BMW works driver and regular esports competitor Philipp Eng says that competing in virtual competitions is helping him to improve on the skills he utilizes in real-world racing.
The double Total 24 Hours of Spa winner has been extremely active in recent weeks during the online sim racing boom that has sprung out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eng is driving for BMW in the IMSA iRacing Pro Series, which is holding its third round this evening, while last weekend he won the iRacing Nürburgring 24 with co-drivers Laurin Heinrich and Alexander Voss.
The Austrian, who has been racing virtually since he was a teenager, told Sportscar365 that his recent exploits have helped him to develop his skills in several areas.
“It really helps me to become a better race driver, in the technical aspect,” Eng told Sportscar365.
“Usually I only describe what the car is doing, and I might suggest that we should change parameter A or B. Mostly we are on our own, within our team.
“So whenever I feel like I have oversteer in a part of the corner, I would rather try to do a setup adjustment myself than my race engineer, just to build up more of a database for myself.
“Especially for racecraft as well, I think it’s super important to do it, because my instinct does exactly the same things on the simulator that it would do on a real track.
“The more you race online against real, competitive people, the more it sharpens your instincts.”
Eng explained that while sim racing does have its limitations, such as the lack of g-force and sense of speed on a static rig, the available feedback is still useful to a professional factory driver.
“My simulator is static, so the only way you get feedback from the car I through the pedal, the steering and your eyes and brain,” he said.
“Whenever the car is oversteering, for example, you feel that the steering gets a bit light, but you don’t feel it in your bottom. You just feel it in your arms, and you see it with your vision.
“My theory is that this sharpens your other senses. It sharpens your eyes, and what you feel in your arms and your hands.
“In the first place, there might be a mismatch, but as a racing driver you always need to be open-minded for these things and I think this is one of them.”
Putting the Hours In
Eng has been active on his sim every day to prepare for the various races that he enters each week, but believes the intensive practice time is necessary for it to be worthwhile.
“For the Laguna Seca IMSA event, the total amount of time I spent on the simulator from the first lap of testing until the end of the race, I did 360 laps which equals almost 12 hours of pure running time,” he said.
“For me, it requires a lot of testing and a lot of training. I also saw it when we did the Nürburgring 24 last weekend.
“It requires so much preparation, especially as a sim racing ‘amateur’, which I am. To really chase the lap times of the pros needs a lot of practice.
“The last few days have been [about] preparation for the Mid-Ohio IMSA race, because the level of competitiveness is very high, especially within the BMW camp.
“I think we proved the last time out that we were all very competitive. I think our competitors saw it and I’m sure they will be as prepared as us this time around.”