Like most men my age, I’d like to think I’m a pretty good driver.
I’m sensitive to what the car is doing both below my seat and on the road ahead. My amateurish experiences of heel-and-toeing and rev-matching were first practised on driving simulators, and then transferred to the real road.
However, just because you can put in consistent times on the Nurburgring on Gran Turismo, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be any good at Live for Speed – the 14 year-old, ultra-realistic game which Driversity uses in its full-feedback driving simulator.
I popped along with local car forum Eastside VW to give The Beast a shot – but sadly while we were there, it broke on my friend’s first try of it! For the brief amount of time we got to see it in action, it was a fearsome thing. Mounted on an elevated rig, The Beast would buck, judder and lean with every turn of the wheel and press of the pedals. Even standing from afar, it was clear that the driver was wrestling not just with the track but the real-life forces from the rig itself.
Once it was clear The Beast wasn’t going to be up and running any time soon, we were ushered into the main room, where eight identical simulators awaited us. These were more like the traditional racing seat ‘n pedals setup of your local arcade, with each displaying the Live for Speed loading screen. While the gameplay characteristics are very realistic, the game itself is a strange mishmash of fictitious race circuits and cars obviously inspired by specific counterparts, and limited real-life tracks and cars.
After trying a few combinations (from stripped-out original Minis to tech-laden DTM racers with mad aero), we as a group seemed to come back to the LX4; a lightweight, two-seater open-wheeler in the style of the Caterham 7.
As you’d expect, the first couple of races for a group completely unused to the cars or track were an utter riot. If you managed to survive the first corner (most didn’t), clutches would soon overheat and explode if you neglected to take your foot off the throttle mid-shift, while a brief foray onto the verge would be all that was needed to spin your car off-course. Try as I might, I couldn’t get used to modulating the brakes effectively enough to slow down in time. A heavy stamp would see them lock (no ABS here), or otherwise I’d go sailing past the apex with too much speed.
That said, Driversity was a great experience and is probably the closest you can get to really racing without worrying about the financial or material consequences of a trackday. I’d really recommend a visit if you wish to properly challenge your petrolhead friends.
You can find out more about Driversity, including contact details, on their website.