You all know me by now and know I am a complete virtual reality idoliser, if not, where have you been?! So when I first read that a virtual reality racing car centre was opening close to my home I experienced instant fan girl syndrome…
Thankfully they heard my plea and invited me along. Now the time has come for me to share that marvelous experience with you all. Where to begin? I won’t lie, I was giddy just standing outside looking in to the place! As soon as I stepped in I felt as if I had travelled into the future, past and present all at the same time. I think it was their Matrix colour scheme and the build up of sheer excitement that transported me into this mesmerising moment of euphoria. Time stood still in there.
The place looked the business. It wasn’t like any traditional ‘arcade’ I had ever visited. This looked and felt upmarket. The details were well thought out. The colours, the branding, the chairs, the headsets, the steering wheels, the pedals, the sounds, the smells, the works. Everything looked and felt shit hot! There are 11 chairs for racing drivers to race simultaneously in a race of 23 drivers in total (the other 12 are AI/computer controlled racers). Spectators from large groups who attend who don’t make the 1st cut of racing drivers can watch the action live on a TV screen. It genuinely looks like you are watching the F1 on that tv except it’s your mates or co-workers! It’s so awesome! The technology used has the ability to target any dramatic battles for positioning or overtaking as you would expect in real life races too. Adding to the realistic experience.
Nothing compares to BEING the driver though! I’m a gamer who’s played racing games before and would class myself as ‘decent enough’ at them so I was feeling up for the experience. When I approached the seat, saw the equipment and listened to my tutorial I felt a little out my depth. It felt like I was about to step into a car, even before the VR headset has been touched. I was given a racing driver balaclava to wear – this was getting seriously exciting! I had eaten a Ginger Nut biscuit and put on anti-sickness wristbands – I was told to expect to feel the G-Force and movements when racing thanks to the seat motion as well as VR visualisation. The seats are fully adjustable to the customer’s height to help with that real life experience further. The steering wheels are also adjustable for the same reason. Your foot pedals are exactly as you would expect in a gear controlled car.
Screechy Wheel time
I was sat in my seat, balaclava on, strapped into my harness (eeeek!) and ready to go post tutorial instructions. I pulled the headset on and immediately brimmed ear to ear. I could see my VR hands clutching the VR steering wheel in front of me whilst holding the real world steering wheel. I looked and saw the car’s dashboard, the mirrors, the road in front of me, the side windows, the passenger seat, the rear seats, my lap. This was cool and as you would expect in VR but still cool. However, when I was given that green light, applied the accelerator and experienced the sensational rumble of my hasty take-off I was in hysterics. I was like the child who longed to be tall enough for their first big rollercoaster ride, finally being tall enough to take their seat and whooping down the first steep drop my friends. I couldn’t help myself! Trying to keep control around the bends that I was driving way too fast for, shuddering over the chicanes with my ass cheeks knowing I was off course along with my eyes thanks to the 20 degrees of seat motion at a speed of 20 degrees per second! The belief that I had to make time back up for going off the track slightly, the determination to do better on the next bend to win the race in a new world record time to match my new pro racing driver persona! Except only to spin wildly out of control at the next bend and feel the full G-Force throwing me about in my chair thanks to the realistic motion matching my competitively aggressive driving style and I don’t even know which way is forward anymore. Slip my headset off, quick check, yes it’s ok, I’ve not really damaged a Mitsubishi Evolution VI. Headset back on, finish the race with the sounds of my engine roaring a little less furiously than before. Race over. “How was that? Ready for the Porsche 911?”
The hardware and software are absolutely in sync with each other. The chair, the steering wheel, pedal, visual and sound all provide a realistic immersive experience. There’s auto-drive function for when you pull into the pit-stop – acting as an ideal time to swap drivers if your group is larger than the 11 seats can host at the same time. Just a tap on the shoulder to let you know to pull in next time is all it takes communication wise to make that happen.
This is the sort of gift I could buy my husband instead of a race track experience and know he was going to be alive at the end of it… With over 50 cars and tracks to choose from you can’t go wrong! In fact, the selection of racing tracks are marked out EXACTLY as they are in real life and encourage local Knockhill drivers enough to become regular customers! John, the owner shared a story of his friend visiting in a real world Lamborghini looking to try out VR Simulators VR Lamborghini and said afterwards, “wow, it’s just like the real thing!”. His brother sat in the real world Lamborghini and said, “wow, it’s just like VR!”.
I would encourage you to go try it out for yourself, girls this is one you will enjoy as much as the lads, I promise! Don’t worry if you don’t feel confident as you can activate auto-gears so that all you need to do is accelerate, steer and brake. There are green and red arrows to guide you on when you should brake too. You’ll receive a full brief of equipment and tutorial – no driving license required for VR races either! Not forgetting that you are in safe capable hands of the staff. There’s even a podium winners celebration at the end so you can truly enjoy the winner’s bragging rights!