GTC Race season opener 2021 - Three races, three victories
At the season opener of the GTC Race in Oschersleben, Saxony-Anhalt, the steer-by-wire technology carriers, which manage entirely without a mechanical connection between the steering unit and the steering gear, made an impressive comeback and were able to take victories in all rounds of the Goodyear 60 and the two races of the GTC Race. Now in its third season, Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co. KG is testing the Space Drive steer-by-wire technology under the extreme conditions of racing. The GTC Race is an important building block on the way to the series development of Space Drive 3.
The Audi R8 LMS GT3 #99, in cooperation with Phoenix Racing and driven by regular driver Markus Winkelhock and Carrie Schreiner, has already been in action since 2019. The second test season started with the Space Drive Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 #31, with Tim Heinemann and Patrick Assenheimer in the Space Drive cockpit, the Porsche 911 GT3 R #76 started with Kim Berwanger and Jannes Fittje, supported by KÜS Team Bernhard. The #22 Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 was piloted by junior drivers Finn Zulauf and Sandro Ritz and entered by W&S Motorsport. An important part of the development programme of the Space Drive System is the brand diversity and the different vehicle concepts in order to generate diverse resilient data for development, for large-scale production, from the race track back to the road.
We have gained and implemented a lot of knowledge in an extremely short time. In the meantime, we are testing three different vehicle concepts, with a front, middle and rear engine, to get a comprehensive picture of the steering behaviour of the vehicles. Now we have to transform the knowledge gained into Space Drive 3 and bring it into series production and onto the road.
"In the GTC Race, we are pursuing a very diversified development approach, and this is now in its third year. It all started here in 2019 with the Audi R8 LMS and Markus Winkelhock. If I compare the drivers' statements with back then, we have achieved a lot in this time. It was the right thing to take the Space Drive development to the race track," says Roland Arnold, CEO of Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co.KG, who developed the technology from disabled mobility. "We have gained and implemented a great deal of knowledge in an extremely short time. In the meantime, we are testing here with three different vehicle concepts, with a front, middle and rear motor, in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the steering behaviour of the vehicles. Now we have to transform the knowledge gained into Space Drive 3 and bring it into series production or onto the road."
Tim Heineman in the dominant Mercedes-AMG GT3 #31 took pole position for the opening race of the Goodyear 60 over one hour of racing. Patrick Assenheimer, who took over from Tim Heinemann after the compulsory pit stop, did not allow himself to be challenged for the position until the end. Carrie Schreiner started from position two in the #99 Audi R8 LMS and handed over to Markus Winkelhock, who, however, dropped back to sixth after a 30-second time penalty in the safety car phase. The Porsche 911 GT3 R crossed the finish line in 4th place. The two young drivers on the #22 Porsche GT4, Finn Zulauf and Sandro Ritz, for whom it was their first race, finished in 10th place.
On Sunday, the two sprint races in the GTC Race were on the agenda. In the first race, Tim Heinemann took a commanding start-finish victory with the Mercedes-AMG GT3. Kim Berwanger in the #76 Porsche finished fourth, Finn Zulauf in the #22 in tenth place. In the second race, the Space Drive Mercedes-AMG maintained its position at the front and - this time driven by Patrick Assenheimer - took a start-finish victory. The Porsche 911 GT3 R, which started from fourth place, was able to move up to second place with Jannes Fittje. Space Drive veteran Markus Winkelhock completed the Space Drive podium after a botched start. Sandro Ritz, a young driver in the GT4 support squad of the GTC Race, finished 14th overall in the Porsche GT4.
"I think it's a bit different to drive with electronic steering. You have to get used to it and remember that it's not just the speed that counts, but also the feedback. That's why I tried to drive constant laps so that the data can be compared," reports Tim Heinemann, who sat in the car for a race for the first time after a short test in spring 2020 and actually comes from sim racing. "The steering has improved a lot. There is a lot of progress compared to last year," says Carrie Schreiner. "Especially the precision in the light steering movements and in zero position, the team has made another important step forward there," adds Kim Berwanger in the Porsche.
"Personally, I don't drive quite as aggressively with the steering anymore," says Markus Winkelhock, who is now piloting the Audi LMS in its third season. "A development goal clearly has to be that you get ideal feedback for the slow range," notes Patrick Assenheimer. "The steering is more flexible because it can be adjusted depending on the feedback. You can't do that with a normal steering system. The more you can influence a car, that can be an advantage, but clearly also a disadvantage. You have to make the right statements to make it a better step," says Jannes Fittje, development driver in the Space Drive second season.