You know the scene in Bean (1997) when he’s in the cinema with host David Langley (Peter MacNicol) and he fiddles with the controls at the back of the room so that the moving chairs they’re on go mad and start flinging people off? Well, Race Room was a bit like that — you would want to do it again.
Where did you experience it?
I was at Brands Hatch for the Historic Masters Championship, a series for historic racing cars. Amongst the shops and burger stalls was Race Room, innocuous from the outside, a Pandora’s box of sensational senses awaited inside.
Hang on a minute, what is Race Room?
Race Room is a business which provides racing simulators which people pay to drive. The sessions are normally short, under 12 minutes, but also cheap, under £12 per person. More information can be found on their site.
So how does it work?
You sit on a seat which is fitted to a series of actuators that replicate how the car would react in certain situations. If you brake hard it tips you forward aggressively, if you accelerate quickly it leans you back.
Its Newton’s third Law; any aggressive actions are met with aggressive reactions. This applies to the steering that provides forced feedback. It resists your desire to steer it in the same way that turning the knob clockwise on a spinning bike resists the movement of your legs.
Big question, which circuit did you get?
There was a choice thankfully and, since it has a good range of fast and slow corners as well as being the one I was most familiar with, Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium seemed the best choice.
So the effect of all this was …?
Profound, I am not well endowed in the muscle department, so it took some getting used to. Through the fast corners it required real effort on my part to turn it in.
As a good comparison, it’s like driving a go-kart on the limit when you’re being chased by everyone else in close proximity. I wasn’t racing against anyone, it was a time trial, but I was intensely focused on not screwing up in a shop with other people — bravado’s important you know. ?
Was it worth it?
Yes. Bar the inclusion of virtual reality, this is the best value for money way you can experience what it’s like to be Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen; though its only a simulation you at least get a taste of what the drivers go through on a lap.
Where does it rank against other simulators you’ve tried?
I’ve not tried everything in this market. I’m probably barely scratching the surface but I’ve been on similar rigs to say that in terms of pounds in your pocket this is a highly recommendable experience. Also, its important to note that this wasn’t the only rig at Race Room, if you have siblings or children there were less intense simulators.
Where can I try it?
Race Room has a range of branches across the country. If you get hooked they even run e-Sports championships akin to what F1 is doing with its e-Sports World Championship.