Vehicle Performance Engineering
Powerslide's Andrew Kinsella and Adam Blocker crossing the line in 1rst and 2nd at the 2020 Lionheart Indy 500
In this page, I will walk you through some of the skills and tools I have developed as a Vehicle Performance Engineer for the Powerslide Motorsports Esports team.
One of my goals after arriving to the UK was to gain trackside experience with a competitive racing team. Unfortunately, the country has been in lockdown for most of the time I have been here, which has severely limited my opportunity to leave the house or attend race events. I decided to focus on finding the next best thing, and in the Winter of 2020 I joined the Powerslide Motorsports eSports team as a Vehicle Performance engineer!
Even though there is no replacement for real trackside experience, this has been a valuable arena for me to develop many relevant skills that I can take with me to my future career – including communication, test development, setup building, race strategy, reverse engineering, and data analysis. For this entry, I want to show some of the tools I have developed in the last 6 months to help boost performance for the team.
The Powerslide squad in a group testing session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Powerslide Motorsports is an Esports racing team founded in 2016, and today consists of drivers from 8 countries spanning 4 continents. Although they are a versatile squad, they primarily compete with the Dallara IR-18 Indycar in top international Esports series including:
Indy Elite Series
Lionheart IndyCar Series
NTT Indycar Series – Open Setup
Indycar Series – Oval Fixed Setup
International Simulated Open Wheel Championship (ISOWC) (Upcoming)
The Powerslide Team has a long list or notable results, with a very small sample including:
1-2 finish 2020 Open-Wheels 500 (Major broadcasted Indy 500 Race), with 4 drivers finishing in the top 8.
1rst place finish MegaDriver66 Indy Series 2020A Indy 500
1rst place team championship in the 2020 Indy Elite Series
1rst place team and driver’s championship in the 2020 Lionheart IndyCar Series
6 consecutive 1rst place team championship in the NTT IndyCar Series Open Setup Series
2nd place finish in the top-split 2019 iRacing Indy 500
About the Team
Powerslide's Hugo Olsson performing obligatory celebration donuts after wining the Open Wheels 500, the team's first major televised Indy 500 victory. Adam Blocker also finished in a close second.
Be sure to follow them on social media and stay tuned to the action! Clearly, this team has an accomplished history and already performs at a high level, but that doesn’t mean there was no scope for me to help them improve.
Responsibilities and Challenges
Initially, I was brought on to the team alongside long-time colleague Derek Moore to help develop race and qualifying setups for upcoming events. This is still my primary responsibility. I participate in regular test sessions where I watch onboard footage, review logged data, analyse performance metrics, and collect driver feedback to help build competitive setups. Often times I am working with several drivers simultaneously! Collaborating together enables us to execute batch setup experiments or pursue different setup ideologies simultaneously, which helps us efficiently converge to an optimal solution.
Joining the team was a unique challenge for me because I had to simultaneously learn to work with new teammates and learn a completely new vehicle. The Powerslide team consists of incredibly skilled drivers with years of setup experience specific to the Dallara IR18. This means that by now they have fine-tuned their intuitive understanding of what setup strategies worked best for the IR18, especially for specific track characteristics.
Powerslide's Andrew Kinsella and Adam Blocker finishing 1-2 at Auto Club Speedway in the Lionheart Racing Series. Adam and Andrew would go on to finish 1rst and 2nd in the 2020 driver's championship, respectively.
This means that, for the first phase of our relationship, they were the ones teaching me! What I was able to contribute was the vehicle dynamics knowledge and explanations behind how their setup decisions worked, helping everyone gain a better understanding of the car. By taking detailed notes after each session, I worked to quickly familiarize myself with the car, eventually reaching the point where I could take the lead during a testing session.
Today, my responsibilities involve much more than setup building! I have begun my first foray into race engineering, helping with live fuel and tyre strategy. I have also designed and led detailed testing procedures to reverse engineer vehicle performance characteristics, using the data to help validate setups and narrow in on the IR18’s working window. I have even begun helping other Esports racers on the side with data analysis and driver coaching. Along the way, I have developed several tools that I keep in my arsenal for maximum effectiveness, that I will now share with you!
Note: I would love to share all the detail I can, but sadly some information will be removed or hidden for competitive reasons.
Jonathan Vogel's Performance Toolbox
MoTeC Data Analysis
My first step was to create a dedicated MoTeC workspace to help analyse track sessions. In iRacing, everyone can get access to the same data – what sets people apart is how well they can organize and display the data to present important performance insights.
To meet this end, I set up dedicated pages to help me narrow into key areas of vehicle performance. These include:
Lap Overview (Pictured Below)
Driver Inputs and Tool Usage
Ride Heights, Pitch and Roll
Snapshot of one of my MoTeC analysis pages. Recognize the track? Contact me with your guess!
The main purpose of these graphs is to help me connect the dots between a setup adjustment, its effect on the car and tyres, and subjective driver feedback. A large component of this included the creation of math channels to create additional insight. While there isn’t enough space to discuss all of them, I will use an example to demonstrate the value gained.
During testing at one track, drivers were complaining that the balance of the car was constantly fluctuating during corners. Data from my ride heights page immediately caught my eye, where I had set up a math channel to indicate when the heave springs were engaging. iRacing provides frustratingly few vehicle parameters for the IR18, and creating this channel required some cleverness, such as reverse engineering the heave spring motion ratios.
Look at a snapshot of two corners from a baseline run in the image below. The front and rear ride height channels are programmed to turn yellow whenever the third spring is engaged. In the image it is evident that during the corners, the heave springs were constantly engaging and disengaging, causing the handling inconsistency that the drivers complained about.