As we grow at SRC HQ, we’ve been lucky enough to begin some very exciting partner relationships with sim racing championships, leagues and of course, teams. One of those teams was (is!) Positive SimRacing who we spoke to last week in part 1 of our series. Today, I’m delighted to be talking to Shane Burke, who runs SimTech Motorsport, an Irish eSports and kart racing team.
Team SimTech has established themselves as a serious contender in top-flight sim racing, with numerous championships to their name including Endurance eSports World Champions in 2017, the VEC LMP2 Champions in 2017, Endurance eSports LMP2 World Champions in 2018, Nurburgring 24 hours Touring Car winners, Petit LeMans 24 hours winners and Indy 500 winners in 2018 and 2020.
How were you introduced to sim racing?
It was 2010 and I was just Googling other games that I never heard of when I came across rFactor. Seeing the Sauber F1 car as a simulation amazed me so I bought the game, really not knowing what I was getting myself into.
At the same time, I started to take Gran Turismo 5 leagues more seriously so I started the team called SimTech Motorsport. Then I won my national karting championship so I used some prize money to buy a G27 and it all started after that.
Some people say that sim racing “isn’t real”. How would you respond to that?
Coming from a real racing background I understand the “isn’t real” argument but once you get involved properly you don’t think of what you’re missing, such as the smell of fuel, tyres and brakes!
At the end of the day, we mostly do Motorsport for the buzz of competition which you get a very high standard online. You test different settings, lines, techniques etc like you would in real life and go door to door with each other.
But I do miss the smell and sensation of the real thing, maybe a candle that smells like a race car needs to become a thing!
What were the biggest hurdles you had to overcome to creating SimTech?
I had none really as I was very lucky with the people who joined us. Either found them online or they were a friend of a friend so getting people involved was thankfully, not too hard.
I guess these days it is becoming slightly expensive as you need to pay for liveries, set up shops, testing servers, websites and so on.
So finding partners to help us is now becoming a big thing. Thankfully, all of our partners have been fantastic and are supporting us along the way which has just let us focus on racing and getting their company out there in return.
You’ve won your splits at Nurburgring, Le Mans, the Indy 500 and Petit Le Mans to name a few. What is it, do you think, that gets a sim racing team on the podium?
Nothing beats preparation, for example, Le Mans 24 hours we could have 2 months of testing non stop done before the race.
Trying to prepare for every situation from fuel/tyre strategy to how GT acts in traffic etc. Also, patience is a big one which I think we play well in the bigger events as you see a lot of teams panic if they start dropping off the leaders.
When we’re mentally all in the right mindset we’re very good which I think helped us in our success.
You have a roster of 5 fast sim drivers – How did you recruit them, how do you develop their performance and help them improve? Are you looking for more drivers?
How I came across our drivers is all different from either meeting them randomly in forums, social media to on track. We also attract people because we’re a bit more laid back than some other teams yet we still achieve the results. Of course, it’s a bit more serious depending on the race but usually, we’re just racing while having the ‘craic’ as we’d say.
We give each other tips when we can but the best thing we’ve found is just battle each other on track in practice. You focus more as you want to beat your teammate while not realising you’re picking up his line or braking points.
For us, that’s one of the easiest ways but if that doesn’t work we compare Motec files especially if it’s an important race. We wouldn’t say no to more drivers, just once they know how to drive and they’re a nice person.
How do you plan for a sim race? Do you test tyre pressures, setups? different track conditions? Is there a magic excel spreadsheet at your HQ or do you use software to help you plan?
We try a few base setups then after that, it’s just about tweaks that suit certain drivers.
For example Indy 500 myself, Sherwin and Paul would go completely different directions on how we want a car but at Le Mans where we have to share a car, we need to find common ground as everyone needs to be confident in their car.
Thankfully Luke loves excel sheets so yes we got a magic version which has certainly helped us to some success.
Are there any apps that you couldn’t live without as drivers and as a team?
Crew chief! Seriously every driver needs it as you’d swear there’s people out there racing blind folded out there. We all use it for warning us about cars around us, doing our fuel etc.
What changes make during an endurance race session? (practice, qualifying and race)
With iRacing anyway we couldn’t change anything bar tyre pressure during the race where rF2 we could change wing angles.
In rF2 depending on conditions, we’d be changing tyre pressure and wing angles which were highly important. In iRacing we don’t change anything during a race apart from brake bias.
Could you let us know what sort of sim gear you and the rest of the team are using?
We use various different brands from Fanatec, Simucube, Heusinkveld, Logitech, Thrustmaster, Sim-lab rigs. Ultra wides to triples etc. We use one of our partners rigs for a LAN event in Denmark which has everything, it is just amazing!
Nordic Sim Gear guys bring it all the way from Sweden to Denmark for us and have brought us success every year we’ve used it.
– Thanks Shane!