Spotlight On… – Michal Janak
The man behind the wheel: a short interview with Sim Racing System racers. Let’s know a little more of the guys that are always one place ahead.
Would you briefly introduce yourself for the site’s readers?
I am from Czech Republic, a small country in Central Europe. My name is Michal Janak. I am 48 old (young), and now working as consultant-programmer. For the whole life I lived in Brno, home of the famous Czech race circuit (Moto GP). Unfortunately this track is not on SRS rotation (there is the modern one and an old circuit from ‘65 too). In free time I like simracing, making plastic models and fly RC planes.
What’s your racing wheel?
A Logitech G29 (bought conveniently from second hand but not used) with do-it-yourself pedals with loadcell and vibrating motors on brake, throttle pedals and under the seat, great for immersion (feel curbs, wheel spin and locking tyres). No funds for a better wheel at the moment.
Which are your favourite simracing games?
In my sim life, Grand Prix Legends is the best although I did not played it for a long time. At this time AC, rFactor 1 and 2, especially for the contents, and as they run on my old PC with acceptable FPS.
Especially old cars, without wings and electronics, like Cobra, De Tomaso Pantera (which we used in 2020 on SRS), Skoda 130RS, DRM mod, Lotus 25, all the Ferrari. As for Formula 1 cars, I prefer the older ones, ideally to the year 1991.
Nordschleife, Goodwood, Bridgehampton, MoSport, Brands Hatch, Silverstone ‘67, Zandvoort.
“I like when I meet racers which I know I can trust, you know you can fight clean with them without contacts.”
Since when are you playing simracing games?
The first time I saw racing games on computers was in 1986 (on the ZX Spectrum – Chequered Flag), later I started to play F1 GP on the Amiga and participate in an offline Amiga F1 GP league (full races, driving with digital joystick), then with friends in my city we raced GP2 on PC. We raced in hotseat mode, we made our own steering wheels and pedals. Then at the end of 2000 I found GPL and started to play in a Czech online league. We did 1 hour long races with full damage model, without use of car reset, so every mistake resulted in the end of the race. I was not the fastest but I was reliable so in 7 years in GPL I won 4 times this championship. Since year 2004 I raced with a do-it-yourself H-shifter. Between years 2008 and 2015 I didn’t simrace (got married, and childs came); in 2015 I returned to simracing and started to race in an historical league on rFactor 1. In 2017 I found Assetto Corsa and the SRS platform.
Which was your first racing game ever?
The first was F1 GP on the Amiga, which I played for many years before I started to play GP2 on PC with friends.
How do you prepare for a race and/or a championship?
In the past I practiced offline for new tracks and cars a lot (many, many laps), now I am returning home very late so usually I practice only 30 minutes before the race (one race per week series at 21:00 CET). The setup is usually the one from the previous week race, only recalculating fuel and doing some small changes like gearbox.
“I am an average driver from my point of view, with a little lack of talent, but taking my racing seriously (maybe a little more than most of the others).”
Are you good in setupping cars? 🙂
Not as I want. I know the theory, but often is not working on the track as I would expect. I prefer safe (stable) setups, but often these are not the best for good lap times. With the Skoda Octavia, for instance, I had a totally wrong setup, and after an inspection from one of the best Czech driver (he told me that in many parts I did set the opposite of ideal) I am now faster and achieved then my first win. I tried often setups from fast drivers (aliens) like Michal Ringes, but found them too dangerous (easy spins) for my driving skills.
Do you race in real life too?
No. Only few go-karts with friends or co-workers.
What is your best result in SRS?
I won 5 championships. The last was with the De Tomaso Pantera, then with Spec Racer, Maserati 250, Formula 70 – Ferrari 312T. And had many top 3.
What you do like and what you don’t like in SRS races?
I like the format and how SRS works, with a variety of tracks and cars; I love longer races but on SRS they start a little too late and there is big chance to get an auto-ban as there are bigger chances to collect more bumps in a race than in previous years. I like when I meet racers which I know I can trust, you know you can fight clean with them without contacts. I do not like that there are some Need for Speed style racers, driving like alone on the track or overoptimistic, but this is not a problem of SRS. I would also like a better incident counting system, to allow door to door battles without losing points for small touches which do not end in crashes and losing time/places for both competitors, but it will only remain a dream as long as the game cannot solve this.
“I race like in a real car and I don’t want to pay the bill for the damages, hurt anybody else or myself.”
Is there a particular moment in SRS races – funny, dramatic, adrenaline-filled – that you like to remind?
One of the most intense was a 1 hour DRM mod race in the Nordschleife in which fought many minutes with other racers in close battle (Simon Meisinger among them); a MoSport race with the Pantera, I ended 2nd after an intense race and with a little of luck and it brought the championship for me. And also a Pantera win at Classic Le Mans in front of the “alien” racer Matteo Venuti. Also a 1 hour race with the Porsche 911 GTA at Bridgehampton, when from 4th place at start I fell to 9th after being bumped in the rear after T1 by an overoptimistic racer, then with a big effort I gained place after place back and finally won by overtaking the leader in one of the last laps. (The SRS stream of the race is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-_u1XsvWcs). One more: the last win in Alfa Romeo 33TT12 at Fuji circuit, where i started 3rd. The grid was with 4 cars lined. I had a great start and best speed into banked T1. Took the lead and gained gap to rest of the field. Few laps later I had battles with Michal Ringes and then with championship winner Giuseppe Iaria (whom I want to congratulate). We changed leading many times, but finally I was able to beat him. Great and clean battles, and great feeling in winning against such a great driver.
You raced more than 1800 times on SRS, and that’s impressive. Given your experience, you think you still have something to learn/improve, or something new you didn’t face yet?
Oh, big numbers! In the last months I didn’t race so often like years ago, I gave up many weekly series because of the many unpredictable drivers often without respect, leading to more crashes than I can accept (Covid newcomers) and not so interesting cars for me as daily ones. I am an average driver from my point of view, with a little lack of talent, but taking my racing seriously (maybe a little more than most of the others). There is still plenty of room for improvements, but I think I found my roof now. Being a little aged and since a loooong time in simracing, I think I have smaller chances for improvements as expected reaction times will drop too. And some bad habits are deep in my mind – I discovered in the second half of the last year that I am not turning the wheel enough into corners to be faster, maybe too much years with my old Momo wheel with only 270 degrees, I have the G29 with maximal 900 degrees only since two years.
“I pray there will be more and more drivers it will be a joy to race with.”
Is there something you would suggest to someone getting into simracing?
Very challenging topic, I don’t know if I can describe it correctly. If someone wants to start simracing and plans to race seriously, I’d suggest to practice a lot, maybe better offline against AI or on public servers before starting on SRS or in any league. Learn what to expect from others on track and learn how to avoid bad scenarios, learn to drive safely and expect the unexpectable, don’t overdrive your car, read some articles about online racing etiquette and racing tactics. Proper hardware is important too.
You are known for being one of the fairiest racer on SRS, and sometimes you regret for “non fair” racing. In your opinion, are nowadays races less fair compared to when you started simracing? And why?
I am trying to do my best and try to be safe as much as possible to others, as I spent many years in some leagues, specially in GPL, where I learned a lot on doing the best to finish races. I am taking it seriously and someone may laugh when I say I race like in a real car and I don’t want to pay the bill for the damages, hurt anybody else or myself. Maybe I am not a real racer for some who think that they must win at all costs, I usuallly think twice before any action, calculating if defend is the best that I can do at the moment. Many times it is better to let someone go by if he is faster, losing momentarily the place, as to the finish anything can happen, and often this tactic pays off. Very often I am the racer with the lowest number of incidents in a championship (had some with 0). But sometimes, and I’m not happy when it happens, I can misunderstand what the driver in front or on my side do, or miss the brake point a little, but if I hit anybody I send a PM or an email with apologies and I expect this from others too. And I try to learn from this for the upcoming races. The last year was complicated for the whole planet, as a lockdown product there are many new racers now, from my point of view racing on SRS is more aggressive now, as some known and safe racers ended racing many new racers took their places but they must grow a little and gain experience for online simracing. I pray there will be more and more drivers it will be a joy to race with.
Which are your strongest and your weakest points in racing?
Strongest, fast starts usually (gaining some places there), reliability, reading racers around to find what to expect and then avoid bad situations (this saved me many times), using tactics when to defend or battle, not trying to win at all costs, keeping the car on the track. Weakest, making setups, using cars on their maximal capability, the difficulty on staying calm after the race when pushed out from the track clearly not by mistake but by aggressive or careless maneuvers when it was clear it may not turn out well (like going too wide at Eau Rouge or Corkscrew, for example). And also driving FWD cars.
How would you define your racing style?
If i can say, respectful (maybe sometimes too much, and it is not ideal for racing, but I love car racing), trying to read others’ mind and knowing what to expect. Doing my best to be fair on track. And being able to avoid cars in trouble in front of me.
Thanks to Michal for kindly answering our questions!
Spotlight On… will now take a pause for a couple of weeks. Big, big thanks to all the racers we contacted and to all the readers who warmly supported this project. We hope to see you all soon for the third season!