Past Rolex 24 winner Dion von Moltke was skeptical. The pro driver and owner of Blayze driver coaching (an SCCA partner, by the way) openly admitted that he didn’t think home racing simulators were of value to race car drivers, other than learning the basics of the track. Enter another SCCA partner, Spark, which took this challenge to heart.
Spark co-founder and CEO Matt McGivern invited von Moltke to Spark’s Connecticut headquarters to spend an afternoon on the company’s base level S-100 Series and more advanced S-600 Series motion simulated system to see if the company’s holistic, curated sim setups could change his mind.
Von Moltke has said his past experiences with racing simulators – save for multi-million-dollar simulator machines set up by manufacturers for their racing program – have been mixed at best.
“[Home racing simulators have] always been a tool that I’ve found that is fun [and] can help a little bit mentally,” von Moltke noted in a video after spending time on a couple of Spark’s simulators. “I consider myself maybe one of the harsher critics of simulators overall. I never thought they were really a driver training tool.”
Home racing sim setups, he explained, helped him learn the track direction, but he was quick to point out that there’s a difference between laps, and valuable laps. After all, the average amateur racer gets on track about four times per year; a very busy racer might race 15 times. Can you imagine if LeBron James only picked up a basketball between four and 15 days every year?
“It’s not just reps, but quality of reps,” von Moltke said.
“We love having harsh critics sit down in the simulators – especially people who know what they’re talking about,” McGivern said while chatting with von Moltke. “For [Spark] as a business, we hang our hat on the tuning of the simulator. So you can have great hardware and put it all together and go through the hassles of buying it, building it, and everything, and still have a simulator that’s pretty useless. We refer to those simulators as track familiarity tools. You can use it ahead of time to learn where the left turns are, where the right turns are, where the straightaways are, so you can show up at VIR and know roughly where the track goes.
“What we’ve done over the course of thousands of hours and hundreds of iterations is focus on tuning, to the point that even for a driver at your quality, you feel that you can improve your driving skills and find your actual driving line.”
Did Spark convert von Moltke using Spark’s S-600 system, which comes as a turnkey solution and moves across all six degrees of freedom to make it a true motion system that provides maximum feedback from the virtual car?
You’ll have to watch the video below to find out, but the shorthand version comes in one sentence from von Moltke: “[To] see the amount of effort and tuning that [Spark has] put into this simulator, it has turned it into a driver training tool.”
That, plus the video’s title – “Spark Makes Pro Racer Dion von Moltke Believe In Simulators” – might be a giveaway of what happens, but it’s the intricacies of von Moltke’s decision-making process that make the video a must watch.
Below, you’ll find the full video. To find out more about Spark and its variety of racing simulator setups, head to DriveSVR.com.