June 09, 2020
GUEST BLOG: ON TRACK FOR THE ACADEMY WITH ROB OLDLAND #5
With the start of the season still on hold, Rob Oldland explores the world of ‘virtual racing’ to get his motorsport fix.
Let’s start with the current situation regarding getting racing this year and I feel so happy to be able to report positive news. It’s mid-May as I write this article and talks between circuits, racing clubs and Caterham Motorsport are well underway. We have been provided with a preliminary race calendar which I think is excellent. All six races are retained with only the sprint race not possible to squeeze in. Three of the six original race weekends remain as planned in the original calendar which really helps with existing travel plans, work commitments and test days which have already been booked and paid for. The racing is now due to start in July and will be wrapped up as planned on the 17th/18th October at Donington Park. Please note, this is preliminary as I write the article; top tier racing such as the British Touring Car Championship, British Superbikes and even the Grand Prix are yet to fully confirm their calendars and obviously get priority should there be a clash of dates and venues.
So, with a good chance I will be racing at some point this year, what have I been doing to get myself as prepared as possible? Well, most probably like many Sevens at the moment, my car is clean! As well as looking the part, my car got taken apart. I started a YouTube channel with the aim of sharing my story, with the intention of encouraging others that perhaps they too could afford to compete in motorsport. Having started the channel, I wanted to keep providing content. Once the lockdown was underway, I had been entertained by many funny videos that other people had made and shared, so I thought it would be a good idea to do the same to lighten the mood by taking a laugh at my expense.
I have also had the time to swap the heated glass in the windscreen for plain. This was a top tip that was passed to me by an experienced Caterham motorsport driver. Screens often get broken on track, and since plain screens are much cheaper to replace, rather than wait for it to get broken, swap it. I removed the heated glass and stored it safely for after the race season and installed the plain screen. It’s a good idea to seal the glass with one of the hydrophobic treatments on the inside as well as the outside. While I wouldn’t advocate driving in the rain without your wipers on, the water just flies off the screen once you are going above about 30mph. I have added a ‘how to’ video to my channel showing the steps required to change the glass in the frame. If you are considering swapping your heated screen for plain glass, it is important to note that plain glass is a reason for an MOT failure.
As well as getting the car prepared, I continue to get myself prepared. When I signed up for the Academy last year I thought it would be a good idea to build myself a ‘budget’ race simulator. While this would incur some cost, it would be very quickly offset by savings in expensive track time (I think they call this man maths). I already had an Xbox, so purchased a Logitech G920 steering wheel, pedals and shifter, plus a Playseat gaming chair. Coupled to a redundant flatscreen and a speaker, I was in business for around £400. During lockdown, this has proven to be invaluable and has also become a social event where I have been able to ‘meet’ up virtually with other drivers and L7C members. If you are interested in getting involved with some virtual racing and have an Xbox, check out the ‘Anybody racing Project Cars 2 during lockdown?’ thread on BlatChat which is scheduled to have its first race in May. If you have a PC, Chris Hutchinson (Caterham Motorsport 310R 2018 Champion) has started a fantastic virtual race channel caterhamracer.com and is currently holding two race meetings per week which can be watched live, take a look!
Before lockdown, I had only attended two trackdays with my Academy car, at Brands Hatch Indy and Donington Park GP. At Brands Hatch, I was joined by my driver coach, Jamie Unwin, but at Donny I was on my own. I have had plenty of time to study the Vbox footage and data from the day at Donington. Lap times alone show that I’m several seconds off the pace. Also, when I looked at the data from the start of the day and compared it to the end of the day, I could see very little progress in my performance, whereas when I was being tutored by Jamie at Brands Hatch, my lap times had been falling throughout the day. This lead to an idea. At the moment we are using technology in ingenious ways to keep us connected socially and for business, so why not for driver coaching? I contacted Jamie and asked if he would be prepared to coach me over Zoom conferencing. I could share my screen and the Vbox data — it would be like were we sat together in the cafe at Brands. He agreed, and also kindly agreed to allow me to record and share the session. Again, this is available on my YouTube channel and makes for interesting watching. I have left everything in so you can see what I’m doing well, what not so well and hear some tips for race-craft. If you are planning a trackday at Donington, have a watch. Anyhow, the result of the virtual coaching session was brilliant. I took the advice straight onto the simulator to practice what I had been taught, which really helped embed and retain the learning. While clearly not as good as being out on track, it’s the best I can do right now and I am certain that when I next get to Donington, I will be quicker, sooner.
So, a busy month, when I hear many others saying ‘There’s nothing to do’. Whatever you use your Caterham for, there’s always something you can find to do! Stay safe.
To read the full article which originally appeared in Lowflying, the Lotus Seven Club magazine for Caterham and Lotus Seven enthusiasts – you can find out more here -www.lotus7.club.
Rob is a keen Caterham enthusiast. It took him 25 years of dreaming before he was actually able to own his first Caterham and now he's on Caterham number 4. Working his way up through the range from Roadsport, 420R and 620S, Rob has now embarked on the exciting journey of the Caterham Academy as an introduction to motorsport. Rob will be writing monthly blog posts following his progress in his first year racing Caterhams.