A new simulator let Jay Leno take his Corvette o the limit without leaving his garage
Jay Leno is stimulated by car simulator
I just spent the afternoon driving at an average speed of 200kph, round city streets, mountain roads and finally at a racetrack in my Corvette Z06. No, I've not been trying to get arrested. I have a new toy in my garage, a giant driving simulator that lets you drive your car as fast as you like without leaving the garage. It's called the Tag Systems TS8000.
It's Australian. But it has just launched here in the States, so they asked if they could set up in my garage. I was a bit sceptical. I said why don't I just take my own car out and drive it? They said, well you can drive as fast as you want on any racecourse or street that you want in any kind of weather conditions.
So, I admit I had to get talked into it, but I have to get talked into everything, whether it's e-mail or the iPad or whatever. But eventually I said yes and next thing I know they are at the shop.
It didn't take long to set up. It's a mobile system and takes maybe half a day to install. You open the door, pull in and, depending on the car, there are some universal brackets that fit on the rear axle. It works on a rolling road. The front wheels go on some pads that turn with the wheel. You turn off the traction control, start the car and off you go.
The realism is amazing. The car's under load and sounds exactly as the car would sound at 240kph. There are fans that simulate whatever speed you're driving and the exhaust is extracted out the back through big hoses.
It's a bit alarming when I am driving and I look at the speedometer and it says 240 and the tach is reading 6,000 and I'm in 6th gear and I look over and there's a guy standing right next to me - aghh! It actually grabs you that much. It's fun because you're actually driving the car. The only thing you don't get is g-force, obviously. But as you climb a hill and the hill drops off, it's like you're airborne. It's amazing.
It seems very safe. It is rated to 1,100hp and for now the top speed is around 290kph. So there'll be no taking the McLaren F1 to 390kph just yet. You can't really come off the rollers as you're not actually travelling at 240kph. It's not a two-ton object travelling at 240kph when something horrible happens. You're staying in the same place.
But the sense of speed is tremendous. So is the sense of inertia. It's the rear wheels spinning the rollers, so when you lay off, the car slows down. The minute you step on the brake, the car stops.
It takes two or three passes to get your body and your mind acclimated to exactly what's happening but after about 15 minutes it becomes second nature. You find yourself doing things you could never do on the road. Like in the Corvette, hitting almost seven grand in every gear, including the top gear. Most guys who have exotic cars have never heard their car run at 320kph, or even 260 or 270. It's pretty neat. The car is doing everything it does at those speeds, so it's pretty amazing. And it gives you a sense of really how fast that is. Stuff is flying by you incredibly quickly.
For a while I actually got carsick. I was on the rally course in the mountains, doing jumps, and I actually had to pull over. It's amazing how it tricks your senses.
You can put in any road you want. They're from Australia so they have their version of popular roads and some roads that they've developed that are just interesting to drive on. But they could put in pretty well any road or track you want.
I think it'd be fun to put the Nürburgring in there. It would be fun to put Laguna Seca in and drive some of my cars through the Corkscrew. If I put in Brooklands I could drive my Lagonda, 8L Bentley or my single-seater Speed Six Bentley there. That would be great fun - vintage tracks and that type of thing.
It's fun to be able to see what your car can do. Let's face it, anything over 160kph in any western country and you're thrown in prison. You can also race legally with this thing. Say I've got a Camaro and you've got a Mustang and we want to race, well you turn to the drag race simulator and you pull up next to each other. The Christmas tree comes down and you dump the clutch at five grand and the wheels spin until they get traction as they normally would because you do it under load, and at the end your torque, your time, your speed, your horsepower, all the pertinent information, comes up on the computer right next to you. There's no line so you actually know which car is faster. Instead of two guys going out and trying to kill each other on a public highway somewhere, two guys with fast street cars can pull into this thing and race. Each unit is self-contained so you could have three or four in a row and race against each other.
They can set it up so you are in a car chase with a police car behind you. The really cool thing about it is not just for fun but its application for police training or driver training.
Other applications are driver training for schools. There's no insurance liability because you're not out on the public roads. It can rain or snow, it can be day, night, whatever you like.
I'm not really a video game guy. What this is, really, is a chassis dyno that you can use to have fun with. I've got a chassis dyno in my shop and we run the cars on it. This will give you horsepower readout, torque, specs, time, and you can actually have some fun with it while you're solving problems as well. It's a good way to test components and overheating tyres and everything like that as well. On a rainy day, I want to go for a drive and I don't want to get my car wet …
We spent the whole afternoon playing with this thing. All the guys got in and got a shot at it. Guys that I would never let drive my Corvette, I let drive my Corvette, because I'm standing right there. The idea that I'm doing 240kph in my garage is hilarious.