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Janik Pletscher Makes Headlines

After taking home the Challenger League championship, our rising star has been featured in the Andelfinger Zeitung. Find out more as he reflects on the past season and what lies ahead.

Formula 1 Champion at 18

Racing is Janik Pletscher's great passion. In the simulator, the young man from Kleinandelfingen is one of the fastest drivers. His success could soon open the door to a real race car for him.

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The growth of virtual racing

It is a modern form of sport: People compete against each other in a wide variety of video games to see who is the best in their field. But today, e-sports is much more than just a simple test of strength in front of the screen. It is a thriving industry.

Janik Pletscher is also part of this growing scene. He is a racing driver and competes against others on virtual tracks. His home: Racing Unleashed. A Swiss company founded in 2018 and based in Cham, Zug, which organises its own racing series in the game Assetto Corsa and operates special simulators in Switzerland, Germany and Spain. These high-tech devices (worth CHF 80,000 each) are built in Maranello, Italy, the home of Ferrari. "You can feel the centrifugal forces in it, it bumps when there are bumps on the track, and the belt simulates the strain on the body when braking and accelerating," explains Janik Pletscher. Almost like in a real Formula 1 car. However, he explains that the ride in it is not particularly strenuous. At least not physically. "It requires a lot of concentration. Because everything takes place on a screen, even more so than in a real vehicle."

Coping well with setbacks

The driver from Kleinandelfingen is one of the best in the simulator. He recently finished the season in the Challenger series, the second-highest class of Racing Unleashed - and won. There were ten races to complete, and Janik Pletscher did most of them from the Racing Lounge in Kemptthal. The races took place in virtual Formula 1 cars on real classic circuits such as Silverstone, Monza and Spa-Francorchamps, but also on circuits created especially for Racing Unleashed, such as Zurich Airport.

It was in this "home Grand Prix" of all places that the 18-year-old achieved his worst result of the season (tenth place). Thanks to his work with a mental coach from the region, however, he was able to cope well with this setback. He finished five out of a total of ten races on the podium, two of them in first place. Nevertheless, the championship was only decided in the final race, the "Battle of Glory". Janik Pletscher was specially invited to Munich for this event. "The whole event was great, but the race itself was pretty turbulent." He had been ill shortly beforehand, then there were problems with his simulator. "And during the race, I was also shot down twice." At one point, it looked as if the overall victory was slipping through his fingers. But in the end, thanks to seventh place, it was still enough - with a two-point lead.

Thanks to the overall victory and his rankings in the individual races, he collected a total of almost 6,500 francs in prize money. "A cool extra income," says the budding building technology planner. "But I don't do it for the money, I do it because I enjoy riding."

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Soon to be real instead of virtual?

He has always been fascinated by motor racing. "Unfortunately, I never managed to get into karting, it was simply too expensive," he says. Two and a half years ago, he discovered the simulators from Racing Unleashed as a "relatively cheap option". Since then, he has been training regularly, three times a week or more, either in Kemptthal or at home on his PC - in a converted car seat. To keep physically fit, he boxes twice a week and trains his core and neck.

Thanks to his success, Janik Pletscher might soon be able to get into a real racing cockpit after all. "The owner of Racing Unleashed is planning to bring the best virtual drivers into real racing," says the man from Weinland, who would be particularly interested in the Ferrari GT series. "It would be a good start," he is convinced. It should be ready by 2025/2026.

But before that, he will tackle the highest level in the simulator, the racer series. This will bring some changes, and not just in terms of the significantly higher prize money. While he still had to qualify for each individual race in the Challenger class by finishing in the top 20 of the international leaderboard beforehand, he will now be at the start of all ten races. In return, previous driving aids such as the anti-lock braking system and traction control will no longer be available. From now on, driving will be like in a real car. "It's a big change, my first few attempts were significantly slower than before," admits Janik Pletscher. But he still has plenty of time for training before the new season starts, probably in the summer. This is also an opportunity. Because his goal remains the same as always: "I want to win."

You can find the link to Manuel Sackmann's article here: