Karl Wittmer has spent 2020 as part of the HPD GT3 Driver Academy and kept sharp by participating in various sim racing events, including the FCP Euro GT World Challenge America Esports Championship that kicked off last weekend.
This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Wittmer tells us about his foray into sim racing, what makes the sim racing experts so good, and discusses the value of being part of Honda’s driver development program.
Did you have much sim racing experience prior to this year?
“I’m quite new, to be honest. I did dabble with it previously but nothing really intensive.
“I understood the game and what the physics would do and would go out and have some fun with my brothers, but to really get into it and understand the value of every adjustment and the temperatures, it was different.
“I had to adapt. That being said, I’m happy with where I’ve gone in terms of times and consistency in sim racing. To some extent it correlates with real life, but not as much as one would think.
“I have the advantage of driving the Acura NSX GT3 in real life and in sim racing. So with setups it’s question of if it works in real life will it work in the game?
“So I’ll try it and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s pretty cool.”
Do you feel like you’re a rookie again?
“Oh absolutely! I treat it like I’m a rookie. I don’t go into this thinking I’m going to beat these sim racers. These guys are good! They’re robots out there.
“I’m assuming the roles would be reversed and it would take them time to adapt to driving a real car, and it’s same for me adapting to the sim racing stuff.”
How sophisticated is your sim racing setup?
“I look at these guys’ sim rigs and it’s beautiful and I love it, but then I look at mine and my pedals are taped down with hockey tape.
“I’ve got a steering wheel and pedals that I bought at Toys R Us back in late November last year, I got an old touring car seat from my old touring car that I welded to a metal frame, and off I went.”
What makes the sim racers so good that you’re trying to replicate yourself?
“I’ll creep into an onboard here and there of guys who run top times, and it seems to me its about knowing the values of what setup changes do.
“I think I sometimes go in the wrong direction because I do what I think maybe is OK in real life and it might not work.
“Also it seems like they’re really good in brake zones and I’m not quite comfortable with that. Honestly, I still have so much work to do with sim racing.
“I’d love to sit down with one of these guys and learn how they do what they do.”
What has it been like to be part of the HPD GT3 Academy?
“It’s along the lines of a junior program, so it reflects what the BMW junior program or Porsche junior program would do.
“Honda took four up and coming drivers under their wings that had previous experience with Honda and that Honda has helped during their career.
“For me, Honda has always been there for me with touring cars. It’s been intensive, which is what I expected.
“I’ve learned more this year than I have the previous five or six years running GT4 cars and touring cars.
“I didn’t think the gap between a GT4 car and a GT3 car would be that big. The engineering side of things, the aerodynamics, the pitch sensitivity, the whole platform is so different.
“Honda has been able to bring us into this program and give us hands-on training with factory drivers like Dane Cameron, Mario Farnbacher, Ryan Eversley Trent Hindman, Ricky Taylor, and Kyle Marcelli.
“These guys are world-class pros and we have access to them, which is unbelievable and invaluable.”