Force India F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg has undergone his training for the Le Mans 24 Hours this week, to allow him to race in this year's twice-around-the-clock sportscar classic.
In compliance with the Le Mans 24 Hours sporting regulations, Hulkenberg had to undergo a specific training session on a simulator – even with 81 Formula 1 grands prix under his belt.
Hulkenberg visited Saint-Pierre-du-Perray in Paris for a session on the AOTech company's simulator on Wednesday on his way back from the Bahrain Grand Prix – via a stopover at Paul Ricard, where Porsche was testing its LMP1 cars.
A debutant driver, or one who hasn't raced in the 24 Hours for more than five years, must spend a day in the simulator to familiarise him/herself with the unique safety procedures in place during the Sarthe classic.
"Over the past four or five years I've become very interested in endurance racing," he said, "and above all the Le Mans 24 Hours. I'm impatient to measure myself against the challenge posed by the circuit."
Hulkenberg had to do three hours of driving, divided up into six 30-minute sessions, in this machine to learn the layout and its gravel traps and familiarise himself with the positions of the marshals' posts. He also had to manage the traffic, discover the safety car and slow zone procedures at day time and at night time, and pass the 'surprise' tests like a sudden change in grip on a section of the track.
Every evening, AOTech sends the reports on each driver to the ACO. These documents give the Le Mans 24 Hours sports management a different take on the on-the-spot behaviour of these debutants during the test day, in which they must take part before they are allowed to compete in practice and then in the race itself.
In 2014, 40 drivers in the Le Mans 24 Hours passed the test and this number should be fairly similar for this year's event.
Hulkenberg will contest the WEC's Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on May 2, and then – between the test day (31 May) and the Le Mans 24 Hours (13-14 June) – the Canadian Grand Prix.
AOTech, in collaboration with the ACO, is already working on a new version in which the drivers will be installed in cockpits very close to those in LMP and LM GTE, whereas today they are strapped into a single-seater chassis.