A new Tapas episode, today with Martti Pietilä, who has been my coach to show me how powerful VRS can be. Martti is one of the best simracing drivers fighting in iWCGPS representing Coanda Simsports, most renowned team right now. He born and lives in Finland, like many other top simracing drivers. Some day we will have to ask them for their secret 🙂
I started playing with racing games when i was a small kid, something like 7 years old. My first games were Geoff Crammond’s F1 World Championship, and Indy 500. I never really liked the arcade titles, so the Crammond F1 series was something that i stuck with for many years. I didn’t get that much into online racing before joining iRacing, which was in late 2010. I had basically driven karts since I can remember, and I stopped doing that in 2009. It really didn’t take that long for me to re-ignite the spark for racing!
Who was your mentor?
I’ve never really had any special mentors. I guess it comes down to the fact that as a small boy I had to learn everything by myself on the kart track, be it driving, setup or just maintenance. I also started to read all sorts of setup and driving guides at quite early age, so everything “knowledge wise” has been progressing quite naturally over the years.
What sims do you use? What do you like the most?
Just iRacing really. During the World Championship season I really need to focus my energy in one series only, so that doesn’t leave much room for anything else. Asseto Corsa feels pretty good too, but i just don’t have the time for any other racing sims, or any gaming at all. On the off season I usually have some other projects, to take some time off and re-charge. And of course in the last two years I’ve taken part in the NEO Endurance series, which is the premiere series in multiclass racing. I’m really hoping that they’ll be arranging another season in the next winter!
I think I was driving my second ever iRacing season with the Spec Racer Ford, and it was my very first practice session with the car at Summit Point Jefferson. I was a bit struggling with the car, as everything was new to me. There was this one guy, Reg Burke, who was amazingly fast with the car, and seemed to be helping others with setup and stuff. I grabbed his setup and after a few laps something just snapped, and I started to be close to his pace. That gave me some sort of confidence that ‘Hey, I can do this!’, which then kept me going. I think that motivation that I got from one single event was enough to push me all the way into one of the World Championship teams, and the Championship series too. I don’t think that Reg however remembers that day, although I think that I did sent him a message at some point of my journey, just to thank for the boost!
When did you get your pro license? How long did it take you?
For me, season 3 of 2011 was the first complete season with the Williams FW31, and I was able to secure the pro licence then. The next season was the qualifying season for the actual World Championship series, in which I also got a position decent enough to compete in the series. However, until the Pro series of 2011, I had only done full seasons just sticking with one car, first the Solstice for my rookie season, then Spec Racer Ford, Skip Barber, Star Mazda and finally the Williams. It took a year, but it was good fun learning the new cars, and of course the new thrill of online sim racing!
For World Championship, we have usually have 2 weeks to practice, and in that time frame I aim to have something like 10 hours total driving time. There’s still so much to learn from the new McLaren, but there’s only so little time. Also, for me, there’s usually very little point in spending more than 2 hours at any given day behind a wheel, as usually progress will just stop at that point. For normal races, which I do quite rarely these days, I try to keep the amount of time racing higher than the practice time. I just do them for fun, for WCS is for the serious stuff.
In your opinion, is it the hardware a decisive factor? What is your next hardware upgrade?
It is not decisive, when it comes to the ability to drive and compete, but when it comes down to enjoying the experience, for me, proper equipment is very vital. I have a nice triple screen setup with powerful enough PC that will run iRacing quite trouble free, high quality pedals and a direct drive wheel by EC Sim Racing. It is very true that with good pedals you can be a lot more precise, and a good wheel will be able to transmit to you what the car is doing.. but then again, I started out with 1 screen, below average PC and a Momo steering wheel with the default pedals, but I still managed to make it to Pro with that equipment. But if I had stayed with that equipment, I don’t think i would have raced this long.
Dynamics! What iRacing already developed with the dynamic track was really great, but I’m still hoping to see more. Flatspots on the tires, more dirt off the racing line, lighting changes, even day to nigh cycles for endurance races, debris falling off the car (and likely ruining my race.. weird idea of fun, isn’t it?).. oh, and back in karts, I just loved to race in the rain!
Tell me your most hated track?
VIR! I guess it could be a decent track in any other car than the F1, but having had the experience in driving around it with the Williams, I can’t really say that it was something I enjoyed. Other than that, I really don’t have any strong negative feelings about any track, as long as it’s suitable for the car that is being driven there.
Show me your racing shoes
No shoes, just socks! In sim racing we don’t have the need to protect ourselves from impact or fire… well, if you know how to build your rig, that is! So there’s really no need to kill off any of the feeling that you can get. If i’m at some sim racing event were shoes are worn, then i’ll take whatever has the thinnest sole to get the best possible feeling. In Finland you don’t really wear shoes inside anyways, so that’s very rarely the case anyways!
Any extra thoughts you would like to say.
It’s been amazing to see how sim racing has developed in the last few years that I’ve been actively driving. The quality of broadcasts equal, or sometimes even surpass the motorsports broadcasts there are. And as far as I know, the new iRacing Blancpain GT Endurance series had about 10-20% of viewers that the actual real race had! Also things are developing really fast, with all the different operators around the world. Sim Racing Expo at the Nürburgring is becoming the #1 place to any sim racer to be in midway September. It’s really great to see drivers from around the world. Also we have a really nice thing going on here in Finland. We’ve had our own association for about a year now, and we are really working hard to bring sim racing to the masses. It’s been a great journey so far, and I can’t wait to see what the future will bring us!
Martti, as many other finnish iracers belongs to the Finnish Simracing Association, a project to spread and show simracing to new public. I want to thank Martti his time and willingness to do this interview.