The racing community got its first look last week at CX’Cs Motion Pro II simulator at the prestigious Rolex 24 endurance race. Over a four-day period, more than 200 race fans, drivers, team personnel and corporate sponsors strapped themselves into the full-motion MP II. Their virtual ride was 2007 Grand-Am champion Alex Gurney’s Gainsco Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype on the difficult road course that includes long stretches of Daytona’s high-bank 2 ½-mile oval an experience made even more realistic thanks to five hours of testing and setup on the MP II by Gurney himself.
Sometimes waiting in line for up to an hour, participants ranged in age from nine to 77 years old and included rookies, those who had never driven a simulator (much less a race car), experienced sim racers and, of course, pro drivers who were taking part in the Rolex 24. Among the pros were two-time Indy 500 (and Dancing with the Stars) winner Helio Castro-Neves and his Penske teammate, Ryan Briscoe, three-time Rolex 24 winner (including this one) Scott Pruett, “Mad Max” Papis, Newman Haas Lanigan Champ Car teammates for 08, Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal, and another former Champ Car standout, A.J. Almendinger, now racing fulltime in NASCAR.
No surprise, Wilson, Rahal and Almendinger were soon making setup changes to go after the lap time set by Alex Gurney testing the MP II the week before. Rahal was the first to do it, then Wilson, but after multiple attempts by all, Almendinger ended up with quick time, 1:41.68 – which was amazingly close to his front-row qualifying effort for the Rolex 24, 1:40.802.
“That is soooo cool!” said Rahal, climbing out after his first ride, “I gotta try to get Mike (Lanigan of Newman Haas Lanigan) to buy one of these. Max Papis, warned, “I suck at these things,I was blown away, as well, The way the car responds, it’s very much like the real thing. Amazing!” No strangers to sim racing, Wilson and Almendinger both said they’d never driven anything like the Motion Pro II. Asked if he hoped his team would get one, A.J. just laughed, “No, I want one for myself.”
Fastest time among the amateurs (an impressive fifth overall) was 18-year old Courtenay Smith, whose online racing team happens to be sponsored by CXC Simulations. Another popular standout was 12-year old Natalie Fenaroli, a Kansas City-based kart racer who at seven won the Kid Kart Group II national championship. The CXC Simulations team was so taken with the youngster, they gave her the opportunity to drive an F1 BMW-Sauber which she did with great enthusiasm and remarkable skill. Hey, Danica, better watch this one in a few years!CXC Simulations is headquartered in Marina del Rey, California and was formed specifically to manufacture a professional-level racing simulator that was not only suitable for pro drivers and race teams, but practical for home use. Developed with professional drivers and engineers over a two-year period, the result was the CXC Motion Pro II, about which AutoWeek said, “might just be the best racing simulator in the world.” Powered by a purpose-built rack-mounted simulation computer, the MP II is meticulously assembled from aluminum, laser-cut steel and carbon fiber, the same materials as racecars. It is compatible with all major commercial and online software options and users may choose from a nearly inexhaustible and ever-increasing list of modern or vintage cars to drive, including F1, GT, NASCAR, sports cars, off-road, open-wheel and rally (even race boats) and tracks around the world to race on. But it is the implementation and interpretation of that software that separates the MP II from other simulators the precise timing, intensity and accuracy of its proprietary full-motion system, tactile transducers and force-feedback controls, together with 5.1 surround sound and a 1080p high-definition video display.