Inside Mercedes' preparations for a digital fightback at Le Mans - Motor Informed
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Inside Mercedes’ preparations for a digital fightback at Le Mans

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 Its remaining automotive was withdrawn, and Mercedes hasn’t been again to Le Mans in an official capability since.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

This weekend’s ultimate 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 workforce within the GT class, and the legendary Pescarolo identify returns in digital kind 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 discipline. Amongst them is Pink Bull Racing Esports, current within the prototype and GT courses, with its LMP2 lineup fronted by reigning European Truck Racing Championship king Norbert Kiss – additionally a highly-rated sim racer – whereas Pink Bull’s reigning F1 world champion Max Verstappen has additionally entered. The Dutchman will share a Crew 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 towards 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 Motorsport.com if he sees the Pink Bull rivalry which dominated the 2021 F1 season seeping into the sim world, Juncadella downplays it – hardly stunning on condition that there are 27 different automobiles that Mercedes should beat first.

Daniel Juncadella raced for Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing in the DTM last year

Daniel Juncadella raced for Mercedes-AMG Crew GruppeM Racing within the DTM final yr

Photograph by: Gruppe C GmbH

“I’ve a very good relationship with Max,” says Juncadella, who completed second alongside Verstappen throughout a two-hour BMW SIM Reside race in a aboard M8 GTE automobiles at a digital Daytona Worldwide Speedway final January. “I actually like his model, I like how he races. He additionally works actually exhausting within the sim to fine-tune the set-ups. He’s trying a lot into particulars, it’s mind-blowing to see that such a younger man whose major focus is Method 1 taking a lot time to enhance every part in sim racing.

“Most likely in his thoughts there’s extra of a rivalry towards Mercedes. Ultimately as soon as the inexperienced gentle goes on, I’m simply going to have my knife below my enamel and I’m going to struggle him exhausting. 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 exhausting work required for fulfillment within the digital realm.

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

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

“There’s a variety of information acquisition that we will have a look at, so it’s a bit of 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. “Now we have a server the place we’re all collectively driving in 4 totally different automobiles, that are principally the identical automotive, and that makes issues rather a lot simpler to check.

“The very first thing you give attention to whenever you’re testing for such a race is getting everyone on top of things. As soon as we’re all just about within the ballpark, you then’re going to begin taking part in round with the set-up. Perhaps any person is making an attempt some adjustments on the damper, one man is making an attempt adjustments on the rollbars, one man is doing one thing totally different on the differential and back-to-back, that makes every part rather a lot 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 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 may have just one automotive as it might be in actual Le Mans and also you need to check three or 4 various things in 4 totally different areas within the automotive, it’s going to take greater than a day since you’re going to get totally different feedbacks from totally different drivers. This manner it’s nice after which clearly you may even begin practising stuff for technique, the way you need to deal with the race.

“5 days till the race [when Juncadella checks in with Motorsport.com] feels like nothing. In an actual race state of affairs you’d have all of your testing, all of your set-ups, every part clear. However 5 racing in sim days is a very long time. You might be fine-tuning a lot, you’re driving so many hours, so many laps a day that ultimately, it’s form of automated muscular coaching.”

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

“I attempt to work each 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 aside from the outcome, what I used to be actually proud of was my efficiency. I practiced so many hours and ultimately I had a fairly an ideal race, so I’m aiming to try this once more. Which means spending sufficient hours practising, fine-tuning my driving, set-up, making an attempt to carry out on high of what everyone expects from me.

“In fact, 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 certain we’re not doing this as our major job, it’s additionally for enjoyable and that’s what must be essential in sim racing. Ultimately you’re spending so many hours per day practising that in the event you’re simply serious about the strain 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 workforce 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 outcome Juncadella hopes it could possibly be the dawning of a brand new period for Mercedes’ Le Mans involvement. With GT3 automobiles set to switch GTE automobiles on the 24 Hours from 2024, that could possibly be ahead of many assume, even when a Hypercar or LMDh mission able to preventing 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 completed for the final [LMVS] race for Le Mans, which reveals 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 superb story and perhaps they may begin additionally in actual racing.”

The 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans Digital begins at 1pm GMT on Saturday 15 January. For all data 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 true world occasion?

Photograph by: Gary Parravani/Xynamic

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