Munich. Team BMW Bank won the title in the inaugural season of the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series powered by VCO this week. In the virtual BMW Z4 GT3, fourth place in the season finale at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife was enough for the driver trio of BMW works driver Bruno Spengler (CAN) and the two sim racers of BS+COMPETITION, Nils Koch and Kay Kaschube (both GER), to claim the title. We introduce the three drivers and their relationship with sim racing in brief interviews.
Bruno, you have won two sim racing titles this year: first the IMSA iRacing Pro Series and now the DNLS. How important are these titles to you as a DTM champion in real-world racing?
Bruno Spengler: “The titles are incredibly important to me. I only started to get serious about sim racing at the end of 2019, so winning two titles in the first year is great. The IMSA title was really important to me because I competed in the same series and against the same drivers as in the real world. The competition was very tough, and I was over the moon with my victory. And the same is now true of the DNLS title with Team BMW Bank. I had a lot of fun with Nils and Kay, and learned so much from them. We’re a fantastic team and I’d like to thank them for their outstanding performances that made this title win possible. All in all it’s been an amazing season.”
What advantages does sim racing give you for your real-world race appearances?
Spengler: “First and foremost, it helps me focus better. In a real racing car, as a driver you feel all kinds of movements that make it easier for you to stay focused. You don’t get that in the simulator, which is why it is much more difficult to stay perfectly focused for the full duration of a stint, so sim racing is great practice for real-world races. In addition, this year I was also able to get to know all the tracks in North America in the IMSA iRacing Pro Series before driving there for the first time in the real world. It’s not the same as in a real racing car but it still gives you a good feel for the tracks, particularly at the start in the practice sessions.”
Speaking of the IMSA: After winning the DNLS title, you’re back in the USA for the next IMSA race this weekend. But what are your sim racing plans for the winter?
Spengler: “I am indeed still heavily involved in real-world racing at the moment. I hardly had any time to practise for the DNLS season finale because I was constantly on the go due to my IMSA races in the USA. I still have two races with BMW Team RLL and the BMW M8 GTE in November. Then as of the end of November I will have more time for sim racing again. I need to take time to discuss what exactly I will be doing and which race series I will enter with Nils, Kay and my other team-mates at BS+COMPETITION. But one thing is certain, I will be racing as much as I can, because I enjoy it.”
Nils, how did you get into sim racing?
Nils Koch: “It all started when I was ten. I come from near the Hockenheimring, love motorsport and wanted to get involved at some point. Then eventually I graduated from standard games consoles to rFactor, where I first got to know Kay and some of the other members of what is now the BS+COMPETITION team. Then later on I switched to iRacing. Ultimately, sim racing was what enabled me to get into motorsport easily and at a relatively low cost.”
But you also race in real-world races, don’t you?
Koch: “That’s right. I started out in karting as is the usual path and have even contested real-world races at the Nürburgring in BMW cars. If it weren’t for the pandemic, I would even have entered the Nürburgring Endurance Series last weekend. So, I’m still involved, and I definitely plan to race in real-world races as well as digital races next season.”
How much time do you invest in sim racing?
Koch: “It varies. While I was at school, I had the most time to practise. Then it got a little bit more difficult during my time at university and particularly now that I’m working. These days I mainly practise in the evenings. While other people are sat on the sofa watching TV, I’m sat in my simulator. But I have other interests outside sim racing. Ultimately, it should still be fun and not become a chore.”
Kay, the first question for you is also about your sim racing career.
Kay Kaschube: “I’m a few years older and started playing racing games on the C64 in the 90s. It was only much later that online racing emerged with rFactor. Suddenly you were no longer racing against the computer, but against real people. At that time I was also still competing in real-world motorboat races like my father, and was only involved in sim racing on the side. After things came to an end with motorboat racing at the end of 2014, I missed the competition. I looked for a replacement and found it on iRacing. I soon got to know some of my now team-mates and we had a lot of fun and learned a great deal.”
What can a professional racing driver like Bruno Spengler learn from you in sim racing?
Kaschube: “Mainly it is compensating as much as possible for the factors that he is used to from real-world racing and doesn’t have in the simulator. Above all, that means that I can help him set up his hardware and software in such a way that he feels just as at home in the simulator as in a real racing car. It goes without saying that Bruno and his BMW works driver colleagues that we worked with in the IMSA iRacing Pro Series are fast at driving cars. But for all of them, transferring that speed to the simulator was the biggest problem that we were able to help them with, using our sim racing experience. Generally, I was very impressed with how open to our advice the BMW works drivers were, and how seriously they practised for their race appearances. That was as true of Bruno as it was of Connor De Phillippi, John Edwards, Jesse Krohn and Nick Catsburg, all of whom were involved in the virtual IMSA series.”
How has sim racing changed this year in view of the pandemic?
Kaschube: “Sim racing has made some very positive changes. There was already movement on the scene before, but ultimately we remained a relatively small, exclusive community. Through all the events this year, manufacturers and pro racing drivers getting involved and, last but not least, the totally new professional structures of VCO, there has been a great deal of movement. I feel that we have reached a new level. And I think that the teams have understood this as well, and are pulling together much more than before. Ultimately, we all have the same goal of establishing sim racing in the Esports sphere and making it even more popular.”