Welcome back to GTPlanet’s Member Motorsports Spotlight. I’m a GTPlanet forum member and sim racer with a passion for real life motorsports. You can read all about my motor racing exploits in the first installation of this recurring series.
For the fifth interview in the series, we’re back to North America, but to one of our friends in the Great White North, Robbie Arthur, aka forum member RobbiefromBC. Robbie is a third generation racer from, you guessed it, Mission, British Columbia, Canada.
You race on sims, and in real life. Which came first?
“Well if you’re talking about racing cars, then I started sim racing first. I grew up with petrol flowing through my veins so I raced anything I could against anyone interested. Pedal bikes, skateboards, roller blades. Heck, my brother and I would race each other down the hills by our house in those little plastic kiddie wagons. However, I never raced anything with an engine until later in my teenage years.”
How did you get into real life racing?
“Like I said before I grew up with it. The first time I went to the track I was two weeks old and in a baby stroller. My grandfather was a test rider for Puch Motorcycles as a teenager in Austria before he moved to Vancouver. He always had a need for speed and ended up buying a Formula Vee in 1969. He has been racing ever since.
“Because he was always travelling around racing, that meant my mom, aunts and uncle grew up at the track. My uncle started racing in the early 70’s at around the age of 16 and made it to the Canadian Nationals in 1976 at Mont Tremblant. He later went on to Formula Fords and progressed through the open wheel ladder before retiring from racing to marry his first wife.
“Many years later, my dad bought a Formula Vee and started racing. That was in 2002, so I would have been 4 years old at the time. Every single weekend it seemed we were off racing somewhere, whether it was in Canada or the U.S. In the weeks between races my dad and I were in the shop fixing the car getting it ready for the next race.
“My parents never forced me into racing. They asked if I wanted to play hockey or soccer but the only thing I wanted to do was go racing and to this day the same is true. I’ve never known a life without racing in it, and to be honest, I don’t want to know what it would be like without racing. I suppose you could say I never ‘got into it’ because racing’s been inside me ever since I was born.”
Tell us about your experience on sims. How did you get into sims, what games have you played, which do you play now? Do you race in a specific league or series? Any particular results you’d like to highlight?
“The first time I can remember trying a racing game with a steering wheel would have been around the early 2000s. My dad had bought a Logitech steering wheel and some racing game that I can’t remember the name of. He set it all up, and just like that I was driving around Lime Rock in a Porsche! After that, I was always trying to find a racing game that looked real, that sounded real, and that felt real. At least what I imagined was real as a toddler.
“When GT5 was released, I spent lots of time screwing around online with fellow racers I met in shuffle lobbies or spec race lobbies. I was always pretty quick against them, but when I tried to do the Online Seasonal events I’d get my butt whipped by the folks with steering wheels. Finally I got so frustrated that I went out and bought a Logitech G27 with all my Christmas and Birthday money I had saved up from previous years. My dad and I welded a rig together using a seat out of our old GMC safari van and away we went. This was when sim racing got serious enough for me to consider myself a ‘Sim Racer’.
“I’ve been a part of GT5, GT6, DiRT 3, Assetto Corsa, and Project CARS, PCARS being the sim I use most due to it feeling the best in terms of physics and because it has a wicked selection of open wheel cars to choose from, but it all started with that one game my dad brought home when I was a kid.”
Now I’d like you to talk about your real life racing experience. Which series do you drive in, what is the race format?
“I race what my family has raced for years; a Formula Vee. It’s basically a Type 2 VW Beetle on a race car frame. We use the king and link pin beam, front and rear drums, VW steering box, 1200cc single port engine and transaxle. But we flip the ring and pinion in the transmission so we can spin the engine to the front for better weight balance in the cars.
“I’m currently racing with the Sports Car Club of British Columbia and trying to win the Formula vee championship. I do and have raced with other sanctioning bodies like SCCA, VRCBC, and ICSCC, but the SCCBC is close to home so I run with them to keep travel costs down.
“The way SCCBC handles their race weekends is a little different than a traditional race weekend, where we get three races per weekend, one on Saturday and two on Sunday. There are usually 6 race weekends a year that count towards the year long championship. This year I’ve driven 10 race weekends, one with SCCA, one with VRCBC, and two with ICSCC.”
Can you talk about the tracks you’ve driven on? Which are your favorites? How many races have you run in total?
“Since I’ve only been racing for three years, my track list is quite small… coming in a a measly two tracks. The first one which is my home track (literally five minutes down the hill from my house) is Mission Raceway Park. A small and very technical 1.2-mile nine turn racetrack; almost built for a Formula Vee. This is where the majority of my racing career has been spent.
“But this year we needed to branch out and try our hand at a new race track. The one we decided on was The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, WA. For those of you that don’t know, The Ridge is a 2.47-mile 16 turn race track. It is very fast and very smooth, almost a complete opposite from Mission.
“We decided that going down to The Ridge on an SCCA Majors Tour race weekend would be best so we could see where I stack up to the very best Formula Vee drivers on the West Coast. Immediately I was setting laps identical to the front runners that have experience on the track in Qualifying, and I knew if I get more track time I could potentially win my first big race down south.
“It seemed luck was on my side for the morning race. It was doing what it normally does in the Pacific Northwest… Rain! I was just over ten seconds a lap faster in the rain than my closest competitor in my class. Not only did I end up winning the Formula Vee class but I won the overall standings beating out the higher classed Formula Fords too!”
Any other successful results you’d like to talk about?
“Following the weekend at The Ridge, we decided we just had to come back! We actually just got back from that second trip down where I set the Formula Vee track record in ICSCC by over four tenths of a second. The Ridge is by far my favourite track I’ve been to.
“Some other accomplishments in my short racing career include:
- Winning the SCCBC 2015 Novice Driver of the Year
- Finishing third in the 2016 Formula Vee championship in my second year of racing.
- Hopping into a friends’ Formula Ford for a Friday test and Tune, and driving his car to within four tenths of the Formula Ford lap record after only nine laps in his car!
“Perhaps the biggest achievement of my career has come most recently. This season, I won the 2017 Sports Car Club of British Columbia’s Formula Vee Championship! After leading the season early on by 15 points over second place, we ran into some engine woes that put us out of contention for August’s races. Following that stretch, we ended up in second, 14 points down. After that weekend I was pretty beaten down.
“2016 was an abysmal year for reliability, and I could picture 2017 following suit. But my dad was there to help push me through the bad times and got me inspired to tackle the last half of the year. After the DNFs in August, I never lost a race, including down south at The Ridge Motorsports Park, which we visited again in September. I left the track that weekend with two wins and a new track record!
“I went on to win the remaining nine races in the championship to seal the deal! Including the trip to the US, I have won a perfect 11 of 11 races I’ve entered since that weekend in August.”
What car(s) have you raced in real life? Do you own a race car, or do you rent from someone? Did you help with the build, do you perform any of the maintenance?
“Mainly I race my Formula Vee, but I have raced a Formula Ford, I’ve driven a friend’s B16-swapped 1991 Honda CRX, I’ve raced a Spec Miata in an enduro this past summer, and I’ve driven various road cars around the track during track days.
“Technically I don’t own any race cars, as my dad bought them, but we have four Formula Vees as of now.
- My dad’s personal car; 1998 Campbell Formula Vee
- A 1970s Zink Z12
- My beloved 1989 Lazer MkII
- And our newest addition, a 1996 Protoform P2
“Of course, we do all of the prep work, fabrication, and maintenance on the cars. We are actually looking into renting some of them out to racers, or taking on clients that have race cars but want us to prepare them for races. We wouldn’t be able to make a living off it but it would definitely help cover the costs of racing.”
Talk about the connection between real life and sim racing. What aspects of sim racing translate to real life racing, and vice versa? What aspects do you find different between the two?
“If you ask anyone who’s driven a race car at speed in a sim and on a real track, you’ll get the same answers. Sim racing teaches you about driving a racing line, braking points, turn in points, racing etiquette and all the basic stuff. But the biggest and most important thing that you will never ever get in a sim is the feel.
“The feel of the car stepping just out of the maximum slip angle and breaking traction. The feel of the car gaining ridiculous amounts of grip and the wheel feeling like it’s a thousand pounds as you climb up a hill. No matter how close technology gets to the real thing, it will never actually be the real thing.
“You have to get off the PS4, Xbox, or computer and get into a real race car and experience that sensory overload. After I got off the track in my first race I never looked at sim racing the same. They’re similar in so many ways, but at the same time so very different… and yes I do like real racing better. ”
How about some on board video or pictures of your driving? Or any pics you have of the car build, maintenance, podium celebrations. Whatever you might have.
“I’ve tried to scatter some photos and videos around in my responses, but if you’re looking for more you can head over to my Youtube channel and watch all the awesome racing I’ve done in the last three years. I always try to update my channel when I have a barn burner of a race, or something else interesting that is racing related.”
To wrap up, let’s focus more on the community here. When did you join GTPlanet, and what brought you here? How does GTPlanet help you connect to real life racing, and sim racing? What keeps you coming here?
“I joined GTPlanet in February of 2012, but I don’t exactly remember why. It probably had something to do with seeing if I could find cheats for GT4 or something. Of course a few years later I realized that it was quite the community. There are hundreds of thousands of people doing the same thing I was. That’s of course racing pixels around more pixels around a television screen.
“I got hooked up with zer05ive and SNAIL in 2014 and met a bunch of awesome people who have taken interest in my racing program. These guys show awesome amounts of support no matter what it is I’m driving. Without GTPlanet I wouldn’t have connected with these fine folks, and those guys are what keeps me coming back.
“I’ve met a few in real life due to our close proximity, but the few that are far away I would love to meet. Those include:
GTP_Nail, TEX36, euclid58, Gr8_Lakes, miata13B heck even my fellow Canadian buddies aerolite and Mike Lobban (AKA Slobban) as they seem to be my #1 fans. I guess to make a long story short it’s the people I’ve met that keeps me coming back.”
OK, so one final question. When’s your next race, and how do we keep up with your real life racing?
“I’m finished racing for this year. Unless I get a call from someone who wants me to race their car somewhere in the world!
“Next year is all SCCA Majors Tour racing, the dates for those weekends have yet to be released.