At the moment, the real racing action on the tracks around the world is at rest – but the drivers of the Mercedes-AMG driver squad are meanwhile doing their fast laps in sim racing. At the third round of the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series powered by VCO (DNLS), which took place last weekend, customer racing teams BLACK FALCON, GetSpeed Performance and HTP WINWARD Motorsport, among other virtual motorsport teams, brought the Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the starting line. With a top-class line-up of professional racing drivers, they competed against some of the best sim racers on the digital Nürburgring-Nordschleife, among others. After three hours of driving, two top-five and three other top-ten finishes were achieved. For the professional racers, the digital races are a welcome change in the current non-racing period, in addition to the obligatory fitness program.
Until the Mercedes-AMG drivers can climb back into the cockpits of their GT3 cars, a comprehensive fitness program is at the top of the agenda for most of them. The training of the professionals is increasingly supplemented by another subject: simulation racing (sim-racing). Among other things, the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series offers a welcome change in the non-racing time. The opportunity to collect valuable race kilometers at the highest level and under extremely realistic conditions is now a regular part of the training for some of the drivers in the Mercedes-AMG driver squad. In the racing simulations, both the technical and the sporting regulations are prepared, evaluated and adjusted with the same meticulousness as in real motorsport. In sim racing, too, the vehicles of all brands are to be regulated at a similar level in order to make the competition as balanced as possible. Already at the second round of the DNLS, for the first time at least one professional racing driver had to compete for each team in the SP9 class and also drive the qualifying and the start, before a sim-professional was allowed to sit in the virtual cockpit during the pit stop with driver change.
Compared to the driver line-up of the Mercedes-AMG GT3s in real racing action, there was hardly any difference to be seen in the third digital endurance race: Last year's FIA GT World Cup winner Raffaele Marciello shared the wheel of Vodafone Team GetSpeed's fourth-placed Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Fabian Schiller and their race engineer and sim racer Philipp Noelle. For the number 48 HTP WINWARD Motorsport car, which finished the race in fifth place over three hours, Philip Ellis and Marvin Dienst were used alongside sim racer Jack Sedgwick. The third customer sports team in the bunch, BLACK FALCON Team AM Solutions, knew its Mercedes-AMG GT3 was in the best hands with Dirk Müller and Nico Bastian on the virtual Nürburgring-Nordschleife, and Dominik Baumann was also part of the illustrious field of participants. With a total of five top-ten finishes, the sports cars' record was impressive-. Performance brand from Affalterbach undoubtedly successful in the process. Although the result in relation to the real counterpart of the series, in which the Mercedes-AMG teams won six of the eight VLN rounds last season, still has some room for improvement. There's no question that virtual racing is no walk in the park for the "racers" from real motorsport. Because unlike real driving at the limit, you can't feel the limit in the console. Although at least the steering wheel offers some haptic feedback, otherwise the driver has to rely purely on the visual influences or the acoustic feedback of the tire noise. The teams and drivers will face the next challenge on the virtual Nordschleife with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 on the 2. May, when the fourth round of the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series takes place.
Stefan Wendl, Head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: "Due to the current situation, the topic of sim racing is moving even more into focus and is developing rapidly. This is also a very good additional training opportunity for our drivers – but it's about more than just training. The whole topic is already operated very professionally and the entry of various racing series and manufacturers pushes this professionalization even further. For professional racers, it is a real challenge to match the times of sim racers who have countless hours of training ahead of them in simulation racing. At the same time, I would also like to compliment and also thank the sim racing drivers and teams who compete in the races with a Mercedes-AMG GT3: they have been practicing this sport very intensively for a long time and support us and our drivers with their experience and some tips. So the two worlds in motorsport, virtual and real, are increasingly growing together and intertwining."
Raffaele Marciello: "My first race at DNLS was really fun, even though it's no substitute for a real race for me. For me, sim racing was and still is a fun pastime – I used to play a lot with my friends and now I play a bit more intensively and in a professional environment during non-race time. Of course, I'm also trying to improve in the digital races, but that's not so easy against the sim racing pros. It's also a big difference that these guys can train so extremely many hours in the game and know the smallest tricks – you don't have this opportunity in real motorsport in this form. The effective driving time in the racing vehicle, even with tests, is very limited for professional racers. But even though I enjoy sim racing a lot, I'm looking forward even more when I get to drive real races again."
Dirk Müller: "I have only recently immersed myself in the world of sim racing, which is a lot of fun and very professional. The biggest difference with racing on the track is the lack of direct feedback from the car. Sim racing does not use active simulators; instead, riders sit in fixed seat shells. While the graphics are extremely realistic, the feeling of moving the vehicle is quite different. You have to give a lot of praise to the professional sim racers, who have created their very own driving experience in the virtual world. You also have to learn a different driving style on the virtual track to keep up with the elite of the scene. I am very much looking forward to the next challenges, I will continue to work professionally and prepare myself optimally for the next round in the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series. Meanwhile, preparation for the motorsport season on the real race tracks continues unchanged. I have now already reeled off as many bike kilometers as in the entire last year, accordingly, the fitness level is very high. This is important to be top fit at time X. I think that the entire Mercedes-AMG driver squad will be optimally prepared when it starts again. "You really have to invest a lot of time in sim racing. I can still learn a lot from the professional sim racers. But things are moving forward! It is like real motorsport very professional, every sector, lap time, fuel consumption and more is analyzed. There are also data evaluations – there I hope to find another second or two in comparison to the sim racing pros.