24h "Green Hell" successfully passed
Long-term test under extreme conditions in the Green Hell successfully completed
The 48th 24h race at the Nürburgring is in the books and wrote another curious and furious chapter in its history. Under extreme weather conditions, the marathon was interrupted during the night for 9.5 hours. The Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 equipped by Schaeffler Paravan with the Steer-by-Wire system passed the chequered flag in 29th place overall and second in the SP7 class - it convincingly passed the endurance test with the Space Drive System.
"All eyes were on us. We have already used the steer-by-wire system in the past in the GTC Race Series and in the ADAC GT Masters and GT4 Germany and achieved good results. Here we were faced with a completely new challenge," said Roland Arnold, CEO Paravan GmbH, after the race. "The Nordschleife is not considered the most difficult test track in the world for nothing. Those who pass here are equipped for the future. Autonomous driving cannot function without steer-by-wire. Regardless of whether this is about the steering or interior concepts."
What we achieved was an important step for the development of future technologies. I am proud that we were able to accompany this project as a team, as the first racing team in the world to drive such a hard race without a mechanical connection in the steering.
The annual racing highlight was postponed to the weekend of 24-27 September due to the Corona pandemic. An autumnal Eifel invited almost 100 participants to the toughest car race in the world and showed itself from an unpleasant side. Rain and wind set in shortly after the start phase. The rain became heavier and heavier with the early onset of the more than 12-hour long night. Incidents on the track increased and without the fan lighting around the Nordschleife, visibility was very borderline. The decision of the race control to interrupt the race at 22:33 with the red flag was welcomed by the teams and drivers. At 08:00, the field, with only four cars less than at the start, started moving again behind the safety car to then tackle the remaining 7:10 hours of the Nordschleife challenge at around 8:20.
Pictures from the ride through the "Green Hell"
The steer-by-wire system developed by Schaeffler Paravan was used in the #58 Porsche Cayman 718 GT4, supported by W&S Motorsport and manned by Nordschleife routiniers Marvin Dienst (Lampertheim), Niklas Steinhaus (Schwelm), Kai Riemer (Filderstadt) and Tim Scheerbarth (Dormagen).
"What made the race special was above all the technology we used here. We were racing in a class that was clearly superior to us on paper and we were able to prove ourselves with the technology," says W&S team boss Daniel Schellhaas. "What we achieved was an important step for the development of future technologies. I'm proud that we were able to accompany this project as a team, as the first racing team in the world to drive such a tough race without a mechanical connection in the steering."
The special feature of the innovative system is that the steering unit functions without a mechanical connection to the steering gear. The technology has already been successfully used in vehicles for the disabled, tested for 18 years and over 1 billion kilometres - accident-free. Since 2019, various GT vehicles in various sprint racing series have been competing with the steer-by-wire system in real-life conditions. Podiums and even overall victories have been achieved here. In the Porsche Cayman 718 GT4, which is closer to series production, Schaeffler Paravan took the next step and subjected the system to a long-term test under extreme conditions.
Kai Riemer was the first driver to take his place behind the forcefeedback steering wheel at the start on Saturday at 3.30 p.m. to start the race from 57th position on the grid. The tyre poker began as early as on the grid, as the expected rain was already on the horizon. The first hour of the race went without incident and Riemer managed to jump to 37th overall - thus already close to the GT3 field of over 30 race cars.
The Filderstadt driver explained after his stint: "For the first time in the rain. Now you feel that the steering wheel also takes a lot away and it was super to drive. The start was a bit tight because many were very cautious or unsure. Of course, that's not completely safe, but I was able to drive along easily."