Virtual truck racing: racing drivers also work from home

Reading time: approx. 3 minutes
Text: Oliver Schönfeld
Photos: T Sport Bernau, ETRC Digital Racing Challenge, private

Pushing the throttle as far as it will go on the straight. Braking at the last moment, turning the steering wheel and heaving the 5,300-kilo truck through the chicane: It almost feels like being on the real track – but it is a virtual race. This is how the European truck racing scene shortens the waiting time until the season starts.

What to do when Corona throws the pre-season schedule into disarray and fans crave a change? It’s simple: motorsport moves to the web. The FIA European Truck Racing Championship (ETRC) has launched a series with four online races. After the opening round at the Hungaroring and the second round at the Nürburgring, the traditional French circuit of Le Mans (21 February 2021) and finally Jarama in Spain (7 March 2021) are still on the racing calendar. All events will be broadcast live on the ETRC-Website and on other online channels – for a real motorsport feeling at home.
The action in the virtual races is on a par with motorsport on the real track. Fans can take part in the ETRC series on their home computer free of charge.

Almost like on the real race track

A computer with internet connection, a game seat with pedals and steering wheel: this is what working from home looks like for racing drivers. For the experienced motorsport racer and Vice European Champion Antonio Albacete from the truck racing team T Sport Bernau, it is a completely new experience. In the mini-series, he competes against experienced simulation racers who grew up exclusively in e-sports – tough competition, that is. For Albacete, it is a matter of honour to always give 100 per cent in front of the screen: “The virtual races are a lot of fun for me and are excellent training,” reports the 56-year-old Spaniard. “The graphics are really very good and I almost feel like I’m on the real track.”

»I enjoy the virtual races immensely and they are excellent training!«

Antonio Albacete, racing driver for T Sport Bernau

Adrenalin and atmosphere are missing

But only almost: the G-forces that are felt in the cockpit when braking or accelerating are naturally absent in front of the PC. “The adrenaline of driving at the limit is also missing,” Albacete reports. But in his eyes, the virtual races do have one advantage: if there is a crash, it doesn’t immediately become expensive.

The experienced driver hopes to get back behind the wheel soon: “What I miss about racing is the great atmosphere in the paddock, the conversations with the other drivers, friends and fans. Of course, all that is missing on the screen.” In the background, preparations have long been running at T Sport Bernau so that things can soon get underway again. “We hope to start with a bigger test in April. A number of new developments have been made over the winter,” reports team manager Melanie Derflinger.

Season goal for 2021: the top 5

Despite all the adverse Corona circumstances, T Sport Bernau managed to compete in four events in 2020. Due to the changing travel restrictions, the team toured Europe continuously for three months to do so. “This allowed us to test the race truck, try out many parts and excellently familiarise ourselves with the new team constellation with Antonio Albacete,” Derflinger explains further. In 2021, the aim is to have significantly more races again, if possible. “We are very well prepared for the season and hope to finish among the top 5 again.”
Technology at the limit: In truck racing and exciting wheel-to-wheel duels, BPW and PE components are put to the ultimate test.

Close technical partnership

In addition to many challenges, 2021 already held good news in store for the British-German racing team: The partnership with PE Automotive and BPW Bergische Achsen KG was extended by two years. “This is not just a sponsorship, but a grown, trusting technical partnership that has already helped us significantly in the past years,” emphasises chief technician Tim Frost. The BPW components are put to the toughest test on the race track every time the MAN race truck with 1,200 hp applies a massive 5,800 torques to the wheel or performs an emergency braking manoeuvre from 160 kilometres per hour. “We couldn’t wish for a tougher test laboratory than FIA truck racing,” confirms BPW Product Manager Thorsten Grahl. He too is eagerly awaiting the start of the real season. “You simply have to experience the special atmosphere at the Nürburgring and the tension at the start live.” All fans will agree wholeheartedly.

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