Racing simulators from the big racing teams are usually shrouded in secrecy as they have the potential to reveal some competitive advantages.
This means the photo of Porsche’s racing simulator is a rare glimpse into what professional racing drivers get to train in.
Resembling a giant spider with black, hydraulic legs, the three-meter-high structure rests on a 19-ton steel plate. The system fills the large, windowless room and maximum immersion is achieved thanks to a massive 180 projector that consumes the driver’s view.
To enable drivers to optimise their driving for each circuit, a driver will spend hundreds of hours in the simulator. Given the on-track time is fairly limited, being able to simulate almost every aspect of the car components, track and weather conditions mean the team can chase the best vehicle setup ahead of each round.
In the background of the shot, we see the massive server racks that house the compute and networking infrastructure to drive the experience. On the roof, we see a projector array of no less than 5 individual units to create a seamless, immersive display.
Porsche factory driver, Neel Jani climbs up and into the cockpit of the simulator into the monocoque of the new Porsche 99X Electric. Jani holds a genuine 99X Electric steering wheel in his hands, each button exactly mapped to the same functions as in the actual sports car.
In the control room behind, Porsche engineers are seated in front of their computers, observing him through safety glass. The profiles fed into the simulator are highly precise, based on scans that are accurate to the millimeter. The training session provides detailed track knowledge while enabling basic setup for individual race cars and routes.
With Formula E there’s an additional parameter being tested in the simulator, the best software programs for efficient energy management. As much electrical energy as possible must be available at every second. In qualifying mode, Jani has a maximum of 250 kW at his disposal. Given passing is difficult, a good starting position is important on the often narrow city circuits, so much emphasis is placed on the initial launch.
We simulate every program so that we can make the right decisions during the race.Neel Jani
The standard battery, which is fully charged at the start, has a capacity of 52 kW. During the race, it’s continuously recharged by recuperation during braking. This energy recovery takes place automatically via the electric motor on the rear axle: when the driver steps on the brake, a brake-by-wire system regulates whether or to what extent the hydraulic brake engages and when the electric motor on the rear axle decelerates in order to convert kinetic energy into electrical energy.
The software developers work out a variety of operating programs to prepare for them. Economical driving, like when a driver gets stuck behind a competitor, or at the other extreme, for maximum boost in Attack Mode, when an extra 35 kW are permitted 2 to 3 times per race. Those 4 minutes can be make or break for overtakes and for influencing the final race result. These programs are among the best-kept secrets of the teams.
In this test, Jani spends 4 hours racing around the French street circuit, where the ninth E-Prix of the sixth Formula E season will take place on April 18, 2020.