One of the solid achievers of the Aussie sim racing scene, Thomas Hinss is enjoying one of his most successful seasons to date in the V8SCOPS series, stringing together a sequence of consistent results to cement himself in the top five in the series standings.
Lachlan Mansell caught up with the Echuca apprentice baker to chat to him about his sim racing career to date.
Lachlan Mansell: When did you first get into sim racing?
Thomas Hinss: When I was really young, I was always into racing games – I would play the old TOCA games on PlayStation 1 and there was an old rallycross game that I loved as well. My dad was into racing, especially bikes but I always preferred cars.
With the more serious sim racing, I started with the RFactor V8 mod in 2011, racing solo. After about a year, I got bored of just racing against the AI opponents, so I became involved in a community called GPVWC on the RFactor platform and started racing there in 2013.
I got the pace going, bit by bit, learning and improving and then I started to use some other platforms – I started doing iRacing in about 2016.
For a few years, I was mainly focused on the iRacing V8 stuff, but recently I’ve started doing some racing on Assetto Corsa, RFactor 2 enduros and other different types of events.
LM: What equipment are you using?
TH: I started on a Logitech wheel – it didn’t have pedals, it had paddles for the accelerator and brake, and it had the most rudimentary force feedback in the world! I didn’t realise it for a while, but the throttle paddle didn’t go all the way in, so there would be some events where I was slow but couldn’t work out why.
In 2015, I upgraded to a G27, which was just incredible after running such a basic setup. I remember doing laps at Monza and just enjoying how good it was.
The first G27 had an encoder problem so I got a replacement which I used for five years, but I’ve just upgraded to a Fanatec V2.5 wheelbase with BMW rim and load cell pedals.
When I started racing on RFactor, I used an old laptop which barely had the graphics capabilities to run it; I’ve gradually upgraded my computer equipment since then, but still run a single screen.
My belief is that if you do the hours and put in the time, you don’t need the greatest or most expensive equipment to be fast.
LM: Which teams are you currently involved with?
TH: In iRacing, I’m with Henry James’ team for all the V8 events (including racing with Brett Loxton in the endurance events) but for pretty much everything else, I race under the SimRacingChannel banner.
I used to race the V8 under SimRacingChannel as well, but being the only V8 guy and not being great with setups, I wanted to get involved with a specialist V8 team.
Henry messaged me a couple of years ago and asked if I could drive with Brett in the enduros and I’ve been with that team since. The #52 I run is the number Henry used to run when he was racing V8s.
LM: Do you see V8SCOPS as the pinnacle of Aussie sim racing?
TH: Yep, I’d say it’s a fair call. I take it pretty seriously (as my webcam reactions show) – I know I’m never going to race in the real-life stuff, so for me V8SCOPS is the one that I put the most preparation and focus into.
LM: We’ve seen you competing in a lot of endurance races – what do you most enjoy about those events?
TH: I’ve always liked enduros, because the more laps I do, the quicker, more consistent and more comfortable I get.
With my current job as a baker, it’s a physical job that naturally keeps me fit, which has helped me stay in the zone and not get fatigued during longer stints.
I think the enduros suit my driving style, which is smooth and not too ragged. I take pride in being a dependable enduro driver that teams can select, knowing I’ll do a decent pace without binning the car.
LM: How does your sim racing tie in with your work commitments as an apprentice baker?
TH: I work night shifts, and it’s like living in a different world – it’s one of those things you have to do to understand fully. We’re working when everyone else is sleeping, but when everyone else is working or awake, we’re asleep or tired.
I’ve always had a dysfunctional sleeping pattern, so it works for me. I disconnect myself from the community, just because of how I am… when I’m in bigger groups, I tend to be in the background and just listen.
I try and tee up races that don’t clash with work; V8SCOPS is the one event that I’ll always try to make.
I don’t have a lot of spare time, which is why I take the racing seriously; if I have a bad race, I feel like I’ve wasted that time.
I actually studied media and communications at uni and worked for a paper for a while, but that opportunity fell through and when I needed a job, the baker position came up. It’s never something I thought I would do, but now I’m used to the rhythm and the pattern, I’m happy. My mind has always been very active and it helps quieten it down. I’ve been doing it for just over two years now.
LM: What’s your ultimate sim racing ambition?
TH: A V8SCOPS podium still hasn’t come around, and is a box I’d like to tick.
Last year I qualified for the Virtual Showdown at PAX Australia, and got to meet Dayne Warren, Jake Burton, Ethan Grigg-Gault and those sorts of people who have been around the community for a while. Hopefully I can attend more of those sorts of events in the future.
LM: Are there any people who you would like to thank for your sim racing achievements to date?
TH: Henry, Brett and his crew have really helped with the V8, extracting pace from it and putting up with me! I get emotional with my reactions to racing and if I’m in a bad mood because I’ve had a bad race, those guys help pull me out of it. The crew at SimRacingChannel have been fantastic with their support as well.
The other person I need to thank is my girlfriend Lucy; we’ve been together four and a half years now and she’s been hugely supportive of my sim racing activities, as well as everything else in life.