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.