Michael Epps showcased his abilities last weekend against a variety of top level drivers from different racing categories, but this time not at a real track...
Simply Race, a simulator racing venue in Milton Keynes, had its first anniversary (since opening) on Saturday (30th Jan) and to celebrate held an event welcoming racing champions of all types to come down and compete. With drivers like Alex Albon (F3 driver, former Red Bull Junior Team and current Lotus F1 Junior Team Driver), Charlie Robertson (European LMP3 Champion), Alex Brundle (Son of Former F1 Driver and Commentator, Martin, and Le Mans driver), Jake Hill (BTCC/GT Driver), Ross Gunn (British GT4 Champion), Ramon Pineiro (Former F2 winner), Bradley Philpot (ROC Challenge Winner) and more showing up, and with a prize £500 to donate to their selected charity, the event was set to be an exciting and productive one.
The venue itself, based in Stacey Bushes, Milton Keynes, boasts twelve triple screen “pods” with fully adjustable steering wheels, pedals and vibrating/moving racing seats. Drivers are able to fully submerge themselves in a racing experience using software used by F1 teams today, and once finished can then socialise and discuss face-to-face, just like in real life.
The event consisted of two random-grid heat races followed by a grand final at Brands Hatch GP in Porsche GTE cars, lapping the circuit in around 1:20s. Up against some of the finest competition around and finding himself off track in an incident in the first heat, Epps had to push hard to secure a good spot for the final, finishing 6th and 2nd in his heats.
The all-star line up really showed their talents in the final, with Epps and others battling four-wide at points for the lead. Eventually Epps and Ramon Pineiro pulled out their own gap to battle for the lead, Epps eventually making a bold move at Surtees going onto the GP loop. He pulled away to win the 15 lap final race, earning himself £500 to donate to Cancer Research and Breast Cancer Care.
“I’ll take that!”, Epps commented after the event. “It’s been an awesome evening and to actually beat these guys is a great feeling. I had no idea of where I would be against them, I did have an advantage of having been here before and practicing a bit for sure, but I’m not the only one on the grid who had that edge and many of them are out in much faster real-life cars every other weekend! It was great to hang out with a talented bunch of drivers and race them at the same time too without the four-figure price tag.”
Speaking of the importance of simulator racing for himself, Epps said: “I think you have to do a least some simulator training or testing. For me it has certainly improved me in many areas. You don’t have the benefit of G-force obviously, so it really heightens your visual senses and hand-eye co-ordination. I find I use these more on track now and it makes close wheel-to-wheel racing situations a little easier for sure. You improve race craft and tactics too, since you can have three or four races in just a couple of hours, it’s great to train yourself mentally and visually."
"I feel like becoming a regular member of Simply Race contributed to some of my 2015 results for sure. I’ll get maybe eight or nine weekends of racing this year and in reality it is not that much, so to keep myself sharp I come here. It’s great for social events too.”
Epps donated his £500 to Cancer Research UK and Breast Cancer Care, charities of which both he and his 2016 race team Team Hard. Racing are supporting.
“We both share a connection with these charities. I lost a member of my family in New Zealand to cancer and Tony has his own similar family experiences. I feel it’s one of many donations I will make this year.”
Michael now looks forward to testing his Team Hard. Racing VWR Cup car in February in preparation for the season opener at Donington on 24 April.
Find out more about VWR Cup at: vwracingcup.co.uk/
Check out Simply Race at: simplyrace.co.uk/
The entire race broadcast is viewable on Youtube here.
(excuse spluttery commentary, the venue experienced microphone issues during the broadcast.)