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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Inside Mercedes’s preparations for a digital fightback at Le Mans

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The 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours was a list of disasters for Mercedes as first Mark Webber (twice) then Peter Dumbreck skilled with terrifying penalties the aerodynamic instability of its CLR. Its remaining automobile was withdrawn, and Mercedes hasn’t been again to Le Mans in an official capability since. Till now – kind of.

This weekend’s last spherical of the Le Mans Digital Collection of Esports occasions, the second iteration of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Digital by Motorsport Games Inc (NASDAQ: MSGM), has been joined by a number of wildcard entries. Amongst them are operations acquainted to sportscar racing followers – Aston Martin Vantage GTE car-builder Prodrive has entered a group within the GT class, and the legendary Pescarolo title returns in digital type after an absence of a decade from the real-world occasion – however Mercedes has additionally thrown its hat into the racing ring courtesy of its F1 Esports arm, which took a clear sweep of drivers’ (Jarno Opmeer) and constructors’ world titles in 2021.

Becoming a member of double world champion Opmeer and his Mercedes-AMG Esports team-mate Bono Huis within the #67 ORECA 07 are Mercedes GT ace Daniel Juncadella and his Aston Martin counterpart Ross Gunn, the quartet anticipated to be among the many favourites in a stacked 29-car LMP2 area. Amongst them is Crimson Bull Racing Esports, current within the prototype and GT lessons, with its LMP2 lineup fronted by reigning European Truck Racing Championship king Norbert Kiss – additionally a highly-rated sim racer – whereas Red Bull’s reigning F1 world champion Max Verstappen has also entered. The Dutchman will share a Group Redline entry with IndyCar ace Felix Rosenqvist, Maximilian Benecke and Atze Kerkhof.

For Huis and DTM race-winner Juncadella, they are going to be lining up in opposition to their common team-mates, with every having competed in Redline colors throughout prior rounds of the LMVS on the R-Issue 2 platform. However requested by Autosport if he sees the Crimson Bull rivalry which dominated the 2021 F1 season seeping into the sim world, Juncadella downplays it – hardly stunning provided that there are 27 different vehicles that Mercedes should beat first.

Daniel Juncadella raced for Mercedes-AMG Group GruppeM Racing within the DTM final 12 months

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Photograph by: Gruppe C GmbH

“I’ve a extremely good relationship with Max,” says Juncadella, who completed second alongside Verstappen throughout a two-hour BMW SIM Stay race in a aboard M8 GTE vehicles at a digital Daytona Worldwide Speedway final January. “I actually like his fashion, I like how he races. He additionally works actually laborious within the sim to fine-tune the set-ups. He’s wanting a lot into particulars, it’s mind-blowing to see that such a younger man whose principal focus is Formulation 1 taking a lot time to enhance every little thing in sim racing.

“In all probability in his thoughts there’s extra of a rivalry in opposition to Mercedes. In the long run as soon as the inexperienced gentle goes on, I’m simply going to have my knife underneath my tooth and I’m going to battle him laborious. It’s going to be nice.”

The 30-year-old Spaniard has been competing in sim racing occasions nearly for so long as he’s been racing. Starting his karting journey as a 13-year-old in 2004, he configured his first ‘simulator’ set-up three years later – “a desk with a steering wheel, some pedals on the ground and a PC that I used to be utilizing on the time to play Race 07, the WTCC sport” – and has a deep understanding of the laborious work required for fulfillment within the digital realm.

“The very first thing you concentrate on whenever you’re testing for such a race is getting everyone up to the mark. As soon as we’re all just about within the ballpark, you then’re going to start out taking part in round with the set-up” Daniel Juncadella

Whereas the current slackening of journey restrictions to the UK has come too late for him to hitch Gunn and Huis in Brackley, the place a group of assist engineers led by Esports efficiency supervisor Alex Richards might be based mostly all through the occasion, Juncadella has been becoming a member of his team-mates for each day check periods throughout the build-up, logging hours of driving to good set-ups.

“There’s a number of knowledge acquisition that we are able to have a look at, so it’s somewhat bit like in actual racing,” explains Juncadella, who completed third within the GT class with an R8G Esports Corvette within the 2020 inaugural working of the Digital Le Mans. “We’ve a server the place we’re all collectively driving in 4 totally different vehicles, that are mainly the identical automobile, and that makes issues lots simpler to check.

“The very first thing you concentrate on whenever you’re testing for such a race is getting everyone up to the mark. As soon as we’re all just about within the ballpark, you then’re going to start out taking part in round with the set-up. Perhaps someone is attempting some modifications on the damper, one man is attempting modifications on the rollbars, one man is doing one thing totally different on the differential and back-to-back, that makes every little thing lots sooner.

Juncadella will join F1 Esports champion Opmeer, his regular Mercedes team-mate Huis and Aston GT ace Gunn in their Virtual Le Mans lineup

Juncadella will be a part of F1 Esports champion Opmeer, his common Mercedes team-mate Huis and Aston GT ace Gunn of their Digital Le Mans lineup

Photograph by: Gary Parravani/Xynamic

“When you could have just one automobile as it could be in actual Le Mans and also you wish to check three or 4 various things in 4 totally different areas within the automobile, it’s going to take greater than a day since you’re going to get totally different feedbacks from totally different drivers. This fashion it’s nice after which clearly you may even begin practising stuff for technique, the way you wish to deal with the race.

“5 days till the race [when Juncadella checks in with Autosport] feels like nothing. In an actual race situation you’ll have all of your testing, all of your set-ups, every little thing clear. However 5 racing in sim days is a very long time. You might be fine-tuning a lot, you might be driving so many hours, so many laps a day that in the long run, it’s sort of automated muscular coaching.”

Affiliation with Mercedes would possibly deliver stress to carry out, however Juncadella stresses that enjoyable is a vital side too. He makes an attempt to downplay expectations wherever potential, “whether or not it’s digital or actual”.

“I attempt to work every day to reach to the race with a greater preparation than anyone else, and that’s how I approached it [in 2020],” he says. “However apart from the consequence, what I used to be actually proud of was my efficiency. I practiced so many hours and in the long run I had a fairly an ideal race, so I’m aiming to do this once more. Which means spending sufficient hours practising, fine-tuning my driving, set-up, attempting to carry out on high of what everyone expects from me.

“After all, being a part of such a powerful lineup and a brand new entry from Mercedes-AMG F1, it’s already a privilege and I’m going to attempt to get pleasure from that. For positive we’re not doing this as our principal job, it’s additionally for enjoyable and that’s what needs to be essential in sim racing. In the long run you’re spending so many hours per day practising that should you’re simply eager about the stress that it takes to do that race or no matter and also you’re not having fun with it, then it’s not going to be good.”

Mercedes team has been practising for several hours each day leading up to the event

Mercedes group has been practising for a number of hours every day main as much as the occasion

Photograph by: Gary Parravani/Xynamic

The character of 24-hour racing means predicting a result’s fraught with peril, however whatever the consequence Juncadella hopes it could possibly be the dawning of a brand new period for Mercedes’ Le Mans involvement. With GT3 vehicles set to switch GTE vehicles on the 24 Hours from 2024, that could possibly be prior to many assume, even when a Hypercar or LMDh venture able to combating for outright honours doesn’t materialise.

“It’s nice to be a part of this as a result of it’s the beginning of an period for Mercedes-AMG F1 Esports with Digital Le Mans and I hope it is a signal additionally for the way forward for actual racing” Daniel Juncadella

“It’s a single entry carried out for the final [LMVS] race for Le Mans, which exhibits you the curiosity they’ve,” says Juncadella. “It’s nice to be a part of this as a result of it’s the beginning of an period for Mercedes-AMG F1 Esports with Digital Le Mans and I hope it is a signal additionally for the way forward for actual racing. It’s Mercedes again in Le Mans, it’s a very good story and perhaps they are going to begin additionally in actual racing.”

The 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans Digital begins at 1pm GMT on Saturday 15 January. For all info on the occasion head to www.lemansvirtual.com.

Could Mercedes' involvement in virtual Le Mans be the first steps towards a return to the real world event?

May Mercedes’ involvement in digital Le Mans be the primary steps in direction of a return to the actual world occasion?

Photograph by: Gary Parravani/Xynamic



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