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.