Ferrari is contesting the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans from its museum in Maranello and will have 10 of its 12 drivers on-site for the esports endurance race this weekend.
Unlike most teams that are relying on remote communications to organize their race efforts, Ferrari has assembled its team in a central location for the online event.
A recreated pit box has been installed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans exhibition and will be visible to the public during museum opening hours.
The Museo Ferrari Maranello reopened its doors on May 18 with social distancing and new coronavirus prevention measures in place.
Ferrari factory driver Nicklas Nielsen believes there are advantages of having most of the team together in the same room, rather than in different locations around the world.
The FIA World Endurance Championship GTE-Am points leader is sharing the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE with David Perel and sim racers Kasper Stoltze and Matteo Caruso.
“It’s been a great experience so far,” Nielsen told Sportscar365.
“I think the setup we have here is really cool. Being in the surrounding of the heart of Ferrari is always quite cool, and for all of us to be together for this special event is something that will make the team stronger.
“I think it adds a bit of real-life experience, having people around and watching.
“For us, waiting to jump in the car and watching what’s going on, it’s going to be quite an experience to see people walking by.
“I think there are definitely some points that will be a lot easier for us and a lot better.
“I think the handling [of the race] will be a lot better because we are able to communicate with each other face to face and we get to know each other as well, so we know who is doing what and why. It’s been a great decision to take the race into the museum.”
Formula 1 drivers Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi, who are sharing the No. 52 Ferrari with esports champions David Tonizza and Enzo Bonito, won’t be racing at the museum.
They will instead be taking part in the virtual Le Mans remotely, but with continuous feedback to the core group in Maranello.
Nielsen explained that the drivers will be supported by a background team of race strategists, and that the whole approach is increasing the operation’s realism.
“Everything is going to be taken more seriously,” he said.
“You’re thinking more about what is happening on the track, because you know that there are four other guys waiting to jump in the car.
“Basically the only difference from this virtual race to real life, is that you have to do it online.
“We have people doing strategies and they will be helping us like they will be on a real race weekend.
“I think other teams will be having the same sort of thing of engineers talking to them during the race, but it definitely makes it a bit easier when everybody is together.”
Porsche Utilizing Esports Base in Germany
Another factory GTE team using a central location to direct its race operations is Porsche, which has partnered up with German sim racing specialist Coanda Simsport.
Eight of the sim racers in the Porsche Esports Team setup are provided by Coanda, while five will be driving in-house on the company’s specialist sim rigs (below).
Coanda will help to strategize the race for Porsche Motorsport, which has four factory 911 RSRs entered and eight real-world works involved including three Le Mans winners in Andre Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy.
“Like in real-life racing, intensive data analysis plays a critical role if you want to be successful in sim racing,” said Coanda team boss Philip Stamm.
“We can adjust all parameters, compare them with individual driver performances or overlay the individual values of the drivers.
“This is how we work out any differences and find areas for improvement – just like at the real racetracks.
“Except, we don’t have to wait until the end of a session: our debriefings are constantly ongoing because we’re not tied to any schedules in the preparation.”
Led by Coanda driver Josh Rogers, Porsche teams achieved a lockout of the GTE class grid front row for the race which starts later today at 3 p.m. CEST (9 a.m. EST).