Even if you’re not an F1 racing fan per se, have you ever wondered, even once, what it might be like to strap into the cockpit of one of these elite machines and take it for a spin? Well now, courtesy of Montreal’s Vortex Racing, that experience can be yours, albeit without the worry of wrecking your $5 million ride…
Vortex Racing’s facilities in the Montreal suburb of Dorval are the only ones of their kind in North America. Launched on January 1, 2012, the centrepiece of the sprawling, high-tech, user-friendly complex – which still has that “new car” smell – is the racing simulator room, which features eight professional-level driving simulators. These are divided into six single-seaters and two three-seaters (ideal when you’re in the mood for sharing the terror), and at an estimated $400,000 apiece, Vortex hasn’t skimped on the equipment.
“The simulators are for both entertainment purposes and professional purposes,” explains Vortex Racing Marketing Director Kevin Major. “These things are really top-notch racing machines. We’re the first centre in North America, and there’s another one in Lyon, France, but that’s it. They’re Cruden Hexatech simulators, the same sims that are used by the F1 teams to practice.”
It’s not hard to understand why. You can feel the tires grab for traction off the starting grid, and there’s no escaping the up to 2.5 Gs of force going into corners. It feels real. And the cold finger of fear that touches the base of your spine when you put your wheels on the grass or come into a chicane too fast is about as real as it gets, as is the fatigue – both mental and physical – when you climb out of the “car.” Adding to the feeling of realism are the authentic racing suits, boots, gloves and helmets that participants are invited to wear.
Vortex Racing is selling an experience, and believes that in race-crazy Montreal (the annual Grand Prix du Canada is one of the largest events on the city’s cultural calendar) they’ve found the broadest possible target audience. “It’s for everyone: from people who drive to people who don’t drive; from the 50-year-old woman who just wants to drive fast to the F1 racer,” says Major. “It’s for people who want to have fun driving at high speed with no risk and without all the costs and overhead that a racing team would have. It’s also for the professional racer who wants to practice and improve.”
A typical session lasts for about an hour and twenty minutes, which includes a training course, qualification and race time on the simulator, a telemetry report and a review of the race with an instructor. And if F1 racing isn’t your cup of high-octane tea, Vortex offers several other styles of race cars and courses. “In addition to F1 we have a bunch of other Formula cars: F3, GP2, GP3 and obviously F1,” says Major. “We also have exotic cars, three kinds of them, sedans and coupes as well as rally cars, and drifting cars and drag racers.”
Vortex’s state-of-the-art facilities include two large conference rooms for corporate events, full bar service, and a full kitchen to accommodate catering. There are, however, a few practical limitations: sessions are restricted to those 18 and over, and folks with heart or blood pressure issues, pregnant women, and those susceptible to motion sickness should exercise caution before taking on a simulator. All others should prepare themselves for the ride of a lifetime…
“Actually,” Major laughs, “I don’t think you can be prepared for this. What you can be prepared for is the experience of what it would feel like to drive in a real race. Though it’s really just about having fun here. What we sell is being a race car driver for a day, at a real low price. Yes, they are simulations, but they are exactly the same thing that drivers practice on to get better.”
Vortex Racing, 2300 46th Avenue, Lachine, 1 (855) 867-8395