“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.