Oliver Schwab, Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup Manager, discusses the benefits of virtual racing and tips on getting through the lockdown
With the Porsche Supercup taking to the virtual stage for the foreseeable future, we spoke to the event’s Project Manager, Oliver Schwab, to learn more about simulation (sim) racing, the relationship between esports and real-life racing, as well as what goes on in the minds of those behind this thrilling new racing format.
Hi Oliver! Could you please introduce yourself, and provide an overview of your role as manager of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup?
I’m responsible for everything related to the championship, recruiting teams and drivers, putting together all the racing events and organisation team and look after the overall show. Now we are facing difficult times and it is not clear when the racing season can start so we said what can we do instead to support our teams, drivers and business partners to give them something to do and communicate about. What you see in the virtual edition is the same teams, the same drivers and cars with the same livery as we have in real races.
What has been your career in motorsport, and how has it led you to your current role at Porsche?
I started at Porsche more than 10 years ago when I was working At Porsche China in Shanghai, and soon after, I was responsible for the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, one of our international Porsche one-make cups. Then at the end of 2014, I had the opportunity to become the project manager of the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, the spearhead of our international one-make series, and moved back to Germany.
Could you please provide an overview of how the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup Virtual Edition will run?
The idea behind the virtual edition is to run it exactly as the real racing series. We take the sporting regulations of the real championship; the layout, the teams, the drivers and partners and replicate that in the virtual world. We took this as a package and then went to our colleagues who had already organised Porsche E Sport’s Supercup in the past and aligned with them.
What has the response been from the drivers around the virtual edition?
We are incredibly happy that the response from the teams, drivers and also our partners has been incredibly successful. Everybody is happy to be working on such a great activity because it is something meaningful that we can do whilst motivating everybody and creating a positive spirit.
And how about the reception from the spectators and fans?
I am very interested already on the new community we will create with this, because what you are seeing unfold here is the real racing community coming together with the new racing community, including lots of fans and spectators. Bringing both of these together will create something really amazing.
Have you been involved in any “simulation (sim) racing” championships before?
It’s very exciting as what fascinates me so much coming from the real racing world is to see how professional everything is in the E-racing world. I am learning new things every day and so too are our teams and drivers of the real racing world. They are also highly appreciative of this opportunity because now they can learn all the basics in the E-racing world whilst they can’t physically race.
What’s the set-up for each participant in the race? Is it a full simulator?
The infrastructure of the drivers is very individual but the main requirements are having a proper steering wheel, pedals and racing seat. In terms of the platform we are co-operating with I-Racing. Additionally, we are cooperating with the Virtual Racing School, which supports our drivers from step one to make sure they can familiarise themselves in the virtual world.
Do you think there will be some unlikely benefits to come out of running the tournament virtually? Such as increased access for fans or better viewing angles?
I think there will be plenty of positives to come out of the merging of these two worlds. On the one hand, it will be obvious to see for our teams and drivers that it is very easy to get involved in the world of E-racing. It’s a very approachable world; there are lots of fans, spectators and very successful people in this world already. It gives them quite an easy entry. On the other hand, I think for the E-racing world it’s also helping to give more credibility to the fans of traditional motorsport. I have my hopes that this is going to be a win-win situation for all involved.
What do you think will be the biggest challenges of running the races virtually?
The biggest challenge for the drivers is lack of experience. They have little understanding of the behaviour of the car in the virtual world. Obviously, there will be a bit of difference. On our starting grid, you will see that we have a range from very experienced racers such as Ayhancan Güven, Larry ten Voorde and Jaxon Evans, to drivers who have never sat in a sim before, and for the latter group to build up the speed and experience will be a big challenge.
The key aspect of this for us is wanting the real digital twin of the championship. This means that we have it running identically to the real world, so that the presentation of the championship still works as a whole.
How have you been dealing with the lockdown in other aspects of your life? How have you been staying connected with your friends, family etc?
At the moment everything is running virtually. When it comes to the office obviously we do a lot of video conferences as much as possible and everything is done remotely. They key aspect is to have a good connection and to have the proper applications to stay in touch with your colleagues as well as your friends and family.
We focus on what we can shape and what we can work on at the moment. That keeps us busy and that’s also the reason why we created the virtual edition of the Porsche Supercup - to keep business running as much as possible and to give everyone a positive spirit and a good project to focus on.
Do you have any top tips for keeping happy and motivated during the lockdown?
Focus on doing what you love and have a passion for. Try also to make the best of the situation. I think rather than focus on things you can’t do, focus on something you can shape and work on yourself. That is the kind of spirit and motivation I have.
What is the mood like amongst the motorsport community around the lockdown?
Well I can see that everybody is motivated to be part of this project now and they can focus on what they do best: to be successful in motor racing. The race drivers and the race partners of the drivers are all very happy and eager to shine in their area of passion.
How do you imagine the relationship between sim-racing and real life racing will co-exist after this crisis? Do you think the pandemic may put esports further into the mainstream?
From this increased focus on the world of E-racing I am sure we will have more participants, drivers and teams that will get involved, along with more companies looking to sponsor. But now, with the focus being so clearly directed at the E-racing world, I think it gives everybody a chance to say how can I benefit from it and what can I get out of it. So it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the relationship between sim-racing and real life racing.
Be sure to tune into the next race, which looks to be held at a virtual version of the Silverstone circuit in Great Britain. You can follow the events on YouTube, twitch, and official Porsche channels.
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