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: 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.