Racing simulator lands in NZ with hefty price tag
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After shunting the concrete wall at Griffins Bend, the lap times soon started to drop.
The throaty engine roars, the driver's feet dance across the pedals, left foot braking, heel-toe action, wrestling the steering wheel.
Bathurst winner and Australian V8 Supercars legend Jason Bargwanna steps out of the snug racing seat, sweating and exhilarated.
"That's as close to the real thing as you can get," he said.
Bargwanna had just completed 10 laps of the legendary Mount Panorama circuit in a rare, high-tech race car simulator.
Imported into New Zealand by a Canterbury motorsport mechanic and racing enthusiast, the simulator offers the most realistic driving experience on offer.
The Simworx simulator has three screens to give a panoramic view.
Triple screens give a panoramic view for drivers using a suede steering wheel, sequential gear lever, racing car seat and harness.
The $20,000 machine, used by top drivers, including young Kiwi star Scott McLaughlin, for practice and circuit familiarisation, has a "full motion" option that tips and leans with the car around the circuit.
It allows people to drive an array of the world's best racing cars, including Formula One, WRC rally cars, Le Mans type cars, GT3, and even New Zealand SuperTourers.
The computer system accesses dozens of tracks famous from the annals of history - Monte Carlo, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Daytona International Speedway, Nürburgring, Pukekohe.
Rangiora mechanic Chris Ward has imported two simulators from Melbourne.
He believes they're the only two of their kind in New Zealand and is offering them for corporate events, race nights, and to the public at $1 per minute.
"It's not the real thing, but it's the closest most people are going to get," said Mr Ward.
"People think they are coming to play Xbox or PlayStation but once they get in it, they realise it's a bit above that."
Bargwanna is in New Zealand competing in the NZ V8 touring car series.
Mr Ward, his race mechanic, got him behind the wheel of the simulator to get his expert feedback.
Bargwanna, the 42-year old who won Bathurst in 2000 with Garth Tander in a Holden Commodore, was amazed by how realistic the machines were.
"The angles of the track, the way the fences look, the pitch of the circuit, you get a real understanding of it," he said.
"What amazes me is the feeling in the steering wheel, the way the brake pedal feels, the way you approach the corner, you're trying to use the front tyre.... these are just like driving the proper racing car. It's so good."
After his stint, Bargwanna's competitive spirit was driving his laps times down.
"We should order pizza - we'll be here all night."
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