GTC Race 2021 season finale: victory for the Mercedes-AMG GT3
Space Drive Mercedes-AMG GT3 takes title
Space Drive driver Tim Heinemann wins the championship titles in the GTC Race with the #31 Mercedes-AMG GT3 from SpaceDrive Racing and the engineers from Schaeffler Paravan Technologie gain many important insights for the further development of the steer-by-wire system. The development in the environment of the extreme conditions of racing has proven itself and thus lays an important foundation for a high safety standard for future autonomous driving.
It was a close-run thing at the season finale of the GTC Race at the Hockenheimring last weekend. In the end, Tim Heinemann came out on top in his first GT3 season in the #31 Mercedes-AMG GT3, which, like all development vehicles, has no mechanical connection between the steering unit and steering column and is equipped with Space Drive technology from Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co. KG, won the Goodyear 60 and the GT3 classification of the GT Cup, ahead of GT3 youngster Salman Owega. Tim Heinemann was supported this weekend by Patrick Assenheimer.
Through our racing involvement, for example in the GTC Race or also in the DTM, we can optimally map the release process of the developments, from the test bench run, through functional tests and test drives, to participation in the races.
In total, the Space Drive Team was at the start this weekend with five Space Drive technology carriers with very different vehicle concepts and eight development drivers. Among them was the #99 Audi R8 LMS GT3, driven this weekend by Space Drive pioneer Markus Winkelhock and Christer Jöns, who was in his third year with Team Phoenix-Racing this season. Other cars with a mid-engine concept were the #22 Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 with Finn Zulauf, fielded by W&S Motorsport, and the McLaren GT4 570S from Dörr Motorsport with Ben Dörr and Nico Hantke, as well as the Porsche 911 GT3 R with the rear-engine concept, looked after by Team75 Motorsport and driven by Kim Berwanger.
GTC Race Finale in pictures
The use of different vehicle concepts, starting with the front engine of the Mercedes-AMG GT3, is an important part of the Space Drive Team's development programme. "We were able to gain very important insights in the races. Through our racing involvement, for example in the GTC Race or also in the DTM, we can optimally map the release process of the developments, from the test bench run, through functional tests and test drives, to participation in the races," reports Klaus Graf, who as Head of Testing of Schaeffler Paravan and experienced racing professional also sometimes takes the wheel himself during tests. "Above all, due to the variety of vehicle concepts that we use with the Space Drive steering system, we have gained a lot of experience in looking at the steering systems and in transmitting the signals relevant to our system via CAN-BUS, and that without any problems on the steer-by-wire steering system. We were sometimes at the track with up to five technology carriers at the same time."
And the racing successes are also impressive. Last weekend alone, there were three podium finishes in three races. All the cars were not only able to compete in the demanding GT3 and GT4 field, but also take home a number of victories and podiums during the season. The GTC season tally is more than respectable with 5 wins for the #31 Mercedes-AMG GT3 and one for the #22 Porsche Cayman 718 GT4 in the GT4 classification, as well as 13 other podiums in the GT3 field and a total of over 51,000 test and race kilometres driven.
"I'm definitely happy with the season, Overall Champion & Goodyear 60 Champion in the Pro category, I don't think you can do more than that. Not only did we have success, but we also really achieved a lot technically," says Tim Heinemann, for whom it was his first ever GT3 season. Heinemann thus speaks for all development drivers. "On the racetrack, Space Drive feels very good by now, which is also shown by the lap times you can drive, whether at the GTC, on the Nordschleife at the 24h race or at the DTM. You tend to be in the hundredths range," says Markus Winkelhock, Space Drive driver from the very beginning. "It's always important to gather completely different impressions. As far as the GT4 cars are concerned, the system is actually finished. It doesn't restrict any more and now it does compared to the Audi R8 LMS GT3. In no time at all I was on pace," says Christer Jöns, who sits in the McLaren 750 S GT4 in the Space Drive cockpit at GT4 Germany, as well as in the Audi R8 LMS GT3 at two GTC races.
This is already the third season that Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co. KG is developing the steer-by-wire system under extreme conditions. "Racing has always been a development accelerator," says Roland Arnold, CEO of Schaeffler Paravan Technologie GmbH & Co. KG, who initiated the project. The Space Drive System has already had approval from the DMSB for use in racing since 2019, and since 2020 it has been firmly anchored in the regulations of the GTC Race, and since this year also in those of the DTM.
"We would never have achieved the knowledge we have now gained in any other way." After last season, all the cars were equipped with uniform data logging systems, so that a precise comparison of the data is now possible. "This showed that the CAN bus systems of the vehicles are very different," explains Klaus Graf. Through these findings, the functionality of the system, as well as the already high safety standard, could once again be significantly improved. "In the steering development, we were able to significantly increase the performance of the system. With the force feedback unit and thus also with the vehicle set-up, I see the steps as clearly more advanced. Giving the driver the feedback he needs is elementary." This process is about much more than that: it is about laying an important foundation for the control of autonomous driving. Space Drive is the crucial interface between the sensor technology or driving intelligence and the transmission of the signals back to the road.
"The advances in force feedback in particular, combined with the findings at the limit, are extremely important for the development of autonomous driving. "Recording the road condition and determining which vehicle state (understeer/oversteer) the vehicle is in due to the road conditions and transmitting these signals cleanly is an elementary component for automated driving and is relevant to safety. The crucial foundation for this was laid in this project and shows that the concept approach 'From Track to Road' works."