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Manufacturers poised to put pro racer DNA into performance cars

TOBY HAGON

FANCY a spin with Mark Webber?

Or mimicking the perfect Fernando Alonso drift? What about having Sebastian Vettel as your track-day instructor?

It could soon be a reality.

As supercar makers incorporate more intelligent crash-avoidance technology and autonomous systems, new potential for this tech is emerging: to use it as a software-powered ‘driving coach’ to enable owners to extract even more from their performance cars.

Porsche CEO Oliver Blume is one of the most forthright, revealing the company is looking to utilise its Aussie ambassador, former WEC champ Mark Webber.

“When you go on a race track there is an opportunity,” said Blume. “Mark Webber drives you [virtually] through the race track and you see where the car is braking, where you’re accelerating, which is the perfect line for the race track.

“Afterwards you’re driving by yourself and match him: ‘Okay, Mark Webber brakes here, accelerates there…’” Describing it as a “very interesting option”, Blume said it could also be used as a safe driver training tool.

Rival McLaren is also looking to utilise the radars and cameras that form autonomous hardware.

Speaking to Wheels, program director Mark Vinnels said autonomous technology opened up many options.

“We’re actively working on understanding the technologies that we would need to put on the car and, therefore, how we would design the car,” he said.

“If we’re going to burn the coal with all the sensors and the paraphernalia that requires then you might as well take advantage of it in other ways.”

Like Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin, Vinnels stressed the supercars would always be focused on the driver and able to be enjoyed, but that advanced tech could lead to “enhancements to the driving experience”.

However, Ferrari chief technology officer Michael Leiters told Wheels there were no plans for computer-controlled hot laps.

He said the brand would utilise the tech to “help in an intuitive way but we don’t want to give the driver the feeling that he is not controlling the car”.

“The sensors of the new technologies connected [in this way] is quite interesting for us.

We are [exploring] what sensors we can use for other purposes,” said Leiters. “Not for autonomous driving but more to engage the driver and make him feel more confident pushing to the limit.”