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. 

Race report: Laguna Seca Raceway, 25 May 2021

Bruised and battered on a dark night in central California, car 59 refuses to give up and comes home P27. 

Race 4 got off to a cautious start as drivers were reminded by race officials to obey the white lines and know where to bail out when things go wrong. Laguna Seca Raceway, a circuit built around a dry lake bed and completed in 1957, contains one of the most demanding sequence of turns on the calendar. Known as ‘the corkscrew’, the challenging left, right, left chain of corners drops vehicles the equivalent of 10 stories over a track distance of just 450ft (137m) – a combination that has a cruel habit of spitting cars into the barriers. For drivers, add to this – the sand around the track which can spin a car with the slightest touch of a rear wheel and over 30 cars all fighting for position within a tight circuit which can be lapped in less than 85 seconds. 

Taking the plunge down the steep corkscrew

So, would the corkscrew throw drivers off course? You betcha! And if the track wasn’t already challenging enough, series organisers Apex Online Racing had decided to dial up the difficulty another notch by running the race under night conditions.   

A dark and difficult race

Navigating the track successfully under a pitch-black sky is helped by the powerful headlights on the GT3 cars. The same goes for drivers on normal roads finding their way on an otherwise unlit part of their journey. But what would happen if the headlights failed? It’s a scenario that we consider on our vehicle-hacking simulator, which demonstrates — in a safe and controlled environment — what it would be like to drive a car or truck that is experiencing a cyber-attack. We can tell you from experience that the lights going out unexpectedly, at speed, is a truly terrifying experience, even in a simulator. 

Threat modelling and cyber-security management 

Automotive cybersecurity standards and regulations such as ISO 21434 (Road vehicles – Cybersecurity engineering) and UN Regulation No. 155 (Uniform provisions concerning the approval of vehicles with regards to cyber security and cyber security management system) provide frameworks for vehicle manufacturers to consider such threats.  

Browsing these documents, you’ll notice that one of the worked examples (in Annex G of ISO 21434) explores potential attack paths that could lead to a loss of road illumination during night driving and the vulnerability management employed to manage them. 

The Lamborghini headlights piercing the night

Thankfully, both headlights on the Copper Horse liveried Lamborghini Huracan were fully operational during race 4. In pre-race practice, a good setup of the car from its aerodynamics through to tyre pressures, showed that swift lap times could be achieved by Copper Horse Racing, with the car 6th fastest. The short and tight circuit meant that qualifying ‘flying laps’ were impacted by traffic and by the end of the 15 minute qualifying session Copper Horse’s Lamborghini was 22nd on the grid of 31 cars.  

In the race itself, not everything ran so smoothly as early collisions (with other cars and barriers) meant that car 59 had to make its way to the pits twice to repair mechanical damage costing precious time.  

Glowing brakes as Copper Horse Racing’s David Rogers rounds T11 into the home straight

It was a test of mental resilience to stay the course of the race, and given the hurdles, surviving the 60 minute race was somewhat bittersweet given what could have been. The championship points gained, although small, could prove important when the series concludes on 29th June at Silverstone. 

Fireworks mark the end of a tough race which could have been so different

Mid-season review 

With four races done, we’re now halfway through the series with Copper Horse lead driver David Rogers currently 31st out of 46 entrants in the Tier 10 overall standings. At the top of the table is UK racer Dave Bramhall, who bagged another P3 finish – his fourth in four races! Scott Ullmann is in second, finally making it onto the podium after getting close in each of the previous races. And in third spot is Justin Dawson whose points took a hit after placing P36 in race one, but he’s on a mission to make up for it – scoring three P1 finishes in a row. 

Porsches dominated at Laguna Seca; Justin Dawson in car 12 leads from Scott Ullman in 222

Drivers have a fortnight in which to recharge before the next race on 8 June 2021 at the Bathurst Mount Panorama circuit in Australia. The weather conditions are not looking good… 

We were able to successfully broadcast the race from Laguna Seca live, so will continue this for the next race. If you fancy watching then check out drogersuk on twitch from 19:30 UK time. See you then! 

About the author 

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse. 

Race report: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 18 May 2021

Best result so far for Copper Horse Racing, as David Rogers gains 12 places during the race to finish P20.

Under pressure: Car 59 had the competition on its tail for the first phase of the race

Dried off and ready for a slightly longer race 3, car 59 was lapping well in practice around Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but stringing together a clean lap during qualification proved difficult. A familiar track to Formula 1 fans, the Barcelona circuit is quick to punish mistakes with lost time. In the twisty final sector, misjudging slow corners such as the 180 degree bend starting at ‘La Caixa’ (turn 10) will soon undo any gains made earlier in the lap. And getting a clean exit out of
the final chicane is crucial to cutting the timing beam at top speed.

At the end of qualifying, Copper Horse’s 2015 Lamborghini Huracan was lined up in 32nd position, 2.874 secs off the fastest Tier 10 lap time of 01m:45s.243 set by Italian driver Gianluca Cappellini in a Porsche 991. In Tier 1, Maciej Malinowski – also driving a Porsche – travelled the same distance in an unfathomable 01m:42s.684.

But the race is won after 90 mins not over a single lap, and a lot can happen in that time – especially when you have a 1047m long start/finish straight terminating in a sharp right-hand turn! Plus, there’s a refuelling stop to calculate – get it right and you’ll fly home with fumes in the tank, get in wrong and it’ll cost you valuable lap time.

Crunch time: Copper Horse’s white Lamborghini skirts around the carnage at turn one.
Pitstop action: refuelling added to the complexity of the 90 minute race.

Following last week’s rain-soaked race at Donington Park, competitors were happy to see a change in the weather at the Barcelona circuit. For race 3, sim-racing league organisers Apex Online Racing had dialed in dazzling sunshine, catching drivers in the eyes coming into sector 3 and driving out of sector 1.

Sunshine and clear skies: no need for windscreen wipers at race 3.

Blinding the Technology
Linking this scenario to our threat modelling work for automotive, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not only the driver that gets blinded by the sun. Bright light can trouble advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) too. There are examples on YouTube showing how Tesla’s lane change feature can fail when sun glare prevents the vehicle’s forward-facing cameras from distinguishing the white lines on the road. Similarly, Comma.ai’s ‘Openpilot’ – a lower cost alternative for non-Tesla owners, which is based on a smartphone that looks out through the vehicle’s windscreen – has also been observed to lose tracking under sunny conditions.

Other products besides ADAS can also be vulnerable. If you have a robot vacuum cleaner, you might want to close the curtains before letting it loose, as Terence Eden (@edent) and many other customers have found that streaks of sunlight can stop such gadgets in their tracks.

Close racing: Lamborghini and McLaren drivers battling for position

Back in Barcelona, it was hard to blame the sun for a tap on the side that nudged car 59 off the track as close racing was pushed to its limit. But even with a couple of lost places, Copper Horse Racing’s driver David Rogers was still well up on qualifying, finishing P20 and bringing momentum into race 4. It wasn’t as comfortable a drive as it appeared though, as a mischosen set of brake pads struggled to last the full 90 minutes with the car suffering from brake fade in the second half of the race.

Podium Positions and Driver of the Day
At the top of the table, Canada’s Justin Dawson took the #1 spot for the second time in a row, while P1 qualifier Gianluca Cappellini slid back one position in the race to come second. Completing the podium, for the third time in three races, Dave Bramhall finished P3.

Driver of the day – a stat based on the number of positions gained during the race – goes to Marc André Stoltenberg of Germany in car 24 who gained 18 places to finish P16.

Driver of the day: Marc André Stoltenberg in the black Audi takes the inside line.

Next week, the driving conditions will change again as competitors experience the league’s only night race of the season at Laguna Seca Raceway – a scenario that will make track knowledge more important than ever and the track’s infamous corkscrew even more perilous.

Tune in next week for more updates on car 59’s progress in Apex Online Racing’s Assetto Corsa Competizione GT3 League Season 7.

About the author
James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse.

Race report: Donington Park, 11 May 2021

Copper Horse brings home its 2015 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 safely in one piece on a wet and wild evening at the Donington Park circuit. 

After our introduction to league sim racing last week in France at Circuit Paul Ricard, car number 59 – driven by Copper Horse’s David Rogers – was back on track for race 2 of AOR’s ACC league, season 7. Same car, same driver, but dramatically different driving conditions this time around as rain hammered down, threatening spins at every corner. 

Poor Networks and eSports 

Our initial qualification was marred by a network disconnection, forcing us to the back of the grid for the race. This is actually something that we’ve been highlighting as a strong use case and justification for high availability 5G network slices. A couple of weeks ago the BMW and Williams eSports driver Sami Matti-Trogen lost his internet connection during his driving stint of a 24 hour race at the Nürburgring, whilst in 2nd place. This incident dropped him down to 8th place. 

Luckily the BMW team fought back to 3rd place. We’ll see lots more of this in the future and it’s a timely reminder that resilience for future networks is critical – whether it be eSports or things that affect human safety. Another related requirement for esports is parity in upload and download speeds, i.e. similar download and upload bandwidths. This is something that future networks will bring – for 6G and beyond. We have been trying to stream our races and practice races so far but the load on the network (primarily due to poor upload speeds) has caused one drop-out mid-race during a practice. This means that for our next race we’ll have to stream the replay after the event rather than live during the actual race, rather than risk a disconnect – particularly during a 90 minute race. In the future we may try to do some ‘out-of-band’ streaming over 5G by using a 5G Wi-Fi module, so watch this space. 

The Race 

With so much water on track it was always going to be a challenge to stay between the white lines, especially coming out of the sweeping right, left sequence of Hollywood and Craner Curves, where cars pick up speed on the downhill before navigating a tight right-hander at the Old Hairpin.  

Side-by-side on a tight circuit

Other tricky turns included Coppice, which appears at the top of a climb and was starved of grip under the wet conditions. Touch one wheel on the grass and you’d soon be experiencing the motion of the sim rig as it replicates the loss of traction through a sliding mechanism under the driver’s seat. 

Rear view – the spray added to the difficulties faced by all the drivers in the wet

Realism is a big part of the Copper Horse simulator as it supports our goal of safely sharing the experience of what it’s like to drive a vehicle that is being hacked. The custom setup features a number of added automotive elements including a CAN bus – a vehicle network that we have been studying in detail together with our partners in the Secure-CAV consortium.  

CAN bus is popular not just in cars, but also in elevators and even coffee machines. And the hacking simulator provides a great tool for highlighting the security risks that developers should be aware of, as well as demonstrating the mitigations that can be applied to protect the network. 

On track, the biggest danger was cars facing the wrong direction. Battling not just the other drivers, but also the grisly weather, it was a good result to finish P29 after a grizzly first lap, turn 1 crash involving most of the field severely damaged the car. 

A double-slide in front of the Copper Horse car, narrowly avoided

Weighing up the competition  

Jahn Solo of Germany and Dave Bramhall of the UK appear strong contenders for the title with both taking podium spots at Paul Ricard and Donington. Fortunes can change fast, as fellow Tier 10 driver Justin Dawson of Canada demonstrates – improving from a P36 finish in race 1 to take the top spot a week later. 

Every driver faced a tough fight against the conditions and each other

Next up in the 8 race series is a 90 minute race tonight (18th of May 2021) at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya. This time the windscreen wipers can stay off as the weather will be dry and sunny – something that can be guaranteed in the sim world! 

Hopefully we’ll be able to stream live again in the next couple of weeks. We’ll advertise replay streams on the @copperhorseuk twitter account. 

About the author 

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse. 

Combining Future Automotive Security with eSports

David Rogers explains the launch of something completely different for Copper Horse and why it isn’t.. well completely different.

During the 2020 lockdown, our company was busy in the early stages of an InnovateUK project called Secure-CAV, together with our partners from Siemens, the Universities of Coventry and Southampton. The project is looking at how to secure the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) of the future, particularly at the lowest levels of the technology stack.

Using our experience in the mobile and IoT security space and particularly in hacking and securing hardware-level systems we have been working on a range of activities from real-world threat modelling through to dismantling and reverse engineering the hacking equipment used by criminals seeking to exploit vehicles in various different ways.

We had to adapt our ways of working such that we duplicated some of our equipment setups across the different partners and found new ways to collaborate. We also had access to some real vehicles which has helped us along the way.

One of the things that we wanted to do from early in the project was to be able to allow people to experience what it was like to be in a vehicle that was actively being hacked. Short of bringing people to test tracks and signing lots of insurance waivers, there aren’t many ways that this can be achieved. What we have done is to build a vehicle hacking simulator, which we’ve been able to feed telemetry from various simulators into to provide a ‘real’ physical experience. We’ll be talking a lot more about this in future blogs, but for now I want to tell you about something that came out of that work.

I have long been a big fan of different kinds of motor racing whether it be hill-climbing at Shelsley Walsh or Rallycross at Croft Circuit, so like many others during the various lockdowns, I decided to take up sim racing. This is a huge and passionate community and many of the real world racing teams are active in this esports world. Drivers including Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button and George Russell are active sim racers. Whilst this is just the start of my journey, it is really enjoyable and it is nice to be able to compete in such a great community of people from around the world. There are some incredibly skilled drivers out there that would give some of the world’s best real-world drivers a run for their money.

With our Copper Horse Racing Team, I have begun competing in the Apex Online Racing Assetto Corsa Competizione GT3 Racing League, driving a Lamborghini Huracan GT3. We are competing in Tier 10 of the league – the Tier 1 and 2 races are broadcast each week online, with commentary.

Our car displays the logos of all our Secure-CAV project partners as well as You Gotta Hack That, not forgetting That Media Group for our fantastic vehicle livery.

Car Number 59 – the Copper Horse Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3

For the simulator itself, we’re running a DoF Reality P3 motion rig, an entry-level setup of G29 wheel and pedals and triple 31″ screens supported by the lesser-spotted Nvidia GeForce 3070 video card. We’ll do a proper walkthrough of the rig in another blog as we have a very special and interesting setup.

Our first race took place last Tuesday (the 4th of May 2021). I have to be honest, it was pretty nerve racking. The lap times were fast and the action was hot at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France.

A close finish at Circuit Paul Ricard

I managed to drive a clean race without damage (despite there being absolute carnage at turns 1 and 2 which will surprise no-one in the sim racing community!) and finished 28th, which I’ll take for a first race on a track that the Lamborghini was never going to be a fan of.

Passing an injured Aston Martin at Circuit Paul Ricard

Race 2 will take place tonight (the 11th of May 2021) and is at a very wet and rainy Donington Park in the UK, for all the different drivers, ranking through Tiers 2-10. You can see last night’s elite Tier 1 race below:

Tier 1 Donington Park Race

Drivers are able to get practice sessions in to try the conditions as well as a couple of practice races. The conditions are tough for this race – 100% wet and a very tight circuit which means passing (and allowing cars through on blue flags) can be quite difficult. What I’ve been rapidly learning over the past week is that the right setups can drastrically improve laptimes. You can watch live on my Twitch stream here from 7.30pm BST: https://www.twitch.tv/drogersuk

The full race calendar can be found at: https://apexonline.racing/league/19#calendar

A hard fought evaluation race at Spa-Fracorchamps, Belgium

I’m looking forward to tonight’s race and the rest of the season, whatever happens! I hope you’ll join us on this journey over the next few months as we explain what we’re doing on future automotive security and take our car hacking rig on what should be an incredible journey!