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CXC Simulations’ race prep is pretty cool to experience

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“There’s no substitute for track time” is an oft-repeated, old adage in racing.

It might need to be amended to, “there’s one good substitute for track time,” when referring to the Motion Pro II simulator at Los Angeles-based CXC Simulations.

Founded by Chris Considine in 2007, a past driver in his own right and son of veteran motorsports journalist Tim Considine, CXC Simulations has quickly risen up the ranks in terms of a place to prepare, largely through word-of-mouth. You might have heard of CXC for its work in building a modified Motion Pro II for IndyCar team co-owner Sam Schmidt, who’s paralyzed, but has used the technology to drive the SAM street car using just his head and breathing.

Thanks to the engineering and design of the simulators, which are designed for in-home use, drivers of all ages and experience levels can get acquainted thanks to the near real world physics of the simulator – with a variety of cars and tracks available for use on the simulator with iRacing software.

It’s key for both professional drivers and more gentlemen drivers to have the time to improve their craft. For gentlemen drivers who own or operate businesses, their only track time may be on the race weekend itself, so oftentimes they’ll need to do simulator work at home because they don’t have a ton of time to test.

Verizon IndyCar Series NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell and fellow IndyCar veteran Oriol Servia are among those who train and practice at CXC, as is Laguna Beach native Michael Lewis, who’s won two Pirelli World Challenge races this season in an EFFORT Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Olympic Gold Medalist Tyler Clary, a swimmer who’s a keen race fan and working to integrate himself into motorsports, was also by last week with Servia coaching him. And Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires driver Neil Alberico, another Calfornia native, was in earlier this week:

One of our Verizon IndyCar Series NBCSN pit reporters, Katie Hargitt, and I had a chance to head to the facility near LAX on the Thursday before this past weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to check out the Motion Pro II and prep for the weekend ahead by feeling the car out.

Hargitt was up first and sampled two cars, first the new 2016 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car, and then the base Dallara DW12 chassis (sans aero kit) for her first time in the simulator at Long Beach.

Considine coached her through the process on the radio, although for Hargitt it was a nice opportunity to get back behind the wheel. She used to race quarter midgets before shifting to the media side of the sport.

“Simulation is repetition,” Considine says. “The more you do it, the more you believe it.”

And it showed. Hargitt’s clean lines and apexes on course, and good transition from the MX-5 car into the IndyCar, impressed those of us in the room.

She didn’t make any mistakes until her last lap after about a half hour run – Considine called her Turn 11 apex at the hairpin “perfect” at one point – and fully enjoyed the experience.

“I was just amazed at how realistic it was,” said Hargitt, who reports for NBCSN’s IndyCar and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races. “I really think it helped when I was working the race this weekend.

“I had a much better understanding of where drivers were on the track, which helped me understand the feedback they were giving over their radios. I can see how even just understanding the course is helpful for reporters, as well.”

For good measure, she also enjoyed a two-seater ride of the course on the Friday with Gabby Chaves, the 2015 IndyCar and Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year who’s talented but currently sidelined.

I was next up and straight into the IndyCar. Arguably the toughest part of the course for me was Turn 5 – a moderately off-camber right-hander that is super bumpy and key to launch out of quickly for the second of three long straights on the course. I could not get that corner right to save my life!

Still, both Hargitt and I posted respectable times. I don’t think either one of us is going to be giving up our day jobs anytime soon to get behind the wheel, but it was still a very fun and enjoyable experience for both of us.

For more information on CXC Simulations, check out its website.

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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.