The set up
Castrol® partnered with VR experts at REWIND to create a state-of-the art simulator designed to mimic exactly what it feels like to drive a Koenigsegg -- a $4 million super car -- around a lap at Ascari, a 5.5km track in Rondo, Spain, that recreates famous racing corners from around the world. Castrol® then hired Nygaard, a professional Koenigsegg test driver, to beat his best time around the course. But, this wasn’t your average personal challenge: Nygaard’s perfect lap was created in a high-tech VR simulation, and then he was tasked with beating his “clone” out on the real track. Like that wasn’t enough, he could see via a HUD -- or heads up display -- just how superior his clone was at all times. That’s a constant stream of sick burns sent straight from the future.
Watching the proceedings were neuroscientist Dr. Jack Lewis -- an expert on how athletes perform under pressure -- and Vince Wilfork, one of pro football’s most immovable forces, and possibly the only man alive who could win a dance competition while simultaneously cooking ribs. Our takeaways:
Muscle memory is key
Castrol® and REWIND designed the simulator to mimic how the car would respond to everything from hitting bumps on the tarmac to flooring the engine. Why? Developing muscle memory is essential for drivers at Nygaard’s level, who can handle the basics of driving around a particular course subconsciously, while focusing on more strategic decisions behind the wheel (the fun stuff). Also, you can’t exactly take a $4 million Koenigsegg out on the track for hours to get a sense of how it feels around the turns, because even routine maintenance on a car like that can cost upwards of $20,000. (And you thought your mechanic was cheating you.)
They literally have crazy amounts of adrenaline pumping through their bloodstream
The only difference between driving the simulator and hitting the actual track, Nygaard said, was that he didn’t get the same adrenaline rush that he gets when he’s behind the wheel of an actual car. And that adrenaline rush actually helps give pro athletes a serious edge. Pro athletes often develop enlarged adrenal glands that secrete abnormally high levels of adrenaline under pressure, and react at lightning speed. It’s so much adrenaline that if us mortals experienced it, we would likely feel panicked, and our performance would decline. In professional, competitive sports though, this definitely gives the athlete a leg-up.