Test on the simulator: emil frey racing lamborghini

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On the move like the champions

The Emil Frey Racing Team is fighting for victory at the 24-hour race in Spa at the weekend. We tested his car in the simulator.

Concentrated power: In this Lamborghini, the Swiss want to land a prestige success in Spa.

I'm sitting in a Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO, a thoroughbred racing car.

Strapped into the tight bucket seat, I roll out of the pit lane and hit the gas. Ten cylinders with around 500 hp scream at me. Blue lights flash on the steering wheel to show it's time to shift into the next gear. A pull on the rocker behind the steering wheel and the car accelerates further. The right turn appears in front of me; you should actually drive them in third gear. I hit the brakes too late, steer too hard – the car spins and ends up in the gravel bed. "Braking and steering at the same time, that can quickly get in the eye," race engineer Marco Schupbach calls out to me while he parks the Italian racer safely back in the pit lane with a click of the mouse. Even if the less than elegant take-off felt deceptively real: I'm actually sitting in the middle of Aargau, in the racing simulator at the Emil Frey Racing Team headquarters in Safenwil. Around 30 people are working here to prepare three Lamborghini racing cars for the ten races of the GT World Challenge Europe. In the series, which is held on Europe's major racetracks, professional teams fight for fractions of a second. At the start are cars from Audi, Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG and Lamborghini. The technical basis therefore comes from a large factory – the effort to send such a car competitively into the race is still gigantic for the private teams. In Safenwil, the racing cars are dismantled to a large extent before and after each use, checked and prepared and tuned for the next race. The atmosphere in the large hall is more like that in a hospital than in a car garage. Each racing car is in its designated place, which is meticulously worked on. In addition, the team has everything it needs for professional race preparation here. From a test stand for the shock absorbers to a practice area for pit stops to a gearbox workshop. But not only the cars, but also the racing drivers have to prepare for each race. That is why a state-of-the-art racing simulator was installed in Safenwil.

Test on the simulator: Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini-frey

Between reality and the virtual world: In the simulator, too, you sit in a real cockpit.

Simulator can be converted into a Formula 1 cockpit

"I need the simulator above all to recall the route in question," says Ricardo Feller. The 21-year-old from Aargau is one of the young talents in Swiss racing. He started karting in 2011 and has been driving in several GT series since 2017. "Even in a very good simulator like the one we have here, driving is significantly different than in a real racing car," says Feller. The heart of the simulator is a life-size front end on hydraulic cylinders. "The cockpit was deliberately chosen to be brand-neutral, because we can't just simulate our racing Lamborghinis here," explains racing and simulator engineer Schupbach. In addition, the simulator can even be converted into a formula racing car. Because the facility in Safenwil is not only available to the racing team, but can also be rented by customers. As an event or as a training and education opportunity for racing drivers. Virtual racetrack driving is also complex – the laps are always monitored and coordinated by a race engineer. Nevertheless, driving in the simulator is significantly cheaper and more environmentally friendly than real test kilometers. In addition, the time on the race tracks is often very short, while the racers can take their time in the simulator. The steering wheel in the simulator is identical to that in the racing car. Only you are not looking at a real race track, but at a large, curved screen that covers the entire field of vision. A realistic engine sound comes into the cockpit via loudspeakers – and the G-forces of acceleration, braking and cornering are imitated via the hydraulics under the cockpit. "However, it is significantly less powerful than in a real racing car," says Ricardo Feller. However, the force required on the steering wheel is very similar to that in a racing car. It's surprisingly high and has nothing to do with the comfortable, heavily assisted power steering in a road car. The racing car has to be gripped powerfully in order to steer the wide slick tires. On the other hand, the steering offers the driver better feedback, so that he can estimate exactly how much grip the tires have. In the simulator, this is simulated using an electric motor behind the steering wheel. A lot of force is also required when braking, here there is significantly less support in the racing car than in a normal road car. For optimal deceleration, the brake pedal must be depressed with at least 80 kilograms. In addition, you brake with your left foot – this saves valuable time. “The brake pedal gives the driver no feedback in the simulator. That's still missing," comments Feller. Because in the racing car, the driver can also feel how much grip the wheels still have by pressing the brake pedal. This is crucial when it comes to hundredths of a second. Even if the simulator cannot reproduce reality completely true to the original – the virtual laps are always an impressive demonstration. Even on the straights it takes a lot more concentration than I'm used to from normal road traffic; the racing car is more nervous and wants to be held tight. At the same time, I have to remember the route so that I hit the braking points. If you brake too early, you lose a lot of time. If you miss the braking point, you quickly end the race in the gravel bed. “The brakes in a racing car are very different from those in a road car. It endures many rounds without tiring. But the biggest difference is the aerodynamics,” says Feller. The large spoilers push the car onto the track with the wind. As a result, the car is slower on the straights because the air resistance increases, but corners can be negotiated much more quickly. “I had to get used to that on my first laps in a GT racing car. You have to hit the right speed very precisely. If you take a corner too slowly, the spoilers don't generate enough contact pressure and you slide off the track."

Test on the simulator: Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini-simulator

Between reality and the virtual world: In the simulator, too, you sit in a real cockpit.

Where seconds become worlds

Everything has to be right for even a single fast lap. Even on the simulator, this is not only physically but also mentally demanding. After a morning of practice, I manage a reasonably clean lap – which Ricardo Feller immediately beats by several seconds. Whereby in motor racing, a second already corresponds to a small eternity. And that despite the fact that the set-up of the car has been changed significantly. “We have programmed a defused variant so that even amateurs can handle the car. For the professional, however, this is more of an obstacle,” explains racing engineer Schupbach. Three drivers will share a car at this weekend's 24-hour race in Spa, Belgium. They drive for up to three hours at a time – and cover more than 500 laps in the race. That's more than 3500 kilometers. Fractions of a second, which can also be saved in each lap by training on the simulator, ultimately add up to minutes here – and can make the difference between victory and defeat. The team from Safenwil was able to bring home a win from the first five races of the season. The long-distance race in Belgium is considered the highlight of the season and coincidentally takes place on the national holiday in 2021. An additional incentive for the Swiss team to take home as many points as possible.

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