BROWNSBURG, Indiana – Jeff Ward successfully transitioned from Hall of Fame motocross champion into a successful Indy car racer, who won a Verizon IndyCar Series race and the 1997 rookie of the year award at the Indianapolis 500.
Could Cole Seely be the next rider to follow that path?
Seely, the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross rookie of the year, got his first taste of driving a race car as he turned laps in Honda Performance Development’s simulator on Friday as part of promotional activities for the supercross event this weekend in Indianapolis.
With Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi serving as his guide and driver coach, Seely – who coincidentally is mentored by Ward for his own racing – turned laps on the simulator around the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Long Beach street circuit.
“You definitely can tell he races,” Rossi said while watching Seely drive. “I mean, it’s a completely different thing, but he understands the concepts and fundamentals that people who aren’t involved in any form of racing are lacking.”
After Rossi set a baseline for Seely and showed him the right way around the track, Seely was turned loose. His lap times steadily improved as he became more comfortable.
“It was super fun. I’ve never been in anything like that,” said Seely, who is currently third in the supercross point standings. “I’ve played video games like ‘Forza’ and ‘Gran Turismo,’ but they only tell you how the track goes. (The simulator) is nothing like a video game. It’s crazy how much you can drive it into a corner and feel the acceleration.”
Seely, whose only previous race car driving experience came by playing video games, enjoyed the experience, saying he could have driven as long as the engineers would have let him, though he said he isn’t ready for a real car.
“I’m always pushing myself, it was a matter figuring things out and pieces of the puzzle that (Rossi) already knows,” Seely said. “Seeing him run really helped me to see where he (braked), what gear he was in, how he accelerates. If he hadn’t done that, it would have taken me three times as long to adapt.”
Seely would also like to turn the tables on Rossi and have the Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian driver experience supercross in a whole new way.
“We don’t have a supercross simulator, so we’ll just have to have (Alexander) get on a real Honda HRC bike and come ride the supercross course with me,” Seely joked.
Rossi, who visited the supercross event in Indy last year and experienced a behind-the-scenes look at a track, said he has no desire to take up Seely on the offer.
“Jumping on a bike in that environment would be harder (for me),” Rossi said. “The punishment for getting it wrong is much higher. If you crash a car, you break a car, but you won’t break yourself. If you crash a bike, you’re going to break yourself.”
For more information about Honda Racing, visit http://hpd.honda.com/.