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. 

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!

Automotive threat modelling: off-the-shelf solutions

Copper Horse’s automotive cybersecurity posts, including Automotive threat modelling: off-the-shelf solutions, can now be found on the Secure-CAV microsite.

Secure-CAV is an ambitious collaborative project that aims to improve the safety and security of tomorrow’s connected and autonomous vehicles through a combination of cybersecurity monitoring, hardware solutions, machine learning and functional demonstrators.

About the author

James Tyrrell is a Threat Modelling Analyst at Copper Horse.