Rather than just watching the race, you can have a go yourself, Albany man Ben Fairhead says. (ABC Great Southern: Lisa Morrison)
The city of Albany in Western Australia may be almost 4,000 kilometres from Bathurst in New South Wales, but Ben Fairhead will be amongst the adrenalin-racing action this Sunday.
The self-confessed rev-head and gamer has hosted a Bathurst 1000 simulator party in his self-described “man cave” for the past five years.
Mr Fairhead started watching the 1,000-kilometre touring race with his dad, a motor sport enthusiast, when he was 10.
In 2011, the 38-year-old decided to combine his love of cars and gaming so he could swap sitting on the couch spectating for sitting in the hot seat and racing.
“I like computer games and I like motor racing … so I decided to give it a go,” Mr Fairhead said.
“Rather than sitting down watching the race with a bunch of mates … you actually get to have a go yourself.
“It’s irresistible once you have a go of it.”
An adrenalin rush through electronics
Albany man Ben Fairhead hosts a Bathurst 1000 simulator event in Albany each year. (ABC Great Southern: Lisa Morrison)
Mr Fairhead brings the Bathurst 1000 to his backyard using an old car seat, timber frame, top-of-the-line steering wheel console and pedals, PlayStation 3 and projector screen.
He has spent 20 hours this past week tweaking the technological components and a few more doing practice laps.
While lacking the smell of burning rubber and 200,000 people, he said the virtual racing experience was realistic.
“It’s very much a simulator,” Mr Fairhead said.
“It’s got automatic calibration and force feedback [vibrations] so you can actually feel the bumps [in the track].”
Mr Fairhead has seven mates who regularly get together to hone their skills in preparation for the biggest day on their gaming calendar.
The thrill of racing is addictive, Mr Fairhead said.
“It’s insane,” he said.
“Sometimes it feels like your heart is jumping out of your chest.
“You know when you’re doing a good lap and everyone else knows you’re doing a good lap as well.
“All the banter will just slowly quieten down and they will start watching your lap, so the pressure is on.
“As you get to the final corner, you are about to go over the finish line and you’re waiting to see that time come up.
“It’s just full on and then it’s like ‘yeah’ jump out of your seat if you got your best time.”
Mr Fairhead’s fastest time is 1 minute, 50.413 seconds, which he said was close to times clocked on the real Mount Panorama Circuit.
“We don’t actually use a proper V8 super car, we use more like a formula one car because it’s got really good handling and down force,” he said.
“So our times are actually fast, much faster [than competitors].
“If I put on a car that’s similar to the V8 supercars, they will be right on par.”
Fun for young and old
Players will compete for four trophies on the Bathurst 1000 simulator. (ABC Great Southern: Lisa Morrison)
Between 20 and 30 players aged from 10 to 65 are expected to watch the action on Sunday.
Trophies are awarded for the slowest time, most ‘concrete kisses’ (hitting the wall), biggest ‘grass cutter’ (leaving the track) and the coveted fastest time, which Mr Fairhead claimed last year.
Mr Fairhead said over the past five years, two other Bathurst 1000 enthusiasts had built simulators in their sheds.
“It’s just rocketed,” he said.
“I’ve got some mates that take it seriously and they actually race for money, but this one is purely for fun.
“It’s just a good excuse to get together with a bunch of mates, have fun and drink a few beers.”