The TMG driving simulator: What is it?

TOYOTA Racing has not been on track since the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Despite this, the team is actively preparing for the next race, the 6 Hours of Silverstone, in a virtual world. Before the next testing session, Alex and Nicolas have been using the driving simulator at TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG), the team’s home base in Cologne. What’s hiding inside this important tool that has been used regularly since the Le Mans program’s launch at the end of 2011? Today, we explain…

Started in 2007, the TMG simulator is a really complete tool. Managed by the Research & Development department, it offers about 20 different race tracks, some available in various configurations, including the WEC tracks, the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit, and the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife. Several cars are also available: single-seaters such as F1 and GP2, as well as two Le Mans prototypes; one hybrid, the other not. A Super GT car and several road-cars from TOYOTA and Lexus are can also be driven in this virtual world.

For each one, a multitude of settings are offered; almost an infinite number. The simulator is ideal for preparing a test session or a race, as well as an integral part of the car development process itself. The engineer can work on aerodynamics: changing the configuration of wings etc. The behaviour of each element or part can be modified, whether it be the gearbox ratios, clutch settings, engine mapping and performance, brakes, suspension , anti-roll bar, dampers – the list seems endless.

As well as discovering or rediscovering a track, the driver can validate a setup before a test session or race, saving valuable time at the event. From the cockpit, the driver can evaluate can monitor and evaluate his tyre wear and fuel consumption while the engineer can change grip levels on track, both in general or specifically on a different section of circuit, like the areas at Le Mans on public roads.

The track and its environment are displayed by five panoramic screens by five projectors. The virtual model of each track is generated by XPI, who create the environment with the help of macro video and laser scanning the exact surface and topography of the circuit. The tracks and their characteristics are constantly being updated in order to be as realistic as possible. The correlation of information between sessions in the simulator and testing on the track are numerous – including after races such as Le Mans – between engineers from Research and Development and track engineers. In the same way, a driver’s feelings are obviously decisive.

No less than 16 computers work simultaneously when the simulator is running. Six are dedicated to the visual details of the circuit and two are used to control the motion, with six hydraulic jacks translating all the movements of the car to the driver, both vertically and horizontally. One computer is dedicated to audio and two additional units are located in the control room – one for telemetry, the other for the operator. Finally, the dSpace hardware-in-the-loop unit controls the behaviour of the car, based on the data generated on track and during wind tunnel or other tests within TMG. It includes five units controlling chassis, powertrain, control, simulation and system communication.

Proof of the simulator’s abilities: the lap times of the drivers are generally within a half second of a real lap. They are normally quicker than real life, as taking risks in the virtual world don’t have the same consequences. Stay tuned to find out what it’s really like to experience the TMG driving simulator…