I always don’t know if that’s just extremely nerdy or falls under “serious sporting ambitions”. Do you just have a wheel off (no punt intended) if you put a four-digit amount in the apartment with a cockpit complete with racing seat and steering wheel? Or is that a totally reasonable price when you consider that in reality, motorsport is probably the most expensive of all sporting activities?
In any case, that’s exactly what I did and last year I expanded my sim racing setup with Fanatec’s direct drive steering wheel and now also the 8 nm power supply, load cell pedals and a cockpit with seat. That cost four figures, but it’s on the lower end of what you can invest in seriously recreating a real racing situation. Well, and then I found out that you can even attend a course that teaches you the basics of speed driving. And while I was at it…
Also, I thought some of you might be interested in this as well. I mean: What exactly do you actually learn there? And how much does that bring you on the track? Therefore, I will type down my experiences with this course here. This master class lasts a good month. And over the weekend we completed the first week. We, that is a total of 150 participants.
The whole thing is offered by Scott Mansell, whom some know as Driver61, because under this name he and his team have been publishing videos with interesting facts from the field of motorsport for several years. Scott has also long been coaching aspiring racers – which, interestingly, he got into after having given up his active career in Formula 1 and other series due to a lack of sponsorship money.
He is very familiar with this friction between passion and wallet, which is why he can probably understand that people like me want to race halfway seriously in their free time. In any case, he has been offering this master class with a number of trainers for three years now: a one-month course with self-study training units and weekly seminars and training sessions.
Of course, prospective racers will also find numerous tips and hints. Can the Driver61 Masterclass add something that goes significantly beyond that?
It costs somewhere between $100 and $150. Just can’t tell you the exact price at the moment as it’s temporarily unavailable and I got a discounted offer but also bought the option of an individual practice session. The bottom line is that it cost me $140. Also keep in mind that all training takes place in iRacing, so you need a separate subscription there. Only the individual training (as well as hours to be booked independently of the master class) can also be practiced in Assetto Corsa Competizione and that is exactly what I intend to do.
So, what has happened so far: not that much at all, which is why this first article is primarily about presenting the program. Basically, there is a seminar held via Zoom every week with one of the driving instructors and a training session for groups of up to five participants. For both there are always several dates and the possibility to make up for it. The seminars are also recorded. Driver61 knows that everyday life has priority.
In any case, part one of the self-study was activated first and seminars were held via zoom on both the first and second weekends, in which everything revolved around setting up Discord and iRacing. After all, the simulation should be set correctly in terms of field of view, force feedback and more, while even participants who are inexperienced with Discord have to learn to click in and stream their game. This is the only way the later instructors can get a reliable impression of what needs to be improved in the driving style of their protégés.
The main part of the course is a program divided into four sections.
Then things really got going: In the second week of self-study, everything revolved around anticipatory driving. I’m not telling some of you anything new when I say that you should almost always have your eye on the next corner, its apex and then the corner exit in order to position the car ideally in time. Anyone who only reacts to a loss of grip will certainly not achieve a best time. And in a series of videos, Scott explains how to prevent this or where to look and when.
If you want to get an idea of how he does it, there’s a publicly available short version of this lesson on the official website – which is actually why I didn’t find this first “real” week all that great. Of course, the master class goes into more detail, which is why I took some important comments with me. For those who have already dealt with such basics before, there is now a very manageable amount of new knowledge in it.
After all, there are also practice units in the master class, in which you can try driving with foresight in several steps according to instructions, in order to internalize it at some point. Because Driver61 selects suitable routes for this and with the Mazda MX-5 a very sporty but very good-natured car, you quickly learn something new during this self-study and also grind what you already know.
Driver61 sets up iRacing sessions where you can practice freely. The training sessions are also held there.
But it got really interesting in the first training session, with a maximum of five drivers in a group during the master class. The trainer then takes turns watching his participants and giving them tips on where they could give in, brake more carefully or change something else. Of course you can also ask very general questions or comment on which corner you have problems with – there is no fixed program in these meetings.
In any case, I was very impressed by the difference these tips made to my lap time and very happy that I was able to implement them quickly. That gives a lot of confidence, without me being among the fastest in any way before or now. A time of 1:01.097 at the Okayama International Circuit is really not something to shout about. But this confidence that you are on the right path is worth a lot and is the first step on the way to permanently better times.
The interesting thing is that I was able to hear how our trainer instructed the other drivers and how they responded to their very different strengths and, above all, weaknesses. When needed, he provided a visual illustration with a replay of his own lap, while he even taught at least one inexperienced pilot the basics of trailbreaking, ie how to slowly release the brakes into the corner.
You shouldn’t drive that far to the left at this point. Schmädig obviously lacked the right foresight!
In any case, I’m curious now: The tires have warmed up, I’m slowly getting used to my new load cell brakes and the current self-study topic sounds a lot more interesting because it’s about the same details when cornering – not just those the way the steering wheel is turned and the feeling in the ball of your foot, but also the understanding of the physics of what actually happens to the car when you turn in.
Also, a postwoman with Fanatec’s McLaren steering wheel just rang at the door. Did I write in the Gran Turismo DD Pro review that it was just Fanatec’s gateway drug? If only I had known then what I know now! But maybe more on that in one of the next few weeks.