How BMW is doubling down on Esports

Published: 07 December 2020

► A wheel for sim-racing and real racing
► The M4 GT3 will be developed by sim-racers
► Plus a sim rig that turns into a coffee table

BMW is leaving Formula E at the end of next year, but it’s still focused on motorsport – and especially Esports. The Munich-based manufacturer just presented BMW Sim Live, a digital event that revealed just how BMW was doubling down on the virtual realm – and there were three key innovations it’s certainly worth knowing about.  

Best racing games

'With BMW Motorsport SIM Racing, we are following a 360-degree approach. This means that we have our eye on the big picture,' said Rudolf Dittrich, head of BMW Motorsport SIM Racing. 'We really enjoy developing creative solutions and seeing fast results with our process partners, with whom we are developing the world firsts of today and tomorrow.'

BMW M4 GT3 wheel

Sim wheels are now so realistic they look almost identical to the real thing – but this time the sim wheel *is* the real thing. BMW Motorsport has teamed up with Fanatec to produce the all-new BMW M4 GT3 wheel – and it can be used both in the simulator and in the real car.  

Best racing wheels

Homologated for GT3 racing, it's made from 8-layer carbonfibre, and features all the bits and pieces you’d expect to see on a real steering wheel. RGB LED-backlit front buttons, backlit 12-position rotary switches, custom thumb encoders, dual-action magnetic shifters and dual-sensor clutch paddles, and just some of the things on the spec list. And it requires no modifications to be used in a race car.  

Just to prove the point, BMW driver Phillip Eng drove an M4 GT3 race car onto stage, took the wheel off, and then completed a few laps using on iRacing with it. Ridiculous.  

M4 GT3 developed by iRacing 

BMW worked closely with iRacing to create the sim-version of the M8 GTE race car, and this time it’s going even further with the M4 GT3. Instead of beginning work as soon as the car is finished, this time Munich’s engineers are developing the car in parallel with the sim version – so findings of sim racers will go towards the real car. 

The process will stop later in 2021 when the final car is built and delivered to customer teams, and at that point the sim-version of the car will be frozen, too. The process involves everything from CAD data to photos, and over 70GB of data has been exchanged so far. 

‘iRacing is doing a fabulous job when it comes to being realistic. Just a few years ago, I would never have believed that something like this was possible,’ said Eng. ‘ iRacing has achieved an incredibly high standard in cooperation with BMW Motorsport. I am very excited to see how good the digital BMW M4 GT3 will be in the end.’ 

Fusion SL desk and rig

Finally, and slightly closer to home is the Fusion SL concept. Designed by BMW Designworks and furniture-maker Sedus. The Fusion SL is a racing seat that aims to disappear into your front room – and even masquerade as a coffee table.  

It serves as a robust rig when in-use, but can easily be folded into a desk, coffee table or seat when off duty.  

Although not as exciting as the previous two concepts shown at SIM Live, it’ll by far the best for solving living room and furniture-based arguments.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast