Prodrive’s new racing simulator is shaped by Callum to be front of the grid
The racing simulator shapes up – this new design from Prodrive and Callum is honed for the high-end games room
Simulators are a relatively recently addition to the rarefied world of high-end car collection, restoration, and racing. With an almost infinite variety of cars and tracks to experience, either via mass market consumer games or much more specialist software, the dedicated digital driver can race their friends or total strangers, as well as take part in global championships from the comfort of home.
Founded by rally driver and race car specialist David Richards in 1984, Prodrive is now considered an integral part of the global motorsport industry, helping devise, test and build machines for every kind of competition, creating the infrastructure to maintain the cars wherever they are in the world, as well as overseeing training, product development, brand building and countless other services for the auto industry.
Ian Callum, erstwhile design director at Jaguar, set up his own consultancy, Callum in 2019. Callum has an eclectic project list, ranging from traditional automotive design through to reinvented acknowledged classics, and the shaping of whisky bottles and supercars.
The studio has already worked with Prodrive, helping to create the provocative Hunter hypercar, derived from the company’s Dakar rally machine.
The simulator is a much more elegant proposition, despite its size and scale. ‘It all came about during the lockdown,’ recalls Richards. ‘We had a team entered in the virtual Le Mans race, and already had some high-end simulators that we tended to use for driver familiarisation of racetracks. I use them myself when driving a support race for fun – I’ll go on the simulator for a few hours beforehand and just learn it.’ Richards considered getting a specialist simulator for a new family house he was building down in Cornwall. ‘We’ve got a cinema, a pool table, so why don’t we just get a simulator for the games room? Our kids and grandchildren would love it,’ he says. ‘I mentioned it to my wife, and she said, ‘over my dead body’, because these things just look so lashed together. Of course, I wondered if there was a better way of doing it.’
Richards rang up Callum and offered him the challenge. Prodrive would do the technical side, while Callum was tasked with creating something that was as striking and imposing as a grand piano. ‘I totally understood what David was looking for,’ Callum says. ‘Simulators tend to be rather toy-like and not something you could seriously put alongside your favourite furniture. The analogy to a grand piano is very relevant, because it’s an instrument, but also something that’s quite elegant and beautiful.’
After creating a vast array of design proposals, the studio whittled them down to eight and eventually settled on an approach that was very graphic and simple. ‘This is my way of working, creating something that can be absorbed in one eyeful,’ says Callum.
The simulator looks like a piece of conceptual technology. A seamless, dart-shaped bent-ply enclosure, finished in lustrous piano black, embraces the ‘floating’ driver’s seat, with the curved display screen and steering yoke the only hint of the technology contained within. The bent ply has to be meticulously sprayed to a perfect finish, creating an obvious link with the grand piano, while the ply is a nod to the work of the Eameses.
‘This was for me the standout design, although dealing with natural materials and getting the junctions and fit just right was quite complicated,’ says Richards, who was effectively the lead client for the project.
‘My wife actually said she’d accept it in the sitting room, not the games room,’ he adds, ‘because it’s such an interesting, iconic shape.’
Richards adds that the market for such simulators is growing fast. ‘We made no compromise on technology at all – it’s the same as any professional racing driver would use for training. It has the latest graphics systems, pedal box, and steering wheel,’ he says. ‘We have a number of clients with high-end racing cars who will end up having one of these as well.’ Prodrive is gearing up to produce around one a week and working out the logistics for delivery and installation.
‘I wanted to create something that people would almost buy just to have the object itself,’ says Callum. ‘It’s a partnership of technology and design here, with us responsible for the technology side and Ian’s team responsible for the styling and design,’ says Richards, ‘I think it’s just a like a modern sculpture and anyone who sees it stops in their tracks.’ §