With the lack of actual races, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has started a new venture: virtual motorsport and the IMSA iRacing Pro Series. One man has been taking the charge in this championship, none other than Bruno Spengler, driving a bright red Motul-coloured BMW M8 GTE. We caught up (virtually) with the Canadian at his home in France.
Bruno, how have you been holding up during this period of confinement? France has one of the strictest regulations in Europe.
Yes, we’re at home minding our own business. We can’t go out but we’re all doing fine. I just wrapped up a live broadcast training session by Formula Medicine along with some of my teammates. So, we’re doing our best to stay sharp.
Tell me a bit more about this training? What is Formula Medicine?
Formula Medicine is a partner of ours and they keep us in shape. Their physios have developed a specific training schedule for us race drivers. They have organised specific training schedules to keep us sharp during this period of containment.
Is it correct to say that physical shape is the most underestimated part of being a race driver?
I think so. Often people think that we just sit down and drive but it’s so much more than that. First of all, the temperature in the car can rise up to more than 60°C. There is a serious amount of G-forces that our body gets to sustain and, on top of that, we have to have quick reflexes and stay focussed for hours on end. The brain is a muscle and it also needs training.
Speaking of training, we know young guns like Lando Norris and Max Verstappen are known to spend a lot of time sim-racing but you surprised us all by not only being an avid sim-racer but also winning the first races in the IMSA iRacing Championship.
[laughs] It’s true, guys like Lando and Max are not only great in a car but also behind a sim. But like you said they really grew up with this. I only started out with sim-racing in January and I really fell in love with it. I’m really enjoying it. At that point who knew it would prove this useful in the months to come? I’ve been racing my entire life and I was really impressed with how realistic iRacing is and how easy I can use my real-world experience in a virtual world.
You’ve been racing an M8 GTE in both real life and on the simulator. How realistic is the car in the simulation?
I’m really surprised with how the car handled. It’s almost identical to how my car handles. There must be a great collaboration between the developers at iRacing and BMW. It’s really impressive. Although I don’t have a motion simulator, I get a lot of feedback through the force feedback steering wheel and it really handles like the M8 GTE does. The M8 has very complex handling and iRacing has managed to capture this quite well.
Is it hard to get into a realistic mindset with the consequences of risks obviously being far lower?
I treat it like any other race. If you take it as seriously as we do the race runs really similar to an actual race. On top of that it’s also great to see IMSA TV and LeMans radio doing a broadcast and commentating in these virtual events as well.