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Winward’s Space Drive Mercedes Denied Watkins Glen Entry

Schaeffler Paravan steer-by-wire system denied entry by OEMs to race at Watkins Glen…

Photo: Jonathan Grace

Winward Racing’s attempt to enter this weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen with a Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo utilizing Schaeffler Paravan’s Space Drive steer-by-wire technology was denied by fellow GTD manufacturers, it has been revealed.

The No. 56 Mercedes, which was to feature Mercedes-AMG factory driver Maxi Buhk along with Alec Udell and Lorenzo Ferrari, was initially on the entry list for Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen before being pulled at the last minute.

Udell has revealed to Sportscar365 that the car, which was set to run unclassified, did not meet unanimous approval of the entire GTD grid despite being apparently green-lighted by IMSA.

“It’s obviously a developmental system so it’s not homologated in the way the car is run in GT3,” Udell told Sportscar365. “With that, we’ve been working with the series on getting it through.

“We got through the technical side and I think there was some pushback from a couple of the manufacturers within GTD that didn’t want the system that wasn’t homologated in the series.

“That’s as far as I understand the process that went through. It didn’t pan out the way we expected, obviously.”

Udell first drove the car, which was utilized in DTM last year with Buhk at Muecke Motorsport, in a two-day test at Sebring International Raceway in February with prospects of entering the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring that eventually didn’t pan out.

A decision was ultimately made only on Monday that its entry would not be allowed to race this weekend at Watkins Glen.

“We did a few exhibition laps yesterday after the Pilot Challenge race, as some sort of consolation to be able at least run the car on the weekend here,” Udell said.

“That was the first time that we ran on an official IMSA weekend.”

Udell, a graduate of mechanical engineering at Clemson University, said the steer-by-wire system takes a “little bit of adaptation” to a conventional mechanically controlled steering.

The system, which has demonstrated no performance advantage, has been outfitted on multiple GT3 cars in Europe and already proven in endurance races such as the Nürburgring 24.

Udell said the system, powered by two ECUs for steering and force-feedback, has a 1 millisecond response time. 

“There’s just a difference between the two,” he said. “Once you adapt to it — it took probably a session for me to fully come to grips with the system initially. After that, a lot of it has to do with how you’re inputting.

“Because you’re basically given a target value for the wheels to go to and the wheels end up there.

“Normally with the mechanical steering you get more movement in the wheel. With this, you just place the wheel where you want it to.

“You can realistically be a little more precise with the inputs and then if you start to move the wheel like in a normal mechanical system, you are actually creating the instability that you might feel yourself.

“You have to use a little bit more of the feel through your seat and through rotation rather than a little bit through the wheel.”

Udell, who has visited Schaeffler Paravan’s headquarters in Germany to complete training on the system, said there’s hope to potentially see the car out in WeatherTech SportsCar Championship action later this year, pending entry approval.

A large contingent of representatives from the company are on-site this weekend. 

“I think there’s hope still for that but I think it’s too early to say,” Udell said. “There was hope for this weekend and the week of, we were notified. It was Monday when we got a call.

“That was a bummer. It’s very challenging to make the arrangements and have to change things very last minute. It’s a little bit disappointing there.

“We’ll run with the cards that were dealt and that’s all we can do.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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