The world’s most realistic racing simulator puts Ferrari F1 engineering in your den for $90,000
Turn three at Imola, the storied Italian race track that claimed Ayrton Senna's life in 1994, is coming up frighteningly fast. My left foot jams on the brakes as I hammer the paddles to downshift. Too late. My Formula 1 ride slams up against the metal barrier, its snarling V-8 engine instantly silenced.
Fortunately I'm not in a real F1 car or on the actual track -- but in the virtual world of the unfortunately named Evotek SYM 026. A better name would be the OMG This Is Nuts 2012. As video game simulators go, this baby makes the eminently realistic Forza Motorsport for Xbox look like an Etch-A-Sketch. Everything from track runoff area pebbles to neighboring farm houses are rendered in distracting HD detail. The brainchild of a former Ferrari F1 engineer, with a price tag of $90,000, the Evotek was designed with pro racers in mind -- but quickly morphed into a high-tech toy for the ultimate game room.
"There's a lot of interest in the private market for this machine," says Loris Scagliarini, the director of San Anselmo, Calif.-based Evotek US, who recently arranged a session with the simulator for clients of Ferrari of San Francisco.
While Scagliarini is convinced folks with deep pockets will pony-up for this thrill ride, so far sales have been limited to a curious array of public establishments, including a museum in San Sebastian, Spain, a mall in Ankara, Turkey and, incredibly, a metro station in Baku, Azerbaijan. Closer to home, an Evotek machine has taken up residence at the Whirly Dome arcade in Orlando, Fla. But perhaps the biggest endorsement arrived when Ferrari opted to buy a machine last spring to entertain visiting big wigs.
Part of that may be the cost; while a few companies build home simulators with three screens meant to give owners the feel of practicing at a track, most are a fraction of the Evotek's price. But no other simulator has been built to specifically recreate the experience of driving a modern F1 car, using actual F1 data and a set-up similar to what F1 teams use in their own simulators.
"You not only pick your track, you can pick the time of day at that track thanks to data that's built into the Evotek," says Gian Luigi Cavani, one of the founders of Modenese firm Evotek Engineering who for more than 20 years worked on Ferrari's F1 program. "It's so realistic that if you wind up off and in the pebbles, you'll feel those pebbles on the tires."
All that sounds a bit far-fetched, but it explains the crowd pressing to get a shot at virtual glory. Surrounded by real Ferraris, the Evotek's wheel-less nose sits pointed a three flat-panel displays that offers these middle-aged gamers a 120-degree view of Imola's snaking track, complete with foliage, grandstands and buildings all sourced from scans of the real place.