Simulator Brings Race Weekends To Life At The Ford Performance Technical Centerby Hunter Thomas August 11, 2016 0 comments
CONCORD, N.C. – In May of 2014, the 33,000-square-foot Ford Performance Technical Center opened in Concord, North Carolina, and today, it’s where many of the Ford teams in NASCAR and IMSA get their technical resources.
Once you walk through the front offices and into the building, there are a few machines that the teams use quite regularly to fine tune-in their race setups, but down the hall is where the real magic happens. Hiding in the shadows of a massive screen is a life-size, full-motion platform simulator that drivers can strap into and get to work.
“It’s great,” said Ryan Briscoe, driver of the No. 67 Ford GT in IMSA. “When you get in there and you turn the lights out and you’ve got the projector up and running it feels like you’re in your race car.”
Teams can simulate the tracks that they visit, and in an office located just behind the simulator, Ford and team personnel can look-on and study data that’s being collected in real-time. When in use, the simulator will literally shake and move from side-to-side, depending on what’s happening in the video and how the driver is reacting. The bumps and every little detail of the track come to life. Drivers are strapped in, just like they would be if they were at the track. The peripheral vision is also the same as if the drivers were competing.
“I think the first reaction when you look at the simulator or jump in it to drive for the first time is the realism of it,” Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion in NASCAR said. “You sit inside the car and you strap in and you feel like you’re in a race car. Everything is in the right spot. The switches are where they typically are. The shifter is located in the same spot. The visuals are all the same. I think that kind of gives you that feeling that you’re in a race car and you’re at the race track.”
What’s so important about the full-motion platform simulator is that teams can use the machine to help with the setups before the upcoming race weekends. Just this season, Ford GT drivers used the simulator to prepare for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The No. 68 Ford GT went on to win the prestigious event with drivers Sébastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Müller.
“Motorsports racing is a very fast-moving industry and the auto industry is very fast-moving,” Mark Rushbrook, Motorsports Engineering Manager of Ford Performance said. “In order to amplify what we’re doing by having this facility, we’re able to invest, we’re able to react, we’re able to plan for the future to keep up with everything and, with innovation, move ahead.”
A rookie driver can get behind the wheel of the simulator and clock laps at a track that he or she has never visited before. When teams actually arrive at the track, the rookie driver will feel more comfortable because of all the time spent in the simulator. Since private testing is prohibited in NASCAR’s national series, the simulator is especially an important tool for the drivers coming up through the ranks.
“The facility is growing,” Pat DiMarco, NASCAR Program Manager said. “As we add more technology and more teams and more engineers, the engineers need things to do and tools to use and this is the enabler for us to do that.”
Learn more by watching Ford Performance’s YouTube video: Technical Center Makes a Difference On and Off the Track | By Design | Ford Performance
Photo and Video Credit: Ford Performance