Cruden Hexatech Simulator at Autosport Racing Car Show

Think six axis simulator, and your brain automatically imagines a budget only NASA would contemplate. Think racing car sim, and you’d guess this is the domain of upper echelon Formula 1 teams. But here we are strapped into a full motion rig with three giant screens and a spec to match; yours for 150,000 Euros. This the price of a supercar rather than space rocket, and well within the range of rich car nuts with suitably large garages! So what do you get for your money? Cruden, the manufacturers of this fourth generation Hexatech 3CTR, their first three seater jiggler in Europe, give you a full hydraulic virtual vehicle, kitted out with all the latest force-feedback sensors and actuators. Not only does the steering wheel transmit turning torque back to your hands, but pedals are equipped too, not to mention the racing harness which tightens under load. All is calculated to give you the nearest, most realistic driving or racing experience.

Such is the draw of the beast that there’s a large queue of like-minded people waiting to experience this latest machine. Ample time then to stroll around, point our cameras at the gubbins, and take stock of the huge pistons that provide such amazing articulation. Two passengers can sit astride the driver, but better strap in tight as they are in for some serious motion. Think rowing boat in an Atlantic swell, or rodeo ride with nothing to hang on to. Fortunately all three occupants get bucket racing seats and 3 point harnesses, but the driver, equipped with steering wheel to hang onto and the concentration of racing to exclude all other extraneous mental activities, only notices the snap of their head under momentary lack of acceleration, as they click the paddle controlled sequential gearbox. All other motions seem perfectly natural to the driver, and thus seem to vanish into the overall experience. Cruden will tell you this means they have succeeded in mentally transposing you to the car on the screen.

Cruden Hexatech 3CTR racing simulator

First of all we have to climb in, strap our harness tight, adjust pedal position, and wait for the thumbs up from our pretty hostess. Safety doors closed, the engineers press the green go button and our “car” rises gently to standby or starting grid position. Like all racing games, the view of your competitors on the grid, the starting lights counting down, the engine notes screaming, makes your pulse quicken, and produces a somehow embarrassingly moist feeling in your hands. Embarrassing, because this is a simulator and not for real, after all, we can crash and no-one will be hurt, but we’re human, and the act of being at the wheel generates emotional excitement whatever the reality. Motions that the brain takes for granted but are certainly not normal on a computer game are the artificial g-force, jiggling along corner bump strips, and diving under braking. The machinery moves enormously, tipping backwards under acceleration so that it can throw forwards when you heave on the brakes.

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Cruden Hexatech 3CTR racing simulator

It takes around 15-20 minutes of Hexatech time to get used to the controls, according to our host, hence the excursion onto the grass at turn one can be excused. How about the total off piste route we followed on the first lap: can that be excused too? Certainly the 5 minutes allowed before being turfed off for the next wanabe Jenson Button was not sufficient to dial our feeble brain into the finess and precision needed to compete. So despite all the gizmos, something is still missing to fully fool the body and brain. Having just seen the stunning 3D film Avatar, we put it to Cruden that including 3D would greatly enhance the experience and particularly the ability to judge braking, turning and apex points on the track. This would make it truly immersive. Cruden agreed, and in fact this is planned for the future. The current tour de force is the mechanical engineering and being computer driven, all advances in digital graphics can be uploaded as and when available. Indeed as computer graphics go, the Hexatech simulator did not match the graphics of a Sony Playstation game and this was a disappointment, especially if the simulator ends up in theme parks, a market that the unit’s price point allows. Put this sim in a darkened room without the noise and distraction of a motor show, with improved graphics and it would be as near as you could get to driving the real thing on a real track though. Thank you Cruden for a top ride.
Cruden Hexatech 3CTR racing simulator

Cruden Hexatech 3CTR racing simulator

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