Spotlight On… – Gerbrandt van der Merwe
The man behind the wheel: a short interview with Sim Racing System racers. Let’s know a little more of the guys that are always one place ahead.
Would you briefly introduce yourself for the site’s readers?
I am Douw Gerbrandt van der Merwe, from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. I am usually called Brandt, but SRS insisted I use Gerbrandt. I am 52 year old, married, with two boys (11, 14), and develop software to earn money to race.
What’s your racing wheel?
I started with a Carbon GT wheel. Just after our lockdown eased, I bought a Thrustmaster T150, my first force-feedback wheel. I play on a laptop at my work table (work from home), so the wheel moves from storage to the table when I am racing. Low end budget racing.
Which are your favourite simracing games?
Assetto Corsa: better sound and graphics than rFactor, and comparable engine.
MX5 NA, MX5 Cup, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup 2017.
Hockenheim, Grobnik, Vallelunga Classic, Nürburgring GP and Long.
Since when are you playing simracing games?
I played Need For Speed 2, and a small GP game, from 1996, but that was only occasional. I bought rFactor in 2013 and played it a lot, but nothing online. Connectivity was a problem (slow ADSL lines). Played a lot of Forza Motorsport 4 on the XBox 360 with a controller. Bought Assetto Corsa this year (2020) during lockdown, and then started online racing as well, with SRS.
“While I want to drive as well as I can, it must be fun.”
Which was your first racing game ever?
Need For Speed 2. Proper sim: rFactor.
How do you prepare for a race and/or a championship?
Not enough. I try to do 30 minutes in the car on the track before the races start, but sometimes that becomes 10 minutes just before the race. My pace changes by 5 seconds over the course of a week’s racing.
Are you good in setupping cars? 🙂
No. I understand what is involved, but do not spend enough time testing, and I am not fast and consistent enough for a better setup to make a difference.
Do you race in real life too?
Occasionally: I mostly marshal at Dezzi Raceway in Port Shepstone and iDube kart track near Camperdown. I have a 1995 Fiat Uno 1100 that I used for rallying and practice days, time challenge and track days from 2018. The car is fairly standard and I built a basic cage for safety. I completed the first stage (functional and on the road) of my 1980 Toyota Celica GT2000 Liftback just before lockdown (March 2020). The car looks like a heap of scrap because I had to do a lot of rust repairs, and I am not a skilled panel beater. The Celica completed two rally test sessions successfully, and a time challenge at Dezzi Raceway (which showed fuel pickup and pump problems) after lockdown (2020).
“I love fast driving the most, then racing.”
What is your best result in SRS?
2nd in a Asia 1 hour race. I think 8 people started, but as they crashed everyone else left. [Right after sending the interview Gerbrandt had his first win with the Mazda 787B in Calabogie; Editor’s note]
You are an assiduous racer with more than 500 starts, nevertheless you seem to be satisfied to remain in the back ranks avoiding incidents and fights for positions. It’s just “racing for fun” or something else?
Short answer: I love racing and if I am not working, real racing, or marshaling, I race as much as possible. I am too slow to compete at the front, and enjoy doing fast laps. The dark side is always lurking though…
The long answer: I love fast driving the most, then racing. Compared to other people, am dead slow. I participate in many races, especially over weekends (when not at a track). I like positive racing, meaning I do not want to slow people down. Rather let them go and see if I can improve and keep up. Occasionally I am well match with someone near me, and then it is great fun. The best is consciously trying something, and seeing it make difference to the racing experience, and sometimes, lap times.
What you do like and what you don’t like in SRS races?
The good: SRS community: racing with people from all over the world. Hourly races: many races in different cars available all the time. Wish list: more hour races at more accessible times. I used to race the Euro 1 hour races at 22h00 South African time. It finished at about 23h30 so I could still get to bed before 12. With daylight savings time, those races start at 23h00, so I can’t race them any more.
The bad: The following is not specific to SRS. It will be true for all sim racing that does not have direct human moderation (marshals, clerk of the course): No immediate penalty for taking someone else out, whether intentional, by accident, in racing, or during lapping. In real racing, you will get a drive-through, stop and go penalty, or 30 second stop and go penalty, and you will have three laps to comply or be excluded.
Specific to SRS: No consequence racing: 60% damage is too low, it should be 200%, so drivers will be more careful in general.
“I will keep racing even when I am not doing well.”
Is there a particular moment in SRS races – funny, dramatic, adrenaline-filled – that you like to remind?
There have been a few races where I ended with other people in close proximity, for a number of laps. Also every time, as the week’s races progress, and I get more experience on a particular track in a particular car, I get more comfortable and speed up.
Which are your strongest and your weakest points in racing?
Strongest: I will keep racing even when I am not doing well, or after a crash, or after everyone else quits. Weakest: I am dead slow. I start slowly, and build up after a few laps, but am easily disturbed.
How would you define your racing style?
Careful: I hate having an accident, I think because I have to be careful when racing in real life: the car I race is the car that must take me home as well. Relaxed: I race for fun and relaxation, not position or points, so while I want to drive as well as I can, it must be fun.
Thanks to Gerbrandt for kindly answering our questions!