Race report: Snetterton, 14 September 2021

Top ten finish for Copper Horse Racing on Season 8 debut

Copper Horse Racing is back for another season of virtual GT3 racing organised by Apex Online Racing. Once again supporting its Secure-CAV livery, Car 59 joined the action at the third event in the calendar – Snetterton, a tight and technical track originally created from a network of runways.

Close racing: Side by side into the Montreal corner with the number 271 Ferrari of Jamie Sterritt

Moving target

To recap, our target for Season 7 was to finish top 20 in the overall standings (Tier 10) – which, thanks to the (slowly improving!) sim-racing skills of Copper Horse’s David Rogers, we managed to hit by placing 19th. Given that this time around we’re joining at race 3 and missing out on points from the first two events, our Season 8 target is going to be different – to bag a podium finish. There’s some debate in the back-room as to the likelihood of achieving this goal, but based on the trajectory of last season’s finishes – it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Plus, we begin this season further up the learning curve in terms of car setup and race craft.

We were up against good competition in Season 7, which is the best training you can have. Looking at some of the familiar names from our Tier 10 debut, El Tigre Blanco and Justin Dawson have jumped up two tiers for Season 8. Scott Ullmann (Tier 10 champion in Season 7), Scott Cranston and Mar Coolio have gone one better and are all now racing in Tier 7. Copper Horse rejoins in Tier 10 and faces some fresh talent in the league who are very quick.

Snetterton race notes

Waiting for the green light: Secure-CAV badged Car 59 lines up 7th on the grid.

A long formation lap helped to calm the nerves and the white and green Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Copper Horse Racing, having qualified in its highest ever position of 7th, started ahead of the main pack. The setup for this track involved stiffening the rear of the car to get extra stability and finding the right balance of rear wing for the long straights and tight hairpins.

A relatively clean start for all began an hour of hard driving amongst a group of very fast and determined competitors. The 2015 Lambo was faster than many, but on a tight circuit, it proved difficult to get past some cars. There were a couple of off-track moments whilst attempting to squeeze past opponents, losing some early places – especially while tyres came up to temperature.

Learning curve: chasing down Alen Bardet in his Porsche 911 through the infamous ‘Bomb Hole’ before he dived into the pits.

As the race settled in, the tactical battle of the mandatory pitstop began. David opted to stay out until either he hit traffic or the tyre wear started to compromise the lap times.

On lap 19, the tyres started to go off, so the car headed into the pits – choosing to not repair some minor suspension damage in order to keep the stop short. Returning to the track, battling resumed with the Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo of Jamie Sterritt until the Lamborghini found a way past on lap 22, holding its P9 position until the finish. The final part of the race involved car 59 chasing down the number 96 Mercedes-AMG of Armands Petrovics, with the gap steadily dropping. But it would have needed a couple more laps to pass, with the gap reduced to around a second at the chequered flag.

Last lap: under the bridge for the final time.

The dry conditions allowed racers to set some quick lap times, with three of the top 20 best laps being set by David Rogers, although it’s both pace and consistency that ultimately brings victory – as demonstrated by race winner Nico Urbantat in a Porsche 911 II GT3 R 2019.

Next week, organisers dial up the difficulty (and the drama!) as drivers tackle the Nürburgring in the wet.

Cars that don’t exist

Readers of previous race reports will notice that we like to introduce security topics into the blogs to shine a light on our day job. Copper Horse engages in a wide range of activities including threat modelling, policy development, training and product security testing from web applications through to device hardware.

This week, it’s interesting to note how easy – thanks to the laser-scanned track and car details – it can be to confuse in-game images with real life photos, at least from some angles. Artificial intelligence can mix things up further still – for example, in 2018 Nvidia researchers used a technique dubbed style-mixing to generate images of cars that don’t exist, yet appear real (a copy of their paper is available on arXiv).

Abraham Lincoln famously said that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, but computers could one day push that quotation to the limit.

It also makes us wonder whether we’ll ever get some mixed reality racing in future SRO GT series. There is already a concurrent esports series to the existing real GT World Challenge, with the same drivers. Imagine a world where there are real racing drivers remotely driving real cars, fully autonomous real cars on the track, combined with virtual cars around the real track (that the real drivers on track can also see!). It is really not that far-fetched, but it is certainly going to be a very different world!

About the author

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse.