COVID-19 may have put a halt on most sporting events across the globe but it has failed to halt the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship with every driver set to virtually hit the track in a 10 round e-series. An ingenious pivot to maintain fan interest and excitement turning real world athletes into virtual racers.
We checked in with AlphaFit athlete and Race Driver Macauley Jones to see his thoughts on the e-series after heading to Bathurst (virtually) for round 3 and how he’s coping in isolation.
Your original expectations for 2020 must have been quite different to how this year has panned out to date. How are you going in 'lockdown'?
Macauley: With all that's been going on and most sports coming to a halt for now, it's been a good time to stop and reflect on areas that I can work on towards my sport, fitness and even house work. I’ve kept myself pretty busy which I think is key to not go to insane with isolation.
How realistic is the simulation and software? Does it compare to the real thing?
Macauley: The simulation has come along way in the past few years. The track layouts are very very close to the real circuits, so visually it's quite accurate. The part that is mostly different is the feel. When driving a real car you get a lot of senses from each input you have, being throttle, brake, steering etc. But in the game, you mostly have to use your eyes to see what each input is doing which makes it a pretty different skill to work with.
We’ve heard some drivers have built their simulators, namely Rick Kelly. Take us through a tour of your set up. Did you buy or build yours?
Macauley: There has been some creative builds done at the start but I think as the series has gone on it's gotten more serious with people having big upgrades. We have partners helping us build the sim with their equipment to try make it as close as we can to the real thing so that when it's time to go driving we don’t have any bad habits from the sim racing.
Brad Jones Racing enlisted the help of 2019 E-Series driver Jake Burton to get yourself and Todd Hazlewood up to speed on the platform. How have you found his guidance with having significant racing experience both online and in the real world?
Macauley: It's been great. He has a lot of experience in the sim racing world and has been super helpful. Even just the basics of how the platform works to strategise in the races. Strategy is something that a driver doesn’t really normally do as behind the scenes we have engineers making the call from the outside looking in.
In your regular email column you gave your fans an insight into the frightening experience you endured at the recent Beaurepairs Melbourne 400. What was going through your mind in those 7 seconds from the time you hit the brake pedal to front first into the tyre line?
Macauley: Not sure I can write the real words going through your head to be honest haha. It's such a bad feeling. Your heart kind of sinks in that moment and you have nearly no control as to what will happen. It's never a situation you want to be in that's for sure.
We know you’re eager to improve on a tough rookie campaign. In what area do you feel you’ve matured the most up until this point?
Macauley: I think the racing is such a big step up from any category I have ever raced in before that making sure you are taking care of the little one percent items makes a big difference. Also you have less time to recover between race meetings. With having twice as many events each year that becomes critical.
You’re a self confessed coffee nerd and have recently launched a Caffeine and Cars product in collaboration with champion barista Craig Simon. What was the driving force behind this unusual partnership?
Macauley: Yes, I love coffee and have for years now. I am someone that once I get into something I dive right in. So with racing, training and coffee I like to learn all aspects and apart from those areas I don’t have many other interests. So I wanted to learn the process of roasting coffee and I met Craig at a race meeting and we got along very well. We both have a passion for coffee and cars, and we tied it together.
We’ve also seen you post a few new toys on the gram lately, your latest addition the Honda motocompo. Talk us through what other projects you’re working on.
Macauley: Well I like anything on wheels or anything with a motor and with a mechanical apprenticeship being my background I have a few motoring projects. I have an old 1974 Honda I’m about to start restoring as well as a 1974 Audi 100 which I'm also working on. Restoring cars takes some time so it's a bit slower but I cant''wait for it to be finished.
You’re one of the lucky few who had a home gym setup prior to COVID-19 changing the way people train. Take us through your training style and what an everyday workout looks like for you. Has anything changed for you around this during the restrictions?
Macauley: I am super grateful to have a home gym to myself. ;I have always been someone that is fine with training by myself so with COVID-19 happening not much for me is changing. I enjoy the CrossFit style of training but tending a little to some body building work to build some strength and tackle some slight niggles I’ve had in that past which is a great time to do the little tedious exercises. The home gym for me just gives me more confidence to know I'll be ready for when we do get the chance to get back into the car to race which is awesome.
One last question. How’s your pet duck going? Is he practicing safe social distancing?
Macauley: The duck is a funny little pet, he roams around in the back yard with 2 chickens I have and swims in the little kids pool. He is a bit of a clinger so social distancing is not something he likes practicing ha!