Race report: Spa, 19 October 2021

Qualification was the big highlight as setup issues and aero damage hampered progress in the race

Spa’s high-speed sections reward drivers that can push to the limit, but only if the car setup is fully dialled in. And, unfortunately, for Copper Horse Racing in the last race of Season 8 it wasn’t. But if you never try, you’ll never know and with three top ten finishes out of the six races entered, the team is more than happy with the performance overall. 

Uphill battle: Copper Horse Racing’s laps of the Spa circuit did not go to plan. 

Unfortunately, due to a lot of work and travel in the week before the race, the time to perfect Car 59’s setup just wasn’t there for the final event of the season. A crash early in the practice race on the Sunday prior to Tuesday’s main race gave some indications that the setup wasn’t where it should be, with the car feeling very nervous through the two main high-speed corners, Eau Rouge and Radillion, when fully loaded with fuel.  

Testing the tyre model 

This unsettling of the car unsettled the driver too! However, it was an opportunity to bank some very important lessons about tyre ‘flat-spotting’. As the car begins to lose traction and spin at high-speed, the instinct in the cockpit is to keep your foot on the brakes, but this makes a bad situation worse. Wheel rotation impeded, the tyre rubber quickly scrubbed off against the track surface and left a flat spot on each that made the car almost undriveable after recovering from the crash. 

Mercedes power: Daniel Molina goes through Les Combes on Lap 1. 

To the qualification on Tuesday and David put in a decent performance with a credible 2:20 lap earning him 10th on the grid for the race. Nerves about the car state at full fuel made David back off through the high-speed corners for the race, but staying within the limits of the suboptimal setup proved to be impossible. On lap 3, the rear end went at the fast Radillion section and the white and green Lamborghini Huracán careered into the barriers (thankfully no foot on the brake through the slide this time – noting the lessons learned from the practice race).  

Suboptimal setup: Car 59 just before heading into the barriers through Radillion. 

Quickly recovering, but with places lost, David made a beeline for the pits. The mandatory pit stop would have to be served early, including an additional thirty-some seconds of repairs. Back on track, fighting through the pack to regain lost time wasn’t as easy as planned. Further hampering this effort was the need to nurse the poorly setup Lamborghini through the high-speed combination of Eau Rouge and Radillion, losing out on the speed that’s vital to carry into the Kemmel Straight that follows it. 

Hoovering up the tarmac: the aerowork on Jamie Sterritt’s Ferrari floats close to the track, with Car 59 just visible from behind. 
Newer model: Dominik Szymanski drives the black and yellow Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo. 

Bumped at the bus stop 

However, another incident was to have a bigger impact on Copper Horse Racing’s success at Spa. Turning into the slow Bus Stop chicane on lap 16, a car smashed into the rear of the Lamborghini, wrecking the aerodynamic bodywork. Taking another pit stop would be an instant write-off for the race. But with the aero damage came a further worry – more vehicle instability. And, sure enough, Car 59 took another spin at the top of Radillion, collecting more damage. David continued to complete the race, gathering points in the process and finishing 18th. A less than ideal second-half of the race and a disappointing end to the season, which had been very positive up until Spa. But as the late, great Murray Walker once said, “That’s history. I say history because it happened in the past.” 

Talking telemetry 

Hands on the wheel: Copper Horse’s vehicle hacking simulator uses in-game telemetry to drive real world vehicle components such as the instrument cluster shown here. In the image, the turn signal is illuminated in response to the left indicator signal generated within Euro Truck Simulator 2. The fluffy dice are an optional extra. 

It was interesting to hear from Edward Green, McLaren’s Head of Commercial Technology, at this year’s Splunk conference as the presentation nicely validated the power of driving game telemetry. In our case, we are using the data to provide inputs for the vehicle hacking rig’s real world components such as the instrument cluster. And for McLaren, the telemetry feed was an efficient way for them to explore new approaches to race analysis and visualization during lockdown. Green noted some perks of the game data too – you get everything without interruption. On track, teams have to be more selective about which of the up to 300 sensors per car to examine due to bandwidth and weight considerations. Plus, there can be gaps in the wireless transmission depending on the geography and architecture of the circuit, although the full data set can be recovered when cars return to the garage.   

Tier 10 final standings 

Top spot in the Tier 10 leaderboard: Steffen Bley, driving a Porsche 991 II GT3 R. 
Race winner: Matthew North took first place at Spa-Francorchamps. 

With Nico Urbantat unable to start the final race, his lead at the top of the standings was vulnerable. And thanks to another second place finish (his fourth in the season), Steffen Bley took the top spot, nudging Nico Urbantat into the runner-up position. Matthew North, who missed last week’s event at Monza, took maximum points at Spa, which was enough to take third place overall and push Teis Hertgers into fourth. 

Look out for the logos: a close up view of Car 59. 

Copper Horse Racing held on to its P16 in the standings out of the 32 eligible drivers competing in Tier 10.    

About the authors  

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse.  

David Rogers is Founder and CEO of Copper Horse and Driver of Car 59.

Race report: Monza, 12 October 2021

Sent spinning off track in lap 1, Car 59 battles back to finish P9

Season 8 is back-loaded with a testing trilogy of iconic circuits – Suzuka, Monza and Spa – as AOR’s virtual GT3 series nears the end of its eight-race run. Last week’s laps of Suzuka certainly pushed drivers to the limit, but how about the sim-racing rigs? In the case of Copper Horse Racing’s setup, there were definitely some complaints from the pedal board, which started to cause throttle fluctuations in the closing stages of the event. 

For Monza, the issue has been dealt with by a squirt of contact cleaner – with the can kept handy for the mandatory pit stop, adding an element of real-world vehicle maintenance to the already impressive on-screen action. 

Tough driving conditions: traction loss was an issue in the wet at Monza .

Track knowledge 

Monza is one of Copper Horse Racing’s most-driven tracks, which bumped up the potential to deliver a good result – at least in the dry. However, the constant rain during both qualifying and race sessions nudged Car 59 towards a more cautious strategy. 

Not all drivers took this route though, as – like clockwork – a three-wide tangle between competitors on lap one of the main event sent cars spinning. Unfortunately for Copper Horse Racing, the casualties included Car 59 – with the white and green Lamborghini rejoining the track almost at the back of the pack, scrubbing out any gains made during qualifying. 

Moving up through the order: Car 59 passes the Audi of Spaniard Manu Prieto at the Variante della Roggia.

Trading places 

What followed was the most epic battle yet for Car 59 as it worked its way up the order and chased down the Lexus of A. Bayer – from the 9th lap right through to the end of the 90 minute race, trading places back and forth throughout. Both drivers showed the other respect, each leaving just enough space to avoid any incident and clearly enjoying the opportunity to practice their race craft.  

Inside line: A. Bayer in the Lexus goes through into Retifillio, but the battle with the white and green Lamborghini would continue.
Advancing again: the Lexus edges ahead once more as spray from both vehicles leaves a cloud of water behind. 
Yet another overtake: this time it’s Copper Horse Racing that gets in front with the Lamborghini finishing P9 ahead of the Lexus in P10 at the chequered flag – concluding an epic battle.

Rig updates 

As regular readers of our race reports will know, the driving rig also doubles as a vehicle hacking simulator and we’ve been making some upgrades to add to the experience and also help people feel safer when we’re out on the road at events, including the addition of a seatbelt. These additions also pave the way for us to further integrate other elements of the instrument cluster and other components – such as various cabin warning signals. With modern vehicles containing a raft of sensors, there are lots of options to explore on this theme as we build on our Secure-CAV work and continue to the develop the rig.  

Buckle up for the ride: a race-grade 4-point harness is the latest upgrade to the Copper Horse vehicle hacking simulator as we prepare to take the rig out on tour (stay tuned @CopperHorseUK on Twitter for more details on our whereabouts in November). 

Monza podium 

Teis Hertgers, third-place finisher at Suzuka last week, won in convincing style at Monza – leading the race from lap five. Steffen Bley came in second, followed by Matheus Martins in P3 to complete the podium. 

Dominant drive: Teis Hertgers led the race from lap five at Monza in a white and black Aston Martin.

With race seven complete, competitors have just one more event to bag points as season 8 draws to a close at Spa-Francorchamps. Look out for the next race blog to see if Car 59 can round out the calendar with a trio of top ten finishes.  

About the author 

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse.

Race report: Suzuka, 5 October 2021

Copper Horse Racing puts in fast laps under the stars to bag another top 10 finish  

In season 7, Car 59 raced around Zolder and now – in season 8 – it’s time to add another John Hugenholtz designed track to the list – the mighty Suzuka circuit. Built in the 1960’s to fulfill Honda’s test track needs, the technical layout wastes no time in discovering a driver’s limit thanks to iconic features such as ‘the Esses’ (or ‘Snake’) and ‘Spoon curve’. 

Esses from the air: after navigating turn one, competitors then snake through a series of ‘S’ curves.

Also, if that wasn’t enough to contend with, series organisers Apex Online Racing have made this event a night race, although sparingly, a dry night race.  

Fully committed: Car 59 positions itself for the high-speed 130R bend followed by Sweden’s Mathias Alenmalm in an underrated LEXUS RC F GT3 – one of the best handling models on the grid. 

Green lights and away 

Qualifying mid-pack in P12, it was important to survive the opening laps without incident. A couple of bumps from neighbouring drivers threatened to send the white and green 2015 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 off-track. But lead driver David Rogers had confidence in the vehicle settings and managed to keep Car 59 between the white lines. So began the 60 minutes slog around a very physically demanding circuit (yes, that’s right – sim racing can be both physically and mentally demanding!).  

First lap action at Suzuka in Season 8 of AOR’s GT3 sim-racing series.

Under race conditions, the Lamborghini performed well across all three sectors as grip levels allowed it to find more time through the Hairpin and two Degner corners – sequences that had been more costly in qualification with less rubber on track. A conscious choice had been made to increase the level of rear wing for this race and to keep the traction control at a reasonable level as the cold night air made the track slippery than usual. 

Overtaking opportunity: Copper Horse Racing’s white and green Lamborghini pulls ahead of Davy Melin in a McLaren.

Playing the long game, Car 59 had moved up five places to 7th by lap 10, picking its battles to keep within the limits of track and driver. As the leaders pitted, the Secure-CAV liveried Lamborghini enjoyed a short spell at the front of the race until it too had to stop for new tyres. 

Cockpit view: Copper Horse racing spent much of the race behind Brazilian driver Matheus Martins who drove well in a Mercedes AMG GT3. 

Rejoining the action, the biggest concern was obeying track limits, particularly around the tricky ‘Spoon’. With ten minutes to go, a second track limits warning was received; one more and it would be a stop-go penalty. Careful driving in that section for the remainder allowed the Lambo to steer clear of last minute disaster! 

Penalties avoided, it was an encouraging night’s work as Car 59 registered its best race result in the competition so far – P8. 

X-section: Suzuka’s figure of eight layout is enabled by an overpass. Race leader Nico Urbantat heads under the bridge, stuck in traffic between the yellow number 87 McLaren of Northern Ireland’s Willy Cranston in 13th and 14th-placed number 878 of Poland’s Robert. Davy Melin’s number 22 McLaren 720s GT3 in 9th place crosses over the top. 

Secure-CAV makes its YouTube debut 

With our race reports in double figures, you probably know a great deal about our exploits on track. But there’s plenty that happens when we’re not racing. One of our biggest projects currently is Secure-CAV, where Copper Horse is contributing threat modelling and security testing expertise. And a quick way of finding out more, is to check out this short film commissioned by the project partners and made over the summer by Suited & Booted studios

Podium positions 

No change from Last week with Nico Urbantat taking the win once again and Matthew North coming second. But the third spot has proven to be less predictable with Teis Hertgers taking P3 this time around. 

Top spot: Nico Urbantat in a Porsche 991 takes the win at Suzuka.

About the author 

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse. 

Race report: Zandvoort, 28 September 2021

An early spin puts a dent in the final result, but the signs are encouraging for future races 

Dry conditions at the Zandvoort circuit meant that drivers could make the most of its fast and flowing layout. And Copper Horse Racing’s white and green Lamborghini Huracán 2015 did just that, at least until the end of lap 4. 

Qualification boost 

There were clues in free practice that Copper Horse Racing could be starting towards the front of the grid. In the pre-race warm-up, David Rogers topped the leaderboard for a large part of the session with a 01m:38.439s and lapped even quicker (01m:37s:788) in qualifying to grab P6.  

At the very front, last week’s winner Matthew North impressed again. His Aston Martin V8 Vantage took just 01m:36.570s to complete the lap, taking pole position by more than half a second. 

Racing highs and lows 

The good times continued briefly for Car 59, which moved up to 4th in the first lap of the race. 

Flying start: Copper Horse Racing’s Lamborghini moves up into 4th on the first lap

But clipping the inside high kerb on the long sweeping ‘Arie Luyendijk Bocht’ — easily done when navigating the Lamborghini’s 2m plus width around Zandvoort’s famously narrow track — on lap 4 proved to be costly. The slight detour unsettled the car into the start/finish straight, leaving the Lamborghini sat perpendicular to the traffic.  

David was forced to sit and wait with seconds ticking by as the traffic went through and it was safe to turn back into the circuit. The incident meant that going into lap 5, Copper Horse Racing had dropped to P14.   

Yellow flag incident: clipping the kerb proved costly for Car 59 

What’s more, the aero damage sustained in the lap 4 incident had pushed the tuned setup slightly out of the window and made the fast right-hander the ‘Scheivlak’ a nervy trip each lap. Navigating other cars as they made mistakes and getting hit by a car attempting to overtake under yellow flags added to the challenge now facing Copper Horse Racing.  

With lap times increasing, it was time for a pit stop. But with the damage that had to be fixed, a tyre change and a 30 second stop-go penalty (from the previous race) to be served, it was going to be a long one. All that could be done was to sit and wait for the traffic to pass through to lap the forlorn Lamborghini. 

Out of the pits with a freshly repaired vehicle and new slicks and into traffic – Car 59 came out behind the green and black Porsche of Ethan Boudreaux who was in 7th place, with Copper Horse one lap behind. If we couldn’t fight at the front, we could at least try and work our way up as far as we could during the last half of the race. It would be a tough challenge – sat in 15th place with 14th place over 20 seconds ahead. So began a few laps of pressure as the faster Lamborghini attempted to get past the cars ahead on the tight circuit. 

Eventually, success! A slick move through the inside of the tight ‘Hans Ernst Bocht’, gave a free stretch of track towards the next car – 6th placed Latvian, Armands Petrovics in his number 96 bright pink Mercedes-AMG. 

Apex moment: unlapping the leading cars allowed Car 59 to make up time on its closer rivals.

It didn’t take long to hunt down Petrovics and a couple of laps later, he moved aside on the start-finish straight – car 59 wasn’t in his fight. As the race was coming to a close, the Lamborghini was now rapidly advancing on the Aston Martin of Dutchman Damian Herfkens. 12 seconds ahead, 6 seconds ahead, 2 seconds!  

With the race leader (Nico Urbantat) on the final lap, it was time to make the move on Herfkens. And noticing that his Aston Martin had gone wide in turn 1, the Lamborghini took the inside – and through! Briefly! Traction control kicking in, the Aston accelerated out and caught the corner of the Lambo, pit-manoeuvring the car around to face the other way. A racing incident, nothing more.  

The race over, David took the car back and over the line. P15 didn’t do it justice, but what a race! 

Last lap drama: after lunging ahead on the final corner, the Lamborghini gets tagged by the Aston Martin. 

Talking automotive cybersecurity 

If previous race reports have piqued your interest in automotive cybersecurity, then you might enjoy the upcoming Secure-CAV webinar ‘Effectively Addressing the Challenge of Securing Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’ (live on Thursday 7 October 2021, 15:30 BST and then available on-demand). 

During the 60 min webinar session you will learn – 

  • The best use of threat modelling techniques
  • Methods for staying one step ahead of malicious hackers in the automotive space
  • Effective methods for hardware-based attack detection
  • How the Secure-CAV project looks at the problem of future vehicle security   

Race results 

Congratulations to Nico Urbantat of Germany who took his third win of the season at Zandvoort and sits at the top of the overall standings in Tier 10. The other drivers on the podium were P1 qualifier Matthew North in second place and Polish driver Robert in third. 

Tune in next week to discover how Copper Horse Racing gets on at the legendary Suzuka circuit. 

About the author 

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse. 

Race report: Nürburgring, 21 September 2021

Under wet conditions, Copper Horse Racing gains 7 places from qualifying to finish P11

If you are looking for tough racing then the Nürburgring is not going to disappoint. Drivers in season 8 of AOR’s GT3 league were spared the ‘Green Hell’ of the epic Nordschleife circuit, racing instead on the Grand Prix loop. But they still had to contend with the region’s notoriously bad weather, which pushed up the difficulty of navigating a mix of fast and technical circuit features another notch. 

Built in 1984, Nürburgring’s GP track is home to a wide range of racing formats including the ‘Eco Grand Prix’, held since 2013. 

81% changing conditions 

Series organisers AOR kept sim-racers on their toes by advertising changeable dry and wet weather conditions. That being said, tier 10 entrants received a particularly bad roll of the dice with the track becoming wet, wet and wetter as the race unfolded. However, drivers in other tiers did experience drier spells as Yorkie065’s livestream on YouTube shows. 

Qualifying low down the order in P18 with a wet setup that never felt quite right, Car 59 driven by David Rogers had to focus hard to stay out of trouble in the main pack. If previous races are a guide – taps, tangles and off-track excursions are almost guaranteed at some point as opponents jostle for position on cold tyres (especially in the wet). And there was nothing to suggest that things would be any different this time around. 

A hard slog 

Driver perspective:

The first lap was less eventful than usual and I managed to pick up five places going into lap 2. However, a tap from behind as the car turned into the tight Castrol ‘S’ meant lost places and the accident caused other cars to go off too. In the split-second that was available to make decisions and relatively unsighted (a problem with sim racing), I attempted to move out of the entirely blocked road. My car was then hit again by another car trying to manoeuvre around a stranded vehicle; my movement ultimately caused the stewards to penalise me for dangerous driving. This was warranted as sim racing requires you to remain stationary if stuck on the track during an incident, precisely because of this awareness issue. For drivers using VR headsets or TrackIR, they have a better appreciation of what’s going on around them, but it is still never going to be the same as a real car.

First full lap of the race: Secure-CAV sponsored Car 59 moves up through the race order.

Another challenge for everyone, is that the cars all have different setups and braking points and in the wet this can cause a lot of issues especially where cars can also be carrying damage from their own incidents. The 2015 Lamborghini has quite a long braking distance in comparison with other cars on the track. 

In fact, racing at the Nürburgring generated the most Tier 10 DNF’s of the series so far, with five drivers failing to make it to the chequered flag – a measure of the challenging conditions. 

Plus, this week’s race was run in the longer 90 minute format, which gives an extra 30 minutes for things to go wrong as concentration levels fade. The final stint certainly proved tricky for Copper Horse Racing’s white and green Lamborghini Huracán, with a late spin — caused simply by being momentarily distracted — dropping the car from P8 to P12. 

The race’s mandatory pitstop was taken 10 minutes from the end, with only a splash of fuel needed and opting for no repairs to the minor damage to the vehicle. The minimal time in the pits brought the car out behind a rapidly slowing damaged McLaren. On the final lap and driving hard and being chased by Chris Maitland in his Footwork liveried 2016 Lexus RC F GT3, I made a move on the McLaren in the Mercedes Arena complex of corners. Taking a different, inside line to the slow driver, the move resulted in a clash between the two cars, and I backed off, allowing the McLaren to return to racing. A couple of corners later at the Valvoline-Kurve, the McLaren opened the door wide, so I moved in again, this time getting through with the McLaren hitting the side of the car and losing time, allowing Maitland’s Lexus through too behind me. A post-race stewards’ inquiry was inevitable, but I didn’t have much choice in the moment, not knowing what was going on with the McLaren or why it was driving slowly. 

Rapid refuel: the white and green Lamborghini of Copper Horse Racing takes a short pitstop ahead of the final few laps.

To be competitive, drivers have more to consider than just watching out for other opponents and keeping the car between the white lines. Other demands include monitoring the in-game telemetry, which represents the sensor data that would be available in a real GT3 car, to keep tabs on brake temps, fuel load, tyre pressures and much more besides. 

Data protection and threat modelling 

In Formula One, cars reportedly run with over 300 sensors per vehicle, up from just 24 when teams began using the technology more than three decades ago. The trend can be seen in road vehicles too, especially those fitted with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which rely on a range of vehicle and environmental data to operate.  

Sensor data brings tremendous knowledge to racing teams and, on the road, can boost safety by helping drivers to navigate otherwise unforeseen hazards. But as vehicles rely more heavily on the exchange of information – connected and autonomous vehicles being the most extreme example – security measures will need to evolve to mitigate the corresponding threats. 

In a previous race report, we discussed the manipulation of algorithms used to recognise road signs. More recently, security researchers have shown how projected (or phantom) images can confuse vehicle cameras. But it’s not just vehicle safety that’s at risk. Attacks on sensors (or their data) could impact privacy or have other consequences. For example, what if payment information could be extracted, or other personal details such as trip history and location?  

There are many angles for carmakers and their suppliers to consider, but there’s also a process that can help – threat modelling (one of our security activities at Copper Horse), which at the highest level boils down to answering four key questions

  1. What are we working on? 
  2. What can go wrong?
  3. What are we going to do about it?
  4. Did we do a good enough job? 

Also, cleverly designed card decks can make threat modelling sessions much more interactive and engaging for participants.  

Talking of fun, let’s return to the race details.  

Race results 

Victory at the Nürburgring went to Swiss driver Matthew North in an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, who managed to get one up on pole sitter Teis Hertgers of The Netherlands. Copper Horse’s David Rogers kept it together to finish P11, gaining 7 places (5 in the first lap) overall. But this week, the most positions gained award goes to Davy Melin in a McLaren 720S, who passed the chequered flag in fifth position, up 8 places on his qualifying spot. 

Race winner: Matthew North crosses the line driving an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

The post-race stewards’ inquiry found against David Rogers in the final lap incidents, resulting in points deductions and license penalties. In the cold light of day, it is easy to make retrospective analyses of on-track incidents. But during the race it is very different with drivers in difficult conditions making split-second decisions – as real-life driver Alex Fontana, also driving a Lamborghini discovered at Valencia at the weekend. This makes racing what it is – an exciting battle between competitors who all really want to win. 

 The series continues with racing at Zandvoort, where Tier 10 drivers might get to enjoy sunnier weather with only a 30% chance of rain, according to the forecast. 

About the authors 

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse. 

David Rogers is Founder and CEO of Copper Horse and Driver of Car 59. 

On the move: the driver’s viewpoint from car 59 in the wet mid-race at the Nürburgring GP circuit

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.

Race report: Silverstone, 29 June 2021

Saving the best until last, car 59 finishes top 10 in the final race of the season 

After seven rounds of hard driving, the sim-racing series reached its last sessions of the season at Silverstone – a fast-paced circuit built on a former airfield. The organisers, Apex Online Racing, had set the scene for some quick lap times – treating drivers to a dry track. Albeit one with grey clouds looming large overhead, a familiar sight at the circuit. 

Season finale: drivers arrive at Silverstone for round 8.

Towards the end of qualification, a less-than-ideal setup and rival drivers seemed to turn up the wick – pushing Copper Horse Racing down to P20. However, in the race itself this turned out to be a blessing. With just a few points separating leaders in the overall classification, nobody at the front wanted to yield position and the inevitable first lap carnage that followed catapulted car 59 up the order. 

Wheels in the air: a collision in the front half of the pack on lap 1 left multiple cars out of position.

As the former leaders rejoined the track, they were anxious to overtake and chase down the vehicles that had passed them by. David Rogers in car 59 was soon put under pressure and drove well to fend off drivers dive-bombing from behind like seagulls after a bag of chips. 

Battle of the generations: Lamborghini Huracán GT3 and GT3 Evo (lime green and black) duke it out on track.

Vehicle hacking simulator 

The ever-evolving rig, based on a DOF Reality full-motion platform – now with triple screens optically stitched together by light refracting panels – has served us well throughout our first season of esports, but its main role is to support our work on automotive security. In the last two races, it has had its brake wires loosely twisted together while we perform modifications and testing on that part of the rig, somehow managing to survive 90 minutes of Imola and 60 minutes of Silverstone and all the practice in between!  

By adding real vehicle components such as an instrument cluster and after-market head unit – all integrated through a CAN-Bus and fed with rich in-game telemetry – we are able to simulate (safely) the effects of multiple automotive attacks. 

Wraparound view: refractive panels provide a continuous display by hiding the screen bezels. Also shown, is the real world instrument cluster, which responds to in-game telemetry fed via a CAN-bus.

Scenarios that can be demonstrated, include the loss of braking function, steering take-over, manipulation of the vehicle’s mileage, hi-jacking of a car’s headlights and infotainment-based attacks – to name just a few of the possibilities.  

Simulators are nothing new for automotive testing, but it’s rare to have a setup that can be used to explore and visualise the automotive threat landscape in this way. The Copper Horse vehicle hacking rig puts people in the driving seat so that they can better experience the various attack scenarios first-hand. 

Moving up the leaderboard 

At the end of the race, following penultimate lap drama ahead and a last lap, last gasp pass by Dave Bramhall – who went on to finish second in the season overall – Copper Horse Racing ended up in P9 at Silverstone, advancing 11 places from qualifying and grabbing its biggest haul of points yet. 

Seizing the opportunity: confusion between the drivers ahead allowed car 59 (in the background) to pick up another two places, although Dave Bramhall in car 92 would go on to finish in front of the white and green Huracán.

And while those points didn’t mean any prizes this time around, they did move David up to nineteenth out of 50 entrants in the leaderboard – a very respectable debut performance and worthy of the champagne that was drunk after the race. 

In Tier one, where sim-racers get to mix it with the pros, Kevin Siclari overhauled Maciej Malinowski’s lead in the championship to take the top spot. And looking at the other close races for the title, Jake Mills lost out to Ryan Rees in Tier 8, but Manuel Rutter kept his hands on the trophy in Tier 9 – staying ahead of Richard Aconley. 

Celebrating with donuts: Tier 10 champion Scott Ullmann puts on a show in his Porsche.

Participating in the online racing calendar has given us the chance to shine a light on Secure-CAV and related topics in the world of automotive security. 

Next steps in the project 

At our UK facility, Copper Horse is now engaged in the security testing phase of Secure-CAV. Here, the team is taking a ‘whitebox’ or ‘clearbox’ approach to code security review of our partners’ implementation against various standards. Alongside this, we are considering different attack patterns against interfaces and other aspects to identify potential vulnerabilities, including fuzzing – for example, probing the ability of the system to handle malformed inputs – to give just a couple of examples of the activities underway. We are doing this together with our own partners YGHT Ltd to give some logical and sensible separation from the project itself.  

On track, our plan is to be back in the driving seat for more sim racing in the Autumn.  

About the author 

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse. 

Race report: Imola, 22 June 2021

Car 59 moves up four places in the overall standings thanks to another top 20 finish. 

Changeable weather during the race at Imola allowed the white and green Lamborghini Huracán of Copper Horse Racing to experience the circuit – described by McLaren in its track guide as ‘fast, flowing and ever so old school’ – in both the wet and the dry. Given the conditions, dialing in the right car set-ups and knowing when to change from wet tyres to slicks would be decisive. But only if car 59 survived the dice roll of the first few laps. 

That was close: Copper Horse Racing managed to avoid the spinning Aston Martin on lap 1.

As we’ve discussed – when the lights go green, drivers are still managing cold tyres and brakes, which compromise handling and bump up the chances of a collision or a spin. In the wet, the odds are greater still with much less grip off the racing line and spray from the vehicles ahead making it harder to see up the road. 

On lap 1, Copper Horse Racing’s David Rogers caught sight of El Tigre Blanco’s spinning Aston Martin V8 Vantage just in time (no doubt helped by the bold livery) to avoid a collision that would have changed car 59’s race for the worse. So far, so good, but the Lamborghini did run into some bad luck a few laps later. 

As the race settled in, the Copper Horse car lost five places – dropping from 13th – due to an unfortunate nudge from behind at the Variante Alta chicane. But the race was still on with plenty of time remaining on the clock and the possibility of changing weather sending cars off the circuit. The speedy Variante Villeneuve sequence of corners took its fair share of victims and drivers struggled to maintain complete consistency while racing hard. 

Affecting the algorithm 

Water droplets on the windshield: some real-world vehicles employ artificial intelligence to automatically activate their windscreen wipers.

Watching the rain on the Huracán’s windshield popped a thought in my head to mention some of the work presented in the automotive space on adversarial machine learning. In 2019, researchers in China showed that rain-activated windscreen wipers (enabled by a neural network fed with data from front-facing cameras) could be fooled by so-called ‘Worley noise’ – a function used in computer graphics to generate textures such as smooth stone or water.  

Heading into the pits during qualification: car 59 is careful to obey the speed limit.

Algorithms used to read road signs have been shown to be vulnerable too, misreading speed limits when researchers applied small details to existing signs or re-printed the original design with a computer-generated version (video showing proof of concept). In both cases, the modifications made would be hard for a human driver to detect. 

The more that we rely on algorithms to see the world for us, the better our defences against such attacks will need to be.  

At the Imola circuit though, it was back to basics with no road traffic signs to worry about and a single speed limit of 50 km/h to obey in the pit lane.  

Out on track, drivers were focused on going as fast as they could – a task that became easier when the rain lifted about 30 minutes into the race.  

Bumper to bumper: competitive racing between Justin Dawson and Marc André Stoltenberg in the leading pack.

As soon as the rain stopped, car 59 dived into the pits. The majority of the pack opted to stay out and wait for the track to warm up and dry out. Putting on dry tyres early was a risk as low pressures from the cold circuit might have made the car undriveable. However, there was a dry line – putting the gamble of an undercut on the other drivers in the frame.  

Making the dry line work: stopping early for slick tyres paid off as long as you could pick the right path.

A couple of laps of struggling to warm up the tyres gave us a clear track and better placing. The gamble had worked – for now. Battles began against faster backmarkers – who could be aggressive and prone to leaving the circuit, so careful avoidance tactics were necessary, even towards the end. 

Eyes on the road: avoiding the backmarker antics ahead

Elsewhere in the race, first lap spinner Blanco was driving well to climb back up the order. The pink Aston Martin eventually appeared in car 59’s mirrors and overtook the white and green Lamborghini to finish P12.  

Sighting the car ahead: Giles Harding in the orange Aston Martin V8 Vantage would put the Lamborghini under pressure late in the race after being passed at an incident towards the Piratella corner earlier in the race.

Giles Harding of Wales was doing his best to pressure Copper Horse Racing with some bold late braking at the end of Imola’s faster sections. But the driver, who placed top 10 in the wet at both Donington (race #2) and Bathurst Mount Panorama (race #5), couldn’t make any of the moves stick and had to settle for P17 at Imola.  

Fuel Management 

Another concern, aside from the close competition, was how much fuel was left in the tank. Following the change to dry tyres and a switch up to the fastest ECU and throttle map, the rapid increase in consumption was too high to make it to the end. Crew Chief did its best to put on a reassuring voice, but we had to switch to a lower speed map for the second half of the race in order to conserve fuel and save time by avoiding a second pit stop.

Warning sign: there was a bit of fuel drama to contend with in the final phase.

With 8 minutes to go on the clock and 5 minutes excess fuel left in the tank, we were confident to switch to a more aggressive mapping. Regardless, we still had to finish potentially a full lap after the end of the race time once the leader had passed the finish line – so it was going to be close.  

The ‘low fuel pressure’ warning that appeared on the dash added to the tension. But, in the end, car 59 did make it and completed proceedings with a little under 3 litres of fuel to spare, which is probably loads in Formula 1 terms (where teams need to leave an extra litre for sampling), but felt like a close call nonetheless.  

In another exciting race, Copper Horse Racing grabbed its third top 20 finish in a row – a solid 16th place out of the 30 starters. 

One race to go 

Apex Online Racing has served up a great calendar of events and its GT3 series attracts not just aspiring esports racers, but also professionals such as Luke Whitehead who competes in Tier 1. We’d definitely recommend taking part in future seasons if you are tempted to give sim racing a go and willing to put in the practice. 

Next week, the series draws to a close at Silverstone with plenty still to be decided. At the top of the table in Tier 1, Maciej Malinowski and Kevin Siclari are separated by just 15 points. Further down the league in Tier 7, it’s even closer with Ondrej Kuchar just 11 points ahead of Mert Sevinc. But keep looking and you’ll notice that in Tiers 8, 9 and 10 the difference is just 8 points! Can Jake Mills, Manuel Rutter and Dave Bramhall keep their current top spots or will a rival beat them to it? 

We’ll bring you the results next week and you can follow us on Twitter for news on any future racing adventures. Plus, our final race of Season 7 will be streamed live on Twitch (Tuesday 29 June, from 19:30 UK time).  

Talking automotive security

By following the channel you’ll also be able to tune into our upcoming virtual events during Mobile World Congress 2021, with the first in our series of Secure-CAV road trips starting on Monday at 08:30 BST and running through the week. 

Heading to Barcelona in the Secure-CAV truck in Euro Truck Simulator 2: join us on the journey via Twitch as we discuss automotive security during Mobile World Congress (28th June – 1st July, 2021)

About the author 

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse. 

Race report: Circuit Zolder, 15 June 2021

Nothing unlucky about finishing P13 at Zolder. A strong race in Belgium sees Copper Horse Racing move up two places in the overall standings.

Car 59 had performed well at two practice races held over the weekend at Circuit Zolder – a track opened in 1963 and designed by John Hugenholtz of Suzuka fame – so, on paper, things were looking promising. The challenge would be executing on race day, when emotions can run high. 

Close up: car 59 badged with logos, which include all Secure-CAV partners

Dry conditions for both race and qualification set the scene for some fast track times and close racing, with drivers able to push hard and focus their energy on battling each other on-track. In terms of passing, the main overtaking opportunities are at the first corner and coming into the last chicane – at least according to former DTM driver Robin Frijns

In qualifying, there were plenty of sector highlights for the white and green 2015 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, but some swift laps by the other competitors pushed Copper Horse Racing down to P24 on the timing screen, with nearly the entire field lapping within three seconds of each other. 

Race day  

As we know from previous races, cold tyres and brakes make the first two laps potentially treacherous for all on circuit. However, car 59 dodged any early tangles despite being tapped from behind and, one lap later, oversteering off-circuit when a rear-tyre touched the grass. All wheels back on track, Copper Horse Racing began its march up the order pulling a nice overtake on last week’s winner El Tigre Blanco. However, it wasn’t long before the hot pink Aston Martin V8 Vantage had re-passed – a battle that would have to wait for another day. 

Back in front: last week’s winner El Tigre Blanco retakes the position

But there was still plenty to play for and clean and consistent driving meant that Copper Horse Racing was well placed at the halfway point. And, for the first time since the Barcelona race, could make its own call on when to take the mandatory pitstop rather than having the decision forced through mechanical damage. 

Everything connected… 

Watching the cars go around the circuit, it’s clear that Zolder has some interesting scenery – particularly the wind turbines. In previous posts, we’ve mentioned cyber security threats to vehicles, where the attack surface grows as developers add connectivity to their products. The same holds true for operational technology powering industrial systems such as electricity generators and water treatment plants. There are lots of benefits to being able to monitor components remotely such as improved maintenance scheduling, but the methods of protection have to adapt to the change as physical security alone is no longer sufficient to deter bad actors.  

Scenic view: some of the sights at Zolder

With everything becoming connected as part of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) these days, attention is finally turning to the amount of legacy that exists within systems. Protocols in use often originate in the 1970s and have no ability for authentication or to provide integrity protection for the data going across them. Add to that the fact that the hardware and software has not been designed for security and rarely gets updated and you have all the jigsaw pieces for a security (and safety) nightmare.  

Industry and governments are in a race to improve cybersecurity in all the different ‘verticals’ whether it be automotive, industrial, or consumer IoT and there’ll have to be a lot of work to either replace or monitor the legacy insecure equipment and services that are left behind. 

McLaren versus Lamborghini: there were some great battles to watch as race 6 unfolded

Returning to the on-track action, Car 59 spent the final phase of the race behind Dutch driver Teis Hertgers, in a McLaren, trying to open up an over-taking opportunity. And with the pressure of the race-clock ticking, David Rogers made his move – at turn 1 where the Lamborghini was quicker. The move didn’t come off and David lost a little time; the battle now turning to the Ferrari 488 of Ulmer Gallium who loomed large in the Lamborghini’s mirrors. This time it was Gallium who over-pressured, making a pass before the first chicane, but overshooting into the sand, giving back the number 13 position to car 59. 

Before: dry conditions allowed drivers to push hard
After: a nice chance to take in the amazing livery on Ulmer Gallium’s Ferrari 488

With 60 minutes around Zolder complete, the series had a new race winner – P1 qualifier Mar Coolio of Finland. Scott Ullmann, who came third in the last race at Mount Panorama, went one better this week to take second. And Scott Cranston, who had placed well earlier in the season at Donington and in Barcelona, completed the podium in third. 

Race winner: Mar Coolio crosses the line in a McLaren 720S

Next up is Imola for the penultimate race of season 7. You can follow the action live on Tuesday the 22nd of June by tuning into Twitch from 19:30 hrs, UK time. See you then! 

About the author 

James Tyrrell is a threat modelling analyst at Copper Horse.

Race report: Bathurst Mount Panorama, 8 June 2021

Heartbreak avoided as a strong drive by car 59 recovers all but one of the 13 places dropped in first lap chaos on the mountain. 

Changeable weather meant that drivers had to know their setups inside out to make progress at Bathurst Mount Panorama – a 6 km ‘scenic drive’ with no shortage of excitement. Put a foot wrong on the mountain section, which includes a string of tough turns such as ‘The Esses’ and ‘The Dipper’, and it can easily be game over with barriers either side of the track leaving little margin for error. 

Keeping it tight: drivers had to observe close barriers on the mountain section

The YouTube video below illustrates just how bizarre some of the crashes have been at the real-life Bathurst circuit – in this example from 2020, the car (also a GT3 Lamborghini) comes to rest on a fence! 

Lamborghini on the barriers: if you hadn’t seen it, you wouldn’t have believed it

In qualifying, Copper Horse Racing placed a very encouraging P17, before becoming derailed by a slow car rejoining the track towards the end of the session. Back in the pits, we’d prepared a number of race setups as it was forecast to rain. It wasn’t certain as to whether the race would be dry, fully wet or changeable. As it turned out, the race ‘weekend’ gave us heavy rain for the race itself. 

First lap chaos in the wet: car 59 did its best to navigate crashes on the left and right of the track

Within seconds of the lights going green, multiple incidents and cars littered the mountain, leading to an unavoidable crash and damage which sent car 59 tumbling down the order to P30 and forced the strategy into taking a very early pitstop. On the up side, this had the benefit of clearing a stop-go penalty from the previous race imposed by the stewards and also dealt with the mandatory tyre change, meaning that we could stay out for the remainder of the race.  

Voice activated

Many, if not all, of the sim racers taking part are using Crew Chief – an outstanding app that plays dual roles of spotter and race engineer, providing words of wisdom throughout every session. What’s more, the communication is two-way and Crew Chief can be programmed to listen out for instructions – for example, to prepare a set of tyres ahead of a pitstop. 

Battered but not broken: an unavoidable collision on lap one forced an early pitstop for car 59

Voice assistants can be found in real cars too – for example, to program heating or cooling in the cabin, change the volume on the radio, adjust the ambient lighting, set a destination for the Sat-Nav and even to activate a back massage. As well as bespoke offerings, vehicle OEMs are teaming up with tech giants such as Amazon and Apple, integrating ‘Alexa’ and ‘Siri’ into their products. Also, recent versions of Android Auto, which is reportedly available for over 50 different brands of vehicle, feature ‘Google Assistant’. 

But inviting microphones into the cockpit could have its downside. In 2010, researchers at the Universities of Washington and California San Diego pointed out that telematics units in vehicles could provide a path for bad actors to capture audio from the vehicle. In 2020, the paper – which explores a wide range of threats to a modern automobile – was given a ‘Test of time’ award from the IEEE; recognising the momentum that the study has added to the field of automotive cybersecurity. 

As you might have gathered from the first blog post in this series, the rig that’s used to compete in the Apex Online Racing GT3 Season 7 league functions as a vehicle hacking simulator outside of races. The setup can be configured to recreate numerous automotive cyber-attacks, including some of those first mentioned in the 2010 study, and follows from our activities within Secure-CAV

Back on track

At Bathurst, the white Lamborghini  drove a lonely few laps, with a clear track to pull its way back into contention after its early pitstop. The hot stint helped Copper Horse Racing to reel in drivers who were struggling ahead and positions were gained too as competitors took their mandatory single pitstop. 

Lonely laps: the middle section of the race felt like a hot stint

On the last lap of the race, a chance emerged to take 17th place from the car in front after a mistake on the mountain. Coming up to the last corner, as the race ticked out its final seconds, a successful do or die overtake would have restored car 59 to its qualifying position, however it just wasn’t to be. But there were no complaints from the team (or Jim, our vocal engineer in Crew Chief) with the P18 finish – the best race result so far for David Rogers in the series. 

Gotta go for it: Copper Horse Racing was on a mission to recover all of the places lost from the early crash and almost made it back to P17

On the top spot, with their first visit to the podium, was El Tigre Blanco who had shown they could be quick over a lap in qualifying. Dave Bramhall bested his familiar P3 by one to finish second and Scott Ullmann took third. A special mention in the blog also goes to Philippe Riehl of France who gained a monster 19 places to finish P9. 

See you at the next race (Tue 14 Jun, from 19:30 UK time) which takes place over Belgium’s Zolder circuit. And remember you can tune into the fun as we’ll be streaming live on Twitch.  

About the author 

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse.