As I made my daily commute through the twisty Cotswold lanes on the way to the office this morning, I was pondering the rise in recent years of historic racing. Race Tech has just launched a dedicated magazine named Historic Racing Technology, a number of top teams (such as Fortec Motorsport) are turning their expertise to classics and the Goodwood Revival, held last weekend, is going from strength to strength.
With the news that Market Engineering client rFpro has now accurately mapped the Nordschleife for the first time, and the ever-increasing profile and professionalism of historic racing, my mind turned to the use of simulators in this arena. The basic proposition of simulators is that a driver can get more seat-time without the related cost, risk and time commitment implicit in track testing. To me this seems like a made-to-measure fit for historic racing. From experience I can tell you that the differences between historic cars are far greater than modern vehicles and the cost of a crash or failure is sometimes scarily high. If you had a genuine Ferrari 250 GTO would you take it testing for a day at Snetterton or would you save the mileage and hope for the best on race day? If you are doing an endurance event would you trust your co-driver to have a day of familiarisation or would you recoil against the risk and expense and hope they make it through the race without a crash?
It struck me that simulators could be the answer, assuming that the vehicle models are accurate enough; they would enable safe, cost-effective, risk-free testing and familiarisation. Sadly, it turns out that this is a big assumption. Modern cars designed using CAD are relatively simple to model, classics that were designed on a drawing board would need to be entirely reverse-engineered, a huge job. Just finding the moment of inertia would require suspending the, potentially priceless, vehicle in mid-air. I am told that it could be done, with a lot of effort, for around £1m. There are currently 33 250 GTOs on the Ferrari Classiche register, so if you could then sell the model to all of the owners it would only be a little over £30,000 each – a price worth paying?