Regional Spec Miata Driver Joins In: Spec MX-5 SimRacing Challenge Driver Profile - Nathan Saxon

By Winding Road Staff

April 30, 2019

Nathan Saxon is a young New Englander with some pretty cool track experience under his belt, both behind the wheel and at the corner worker station. Growing up watching circle track racing at his local track, then slowly gaining interest in road racing, it's cool to see his racing background develop. SimRacing, including our series, seems to have been of great benefit to him so far.

What’s your name and where are you from?

My name is Nathan Saxon and I’m from South Kingstown, Rhode Island.

What line of work are you in?

I work as a mechanical design engineer in the defense industry. I just received my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering this past October.

How old are you?

I’m 22 years old.

What was your motivation for participating in the Spec MX-5 SimRacing Challenge?

The series is a great training tool for my real world racing, with such close and competitive competition that’s run a lot like a real world race weekend. In addition to that, the prizes both weekly and for the overall championship make the series much more serious and gives me motivation to really push each week, which is what racers love.

Do you have any previous non-virtual motorsports history?

2 years ago, I began doing track days after having been a flagger at my local track for a few years and transitioned into amateur club racing in 2018. I received my SCCA novice permit and competed in regionals at my home track, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, where I picked up a couple of top 10s in a very underprepared rental Spec Miata. I also competed in a few 24 hours of LeMons events which were incredibly fun and taught so much about driving in crazy amounts of traffic. That also allowed me to go down to Road Atlanta in December and drive on one of my bucket list tracks.

In 2019 I will be elevating the seriousness of my participation: I will be running a full SCCA New England Region Spec Miata season with Flatout Motorsports, as well as attempting to make it to some American Endurance Racing events if I have the funding. I’m already set to run NJMP in May which I am super excited about. I am hoping to have success in Spec Miata regionally, and try to improve even more in 2020.

Do you feel virtual motorsports is becoming a valid starting point for participation in actual motorsports?

Absolutely! There are countless stories of people moving directly from sim racing into competing at pro and amateur levels with success. Personally, sim racing made the transition for me so much easier, as I already grew some of the instincts drivers need in sim racing that translate to real life. Race craft is an easy one to notice because you learn the ability to not only set up and make passes against real world opponents, but you also learn how to read a situation and determine how to avoid trouble or capitalize on someone's mistake. The other big one is in feeling what the car is doing under you at all times since sim racing teaches you to rely more on auditory, visual, and steering feedback cues more than just the seat-of-the-pants feel that real racers will rely on. This really trains these other senses and allows a sim racer to be more sensitive to them, rather than someone who has been able to rely on that seat of the pants feel.

Are you a ‘gamer’ or do you mostly only sim race?

I used to game on Xbox but it’s been a long time. Between school, work, and real racing, lately it has kind of dropped on my priority list for the time being.

Do you consider sim racing a game?

I believe sim racing can be whatever you use it to be. At a casual level, especially with some other sims, it can be considered a game for sure as it is being treated as more of an entertainment source than a training tool. On the other hand, much like how I believe most people involved in this league use it, sim racing and iRacing in particular can be a training tool to build skills that will be used in real world racing. In this case I would not consider sim racing as a game but a simulator.

How long have you been sim racing?

I have been an iRacing member since 2011, and before that played a variety of different console-based games such as Forza Motorsport and some Nascar titles going back to 2005ish.

Are you very active in sim racing?

Recently, I haven't been very active due to other time commitments. I usually try and get at least a few hours in at minimum every week practicing for this series or for some upcoming real world racing. This series really brought back the desire to push for something, which is making sim racing more enjoyable again. Other than iRacing I have fun driving on some of the other sims like Dirt Rally and Assetto Corsa every now and then just to do something different.

Do you run in many leagues?

No, just Spec MX-5.

What’s your favorite car or series to compete in?

I've always enjoyed racing in cars like the MX-5 in road racing that are relatively light cars with low power. It makes the racing so much closer and more exciting. I really enjoy the Porsche Cup car, but just haven't gotten into the setup side of things to really compete in the series.

When I started sim racing I drove the SK and Tour Modifieds on ovals, which is some of the most fun I've had in a sim.

How much time would you say you put into sim racing?

I'd say I average just a couple hours per week, mainly practicing for this series. Sometimes more if I'm preparing for a real world race or the week of a league race.

How do you rate your chances of winning the driver development test at the end of the season?

I think any of us front 4 or 5 drivers have a shot but it's going to be a tough challenge. It's going to come down to the shootout at the end of the year and based on how the season has gone so far, it's going to be a great battle up front.

Anything else of interest you’d like to share?

Something that might be interesting considering how my racing focus has shifted so much to road racing recently, is that I grew up pretty much only around short track oval racing. Since I was 3 I’ve been going to oval races with my dad around New England as spectators and it is what really got me into liking cars and auto racing. When I first started sim racing, I spent countless hours competing in the SK- and Tour-type Modifieds that are available on the service. This led to me winning 2 overall iRacing official championships in the Tour Modified division and finishing 2nd another 2 times. I even took a shot at trying to make the Nascar iRacing Pro series in 2014 and barely came up short.

In 2011, I attended an ALMS race at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut and it really inspired me to learn more about road racing because it was an amazing experience. In 2014 the road course at Thompson Speedway, about an hour away from me, re-opened and I began working there through high school and college when I could as a flagger I even did some race control duties as well.

Having worked at Thompson, I learned an incredible amount about all aspects of road racing and met some great people in various clubs and events. This made me shift my focus almost completely to road racing in both real life and in sim racing. Definitely not where I thought my shot at real racing would have come from. I would still really enjoy getting into oval racing again in the future, but it’s just not high-priority at the moment.

I would recommend anyone who dreams about getting into racing like I did to just get involved at the track somehow. This could be flagging like I did at a local track, clubs like the SCCA and NASA, or other avenues like helping out a race team. But no matter what: it gets you to the track and allows you to begin seeing how you can make your way into the sport.

Shameless plug: if any of the readers want to follow my real world racing you can find me on Instagram and Facebook @nathansaxonracing.