“We couldn’t find a reason not to do it” – from sim to dirt with Veloce

“We couldn’t find a reason not to do it” – from sim to dirt with Veloce

, as a brand, have roared to life out of almost nowhere, particularly this year. But to make the step from simulation to one of the world’s most ruggedly extreme racing series is a whole new adventure.

Veloce (pronounced Vel-o-chee) started as a simulation and esports company, providing both real-world sim work for drivers and teams and supporting F1 teams fumbling their way into the nascent F1 Esports league just a couple of years ago.

You’d be forgiven if you only found out about Veloce this year, however. When the real-world racing paused, their profile went from background specialists to through the roof as their ‘Not The Grand Prix’ series jumped F1’s own efforts to respond.

CEO Rupert Svendsen-Cook said they were a rare success story of 2020: “It’s been incredible, it’s fast-tracked stuff for us by years. It’s got to have fast-tracked by two or three years I’d imagine – Covid, perversely, has done us a lot of favors.”

Running online racing, although (as a lot of real-world series discovered this year) a lot harder than it might look, isn’t quite the same as building out a race team in an experimental series.

Veloce announced their entry to last September, having secured a fearsome race team line up including legendary F1 designer Adrian Newey and now having announced W Series champion Jamie Chadwick as the female half of their driving pairing.

Two-time Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne invested in Veloce during its early days and with the strong connection between Formula E and Extreme E, Inside Electric asked if he was the main factor in entering the series: “Actually, I know you said perhaps with JEV part of it, was he very persuasive and he was, to an extent,” said Svendsen-Cook.

“It was Monza, the Italian Grand Prix the year before last, two years ago, and we were sat around in the McLaren motorhome. It was me, JEV, Dan [Bailey] who is one of the other co-founders, and Jack Clarke from Veloce, and it was literally that week that they’d announced Extreme E and the concept of it, and we just loved it. It looked so cool, and we found the concept to be so on point.

“I mean it when I say we couldn’t come up with a reason not to do it, apart from the fact that typically racing teams do nothing apart from burn a lot of cash, but this seemed a proposition we could make a go of.”

Of course, deciding to do something and actually making it work – with the logistics of an international series – are not quite the same thing. Svendsen-Cook said it had been a team effort, so far: “Everyone’s had to muck in and go above and beyond.

“The job title doesn’t necessarily reflect the work being undertaken by everybody at this point as it’s all hands to the pump, but we’re pretty well prepared and putting everything in place.

“We’ve got a great team manager who operates everything [Ian Davies] who’s got really substantial experience in World Rallycross and Dakar and the rest of it. All the little things which you don’t think about, like the freight containers, the specific tools required, and there are special jacks, and the setup for the branding, and the awning, and all the bits and pieces that you don’t necessarily think about.

“Every single thing from the first spanner needs to be covered off and ordered, and until we really run the car and get a feel for what specific things we need a bit more of and the rest of it, and which spare parts we need to buy, and we’re limited on weight for the freight, it’s a lot to learn and a lot of key decisions that we’re making at this point but we feel well prepared.”

Extreme E is testing in Spain next weekend, in the first collective event since teams received their cars a few months ago. Veloce are a newcomer team, compared to DTM giants HWA or ABT, and said that while they respect the competition, they aren’t scared of them.

“We’ve got massive respect for our competitors. The success they’ve all achieved, whether it be in Formula E, IndyCar, DTM, everything else… it’s huge. We feel pretty honoured to be up against the competition we have, but at the same time, we feel really well prepared.

“We do feel it’s such a fresh challenge for everyone that we actually feel pretty confident that we can perform from the get go.

“I’m sure we have some pretty tough lessons ahead of us but we’re really fortunate to be working with ART as our operational competitive partner, who obviously do have a lot of experience running really successful racing teams.

“Using their experience and infrastructure and the rest of it is really beneficial in this, so they’re a long term partner and a really trusted one for us. We couldn’t be doing it without ART.”

Veloce themselves are sort of playing the reverse role of what they normally do in putting together a real-world teams’ esports offering: “It’s funny because in esports we’re constantly bringing real-world sports, teams, franchises, manufacturers into the virtual world, and telling everyone that you need that now more than the real thing but then we’ve sort of done an about-turn but for the right reasons,” said Svendsen-Cook.

“It’s driving awareness around climate change, and developing technology, and it’s sustainable renewable technology. We see it as the most relevant motorsport platform in the world.”

For a simulation team, it’s hard to imagine a tougher series to have picked than Extreme E. No laser-scanned, iRacing-ready tracks are available for an off-road series through destroyed landscapes but Svendsen-Cook said it was still an area of interest for them.

“I think it will be useful. At this point, it’s a challenge because the locations haven’t been firmed up and the exact coordinates are only given to us quite late in the day, so it’s quite a challenge to accurately simulate where we’re gonna be,” said Svendsen-Cook.

“We have a rough idea of the terrain and the landscape so I think simulation will play a part, but at this point we’re limited on the data available but if we can get an accurate model of the car once we begin testing, we can definitely do something and it’s something we’re pretty active in exploring.”

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Written by
Hazel Southwell
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