Ed Behr, a motorsport enthusiast, has created a racing simulator rig from skills he learnt online
Gaming has gained a huge following in Nairobi and Ed Behr is one of the enthusiasts giving it mileage. His love for gaming, e-sport and motorsport, propelled him into creating an intricate racing simulator rig – a gaming machine that uses a computer software to accurately simulate auto racing features with real-world variables such as fuel usage, damage, tire wear and grip, and suspension settings. He learned all this through the Internet. He got his interest for motorsport from his parents who were rally drivers.
“My folks, who now run the Nairobi Archery Club, were rally drivers back in the day. They loved carting as well. My version of cartoons while growing up was Dakar and other rallies,” he says. Creating a rig is an intricate and complex process and Behr says the hardest part is trying to understand each technology’s application within the software and how to change settings to make it feel right.
“It takes hours of testing and quite often as soon as you change one thing and something goes wrong, you’ll have to fix a whole bunch of settings as well. It involves a lot of physics. You have to know your math,” he says. For the longer endurance races, one has to learn how to manage tyres, organise pit stops to get the right amount of fuel and right set-ups. Its creation involves three main elements; the hardware, software and the application technology.
The body has a steering wheel, gear, PC, screen, pedal and handbrake, which he improves constantly. Two years ago after intensive research, Behr decided to make it more than just a distant dream. “I decided to get serious and come up with the design and structure something that we can sell locally. That meant importing all the stuff I needed to build the rig. Shipping is expensive since most of it is heavy,” says the business marketer.
Motorsport is an expensive affair in the country and not being able to access it, Behr saw a lot of sense in creating his own rig for an online sensation. “It is an exciting time to have one since the technology is improving and simulator (sim)-racing has become a global phenomenon.
For instance, all the top teams in Formula One (F1) use it for training. In fact, it’s cheaper for a company to buy its own simulator for between Sh5.2 million and Sh10.3 million ($50-100,000) than it is for them to train their drivers on tracks,” he says.
Behr has pumped more than Sh250,000 into this project and is still spending more on upgrades. Investing this much in the rig does not worry him because he uses it at home. He does a lot of online racing with an international crowd. Sim racing has attracted global attention. A lot of people buy the online gaming technology, but they don’t have a rig and so they use a table and chair at home.
But they don’t get the same joy and experience that comes with using a real rig because it’s uncomfortable and unstable. This is another reason why Behr hoped to create more rigs to sell to such gamers.
His end goal with sim racing is to create more rigs and beckon at least 50 competitors for a tournament that can be broadcasted live on TV like a normal rally with commentaries and a crowd of supporters. “Eventually, I would like to own expensive rigs that people won’t probably buy because they cost as much as a car. Instead, I will let them come to train and do tournaments at a fee.
I hope the prices of this technologies will come down at some point. The more people own them, the cheaper it’s going to get,” he says. Since this project is still under development, it’s not an official business yet. He, however, shares the hobby in public spaces during events and charges people Sh200 per session. Sometimes gaming is viewed as something that makes people lazy and anti-social, but Behr refutes this.
He says a lot of people would benefit from such gaming technology. “We can have people who offer good internet connections benefitting from that scene of people racing online. We can have engineers selling their products, motor dealers marketing cars, spare parts and so on. It would have a ripple effect,” he explains. He thinks gaming should be recognised as an e-sport. “Parents need to understand that this is not a waste of time.
The thing with sim racing, which is better compared to all other games, is that you can apply it in real life and there is no violence or getting hurt,” he says. Behr, who is also a DJ, believes Kenya has brilliant gaming creators. He hopes to work with like-minded people to expand this kind of technological development, which wouldn’t lack a market if it produced quality models.