From the real tracks to virtual ones with the Blancpain GT3

From the real tracks to virtual ones with the Blancpain GT3 01

What does it take to be a racing driver? Hunger for adrenaline, nerves of steel, determination. But also a team behind you and, obviously, a super car as your co-star in the endeavour. All true, though not all of these are essential: today you can experiment with high speed competition with extremely realistic simulations and become a very capable driver without ever actually driving a racing car.

Virtual driving is becoming an increasingly tangible reality, so much so that it has even found a space on actual racetracks: a championship of the computer game Assetto Corsa Competizione will take place during the Blancpain, with the exact same tracks reproduced in simulations. In the same places where road cars of the sporting variety are transformed into racing GTs, in real life even before they made their way into fiction.

From the real tracks to virtual ones with the Blancpain GT3 02

The launch of the SRO E-sport GT series virtual championship
It wasn't only the Blancpain GT Series cars who were lined up waiting for the green flag at the Monza racetrack on the weekend of the 13-14 April. Without moving an inch yet experiencing very similar driving sensations, lots of sim racers competed in ultra modern simulators just a few metres from the track in the virtual Monza of the Assetto Corsa Competizione. In selected Blancpain stages, the SRO E-sport GT Series has begun to take shape: a parallel competition of simulated driving with Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official computer game of the Blancpain GT Series.

Participants in the virtual championship are divided into three categories: the AMs, who can attempt to qualify directly on-site; the Silvers, who already own the Assetto Corsa Competizione so have the opportunity to qualify online; and the Pros, who are professionals from the virtual driving world invited directly by the organisers.

After its debut at Monza, multi-player simulation races will also be held at the stages at Paul Ricard, Spa and Nürburgring. Whoever makes it to the podium for one of these competitions will go to the final in Barcelona, where the three best sim racers - who can come from any of the three categories - will be rewarded with a training experience with the Lamborghini Squadra Corse.

From the real tracks to virtual ones with the Blancpain GT3 03

The new game Assetto Corsa Competizione 
Assetto Corsa Competizione is the new version of Assetto Corsa, already considered one of the most highly acclaimed racing games out there for its handling, realistic driving experience and the accuracy of the circuits. Developed by Kunos Simulazioni, an Italian software house that specialises in driving simulations, the new version features some stunning improvements, as the winner of the Monza stage, the professional sim driver Kamil Franczak, saw for himself. The materials, weather conditions and scenery are visibly far more realistic thanks to the Unreal Engine 4, while its LaserScan Technology enables the game to replicate all of the circuits with maximum precision, up to and including each single segment of each individual curb. What's more, the reproduction of the real sounds of the GT cars plunges the player into an immersive audio experience. The level of realism has now reached such elevated standards that it was necessary to place a special graphic on the screens showing the live stream of the SRO E-Sport GT Series to stop spectators getting the virtual race confused with the real one taking place in the Blancpain championship. 

When the tyres make the game
It feels less like pushing down a pedal on the carpet of a salon and more like you are hearing the power of a real engine that resists the impulse from your foot and makes the cabin shake. Assetto Corsa Competizione has got even better with its efforts to provide players with an ever more realistic experience through the use of the most accurate studio possible, featuring all the elements needed to produce an authentic driving experience.

And the role of the tyres that you see running across the screen - though they are made of pixels rather than rubber - is far from incidental. The tyres chosen for the Blancpain cars - both real and virtual - are P Zero DHD2s, the Pirelli tyres that make GT3 cars run throughout the world and offer superb performance in terms of durability and consistency (find out more about the P zero range).

The collaboration between Kunos Simulazioni and the Pirelli technicians during the development of the computer game was essential when creating the illusion of having a true point of contact between the car and the virtual tarmac, which then reacts in a coherent way on the basis of the type of surface and driving style. The tyres are a major factor when fine-tuning the behaviour of a car. You have to be aware of them not only when developing the computer game, but also when playing the game itself: sim racers have to keep an eye on any deformations and the tyre pressure and also make sure that the temperature of the tyre carcass is at an optimal level to make sure they don't lose surface grip. Yes, driving in Assetto Corsa Competizione is a game. But only up to a certain point.

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