Race report: Spa, 19 October 2021

Qualification was the big highlight as setup issues and aero damage hampered progress in the race

Spa’s high-speed sections reward drivers that can push to the limit, but only if the car setup is fully dialled in. And, unfortunately, for Copper Horse Racing in the last race of Season 8 it wasn’t. But if you never try, you’ll never know and with three top ten finishes out of the six races entered, the team is more than happy with the performance overall. 

Uphill battle: Copper Horse Racing’s laps of the Spa circuit did not go to plan. 

Unfortunately, due to a lot of work and travel in the week before the race, the time to perfect Car 59’s setup just wasn’t there for the final event of the season. A crash early in the practice race on the Sunday prior to Tuesday’s main race gave some indications that the setup wasn’t where it should be, with the car feeling very nervous through the two main high-speed corners, Eau Rouge and Radillion, when fully loaded with fuel.  

Testing the tyre model 

This unsettling of the car unsettled the driver too! However, it was an opportunity to bank some very important lessons about tyre ‘flat-spotting’. As the car begins to lose traction and spin at high-speed, the instinct in the cockpit is to keep your foot on the brakes, but this makes a bad situation worse. Wheel rotation impeded, the tyre rubber quickly scrubbed off against the track surface and left a flat spot on each that made the car almost undriveable after recovering from the crash. 

Mercedes power: Daniel Molina goes through Les Combes on Lap 1. 

To the qualification on Tuesday and David put in a decent performance with a credible 2:20 lap earning him 10th on the grid for the race. Nerves about the car state at full fuel made David back off through the high-speed corners for the race, but staying within the limits of the suboptimal setup proved to be impossible. On lap 3, the rear end went at the fast Radillion section and the white and green Lamborghini Huracán careered into the barriers (thankfully no foot on the brake through the slide this time – noting the lessons learned from the practice race).  

Suboptimal setup: Car 59 just before heading into the barriers through Radillion. 

Quickly recovering, but with places lost, David made a beeline for the pits. The mandatory pit stop would have to be served early, including an additional thirty-some seconds of repairs. Back on track, fighting through the pack to regain lost time wasn’t as easy as planned. Further hampering this effort was the need to nurse the poorly setup Lamborghini through the high-speed combination of Eau Rouge and Radillion, losing out on the speed that’s vital to carry into the Kemmel Straight that follows it. 

Hoovering up the tarmac: the aerowork on Jamie Sterritt’s Ferrari floats close to the track, with Car 59 just visible from behind. 
Newer model: Dominik Szymanski drives the black and yellow Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo. 

Bumped at the bus stop 

However, another incident was to have a bigger impact on Copper Horse Racing’s success at Spa. Turning into the slow Bus Stop chicane on lap 16, a car smashed into the rear of the Lamborghini, wrecking the aerodynamic bodywork. Taking another pit stop would be an instant write-off for the race. But with the aero damage came a further worry – more vehicle instability. And, sure enough, Car 59 took another spin at the top of Radillion, collecting more damage. David continued to complete the race, gathering points in the process and finishing 18th. A less than ideal second-half of the race and a disappointing end to the season, which had been very positive up until Spa. But as the late, great Murray Walker once said, “That’s history. I say history because it happened in the past.” 

Talking telemetry 

Hands on the wheel: Copper Horse’s vehicle hacking simulator uses in-game telemetry to drive real world vehicle components such as the instrument cluster shown here. In the image, the turn signal is illuminated in response to the left indicator signal generated within Euro Truck Simulator 2. The fluffy dice are an optional extra. 

It was interesting to hear from Edward Green, McLaren’s Head of Commercial Technology, at this year’s Splunk conference as the presentation nicely validated the power of driving game telemetry. In our case, we are using the data to provide inputs for the vehicle hacking rig’s real world components such as the instrument cluster. And for McLaren, the telemetry feed was an efficient way for them to explore new approaches to race analysis and visualization during lockdown. Green noted some perks of the game data too – you get everything without interruption. On track, teams have to be more selective about which of the up to 300 sensors per car to examine due to bandwidth and weight considerations. Plus, there can be gaps in the wireless transmission depending on the geography and architecture of the circuit, although the full data set can be recovered when cars return to the garage.   

Tier 10 final standings 

Top spot in the Tier 10 leaderboard: Steffen Bley, driving a Porsche 991 II GT3 R. 
Race winner: Matthew North took first place at Spa-Francorchamps. 

With Nico Urbantat unable to start the final race, his lead at the top of the standings was vulnerable. And thanks to another second place finish (his fourth in the season), Steffen Bley took the top spot, nudging Nico Urbantat into the runner-up position. Matthew North, who missed last week’s event at Monza, took maximum points at Spa, which was enough to take third place overall and push Teis Hertgers into fourth. 

Look out for the logos: a close up view of Car 59. 

Copper Horse Racing held on to its P16 in the standings out of the 32 eligible drivers competing in Tier 10.    

About the authors  

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse.  

David Rogers is Founder and CEO of Copper Horse and Driver of Car 59.

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