How Tim Heinemann reacts to Bernd Schneider’s statement that he drives with his eyes and why there are advantages and disadvantages to starting a career on a simulator today
Does sim racer Tim Heinemann rely on his eyes rather than his popometer, i.e. the feeling in his backside? At least that’s what DTM legend Bernd Schneider, who supported the 26-year-old in his early days, claimed. But what does Heinemann himself have to say about it?
“If ‘Mr. DTM’ says so, then that’s the way it is,” and puts it into perspective: “I think I must have had a popometer, but there is some truth to it: of course I learned to drive differently than everyone else.”
Heinemann had been driving in a racing simulator for years before gaining his first experience in a real racing car in 2018. In 2023, the two-time DTM Trophy Champion then completed his first DTM season in the Toksport WRT Porsche – and sensationally finished on the podium twice at the premiere.
Heinemann: “Learned racing in two dimensions “
“I learned to drive a racing car in two dimensions – without a popometer,” he clarifies, even though he has now acquired the feeling in his fifth real racing season. Nevertheless, “it’s different whether you’ve been doing it for ten or 15 years or whether you’ve been driving a two-dimensional simulator for ten years and then have to learn it first.”
His focus on visual perception is not always a disadvantage. “If you look at the starts and the races, then I would say that my racing intelligence is generally very good,” explains the youngster, who has had more duel experiences in virtual races than most. “I was able to learn how to read racing situations – how to position myself correctly – very well on the simulator. That is certainly one of my strengths.”
When it comes to feeling a racing car, Heinemann, who drove two kart races as a ten-year-old but then switched to the simulator for financial reasons, is still in the learning phase. “The approach was different right from the start – and of course you carry that with you,” he admits.
Heinemann’s motto: “Driving a lot helps a lot “
What does he do to improve his feeling? “Just ride,” he answers. “I want to ride as many races as possible, I’m happy about every kilometer of racing. Not because of the popometer, but riding a lot helps a lot.”
He describes this using an example: “It’s like soccer. Of course there are those who have more talent, but if someone is on the pitch seven times a week and trains, then in case of doubt he will be better than someone who doesn’t train at all,” says Heinemann, who has competed in the Asian Le Mans Series in recent weekends.