Munich. The virtual racing season continues to gather speed. Race two of the Digital Nürburgring Endurance Series powered by VCO was held on Saturday. BMW works driver Philipp Eng (AUT) finished on the podium in the three-hour race on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (GER). Together with his team-mates Alexander Voß and Laurin Heinrich (both GER), he finished second overall in the #189 BMW Z4 GT3. In doing so, he presented the BS+COMPETITION team with its first podium finish.
Simulator racing is becoming increasingly popular in the current situation. As such, round two of the DNLS powered by VCO, which was broadcast live on the internet, featured a very strong field. Many professional racing drivers from a wide range of racing series took their place on the grid. As well as Eng, they included BMW works drivers Bruno Spengler (CAN), Martin Tomczyk (GER), Jens Klingmann (GER) and Jesse Krohn (FIN), as well as the BMW Junior Team with Neil Verhagen (USA), Dan Harper (GBR) and Max Hesse (GER). In total, BMW teams – including BMW M Customer Racing team, Walkenhorst Motorsport – fielded eight BMW Z4 GT3s.
In sim racing, the drivers each sit at home on their own race simulators. During the virtual driver changeover, the driver hands over the car to his team-mate, who could be sat in a different city, country, or even continent. Apart from the g-force, the physical demands are almost as great as in a real racing car. In the case of a crash, the car must return to the garage for repairs and wait an amount of time appropriate to the damage before it can return to the track. Race control can also impose time penalties.
One of the features of sim racing is that professional racing drivers from real motorsport can compete alongside professional sim racers. The fans can also get involved. They can follow the action live on the internet and various social media channels, such as the BMW Motorsport Facebook channel. The drivers also involve their fans on their social channels. For example, Eng showed himself celebrating at home and spraying champagne on his terrace on Instagram. Thousands of fans around the world were involved on various channels during round two of the DNLS powered by VCO. In addition, all class winners where available for a Q&A in a digital press conference after the race.
In qualifying, Eng landed the #189 BMW Z4 GT3 on third place on the virtual grid. As the start driver, he soon gained a place and the BS+COMPETITION team was running second when he handed over to Voß. The team held onto that position comfortably until Heinrich guided the BMW Z4 GT3 over the finish line after a little more than three hours of racing. Victory went to the Williams Esports team.
The second BMW Z4 GT3 in the overall standings was the #35 Walkenhorst Motorsport car. Mikkel Jensen (DEN), Jody Fannin (GBR) and Christian Krognes (NOR) came home ninth to claim a top-ten finish. BMW works driver Krohn bolstered the VRS Coanda Simsport team. He and his team-mates Martti Pietilä (FIN) and Tommy Ostgaard (NOR) finished 14th overall in the #108 BMW Z4 GT3.
BMW works driver Spengler raced in a characteristically black BMW Z4 GT3 for Team BMW Bank (car number 107). His team-mates were well-known sim racing YouTuber Jimmy Broadbent (GBR) and Nils Koch (GER). The trio started strongly, but was then forced to stop for repairs, during which time they lost ground, and eventually finished 25th. BMW Team Green Hell with Tomczyk, Klingmann and Kay Kaschube (GER) launched an impressive fightback from 16th on the grid, but dropped back through the field after a crash and ultimately had to settle for 27th place. The BMW Junior Team was an innocent party in a crash 20 minutes into the race, which resulted in a long stop for repairs. In the end, Verhagen, Harper and Hesse came home 50th in the #113 BMW Z4 GT3.
Quotes after race two of the DNLS powered by VCO.
Philipp Eng (#189 BMW Z4 GT3, BS+COMPETITION, 2nd place overall, 2nd place SP9): “I am delighted to have finished runner-up and claimed the first podium for the BS+COMPETITION team. It was really good fun and my pulse was racing faster than in a real racing car because I did not have quite the same control as in a real car, partly because I am still lacking a bit of practice. However, the car was great, the set-up was perfect, and the strategy was also spot on. We worked perfectly as a team, which was key to us claiming a spot on the podium.”
Jesse Krohn (#108 BMW Z4 GT3, VRS Coanda Simsport, 14th place overall, 11th place SP9): “It was an eventful race for us. After spinning at the start, we fought back well. It was very nice to line up alongside a Finnish and a Norwegian sim pro. I still have a lot to learn from these guys, as there are some big differences compared to the real Nürburgring Endurance Series. That was my first race and I think that we will definitely improve as we take part in more races. This time, everything was a little bit at short notice. I think we will benefit from having a little more preparation time as a team. Nonetheless, it was great fun and that is a good result, given the issues we had at the start.”
Bruno Spengler (#107 BMW Z4 GT3, Team BMW Bank, 25th place overall, 18th place SP9): “Unfortunately, I struggled with technical issues on my PC in qualifying. That meant I was only able to do one lap, which is obviously not enough on the Nordschleife. In the race, I fought my way into sixth place from 16th on the grid. We had a good car and really good pace. Jimmy Broadbent also performed really strongly as the second driver. Unfortunately, Nils Koch also had a technical fault, which resulted in him being involved in a crash. That is obviously very unlucky, but I think we can definitely learn from this race. This was my first race in the DNLS and I obviously hope that more will follow.”
Martin Tomczyk (#112 BMW Z4 GT3, BMW Team Green Hell, 27th place overall, 20th place SP9): “It was another great event. After the first race, in which everyone was finding their feet a bit, everyone now knows what it is all about. And you could see that from the way the field was even more evenly matched. The start of the race was excellent. I was able to hold my own and make up some positions. Unfortunately, Jens then made light contact with the crash barrier and, after eleven minutes of repairs, we lost a lot of ground. However, it was great fun – and noticeable that you felt as excited as at a real racetrack, and frustrated if you suffered a crash like we did. Although it is only virtual, you still feel incredibly competitive as a racing driver, and go through all the emotions accordingly. I think it is great, and am already looking forward to the next race.”
Jens Klingmann (#112 BMW Z4 GT3, BMW Team Green Hell, 27th place overall, 20th place SP9): “That was our second race in the DNLS, this time as a trio with Martin and Kay. Kay was very helpful to us in the run-up to the event, and assisted us with the set-up. Compared to race one, we took a big step forward, including with regard to our personal performance. As an absolute sim rookie, I am happy with the way I was able to improve my performance and my lap times, even though I was not quite up there with the very top drivers. Martin made a superb start and we were running in the top ten. Unfortunately, I then lost the rear axle a little and was unable to rescue the situation. As such, we had to pull into the pits for repairs, which cost us a lot of time. That is my fault, and I’ll try to do better next time. However, it is great fun, we are competitive, and I am looking forward to the next race. I will continue to practice on the simulator between now and then.”
Max Hesse (#113 BMW Z4 GT3, BMW Junior Team, 50th place overall, 21st place SP9): “The crash in today’s race was unlucky. Neil was almost past the Mercedes, and it looked as though he had pulled off a successful manoeuvre. However, Dominik Baumann then got the blind corner all wrong and there was a crash. Generally speaking, we have taken a massive step in the right direction this week as the BMW Junior Team. We have relatively little experience of sim racing compared to many others, but we are learning a huge amount. We dramatically improved our lap times on the Nordschleife and are getting closer in terms of the set-up. We will stick to it, practice a lot, and continue to improve over the coming weeks.”
Results BMW Z4 GT3 – round two of the DNLS powered by VCO.
2nd place overall / 2nd SP9: #189 BS+COMPETITION (Philipp Eng, Alexander Voß, Laurin Heinrich)
9th place overall / 9th SP9: #35 Walkenhorst Motorsport (Mikkel Jensen, Jody Fannin, Christian Krognes)
14th place overall / 11th SP9: #108 VRS Coanda Simsport (Jesse Krohn, Martti Pietilä, Tommy Ostgaard)
19th place overall / 14th SP9: #118 VRS Coanda Simsport (Marc Basseng, Jörn Schmidt-Staade, Paschalis Gkergis)
24th place overall / 17th SP9: #34 Walkenhorst Motorsport (David Pittard, Sam Michaels, Scott Michaels)
25th place overall / 18th SP9: #107 Team BMW Bank (Bruno Spengler, Jimmy Broadbent, Nils Koch)
27th place overall, 20th SP9: #112 BMW Team Green Hell (Martin Tomczyk, Jens Klingmann, Kay Kaschube)
50th place overall / 21st SP9: #113 BMW Junior Team (Neil Verhagen, Dan Harper, Max Hesse)