Motor Valley Fest: Sim racing and augmented reality are part of Motorsport

In a round table at Motor Valley Fest moderated by Motorsport Network, we discussed the world of Esports and sim racing with our guests, looking at it as fundamental tools for development in the world of motorsport.

The world of Esports and sim racing has made the headlines in the last year and a half – thanks to the global pandemic, and proliferation on mainstream media and social networks that few predicted. This explosion found fertile ground for motorsport projects which have taken hold more and more. On the other hand, the reality is that Esports has been a billion-dollar business in the last year.

Thanks to media exposure, categories such as the GT World Championship have been able to bring the two worlds together thanks to the development of specific software for the general public, and at the same time the development of the platforms and rigs in which has made it capable to create new realities and new performances for amateur and professional drivers alike.

In reality, the picture of such a deep-rooted phenomenon - sim racing - is the tip of the iceberg of a universe with multiple applications and multiple developments. All this was addressed at the Motor Valley Fest talk dedicated to sim racing, augmented reality, virtual reality and its areas of application.

"Due to the lockdown period, we had the opportunity to be able to run real drivers in a virtual way, as well as VIPs such as Valentino Rossi, Tony Parker or Charles Leclerc himself, in organised and increasingly develop races. It was a phenomenon that expanded immediately, virtually recreating real events, with a large following from the drivers themselves," said Alessio Cicolari, CEO of AK Informatica. "Behind the world of sim racing there are new jobs, such as Esports director for example.”

Online, there has also been a convergence between virtual and real racing, not only in terms of drivers, but also of championships. The example of the GT World challenge is evident with a traditional race weekend, featuring a virtual race in the middle in a Hub in the paddock with 24 simulators.

"A structure of 500 square metres with 24 simulators with one driver for each team. There are points for the team and 6000 euros for the winner. The crucial question was shown by the effort that the manufacturers have given. Ferrari and the others they understood that this is a new way to show themselves and at the same time a new way of seeing the racing world."

But what does it mean to organise an online event?

"It's almost more complicated than a real one. You have to deal with connections from all over the world. There are so many technologies that mix and that you have to work in sync, with each sim driver using low or different latency times, depending on what your hardware system is also."

The talk at the Motor Valley also provided a chance to speak with the young talent of Ferrari DFA Giovanni De Salvo. From the training of Pierre Gasly on the starting grid at the Styrian GP, when he trained with his coach on his reactions with tennis balls. So how does a virtual driver train?

"It is clear, the physical effort of a real driver is much greater for the G-forces, but in races lasting more than an hour if on the one hand the strength of a real driver is not required, but good physical shape - at high levels - it makes the difference; a virtual driver has to develop reflex skills especially if you are in a fight or play a position on the edge of the thousandths.

“We do specific training in this area. Unlike real racers who try the car on Friday during free practice we train practically every day of the week. In terms of driving it is very similar. There are many more similarities than the differences. It is no coincidence that even real drivers use the simulators to get to know new tracks, braking points etc."

Sim racing also provides a relatively cheap getaway for inclusion, both physically and socially, for a worldwide access. The recent example is Robert Wickens, an IndyCar driver who in 2019 suffered a dramatic accident at Pocono.

The former DTM champion, who remains severely handicapped with serious leg problems due to trauma and spinal fractures, used the COVID-19 pandemic to participate in a virtual IndyCar race together with those who were his rivals on the track.

"What's more, if the difference, in terms of physical strength - between a man or a woman - can be equalised, sim racing is much more open.”

A world that, among other things, is evolving the visual framework and perception, has increasingly fundamental fields of applications in the racing sector. Here, even more than in its "final" use for the general public, the virtual world and augmented reality are now fundamental steps in the development of a medium: "The use of simulation technology for real products is spreading a lot,” claimed Giacomo Danisi of the homonymous Danisi Technical Simulation.

"Simulation has become fundamental for design, development and technique. It is a fact. But it is now fundamental also in terms of entertainment and promotion of a motor racing series, also in social terms. There are video games that allow you to buy food for refugees while playing," claimed Rodi Basso, co-founder and CEO of E1 Series. "Motor racing with the sim can also offer new professional skills, and new access channels. The move from go-karts to Formula 1 is almost unsustainable now in terms of costs. This is therefore an instrument that can also allow a transversal access route. “

The full limits of Esports and sim racing still remain to be explored and with an important and absolute impact in terms of immersion and inclusiveness, through what is augmented reality, as recalled by George Efstratoudakis of Behavior Business Solutions.

It can also have applications also in the medical field, following the announcement of the opening of a medical simulation room thanks to the funds donated by Gresini Racing to the Maggiore hospital in Bologna.

From sim racing to prototype racing to systems capable of improving our healthcare system: it is a world that is increasingly interconnected between virtual and reality.

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