Nicky Catsburg believes BMW Motorsport’s increased focus on sim racing helped deliver a sweep in Saturday’s first-ever IMSA-sanctioned pro iRacing event.
Catsburg and fellow BMW factory drivers Bruno Spengler and Jesse Krohn locked out the podium in the 90-minute IMSA Sebring ‘SuperSaturday’ race held in place of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which has been postponed to November.
While Catsburg finished second to ex-DTM ace Spengler, after losing the lead in the hairpin roughly 30 minutes into the race, the Dutchman said the 1-2-3 finish came as an entire team effort that mimicked racing in real life.
Catsburg, Spengler and Krohn all worked with BS+COMPETITION esports drivers Alexander Voss and Laurin Heinrich to help “get up to speed” in the highly competitive virtual environment.
“We had been in contact with them throughout the whole race,” Catsburg said.
“We looked at fuel usage, trying to save some fuel. They gave us a heads up if someone spun. They were always with us, like in reality, we have someone on our radio to guide us through the race.
“On [Friday] I felt like I was a little bit off the pace. So we did a data comparison with Alexander.
“We actually used MoTeC for that, which is a system we also use in reality. We do the same data overlays in reality.
“I saw where he’s faster than me and areas I need to improve… It’s exactly the same as in reality.
“For that we have used their experience. It’s been really good to work with them.
“You need to take this seriously because we knows the pros in sim racing have these kind of people, they work on setups.”
The German manufacturer dominated the event, which featured a starting grid of 46 pro drivers either from the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Michelin Pilot Challenge or other series.
“BMW has been upping their game when it comes to sim racing,” Catsburg said. “It’s really cool to come back with a 1-2-3 for us.
“I got a message from BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt. He was also watching.
“I think it shows the importance of this event and sim racing is something that’s maybe helping us get through these tough times.
“It’s so great IMSA organized this together with iRacing.
“Hopefully some of the fans that would have come to the race have now watched us race. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.”
First IMSA Win “Very Special” to Spengler
Spengler, who is embarking on his first full WeatherTech Championship season in the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE alongside Connor De Phillippi, said he had goosebumps when taking the checkered flag on Saturday.
“Before starting the race event, you felt the pressure building up,” he said. “As qualifying came and the start, I was as nervous as a real race.
“I guess you can call it a real race because it was difficult. I was sweating a lot. Nicky was super quick and pushing hard. It was a fun race.
“It’s a tough time for everyone to stay home and we’re doing the best we can to entertain and still race.
“Thanks to everyone involved to have been able to organize such a big event.”
In a unique twist, Spengler drove the race in his simulator alongside his wife and dog, who were watching in the same room.
“Normally they watch it from home, far away,” he said with a laugh.
“To win the first one was very special. As I was passing the start/finish [line] I had goosebumps everywhere. I was very happy.”