Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Can A Race Car Simulator Give One A Real Race Car Experience?

Award winning writer Thomas Stahler takes his turn at the wheel while at Seat Time’s Media Challenge. Here Tom negotiates past turn #3 along the short chute to turn #4 at the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2012)

Can A Race Car Simulator Give One A Real Race Car Experience?

Seat Time is Southern California’s premier simulator center. This environment offers a unique, immersive racing experience utilizing state of the art professional-grade training simulators in the heart of West Los Angeles, at the Santa Monica Airport.

Elliott Skeer is an up and coming driver involved in the Mazda driver development ladder series racing for CJ Wilson Racing in the 2012 Playboy MX5 Cup racing series. In this video, we see him laying down marker laps in order to post a time for writers and photographers who join in the MPG/Mazda MX5 Cup Media Challenge. The drive of for the challenge took place August 5, 2012 beginning at 1:00pm PT. The marker time Elliott posted was 1:42.904.

Elliott did not mention this, but he won the 2012 Race #1 Playboy MX-5 Cup at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca held May. 11, 2012 after qualifying in P2. Elliott’s fastest lap time during the 27 lap race at MRLS was recorded as 1:42.324.

Mazda Media Challenge lap time as posted before the competition on Saturday, August 5, 2012. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2012)
This excerpted and edited from STUART ROWLANDS PR press reports of  the SEAT TIME MEDIA CHALLENGE RACE -

For two weeks of grueling qualifying runs, media members sweating, straining, sawing at steering wheels, systematically stabbing at brakes, and braving the infamous “Corkscrew” once a lap are now history.
From July 15th through the 31st media members from all over the map made their way out to SEAT TIME in Santa Monica, California to test their formidable driving skills against each other … all sim-driving the same exact, identical Spec Mazdas on the rolling hills and steep drops of Mazda Raceway in Laguna Seca, all the while in the comfort of a club-like salon setting at the very aptly-named e-motorsports establishment.
For the moment the (simulated) tire smoke has cleared and the fantastically realistic CXC racing simulators are getting a well-deserved cooling off period before they are fired up again at 2PM on Saturday afternoon August 4 for the first ever SEAT TIME MEDIA CHALLENGE RACE.  
The event will be a flat-out, 30-minute timed race that pits the four fastest qualifiers directly against each other on the justifiably famous race track for all the marbles.And here they are:  Top qualifier: Jason Isley, from Sports Car/Racer Magazine who turned in a quick lap of 1:44.862.  In a close second: Kurt Niebhur from with a 1:45.330. Third and not  far behind (hey it’s a long race): Preston Lerner from Automobile Magazine who’s best lap was 1:46.349. And … starting from the coveted “south pole” position:’s own Mark Takahashi whose 1:48.837 got him in the big show.

Kurt Niebuhr from went into the lead directly from his outside front row starting spot and handily lead all 30 minutes of the inaugural SEAT TIME Media Challenge yesterday afternoon at the unique Santa Monica sim-racing establishment. Winner Niebuhr had decided to run a conservative race “… No spins, clean driving,” he said in post-race interviews. His win was a popular one and his name will forever be enshrined as the first of what is sure to become a long-standing annual event.
The Saturday afternoon showdown event was the culmination of a two week (plus) qualifying period that saw members of the motoring media stopping by SEAT TIME and laying down a fast lap time on the twisting-snaking race course at Mazda Raceway in Monterey, California.
Sim-driving identical Spec Mazda Miatas, the four fastest media types on the west coast ran a head-to-head final event at SEAT TIME in each piloting their own individual super high-tech CXC Motion-Pro II racing simulator.

Preston Lerner from Automobile Magazine was second in the race.  Lerner was new to sim-racing but has been a successful club sports car racer for many years now.  He was there to have fun but he got down to being very serious about lines and lap times when the green flag dropped.  Lerner ran hard but just could not quite catch the almost flawless Niebuhr.

Another staffer, Mark Takahashi, was running well up when the track just somehow sort of tightened up on him causing him to loop his Mazda at the top of the course; he finished third.

Chris Considine, CXC’s major-domo and the chief designer/brains behind the company’s phenomenal products and matching success, was on hand to cheer the media-types on.  Considine was taking a break from overseeing CXC’s weekend move from their now-outgrown design and manufacturing facilities in Marina del Rey, California to spacious new headquarters on Imperial Highway right at LAX.  

“This is exactly what we envisioned from the start at CXC,” Considine told us.  “We designed and build our machines for the realistic possible racing experience you can have short  of driving the real thing.  It never gets old for me to see a group like this getting so very serious about competition … It’s always cool to be a part of.”
Fastest qualifier, and a prohibitive favorite going in based on his prior racing exploits, SportsCar/Racer Magazine’s Jason Isley had an uncharacteristically bad day on the raceway, looping his little Miata a couple of times and finally retiring in the pits a few laps before the end of the 30 minutes championship runoff.

The highly-experienced racer Isley had words for it: “This is much harder than the real thing,” he quipped good naturedly as he accepted his 4th place trophy and parting gifts from MazdaSpeed’s peripatetic PR-pro Dean Case.

“Mazda’s participation in this first event was of enormous benefit,” said Chas Lawrence.  “They are very serious about young drivers and bringing them along not only as competitors, but as representatives of their company.  Their participation here at SEAT TIME puts us in some very good company.”

At the end of the 30 minute race, and even though they were all competing in a very comfortably air-conditioned salon atmosphere, all four drivers were soaked in sweat.  “That’s a diving simulator AND an exercise machine, Takahashi quipped as he chugged a cold bottle of water.

Young Mazda pro driving champ Elliott Skeer drove up from his home in Vista, California to be on hand to coach any of the contestants who needed a bit of help.  Two weeks earlier, Skeer had stopped by SEAT TIME and set the “official” bogey time (1.42.904). Note: his time was not eclipsed (at least at this event) by this group of hard chargers.  After the race the 17-year old put on an impromptu driving clinic for the media and fans effortlessly running near-record time laps at Mazda Raceway at the “keyboard” of the CXC machine.

Everyone in attendance agreed that the event needs to be an annual happening and SEAT TIME founder/operator Lawrence agreed.  “We really want to thank all the members of the media who took part in this new event … I know that all of them had a great time, and they’re all invited back for Media Challenge II!”
The winner’s podium (L to R) Winner Kurt Niebhur, SEAT TIME owner Chas Lawrence, Jason Isely 4th, Mark Takahashi 3rd, and Preston Lerner. 2nd. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2012)

Elliott Skeer is not the only professional race car driver to use Seat Time to gain some track experience. The following partial list have had multiple sessions at the Santa Monica location:
Patrick Long- ALMS GT, factory Porsche driver
Marco Holzer- ALMS GT, factory Porsche driver
Townsend Bell- ALMS GT, Indycar
Matt Halliday- FIA GT1, Australian V8 Supercars
David Heinemeier Hannson- ALMS P2
Michael Avenatti- ALMS GTC
Bob Faieta- ALMS GTC, Grand Am GT
Sean Johnston- IMSA GT3 Challenge (current points leader!)
Daniel “CJ” Calvert-Jones- IMSA GT3 Challenge, Grand Am GT
Fred Poordad- IMSA GT3 Challenge, Grand Am GT
Austin Dyne- NASCAR West Series
Harrison Geron- SCCA Spec Racer Ford
Brian Makse- NASA National Champion, MX5 Cup
Tommy Kendall-retired until last week! now, ALMS GT
Can a race car simulator give one a real race car experience? Judging by the emotional reaction of the automotive media gathered at the challenge, the list of names of accomplished drivers above, and the fact CXC Simulators just completed installing these type of machines at F1 team locations in Europe, one would have to come away with a resounding answer of … YES!
Whether one is an accomplished racer, aspire to become one, or are just an enthusiast looking for a unique experience, Seat Time is the place to come! Call 310.390.3580 or email (from the form at – today for more information or to reserve some … Seat Time.

… notes from The EDJE

** Article first published as Can a Race Car Simulator Give One a Real Race Car Experience? on Technorati **