Formula 1s and 0s: McLaren Launches Hunt for a Virtual Test Driver ""

By | July 10, 2017

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Public relations can be as much about distraction as attraction. Which, we suspect, might be what’s happening here. In the midst of the McLaren Formula 1 team’s worst ever season, it has announced a program to recruit a simulator driver through an online racing competition. We’ll try to reach the end of the story without making any further reference to the woeful reliability of the team’s Honda engines.

The deal for the lucky winner of what McLaren is calling its World’s Fastest Gamer competition is both simple and attractive: The winner will get to be part of the Formula 1 team and take part in active development of future Formula 1 cars. And, yes, this is a paid position, although the company insists that, as it does with its “real drivers,” the company “won’t divulge contractual or financial details of the agreement.”

Although part of the process is trying to find unknown e-racing talent, the contest is also open to those who have already proved themselves in various online leagues such as the professional iRacing championship. Six of the 10 finalist spots are reserved for established digital hotshoes, but the other four are up for grabs and open to pretty much anyone. These unseeded qualifiers will win their places through four online events that are planned to take place throughout the summer.

Like most top-flight racing teams, McLaren does an increasing amount of its dynamic development through enormously powerful simulators. In fact, McLaren Applied Technologies has just commissioned a new road-car rig that will work alongside its Formula 1 simulator. These are far more complicated than even the most detailed driving game, using motion rams and surround screens to deliver a digital simulacrum that, although not as graphically slick as the latest console games, delivers an experience close enough to a real car that the same driver will be within hundredths of a second of the same time in the virtual and actual worlds.

After the online race series has delivered the full pool of candidates, McLaren will put them through a series of tests of such qualities as fitness, reaction speed, engineering knowledge, and what it described as “PR skills.”

Those will come in handy when it comes to the all-important business of not mentioning the unpinned grenade that is the real car’s Honda engine.

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