After a successful stint in sim racing, Bruno Spengler is back behind the wheel of his real car, a BMW M8 GTLM. Straightaway, he has managed to translate his virtual success into real life success. After putting the red Motul BMW on the podium at the Virginia International Raceway, Spengler and his teammate Connor De Phillippi scored their first victory of the season at the six hours of Road Atlanta. We caught up with the Bruno for all the details.
BRUNO, LAST TIME WE TALKED WE WERE IN FULL LOCKDOWN AND YOU WERE RACING YOUR BMW VIRTUALLY. HOW HAS YOUR RETURN TO RACING BEEN? WAS IT WEIRD TO GET BACK TO A NEW FORM OF NORMAL AND RACING DURING A PANDEMIC?
No, it wasn’t weird at all. Motorsport is a team effort and face to face communication is imperative to do well, so it was amazing to see everyone again and it’s incredible to be back. The last time I’d seen my team was at Daytona, which seems like ages ago. On top of that it was also the first time I had seen my car in real life. I’ve been racing it virtually for months and months but in Rolex 24 it was still white, so I hadn’t seen the real thing until I returned to Daytona. The car looks simply incredible and I really love the livery. On top of that I believe it must look really aggressive in my opponents’ mirrors.
HOW DID YOU COME OUT OF LOCKDOWN ON A PERSONAL LEVEL? STRONGER?
I don’t think I came out stronger, but I did have a lot of time to do the things I normally wouldn’t have time for. I spent a lot of time with my family and friends, which is usually something that is very hard to do during a racing season because it’s a real rollercoaster. So, I really enjoyed that. On top of that, having all this time and space meant I had some time to think and plan my future and where I want my career to go.
YOU WON THE IMSA IRACING CHAMPIONSHIP. DID THAT HELP TO KEEP YOU ON YOUR TOES, AND DID YOU HAVE TO ADJUST TO THE REAL CAR AGAIN AFTER RACING VIRTUALLY FOR SO LONG?
The simulator was great training for my concentration. I had to stay sharp on a daily basis as I was training almost every day and racing every weekend. This really kept me on my toes and mentally strong. When coming back to the real car I was expecting some issues adjusting to it because although the sims are quite realistic there are still some significant differences. However, because I had trained my concentration level continuously throughout the lockdown it only took five or six laps to get re-adjusted and be back at the limit.
COMING BACK TO RACING, HOW HAS LIFE BEEN IN AND AROUND THE PADDOCK AND TRACK?
It’s strange not to have any fans there who come to meet you. Usually, I really enjoy this part. To be honest, when people are there to see you race, and they come to meet you during a signing session or say hi in the paddock, it really pushes me to extract even more pace from myself. Not having that was difficult. Within the team the atmosphere was great, but we have to respect the necessary sanitary precautions, but the racing is still business as usual.
WITH A PODIUM AT VIRGINIA INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY AND A WIN IN ROAD ATLANTA, ARE THESE TRACKS THAT THE M8 EXCELS AT?
Well, the car is pretty good overall. Both tracks have large elevation differences and I felt really comfortable behind the wheel, even though it was my first time racing at both tracks. However, I don’t think we were the fastest when it came to pure race pace. It was the overall effort of the team and our perfect strategy that delivered our success here.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
Something very exciting! I’ll be racing for the first time at the 24 hours of Le Mans in an LMP1 car. I’ve driven the car for the first time at the 6 hours of Spa but I’m incredibly excited to do Le Mans in one of the fastest cars in the field. So, a lot of “firsts” for me this year.
© Picture credits: BMW USA