

Try harder world.

I, on the other hand, am infinitely less interesting than the lowliest kart racer mixing it up in a rental kart at an indoor kart track. And, no one is going to read that guy’s blog. “Got passed on the last lap for 3rd place just as I was driving past the soda machine on the front straight.”

Nope: I’m not reading that. And I know you’re not reading that. If you’re in my target audience of motorsport fans, you have a wealth of  options available on the internet and on TV so overwhelming that a great kart racer, a great racer in ALMS, an up and coming stock car driver or IndyCar racer is not going to get much attention. So, who is going to follow the antics of some idiot attempting to qualify for a reality TV show?

I don’t know.

But I do know this. There are about a million of us trying. Out of that group, I’m rated 1291st (as of this writing) in my region and about 13,000th overall. I’m in the top 2% of all online racers trying to win this competition. And it’s a competition that realistically takes the top 0.01% of all competitors and gives them a shot in a real car on a real track. And, it changes my life when I compete and prepare to compete.

This past weekend I improved my 2013 5K PR to a pathetic 26:12 seconds. But that’s about 20 seconds better than I ran a month ago. And, I have another race this weekend. I’m eating healthier. I’m drinking less. I’m working out. I’m remembering my karting lessons about not hanging my hands off the wheel. Focusing on being precise with my left foot braking on a brake pedal that’s little more than an on/off switch. OK, I’m obsessed.

Obsession is something people like to read about. Obsession makes you crazy. Obsession gets under your skin and makes you want to scratch and scratch and scratch. I’m sure all of those real racers out there feel this obsession, ten fold over what I feel. I hope they start writing more about it because I’d love to read those articles rather than the usual “We were tight in turn two, then we made some adjustments and we were loose in turn two.”

Yesterday I pounded around a virtual map of Silverstone for about two hours and managed to skim another second or so off of my lap time. This brought me from about 3,000th place in the USA to closer to 1,000th place. Since it’s been 24 hours, that time has probably been beaten by a few hundred other virtual racers. Maybe individually we’re boring, but as a cultural phenomenon something interesting is happening here. We’re like the virtual zombie army from World War Z threatening to crash the gates of the racing for dollars party. Someone once said that there is probably a kid in an African village some place who can drive better than Jackie Stewart. Well, if the world is ever going to find that kid, GranTurismo is the way it will be done. Watch out for us boring zombies.