Goodwin has already driven 5200 miles in the simulator over 31 sessions, working through a list of test scenarios. The computer model of the Valkyrie is detailed enough – and the simulator platform powerful enough – to allow meaningful data to be extracted from it. Some 750GB has been harvested already and shared with key suppliers.
So Goodwin’s virtual laps at Silverstone are the basis for Cosworth’s dyno testing of the prototype V12. According to James Knapton, RBR’s head of vehicle science, the Valkyrie’s Bosch stability control system will soon be running in real time, receiving the sensor inputs it would get from a physical car and outputting its decisions straight into the program.
So what stability control is running at the moment, I ask. “None,” says Goodwin, grinning, “and there’s no ABS either.”
Simulators are expensive to run and my time is limited. I will get to drive around Spa with one stint in what’s meant to be a generic supercar (“a bit McLaren, a bit Ferrari”, according to Goodwin) and then one in a fully simulated Valkyrie.
The simulator shows off its racing origins: I have to clamber into a cutout Formula 1 tub – necessitating left-foot braking – and the view on the wraparound screen is from the perspective of a single-seater, with rendered Michelin tyres on each side. There’s also a full F1-grade steering wheel, although Goodwin says I can ignore all controls except the gearchange paddles and push-to-talk button to speak to the control room. The simulator’s range of motion is limited – big systems require warehouse space – but it still moves violently enough to replicate true cockpit sensations.
First impressions are strange, the big-boy simulator feeling somehow less convincing than the video game versions of Spa I’ve experienced. The motion actuators create a sense of cornering and longitudinal forces, but these are short and sharp rather than sustained. The steering feels real, much more so than the usual force-feedback games controller, but the brake pedal lacks resistance and anything more than gentle pressure has me locking the front wheels. The graphics are also some way short of the beautifully rendered crispness of something like Forza 7. The wraparound screen gives an impression of three dimensions, but doesn’t give a sense of depth or distance, and I find I’m either braking much too early or clattering over kerbs with excessive speeds. On my second lap, I attempt Eau Rouge at such a ludicrous pace I crash the whole simulation, ending up floating in a dark void under Raidillon.