Six simracers. Six DTM drivers. Twelve equal RaceRoom simulators. Who will come out on top? Only a few days are left until this question gets answered, as the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport eRacing Competition goes into its final race, and six simracers compete against the six Mercedes-AMG DTM stars on RaceRoom simulators for a 20 minute showdown. The race will take place in Hockenheim on Friday, October 12th, at 18:15 CEST (16:15 GMT) and of course, the race will be streamed live on the Mercedes-Benz Facebook page as well as on YouTube with English commentary.
But this is not the first season of the eRacing Competition. In fact, this is the third time that the real DTM drivers challenge the fastest RaceRoom drivers. It’s time to look back on the history of the competition and the past finals.
With simracing becoming more and more realistic, a question became more and more relevant: How will real racing drivers compare against the fastest virtual drivers? In early 2016, RaceRoom and Mercedes-AMG DTM sat down to create an event to answer this question. An online leaderboard competition was set up to determine the 8 quickest drivers, who were invited to the DTM final in Hockenheim to race on equal RaceRoom simulators against the DTM stars.
In the simracing camp, the Germans were in the majority with 5 simracers, including Julian Kunze who dominated the online leaderboard, but with Cristian Moisescu from Romania, Giorgos Tzanetos from Greece and Cristiano de Sá from Brazil, the grid had an international flair. The DTM drivers maybe even had a bigger task ahead: First to adapt to the simulators – and then directly compete against some of the best simracers in the world.
Tim Heinemann put his car on pole position, but second-placed Julian Kunze was less than a tenth behind him, promising an interesting battle. Andre Santos was third ahead of Alexander Dornieden, while only two DTM drivers managed to break into the simracer phalanx. Felix Rosenqvist and Daniel Juncadella managed to get into the top 10, placing 8th and 9th respectively.
Heinemann won the start, while Kunze was passed by Santos on the first lap. Amongst the DTM drivers, Maximilian Götz and Lucas Auer shot up into the top 10 on the first lap. Heinemann started to gap the field early on, while a bit further back, Cristiano de Sá began his charge, passing Cristian Moisescu for 5th. Midway through the race, Kunze used the DRS to overtake Santos and began closing the gap to the leader Heinemann lap after lap. Meanwhile Dornieden had to look in his rear view mirror as de Sá came closer and closer as the race progressed. In the battle of the DTM drivers, Lucas Auer held the lead for quite some time, but Felix Rosenqvist had the superior pace and got past him. For Paffett, Wickens and Juncadella, the race went worse, as they all ended up in the wall at some point. In the end, Kunze had closed the gap to Heinemann to less than a second, but Heinemann managed to edge him out, taking his first eRacing crown. Kunze was 2nd ahead of Santos, Dornieden and de Sá. Moisescu came home 6th ahead of Tzanetos, while Felix Rosenqvist was the best DTM driver in 8th, ahead of Moritz Löhner and Lucas Auer.
The new year saw the name “eRacing” used for the first time, and a drastic change in the format. In addition to a leaderboard competition, players would compete in multiplayer races online in order to qualify for the event. 6 simracers would make it to the final through this championship, while 6 simracers from Germany would qualify the traditional way of a leaderboard competition, competing for the separate title of the Gamesworld Rookie Champion.
With a full online season with multiplayer races ahead of the final, the drivers were already used to racing with each other, and some rivalries had already shaped up – most notably the one between Jack Keithley and Tim Heinemann, who clashed several times during the online season. Keithley went into the final as the favourite, having scored the most points online. In addition, Julian Kunze and returned from last year, while Jaroslav Honzik, Florian Hasse and Kevin Siggy Rebernak made their debut. In the rookie competition, Löhner, Schön, Matzick, Gemeinhardt, Frühauf and Schönfelder qualified for the event. The DTM drivers were down to six, and with Rosenqvist having moved to other series, it was clear that another DTM driver would take the crown.
In the qualifying session, Heinemann secured pole position once again, ahead of Rebernak and Keithley. Löhner was the best Gamesworld Rookie in 6th, while Wickens was the fastest DTM driver in 9th, outqualifying ahead of no less than 4 simracers. Heinemann won the start and shot into the lead, but Keithley behind was putting in an impressive pace in the race, passing Rebernak for 2nd. Keithley had closed the gap to Heinemann, too, and halfway through the race, on the long backstraight leading up to the hairpin, Heinemann ran into trouble. Heinemann, Rebernak and Keithley went three wide into the hairpin and on the exit, Keithley was spun around. Now, Rebernak found himself in the lead. Florian Hasse found himself in 3rd now, battling with Moritz Löhner. Amongst the DTM drivers, Robert Wickens was leading ahead of Lucas Auer, both well inside the top 10. Löhner passed Hasse for 3rd, while Rebernak and Heinemann traded places and paint a few times. Coming into the final lap, Heinemann was in 2nd, but he used his DRS in order to pass Rebernak and managed to take the victory. Löhner finished in 3rd, as a Gamesworld Rookie on the overall podium, ahead of Honzik, Kunze and Keithley. Markus Schönfelder finished in 8th, while Robert Wickens scored 9th and was the best-placed DTM driver ahead of Lucas Auer. After the stewards reviewed the incident between Heinemann, Rebernak and Keithley, it was deemed as a racing incident and the results stood, meaning that Heinemann took his second eRacing crown.
The challenge for 2018 was even tougher. The simracers followed the history of Mercedes-AMG DTM and progressed through the different eras online, from Klaus Ludwig’s 190E up to Pascal Wehrlein’s C 63 AMG, this time for only five spots in the final. In addition, another spot was decided in a live event at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. Which simracers have made it this year, and how are the chances of the DTM drivers this year? You will find out in the next article on Wednesday.