• Redline drivers Wallmeier and Vecchio on their victory at the inaugural round of the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series powered by VCO.
  • Vecchio: “The Nordschleife is the biggest challenge there is on iRacing”.
  • Wallmeier: “The more you drive, the faster you get”.

Munich – Victory in the inaugural race of the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series powered by VCO went to Jonas Wallmeier and Gianni Vecchio of Team Redline in their Ferrari 488 GT3. Speaking in an interview with VCO, the Esports racing duo discuss the thrilling final stages of that race, the key to the win, and their sim racing careers. They also assess the current boom in virtual motor racing and reveal the tips they gave Max Verstappen.

Once again, congratulations on your win at the start of the virtual Nürburgring season. How did you enjoy the first race of the DNLS powered by VCO?

Jonas Wallmeier: Thank you very much. It was an intense race and was exciting right down to the finish. In the end, we obviously benefitted from the crash involving Alex Arana and Augustin Canapino, and I felt very sorry for them both. When you are leading the race with just half an hour remaining, and then miss out, it is obviously very disappointing. Despite that, we were obviously delighted with the win.

Did you think that kind of result was possible?

Gianni Vecchio: We knew that we could compete at the front of the field. Jonas is an absolute expert on the Nordschleife. He knows every corner like the back of his hand, and what is important – I also feel at home on this circuit. As such, we came into the race with the belief that we had a good chance. At Team Redline, our goal is always to be in contention. However, we were obviously also aware that the opposition would be very strong. That proved to be the case out on the track.

Jonas, you could only watch the closing stages, whilst Gianni was behind the wheel. How nerve-racking is a finish like that?

Wallmeier: Funnily enough, I did not actually see the all-important crash involving the leaders. I only switched Teamspeak back on ten minutes later and was rather surprised to see that we were suddenly leading the race. That obviously made the closing stages all the more exciting for me. As a spectator, you cannot do anything and have no control over the situation, however, I know that I can rely on Gianni in that kind of situation.

After a race like that, do you have a debriefing to analyse everything?

Vecchio: There is not a classic debriefing, like you get in real motorsport. However, we obviously evaluate the data after the race and analyse what we could do better next time. That mainly relates to the set-up. We believe we have room for improvement in this regard, looking ahead to future races. We feel that we lost a little too much time in the final third of the circuit. We can do better here next time.

Do you make the set-up changes yourselves, or do you receive support?

Vecchio: In principle, we have taught ourselves how to correctly analyse the telemetry data and can also adapt the set-up accordingly. However, Team Redline also has engineers who can help us. For example, Atze Kerhof, who also coaches a lot of racing drivers on the real motor racing scene. It obviously helps to be able to call on advice and receive tips from experts like him.

In your opinion, what was the key to victory – besides the crash involving the MAHLE RACING TEAM? 

Wallmeier: I think our tyre strategy paid dividends. Prior to the race, we had tested how the tyres behave when driven for a long time. Like the MAHLE RACING TEAM, we decided to do two hours on the same tyres. That meant we did not lose any time to Alex and Augustin, and were able to stay in touch with them.

Vecchio: The fact that we were able to keep putting the leaders under pressure was definitely very important and paid off in the end. They knew they could not afford to make a mistake. At some point, your mind starts to believe that if you – as we did – can keep the pressure on, right through to the finish, you can force that kind of mistake from your opponents.

In real motor racing, the Nordschleife is regarded as the ultimate challenge. Is that also the case in Esports racing?

Vecchio: The Nordschleife is the biggest challenge there is on iRacing. The sheer number of corners and length of the circuit mean it requires an incredible amount of practice. It takes a very long time to get up to speed. At the same time, you simply cannot afford to make any mistakes. The Bathurst circuit is, to a certain degree, comparable with the Nordschleife. There too, the layout is very demanding and both sides of the track are lined by a wall, which does not forgive any mistakes.

Generally speaking, how would you sum up the opening round of the DNLS powered by VCO?

Wallmeier: Given it was the first race of this kind, it was really good. The whole organisation, the briefing and the invitation – it was really professional. The standard of the field was also high, and the way the other drivers behaved on the track was exemplary.

Vecchio: I would give it ten out of ten. I have been wanting an event like this for a very long time. I also liked the support programme in the livestream and can only hope that we will see many more of these events in the future. When I see the articles and comments on the Internet, I have to say that the race was really well received by the fans. I not only believe that an event like this is very beneficial for sim racing, but also that the NLS can really benefit from it too.

What do you make of the boom that Esports racing is currently experiencing?

Wallmeier: The current boom is obviously partly down to the coronavirus crisis. At the same time, I think that many motorsport fans are discovering sim racing at the moment, and that people are seeing it in a different way, which will continue after the coronavirus crisis. There are likely to be one or two people who are currently enjoying what they are seeing, and who fancy giving sim racing a go themselves.

Vecchio: The reason for sim racing enjoying so much focus at the moment is obviously a very serious and sad one. Despite that, I believe that sim racing can continue to benefit from the current attention, even beyond the coronavirus crisis. For example, when you look at the USA, where a NASCAR race on iRacing is being shown on TV station Fox, it shows the importance of virtual motor racing and how open people are to this form of motorsport. However, the public are not the only ones enjoying it so much at the moment – so are many other drivers from real motorsport. António Félix da Costa, Mike Rockenfeller, Dani Juncadella and Bruno Spengler – they and many other well-known drivers are very open-minded. And Max Verstappen has always been a big fan of sim racing.

Do you believe that virtual motor racing will continue to be seen differently after the coronavirus crisis?

Vecchio: Interest will obviously decline a little when real racing resumes. At the same time, however, I am sure that sim racing will continue to grow in importance in the future. Even before the crisis, big manufacturers like Porsche and BMW were already very actively involved in sim racing. The Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup features a prize purse of 200,000 dollars. That kind of amount would have been unimaginable just one year ago. I believe this trend will continue in the future, and we will soon see even more manufacturers involved in sim racing. I also think that the series will benefit greatly from it, if they are more open to this area of the sport.

Many big names from real motorsport are involved in the DNLS powered by VCO. How is it for you to compete against such well-known drivers? 

Wallmeier: It is obviously really cool. You know all the big names from real motorsport, whether it be the DTM or other series. To race against them, and go head to head with them, is very special and a great opportunity.

Max Verstappen is probably the biggest star in your Team Redline. Do you give the real motor racing pros any tips?

Vecchio: That is quite common. It is mutual. We give them advice on sim racing, and they help us with their experience from real motorsport. We complement each other within the team and strive to become quicker together. Max Verstappen, in particular, is very active and has taken on a role of manager in Team Redline. He always tries to support us when he can. The same goes for António Félix da Costa.

Wallmeier: In the case of Max Verstappen, he is just extremely quick – in my eyes, the fastest driver in real motorsport. We often have a really good chat, especially with him, when we train together in the evening. He always wants to get faster and is not afraid to ask which gear is best for a certain corner, or what radius is optimal. However, he obviously also helps us massively with his experience and know-how from real motorsport. Ultimately, we complement each other very nicely within the Redline team.

What advice would you give a professional from the world of real motorsport who is serious about competing in Esports racing?

Wallmeier: I think it is important, at first, to have the necessary patience and invest a lot of time. In sim racing – as with real motorsport – experience is very important. The more you drive, the faster you get.

How much time per week do you invest in Esports racing?

Wallmeier: It is hard to give a general figure. It always depends on what event is coming up next. For example, when the Esports Porsche Supercup starts in May, I think that I will probably spend two or three hours per day practicing in the two weeks leading up to it. It is not just about getting to know the circuit better, but also finding the right set-up for the race.

The DNLS powered by VCO race calendar

21st MarchRound 1
4th AprilRound 2
18th AprilRound 3
2nd MayRound 4
30th MayRound 5
13th JuneRound 6
15th AugustRound 7
17th OctoberRound 8
14th NovemberRound 9

About VCO

Virtual Competition Organisation (VCO) brings together different stakeholders in Esports, from simulation or gaming platforms and interested partners to active teams, drivers and the community. In a rapidly growing sector, VCO stands for professionalism, focus and a broad media presence. With its international network, VCO provides solutions for the best possible conception and implementation of Esports projects of all kinds.

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