I just spent the afternoon driving at 125mph round city streets, mountain roads and finally at a race track in my Corvette Z06. No, I’ve not been trying to get arrested. I have a new toy in my garage, a giant driving simulator where you drive your car as fast as you like without leaving the garage. It’s called the Tag Systems TS8000.
It’s Australian. But it has just been launched here in the States. So they asked if they could set up in my garage. I was a bit sceptical. I said, why don’t I just take my own car out and drive it? They said, well you can drive as fast as you want, on any race course or street that you want, in any kind of weather conditions.
It didn’t take long to set up. It’s a mobile system and takes half a day to install. It works on a rolling road. The front wheels go on some pads that turn with the wheel. You turn off the traction control, start the car and off you go. The realism is amazing. The car’s under load and sounds exactly as it would at 150mph. There are fans that simulate whatever speed you’re driving and the exhaust is extracted out the back through big hoses.
It’s a bit alarming when I am driving and I look at the speedometer and it says 150 and the tach is reading 6000 and I’m in sixth gear and I look over and there’s a guy standing right next to me – aagghh! It grabs you that much. It’s fun because you’re actually driving the car. The only thing you don’t get is g-force, obviously. But as you climb a hill and the hill drops off, it’s like you’re airborne. It’s like, JEEZ! It’s amazing.
It seems very safe. It is rated to 1100 horsepower and for now the top speed is around 175-180mph. So there’ll be no taking the McLaren F1 to 242 mph just yet… But the sense of speed is tremendous. So is the sense of inertia. It’s the rear wheels spinning the rollers, so when you lay off the car slows down. The minute you step on the brake, the car stops.
It takes two or three passes to get acclimatised to what’s happening but after about 15 minutes it becomes second nature. You find yourself doing things you could never do on the road. Like in the Corvette, hitting almost seven grand in every gear, including sixth. Most guys who have exotic cars have never heard their car run at 200mph, or even 160 or 170. The car is doing everything it does at those speeds, so it’s pretty amazing. And it gives you a sense of really how fast that is. Stuff is flying by you incredibly quickly.
I even got carsick. I was on the rally course in the mountains, doing jumps, and I had to pull over. It’s amazing how it tricks your senses.
You can put in any road you want. They’re from Australia so they have their version of popular roads and some roads that they’ve developed that are just interesting to drive on. But they could put in pretty well any road or track you want.
I think it’d be fun to put the Nürburgring in there, or Laguna Seca and drive some of my cars through The Corkscrew. If I put in Brooklands, I could drive my Lagonda, 8 Litre Bentley or my single-seater Speed Six Bentley there.
You can also race legally with this thing. Say I’ve got a Camaro and you’ve got a Mustang and we want to race; well, you turn to the drag race simulator and you pull up next to each other. The Christmas tree comes down and you dump the clutch at five grand and the wheels spin till they get traction, and at the end your torque, your time, your speed, your horsepower, all the pertinent information comes up on the computer right next to you. You actually know which car is faster.
Instead of two guys going out and trying to kill each other on a public highway somewhere, two guys with fast street cars can pull into this thing and race. Each unit is self-contained so you could have three or four in a row and race against each other.
I’m not really a video game guy. What this is, really, is a chassis dyno that will give you horsepower read-out, torque, specs, times, and you can actually have some fun with it while you’re solving problems. It’s a good way to test components and overheating tyres and everything like that. Or go for a drive on a rainy day and not get the car wet…
We spent the whole afternoon playing with this thing. All the guys got in and had a shot at it. Guys that I would never let drive my Corvette. The idea that I’m doing 150 in my garage is hilarious.
Asked whether driving your car in a simulator as opposed to on the real road is like comparing watching porn to having sex, my response is that you can learn to have sex better by watching porn. This is the car equivalent.