Tokyo Virtual Circuit - Racing-Spec Porsche 996 GT3 Simulator

Tokyo Virtual Circuit - Racing-Spec Porsche 996 GT3 Simulator

When race car drivers need a little extra practice or when driving enthusiasts want to really let it fly and feel what pushing their car to the limit on a real racing circuit feels like, what do they do?  In Japan, they go to Tokyo Virtual Circuit in Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo.

This is not an arcade racing game.  This is not simply a "driving simulation".  This is an actual "Porsche 996 GT3" that was stripped down and refitted with racing components, set, calibrated and recalibrated, and honed to exactly replicate the feel of driving a racing Porsche on an actual track.  Steering wheel feel, gas, brake and clutch feel, car handling and performance - all mimic what you would feel if you were to take your racing spec Porsche out on Fuji Speedway, Suzuka Circuit, Nürburgring, Monaco or any of the other 100 real international or domestic circuits available to drivers at Tokyo Virtual Circuit.

Professional divers were asked to test-drive the simulation to give feedback about its handling and how realistic it was.  Through this process, over the course of 6 months of continual adjustment and calibration, the team was able to develop a life-like driving experience that is as close to real thing as you can get.

Sitting in the racing-spec Porsche, the driver views the circuit in front of him projected onto a 7m-wide HD quality screen.  There are 2 meters of separation between the driver and the screen which Tokyo Virtual Circuit says is key - at 2 meters distance, it gives the brain the sense that what is being looked at is actual road and scenery, not a screen.

Pull out of the pits at Fuji Speedway and start speeding into the circuit, feel the heavy steering and the tight pedals.  Understeer and risk losing control of the steering wheel, feel the shake when tightly cornering and hitting the bumps.  A few minutes handling this car at top speeds is a workout, and the sweat and muscle fatigue set in quickly.  It is very easy to appreciate the life-like conditions that pull drivers in and why there is a 50% repeat rate.

Showing us exactly how to handle the car was Tokyo Virtual Circuit instructor, Tomohiko Sunago, former top F3, Super Taikyo and Super GT race car driver. He was a 2-time Super Taikyu series champion and retired from professional driving in 2008.  He was aggressive but smooth as he attacked the corners and accelerated on straightaways.

And he made it look easy...

But when I got behind the wheel it was a bit of a different story.  Downshifting into the corners and handling the turns was extremely challenging and needless to say it was hard to optimize my speed.  Finally, trying to drive a bit more aggressively, I lost control and crashed head-on into a wall.  I left the car sweating and humbled.

A set of panels with a number of gauges tracks the data about the drive so that you can track your performance.  The handling and performance of the car can be modified as well as the conditions on race day and whether or not there are other cars on the track.  The car's driving and handling also varies with changing conditions such as when the tires start heating up after time on the track, etc.

In the next room, there is the "Formula SIM" based on the same model as RedBull's 2008 F1 machine "RB4" with a paddleshift and 2 pedals, and Sunago gave us a demonstration on this as well.  This is the only one of its kind in Japan and there are only 5 machines of the same model in the world.  As with the "Porsche SIM", the engine sound and scenery are extremely realistic, with the same 2m distance between driver and screen.

We are told that although the "Porsche SIM" makes you sweaty and tired, the "Formula SIM" is beyond comparison… and Sunago said that professional racing drivers praise the realistic practice that it offers them.

If you really plan to experience driving in a real racing circuit, it might cost 20 million yen including purchasing a racing car and renting a circuit, which is beyond the means of most. Tokyo Virtual Circuit is able to make your dream come true for ¥5,000. We highly recommend those who like cars and motor sports or long for the experience of driving a racecar. 

Price: ¥5,000 per person; Example Description: 5 laps on the Fuji International Speedway

Here is another video showing Nürburgring from a view outside of the car…