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Learning A New Circuit At Base Performance Simulators

Francois Perrodo on his preparation for the WEC's trip to Mexico

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While Base Performance Simulators’ GT and motion platform simulators  are often used to improve lap times and driving technique on circuits that the drivers already know, they can also be used to learn entirely new circuits, allowing drivers to get a leg up on the competition prior to a new event.

To find out more about how a driver tackles an entirely new circuit, DSC spoke to Francois Perrodo, who headed to Base Performance to get some track time on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit ahead of the World Endurance Championship’s first trip last month.

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In doing so, Perrodo – who leads the WEC’s GTE Am championship driving for AF Corse in its #83 Ferrari 458 GTE – was able to learn the circuit, which had seldom been used in its current form before he made his visit. In his eyes, there’s many advantages to pre-race simulator work, but the most important thing is that he feels it greatly decreases the risk of him making any costly in practice sessions.

“Going to Base Performance before race weekends is something I regularly do, but before the round in Mexico it was the first time I’d used Base to learn a track from scratch,” he told DSC.

“You always come away from Base wanting more, because of how much better you can get over the course of a couple of sessions. Before Mexico I got about 60-75 minutes and that helped me learn all the corners and some reference points.

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“In the simulator I’m in the my own world. I went and tackled the circuit and made all the mistakes I would normally in free practice, so that there’s less risk of having an incident.”

Prior to the three scheduled free practice sessions, the series’ organisers allowed everyone on the grid to participate in a Collective Test session. It gave everyone a chance to get some extra laps in, as almost all the drivers hadn’t driven there before; even the ones who had, only had experience on the different layout that Formula E used.

I felt like I’d already done the Collective Test before I arrived

“I felt like I’d already done the Collective Test before I arrived,” Perrodo said. “It was a good advantage against the other drivers of my level in the Am class, who hadn’t driven at the circuit before.”

The circuit is so new though, that Base Performance Simulators is constantly having to update its model to ensure that the next drivers who use it, are able to experience it a form as close as possible to its real life counterpart.

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“There are differences, but Base Performance Simulators do an incredible job of working with us to improve them,” explained Perrodo. The model of the track at Mexico they have is really new, because it’s such a new layout, but it was extremely accurate already. But they’ll improve it through feedback. Next time I’m in the UK I will give them advice on what the differences are, and help them make it even better.

Next time I’m in the UK I will give them advice on what the differences are, and help them make it even better.

“It’s the same with all circuits though to some extent. Sometimes you can turn up somewhere like Spa, and the kerbs are different. You then tell the guys at Base Performance, so that the next time you come in it’s closer to reality.

“The only real differences compared to the simulatir though, was that there were some sections that were easily flat that you had to be more cautious with in real life. In talking to Marc Wood the engineer, he said that they hadn’t had feedback from anyone who had driven it before I did, which was impressive, because I can say from experience that what they have is incredibly close already.”

It made for a very interesting track walk. At Mexico, DSC joined the AF Corse team on its first walk of the circuit, to get a first-hand impression of how Perrodo’s time on the simulator had prepared him.

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It meant Perrodo took on the role of the teacher, and was able to give advice to his pro teammates Emmanuel Collard and Rui Aguas, who hadn’t hit the track at that point. It also made for some interesting discussions about braking points and lines through some of the more technical sections.

I was able to attack that corner immediately because I already had the experience.

“We discussed the differences, which as an amateur driver is very beneficial and helps me learn,” he said. “As an example, Turn 12, as you come into the stadium, is third gear in the simulator and second in real life we discovered. I got that impression on the track walk, and that meant I was able to attack that corner immediately because I already had the experience. And in the simulator I had a lot of issues, going off at that corner.

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“For Mexico, it was especially helpful knowing where the walls are, and how much runoff there is. That’s very important for a street track. It meant I was satisfied with my stint in the Collective Test, and that allowed me to try new things in FP1 and not feel like I was wasting precious learning time. I felt like I just had to work with Manu and Rui to perfect my craft, the part of the weekend where it was up to me to learn it from scratch was over really early.”

In the end, Perrodo and the team finished second in the race, and extended their championship lead heading into round at Austin last weekend. Looking back, would he do the same again to help him prepare for Mexico? It’s safe to say he would.

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“With Base Performance, it’s a two-way street,” concluded Perrodo. “I have developed a relationship, and they follow my career, so they know my tendencies, and that helps me improve because we give each other feedback.

“The next time I head to a new circuit, I’ll have a session booked.”