Many professional racing drivers who are normally racing the Mercedes-AMG GT3 all over the world are currently discovering the world of simulation racing (sim racing). In order to find every tenth of a second at the virtual race tracks, they are investing in training, equipment and set-up. Being the genuine racers that they are, they are also aiming at top results in this new form of competition, and quite successfully so, as Raffaele Marciello proves. In the debut of the SRO E-Sport GT Series at the end of April, the Italian scored his maiden podium finish as he was classified third with his Mercedes-AMG GT3.
In the process, the 2019 Macau champion is using high-tech equipment with top quality competition seat, steering wheel and pedals as well as a gaming PC with three monitors for a perfect view. Professional Dirk Müller is another one to have given his sim set-up a considerable upgrade, even though he still had to miss out on a top result in his first race with new hardware and components, the fourth round of the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series powered by VCO (DNLS). Still, there were four Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the top ten at the end of the 3-hour race at the virtual Nürburgring-Nordschleife.
- Maiden podium finish in the inaugural SRO E-Sport GT Series race
- Four top ten results in the fourth DNLS round with positions 5, 6, 7 and 10
- Racing professionals gearing up for the virtual motorsport world
Eventually, details are often decisive when it comes to who ends up on the top step of the podium, finishes in the top ten or claims pole position. It isn’t a rare thing for races to be decided on the final lap or even in the final corner – both in real-world motorsport and at sim racing tracks. Raffaele Marciello proved as much in the first round of the SRO E-Sports GT Series. At the virtual Silverstone Circuit, an overtaking manoeuvre just before the end of the race still enabled the Italian to secure third place in the Pro Series, in which real-world racing professionals are taking on the virtual challenge. For the winner of last year’s FIA GT World Cup, being able to step on the podium also was a reward for the many hours of training that he had put in on his gaming rig at home.
Just like Marciello, many professional racing drivers who are normally racing the Mercedes-AMG GT3 are currently increasingly shifting their focus to sim racing where they are up against, among others, the professionals from the esports world. Like, for instance, in the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series powered by VCO, in which both race drivers and esports professionals are part of the field. Like in its real-world counterpart, drivers are competing in the respective classes of their cars. Accordingly, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is participating in the SP9 class in which it again put in a strong performance in the fourth round of the virtual Nordschleife series: four teams with the GT3 from Affalterbach finished in the top ten.
Also having led the race for a long time, HTP WINWARD Motorsport secured fifth place with racing professionals Philip Ellis and Marvin Dienst partnered by sim racer Aleksi Elomaa and is currently third in the points’ standings of the digital series. At the moment, team Heusinkveld is second in the standings after finishing sixth in the fourth round with its Mercedes-AMG GT3, right behind its fellow Mercedes-AMG GT3 team. The further esports teams Schnitzelalm Racing (7th place) and RacingFuel Academy & Friends (10th place) rounded out the good result with the Mercedes-AMG GT3.
Dirk Müller, who raced for Black Falcon Team AM Solutions while using his newly assembled gaming rig for the first time in competition last Saturday, still missed out on a successful result in the digital ‘Green Hell’. Temporarily having closed up to the top ten, the team had an off and dropped back to the tail of the SP9 field as a result. However, as the only Mercedes-AMG GT3 team without support from a sim racer, the development trend for Dirk Müller and his fellow driver Nico Bastian still remains positive.
Once again, it shows that many details can make the difference. Driving style, brake use, corner rotation of the vehicle and the meticulous set-up have to be thoroughly adjusted for the virtual races. And like in the real-world racing business, every mile in practice counts to help improve the lap times in the race. The professionals with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 are getting their next opportunity on 10th May in the second event of the SRO E-Sport GT Series at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps as well as in round five of the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series on 30th May.
Dirk Müller: “Also in the fourth DNLS round, I have learned a lot again. Once more, I was highly motivated and I had a lot of fun. For the first time, I was able to drive a simulation race with the original steering wheel from the Mercedes-AMG GT3. That made it a little bit more realistic again and I was able to develop a good feeling for driving in the simulator. Compared to my previous version, the changes to my new gaming rig are considerable, so that it was almost like starting all over again for me. The update included monitors, the steering wheel, the pedals and a competition seat. Now, I have a totally different perception of the virtual track, it is becoming even more realistic and it allows for a better assessment of the conditions. The lap times have improved considerably as a result. At the moment, I am spending two hours in the race simulator every day, working closely together with my fellow drivers in the Mercedes-AMG GT3. We are helping each other, which is highly enjoyable. These days, it is important for all of us to stay healthy. But sim racing allows us to bring another part of reality home before we are heading out onto the real race tracks again with the Mercedes-AMG GT3s.”
Raffaele Marciello: “Of course, I have been busy with sim racing a lot more in the past days and weeks and practiced significantly more than before. Accordingly, I was well prepared for the first round of the SRO E-Sport GT Series. I really enjoyed competing with the other professional racing drivers. I am very happy with my podium finish in the first race, but I worked hard to achieve it and, at the start of the E-Sport Series season, it gets me into a good position for the upcoming championship rounds. Personally, I am coping slightly better with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Assetto Corsa Competizione, the game used in the SRO E-Sport Series, than in the DNLS. But at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, we also were in with a really good chance of a top result with the GetSpeed team last weekend until we ended up upside down after innocently having become involved in a collision prior to the main straight and were sliding towards the pit lane entry on the roof. Thankfully, such an accident isn’t as bad in a simulation race and in hindsight, one can even laugh about it, even though it is annoying during the race as we are always fully motivated and want to be in contention for victory. Generally, I am enjoying sim racing a lot these days and there is another advantage to it, too: rather than with the engineers at the race track, I can talk about the race here with my girlfriend at home.”
Nico Bastian: “Between 2011 and 2013, I already was a little bit more intensely involved in sim racing, but not at a professional level. However, it did help me now in getting used to the virtual races again more quickly. All in all, it is clear to see that sim racing is definitely on the rise and everything is more professional. Currently, the thing I am enjoying in particular is being able to work again with Dirk as a team. That is what we are missing as drivers with no racing going on at the moment: having a common goal as a team and working together to achieve it. However, our task at hand isn’t particularly light: unlike the other teams with the Mercedes-AMG GT3, we don’t have a sim racer to support us. It is just Dirk and myself, like in the real-world races. So for us, it is about making up some experience in the game and also in terms of set-up. But our learning curve is facing steeply upward, we are getting better and better in dealing with the virtual racing action. We can continue practicing during the little break the DNLS now has until the end of May and then we want to attack to the max again.”