A pair of IMSA teams have collaborated with iRacing to bring two new cars from the Michelin Pilot Challenge series into the virtual world. Bryan Herta Autosport and Automatic Racing worked with developers from iRacing to reproduce the Hyundai Veloster N TCR and Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
For Hyundai, this is the second TCR car that has been integrated into the simulator after the Elantra N TCR was released last year. Aston Martin, meanwhile, returns to iRacing for the first time since the DBR9 GT1 was released in 2015.
Bryan Herta Autosport driver Tyler Maxson got involved in the development of the Hyundai Veloster partially by accident. In addition to his driving duties in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, Maxson dabbles in the production of broadcasts for various sim racing events on iRacing.
After hearing from his friends and colleagues at iRacing that the company was working on a Hyundai Elantra — the same car that Maxson would be driving in IMSA — he wanted to know how he could get his hands on a pre-release version of the car. Partially joking, his friends told him to send an email to iRacing’s executive vice president Steve Myers and ask him for access to the developmental car. One email and 30 minutes later, Maxson was behind the wheel of the Hyundai Elantra.
Naturally, when iRacing began work on the Hyundai Veloster N, Maxson was interested. He had driven the Veloster to two championships in SRO competition as well as a full season of racing in IMSA. Maxson offered his insight to the iRacing team as they worked to develop the Veloster, but the only problem was there wasn’t much wrong with the car by the time Maxson got into it.
“It was very, very, similar right off the bat,” Maxson said. “I jumped in, and I had to drive it for a minute before I could even find something that needed to be fixed. I don’t even know that I sent the guys that many messages with feedback, if any, because as soon as I would pick up on something… it would already be fixed.”
The exact car that was scanned by iRacing was the No. 77 Hyundai Veloster N that Taylor Hagler and Michael Lewis drove to the 2021 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR championship.
Meanwhile, Automatic Racing, who field two Aston Martin Vantage GT4s in Michelin Pilot Challenge, worked with iRacing to bring their cars into the simulator.
“It is very special to see the Invisible Glass and Stoner Car Care Racing colors in iRacing,” said Rob Ecklin, who drives the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin in IMSA. “The iRacing team put a huge effort into the accuracy of the cars and I’m grateful that the Automatic Racing guys were able to help with data and providing access to the Aston Martin GT4. The cars look outstanding and I’m looking forward to trying it out this weekend!”
Automatic Racing’s owner David Russell and chief mechanic Dan Paskin worked with iRacing to scan and photograph the car, in addition to providing information on the display in the digital dash and other systems of the car.
With the addition of the Aston Martin and Hyundai Veloster, there are a total of eight Michelin Pilot Challenge cars in iRacing, including four GT4 cars. Having those cars available to racing fans in the simulator is an important tool for manufacturers and teams, Maxson explained.
“It adds a lot of fan engagement. It’s really cool for us drivers as well because of how close both the Veloster and the Elantra are. We can do laps on the sim to get ready for events. We had a test at Sebring and I did a bunch of laps in the Elantra before we ever went there, and it was incredible to me how realistic and how close it actually was.
“Having that ability to get some laps under our belt before we ever get to the track and to have a product that’s so similar to what we drive on the track is really powerful for us, because it allows us to get laps before we ever go there.
“It allows us to try out different lines, gives us an idea at least of how the car’s going to react going in certain lines. We can take a lot of what we’ve learned from the simulator and apply it in the real world,” Maxson said.
Bryan Herta Autosport has transitioned all of its cars from the Veloster to the Elantra, meaning it’s unlikely that Maxson will get to drive the Veloster in competition in the future. Having the car preserved in iRacing allows him to relive his memories of the car.
“That car I hold near and dear to my heart — I really love that car,” he related. It’s a ton of fun to drive in the real world and be able to jump in on the simulator and have the same feeling. It’s really cool and it’s something that I just jump on and run a couple of laps here and there at some tracks that I would have always loved to drive the Veloster but never actually got to in the real world, like some of the tracks in Europe and Australia.”
This update also included Brazilian Stock Cars — a project iRacing worked with Tony Kanaan on — and the 1987 Buick LaSabre, a car that Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a heavy hand in ushering across the line. Winton Motor Raceway in Australia and Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55, a 1/3-mile dirt oval in Missouri, were also added.