iRacing Driver Makes Real World Racing Debut at VW TDI Cup

by: Jake -
More On: iRacing
iRacing driver John Prather will be making his real-world racing debut at the VW TDI Cup this Saturday. iRacing poses a very interesting question: Is it possible that just by going around the track a few times in a racing sim, a player could develop the skill, not to meantion patience, that this person could race an actual, real-world, race car?
Straight to the Pros: iRacing’s Prather Makes Real-World Racing Debut
in VW Jetta TDI Cup

Ace in the Virtual Space Faces First-Ever Green Flag at Road America
Round of Volkswagen’s Professional Green Racing Series



BEDFORD, MA (August 14, 2009) – Is it possible that just by running
enough laps in a racing simulator, a person could develop a sufficient
level of skill to hold his own in a field of young professional
drivers, all hungry to climb the motorsport career ladder? When the
green flag drops for the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup this Saturday at the
historic Road America race track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, series
guest driver John Prather, a top-rated competitor in iRacing.com’s
online racing service who less than a month ago took his first laps in
a racing car in the physical world, will look to answer exactly that
question.



“This is a moment I’ve worked for and dreamed about for the last ten
years,” said Steve Myers, iRacing’s executive producer. “I’ve long
believed that a motorsport simulation that had cars and tracks that
were as accurate as what we’ve developed for the iRacing online
service would not only make the driving more fun for all of our
members, but it would also enable a person to learn in the virtual
world the actual skills necessary to successfully race in the physical
world.”



Prather, a 30-year-old IT professional who grew up around motorsport –
his father was an amateur sports car racer and his earliest childhood
memories are of attending races at Road America – is the ideal
candidate to test Myers’ theory. He’s the highest ranked North
American road-racer among the more than 16,000 members across the
globe who’ve joined iRacing in the 12 months since the service opened
to the general public.



One person who believes Prather can succeed is the 2008 Jetta TDI
champion, Josh Hurley, also an iRacer, who last year made no secret of
the fact that the virtual laps he did in the simulator prior to
real-world races gave him an advantage over his competitors.



“I expect that John will turn some heads this weekend,” said Hurley,
who leveraged his 2008 championship to a full-time ride in this year’s
Grand-Am Koni Challenge, where he’s already won four poles and one
race. “A lot of people are starting to understand that high-quality
simulation can help an experienced driver make better use of on-track
time in the real world and get better results. But I don’t think they
grasp how much a person can learn just in the simulator before they
ever get into a car. John has done hundreds of races in the iRacing
service and run thousands of laps.”



Pressed for a prediction on Prather’s performance at Elkhart Lake,
Hurley said “I think John will run quite well, probably mid-pack,
which is pretty remarkable given the quality and experience of the
drivers he’s going to be competing against. And I think John’s
racecraft will be surprisingly good.”



For his part, Prather professes not to be surprised that a driver from
the virtual world would get a shot at racing in the physical one, only
that he’s the one who’s getting that chance.



“I’ve known for years that this would happen – just not to me,”
Prather said following a three-day introduction to racing in the
physical world at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, courtesy of the Skip
Barber Racing School. His instructors marveled at the intimate
knowledge of that tricky track’s racing surface he displayed from his
first laps in the car. “They said they’d never had a student whose
line was so correct. They just couldn’t grasp that I really ‘knew’
the track; not just which way the turns went, but all the nuances that
determine how you actually drive it, like small changes in the camber
and small bumps in the paving.”



Prather said his first experience driving in the natural world was
less different than he’d expected. “Wearing a firesuit and helmet,
being strapped into the car, feeling the g-forces – yeah, that was
different, but not as much as I thought it would be. In fact, in some
ways it’s easier. You can ‘feel’ the car a little better and see the
apexes (of the corners) a bit more easily.”



Not that Prather’s three days were totally incident-free. He ran into
a gravel trap on what was supposed to be a cool-down lap. “I made
about six mistakes in a row,” he said, sheepishly. “I guess we all
learn from our mistakes.”



The experiment that sees a virtual racer matching his skills against
those of experienced real-world drivers in the world’s most
environmentally friendly race series is one result of the partnership
between Volkswagen of America, Inc. and iRacing.com Motorsport
Simulation, LLC that will see participation in an iRacing-organized
online version of the Jetta TDI Cup series as a major portal to
participation in the 2010 edition of the real-world Jetta TDI Cup.



“We expect as many as 2,000 people to apply and we only have 50 slots
open in the program,” said Clark Campbell, Volkswagen’s U.S.
motorsports manager. “Prospective drivers for our 2010 series who
join iRacing and excel in the virtual Jetta TDI Cup will be invited to
participate in the final round of 200 from which we’ll select the
field for next year’s series.”



The Jetta TDI Cup car is powered by a 2.0-liter, 170 hp, four-cylinder
TDI clean diesel engine mated to a six-speed, double-clutch, automatic
DSG transmission. The car is only slightly modified from stock with
Pirelli racing tires, race suspension and brake components, drivers
racing safety seat, FIA roll cage and an on-board fire extinguisher
system.



The iRacing VW Jetta TDI Cup starts 8:00 p.m. ET Tuesday, August 18,
and features an exact digital duplicate of the actual race car – less
the safety equipment of course. Reigning series champion Hurley has
helped with development of the virtual car, and Prather has been
practicing with a pre-release version of the Jetta race car on
iRacing’s virtual version of Road America. It’s so accurate that the
only thing missing is the smell of Elkhart Lake’s renowned bratwurst
sausages.



Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in
Herndon, Virginia. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered
in Wolfsburg, Germany. Volkswagen is one of the world’s largest
producers of passenger cars and Europe’s largest automaker. Volkswagen
sells the Rabbit, New Beetle, New Beetle convertible, GTI, Jetta,
Jetta SportWagen, Eos, GLI, Passat, Passat wagon, CC, Tiguan, Touareg
2 and Routan through approximately 600 independent U.S. dealers. All
2009 Volkswagens come standard-equipped with Electronic Stabilization
Program. This is important because the National Highway and Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) has called ESC the most effective new
vehicle safety technology since the safety belt. Visit Volkswagen of
America online at vw.com or www.media.vw.com to learn more.



About iRacing.com

iRacing.com was founded in September of 2004 by Dave Kaemmer and John
Henry. Kaemmer was co-founder of Papyrus Design Group, developers of
award-winning racing simulations including NASCAR Racing: 2003 Season
and Grand Prix Legends. Henry is principal owner of the Boston Red Sox
and Fenway Sports Group – the co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing – as
well as an avid simracer. The iRacing team combines more than 100
years of real-world racing experience with more than 50 years of
successful racing simulation development. The company has developed
numerous corporate relationships in the motorsport industry, including
agreements to develop track simulations with International Speedway
Corporation, Speedway Motorsports, and Panoz Motor Sports Group and
vehicles with General Motors, Riley Technologies, Radical Sportscars,
and 600 Racing. iRacing is the official simulation partner of the
Sports Car Club of America, Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup, Star Mazda
Championship, Skip Barber Racing School and Australia’s V8 Super
School. Most recently iRacing and NASCAR have announced a partnership
to develop NASCAR-sanctioned online racing series. The iRacing
service is open to racers and fans of all skill levels from top-level
pros to complete beginners. To join in the fun, go to www.iRacing.com.
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