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At home, hitting top gear

“If you hit the wall in this race, you simply press the restart button and go again. In reality, well… let’s just say that’s not the case,” mentioned Jerome D’Ambrosio, the Mahindra Racing driver in Formula E, with a chuckle. D’Ambrosio is speaking concerning the distinction between racing on the pc – which he has been doing ‘professionally’ of late – and driving an actual automobile across the circuit.

The Belgian D’Ambrosio, like all different Formula E drivers, is collaborating within the eight-week lengthy ABB Formula E Race At Home Challenge, which started with the Hong Kong E-Prix on April 25. Here too, he’s outfitted with a steering wheel and pedals and is competing in opposition to the boys he normally competes in opposition to – digital racing mimics many facets of actual racing, besides one essential issue – there aren’t any penalties. “You don’t have the same adrenaline in a game,” D’Ambrosio mentioned.

“Neither do you face the same consequences. I had a lot of contacts in the virtual race that would’ve definitely put me off the race in reality. That didn’t happen in the game. So, I don’t think it’s really comparable. I’m not alien to it; it still has a wheel and pedals. But the perception is very different,” he says.

But it’s nonetheless sufficient to maintain his thoughts – and that of racing followers – occupied. The motor racing fraternity has been fast to modify tracks to the digital area within the instances of a world pandemic. Everything from Formula 1 to NASCAR to IndyCar to Formula – have tried to maintain their fan base busy with on-line races.

“Virtual races are a great platform to provide content, put on some show in these times, and perhaps reach a different audience,” mentioned D’Ambrosio.

This is the way it works in digital Formula E: the organisers offered each collaborating driver a simulator seat with steering wheel and pedals, the newest gaming PC, displays, headphones, and different tools; all of those had been shipped to the drivers’ respective properties. This digital sequence follows a ‘Race Royale’ format, the place the last-placed driver after every lap will get eradicated till the ultimate 10 compete within the concluding lap to find out the winner and factors are distributed accordingly. When it involves tools, sim racing is a passion that may lead you down an infinite rabbit gap.

The engine driving all the pieces is a high-end gaming pc. Then there’s the seat, which mimics the motive force place in an actual race automobile. The wheel has ‘force feedback’, which implies it gives the identical resistance as an actual steering wheel – the identical goes for the pedals. If you wish to go actually loopy, there are simulation cockpits with wraparound screens.

Formula E’s Hong Kong race was beamed reside on their web site, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch accounts, and featured their predominant commentator in motion as nicely. D’Ambrosio completed ninth in his maiden try, whereas his Mahindra Racing team-mate Pascal Wehrlein received the dangle of the simulation sequence quicker and completed third. “This race was the first for me. I didn’t really grow up with this gaming-type racing,” 34-year-old D’Ambrosio mentioned. “It’s nothing like competing in a real race, but I must say I enjoyed it.” He was talking over the cellphone from Lopud, a tiny island in south Croatia, the place he has been held up for the final two months after the nation enforced an early lockdown. Lopud is a dream island, with medieval stone homes, ruins of fortresses, extremely clear seas, and no automobiles. No matter how excessive finish the tech, a digital race is not any match for the actual factor, even within the small particulars.

“In the virtual race you don’t see the depth in the image, so it’s difficult to feel how fast you’re going,” D’Ambrosio mentioned. “You don’t feel the car. You just have to sit back at the steering wheel.”

D’Ambrosio is aware of what he’s speaking about after having pushed in each Formula E race because the sequence began in 2014 – that’s 64 begins, 9 podium finishes and three wins in addition. “To go fast in a real car, you rely on your natural sensors, and that provides you with information on what the car is doing and what it needs to do in order to go quicker,” he mentioned. “What you have to rely on for more speed in a virtual race is different from the sensors you rely on in real cars.”

But the one commonality between digital and actual is the professional driver’s want for velocity.

“The adrenaline of the competition is still there, if not the adrenaline of consequences. Also missing of course is the actual feeling of the sitting in a car,” D’Ambrosio mentioned. “But, even though you know you’re not actually racing and it’s not the real thing, you still want to go fast and do your best.

“At the end of the day, what makes a good racing driver is the ability to identify what is required to go quicker. We apply that to virtual racing as well. You still need to exercise your brain. That’s always a good training for when the season begins again.”