Team Ni Racing tops Phygital Ice Racing Qualification

  • ● Phygital Racing: Assetto Corsa + Winter Karting;
  • ● 8 teams, 16 pilots;
  • ● Participants: Ayrat Mardeev, winner of Dakar Rally 2015; Anton Shibalov, Silk Way champion; Mikhail Simonov, multi-time Ice Racing Russian champion; Alexander Smolyar, winner of Formula 3 international championship races; and other top pilots.

Trudovye Rezervy stadium in Kazan has welcomed the opening stages of a Phygital Racing tournament. The competition is being held on ice in a relay format. The digital part of the event features 8 teams competing in an Assetto Corsa simulator, and the physical part is to identify the fastest pilot on a dedicated winter karting track.

On the first day of the Games, the athletes got to know the track during qualification runs. This determined the positions on the starting grid of the first winter karting segment – and the pit box number inside the simulator. The best lap time in the simulator and best four laps in a row on both pilots’ cards were counted. 

The top qualifying team was Ni Racing with Mikhail Simonov and Maxim Soldatov. While Mikhail is making his debut in the Phygital Games, Maxim came in second at the indoor phygital kart race last autumn, obviously capitalising on his experience in simulation driving.

Ni Racing’s best lap total was 7:09.682, almost two seconds ahead of Dmitry Arsentiev and Alexander Smolyar from SMP Racing (7:11.590). Third place went to acclaimed Kamaz Master  pilots Anton Shibalov and Ayrat Mardeev (7:13.556).

‘It’s my first experience of competing in this format. I’m extremely happy to have been invited. Driving in sim racing is quite challenging for me. I don’t do much piloting but I can adjust to my partner. As for the ice, it’s art. It teaches you to slide the way you should, look for the turn entry point and control the sliding angle. We’ll focus on stability, reliability and avoid risks, whatever the result will be,’ said Mikhail Simonov.

‘The format is familiar to me. I had some issues with winter karting – it’s quite slippery. I am familiar with the simulator, so I managed to roll in pretty fast. Our race wasn’t a superb one but it was stable and good enough to qualify. I believe phygital competitions stand a good chance of making it into the Olympic program in the future.
At the very first event the level of organization was high, so I think, as time goes by, people will be waiting for it like they do for football,’
said Maxim Soldatov.

Interestingly, Kamaz Master pilots achieved the best times in karting but their slower times in the Assetto Corsa game kept them from qualifying higher than third.

‘The competition format itself is unusual but very interesting. A mix of digital and real worlds is a great idea and the right move. I am into sim racing myself, I have a simulator at home and I try to participate in championships here and there. But it’s the first time I’ve seen such a mix of disciplines. I am impressed by the scale of events. Very well done! All the organisers have done a fantastic job.
Most of our training was in sim racing. We met at home with Anton Shibalov, drove the simulator and practiced the track and braking points. This is unusual for us, people who are used to driving real fast cars. Everything is different here. You have to feel the car with your eyes instead of your body, understand it with your head and compare your speed with the sharpness of turns. The main thing for us is to enjoy it, show a spectacular race and do as much as we can to promote sports in Tatarstan and the country. It doesn’t matter that much who will win. Everyone wants to achieve the best result but we are all friends,’
said Ayrat Mardeev.

The final heat takes place on March 10; start time is 18:30 (depending on weather conditions). It will be held in a five-segment relay race format.