Armaroli - Designing the Concepts for the Future

Armaroli Design is a Brazilian company that utilizes highly-evolved technological solutions specifically aimed at the simulator market. Producing state of the art simulators and cockpits in various classes such as Formulas, Rally and Touring Cars, they stormed into the mainstream this month after releasing their Armaroli SimRacing WorldCup (ASWRC) beta-mod for rFactor, which features not only a very sturdy open-wheeler, but a concept that is as unique as it is inspiring.

AUTOSIMSPORT had the chance to speak to Luciano Armaroli (Technology and Graphical Development) and his brother Marcelo (airplane pilot and former race driver, in charge of Development of Product and Research) who, along with their father Jaldo Amorim (Administrative and Financial Director), are the core of Armaroli Design.

Their unique brand of quality and innovation-they describe their simulators as "new, interactive, technological, dynamic and emotive media," (which a glance at the product range on their site amply demonstrates) has seen them carveout a solid and respected reputation in the simulator market; an improbable outcome when one considers the physical evolution of the Rio-based studio.

It all started way back in September of 2003 when the Armaroli brothers, like many before them, realized that, while sim-racing's simulators were improving hand over fist with every release, the hardware and peripherals available to run them were, for reasons they could not quite fathom, lagging far behind and unable to make use of the resources at their disposal. Frustrated, they decided that the only solution available to them was to design their own product.

The problem, however, was that this product existed solely as a caricature that Luciano had sketched portraying brother Marcelo's various activities and hobbies (plants, planes, and cars!).

"As funny as it is," Luciano says now, three years on, "we looked at it and wondered if we could mix our skills to make this drawing come true!"

With the caricature as base, and from an old Ford Formula chassis lying around in the garage of their house in Cosme Velho, Rio de Janeiro, along with the aid of the "laminating Master Sassá", the two brothers initiated development of their "dream" product with ingredients that, "included aluminum, fiberglass, iron, screws, sanders, and sweat."

Amaroli’s project in the Amoroli’s garage.

Nine months later, in June of 2004, the project would conclude with the first prototype from the Armaroli Design studio; they called it the Simulator FA1 Formula Armaroli 1.

"We started showing the FA1 to some professional pilots like Tony Kanaan and Felipe Massa," says Marcelo, "and they said it was the best simulator they've ever tried. So we were really surprised and happy."


Even better, though, was that the FA1 enjoyed an excellent response not only from the drivers and guests that tested it at the motor shows, but by their customers as well as the specialized press. Their site is visited by people from more than 50 countries every month and their page rank at Google is, "30 percent, which is actually very good considering the short time of our existence," says Luciano.

Their goal, like many in this community, is to "professionalize virtual motoring". This, they believe, can only be secured by obtaining financial resources that will see the continuity of their projects. They are, "actively searching for new investment partners for capitalization of resources that {will enable} the development and innovative exploration of products and ideas," explains Luciano, "such as the production of the Station Cobra, specially designed for use in LAN Houses.".

Tony Kannan after his BAR test.

They are also seeking to initiate the production of their new model, the FA2 2006 . and to this end, they have built their rFactor mod around their actual cockpit.
Yes, you heard right.

What makes this Design studio so successful is the sheer scope of their vision; a point that is amply made when Luciano explains that they are, "also focused, for instance, on exploring the possibilities of developing projects with base motion, smells, smoke, as well as popular simulators of aviation and Star Wars, {along with} the RC Armaroli and simulators for physicists, the training of pilots and for driving schools."



Schumi Brasil and Armaroli simulator


Armaroli Cobra Station for gamer.


Their current project, however, and the area in which the brothers' focus has shifted, is online racing and modding. Through an agreement with ISI, and using rFactor as their base, Armaroli Design is getting into the world of online sim- racing and their mod the ASWRC Armaroli SimRacing WorldCup has been met with largely positive feedback since the beta release mid-March, and now available for download here.

Armaroli FA1 simulator.
 
Above and right: Armaroli FA2 real car.

"Everything started when Déthan Rootring, from Holland, saw our A1GP mod {that we} designed specifically for the A1Grand Prix," explains Luciano, a mod that, "didn't go through. Déthan asked if we could release it as our own championship, and we explained that we didn't have the rights to use it. But, since we have our own full-size designed car that will be our next cockpit called the FA2 we decided that we'd make a mod of our cockpit for use 'specially with rFactor!

"That was the grand start," continues Luciano, and from there, Déthan, "called his friends Petros Mak from Australia, CJ Marin from the U.S., and Fernando Oliveira from Brazil and together, we launched the ASRWC."


The idea is to create what the brothers call a "Virtual World- Wide Championship," and is, Marcelo explains, "the development of the virtual Armaroli Formula, with the new 2006 model all ready for production."


In other words, a series based around their own cockpits...

The intention, they explain, is to commercialize the spaces on the cars, both virtually and real. To achieve this, the championship will feature live broadcasts as the 24 represented nations do battle in the series scheduled to begin at Zandvoort on April 22, with the top five drivers being invited to Brazil at the end of 2006 for a final competition on board of the FA2 cockpits. This, they hope, will be televised and broadcast live.

The simulated cockpit simulated for an online virtual series meets the sim-racers-in reality. The concept really does take a little getting used to .

All of this is geared toward fulfilling their goal which is, "to transform the virtual world of car racing into a professional one." Marcelo, of course, comes from the hard world of real-worldracing, and knows a thing or two about how to operate in this cut-throat environment. "We are today directing all our efforts to attracting major sponsors to this first world championship, in order to finance the structure of the event, the teams and sim-racers," he explains, adding that, "if everything develops as planned, {they will} be able to promote demo' competitions such as this in other countries ."

Marceolo Armaroli and Ayrton Senna

A unique concept, this, and one never before seen in sim-racing; a cockpit manufacturer developing a virtual series molded around their physical cockpit with the hope of broadcasting the online sim-racers racing the virtual series in the real cockpits for a live, real audience . proof, if any more was needed, that sim-racing remains in its infancy with so many possibilities yet to be explored.

With Armaroli Design, sim-racing has taken yet another evolutionary step toward its destiny which, as yet, has not even been conceived, much less seen.

Armaroli touring station.
 


AUTO
SIMSPORT
got hold of Petros Mak, ASRWC Public Relations Director, to find out more about this unique virtual championship.

Mak, who is the Manager for Team Greece, is a grizzled veteran of the real-racing world, having competed in the inaugural 1998 Australian F3 Championship (before it was bought-out by the FIA).

"The 1998 F3 Championship was privately made by an Australian company and was bought by the FIA after a major accident had occurred," he explained, before revealing that he is in the process of 'talking'-that is, negotiating-for a ride with Scud Racing in Australia.

Mak's goal is to move on to the U.S. in 2007, "to race in F3 or NASCAR depending where I'd get picked up," he said.

Money, Mak confesses, has been a major stumbling block in his career so far; "it became a lot more expensive after the FIA bought the championship," he says, and "it virtually costs over $50-60,000 for the car alone now-back then, I bought my car for $28,000. So yeah, the price had risen considerably. Now I have sponsors paying for my ride and, well, I am looking to get into the Australian Series this year."

Mak has used his real-world experience to help with the ASRWC mod in terms of both settings and physics.

He also races for Hyperstimulator in Australia where, "you can see my results on the site's standings page." He also finds time to manage his own real and sim-racing team at Mak-Racing.

Ample experience then, for Mak to act as one of the main managers of the Armaroli Brothers inspired ASRWC. AUTOSIMSPORT sat down with Petros Mak and Luciano Armaroli and we began by asking them how the whole thing got started. .

Mak: The league idea was first created by Déthan. He had envisioned a league that emulated the real-life A1GP. We've seen leagues of NASCAR, F1, and many other motor-sports in the world, and it was time that an A1GP Online League was created for all the fans.

Déthan approached quite a few people back then to help him create the project. I can't say that I was the first, but I was one of the first few people who supported his idea and wanted to see this project come to life. The Armaroli brothers, Luciano and Marcelo, also joined in on the project {by} taking up the creation of the mod. The league began to be worked on slowly, and recently I myself quit my job as Racing Director of another league to join full time in helping ASRWC in their quest of building up their league. ASRWC is a league built on a lot of hard work and dedication by the people involved. We all have worked very hard on getting this league started and feel that it can become a great success.

Luciano: I would like to thank everyone involved in the ASRWC project that took me lots of weekends and nights without sleeping, dreaming with counting polygons, UVmapping, painting textures and so on.

Renato Simioni (Brazil) physics, Frank Alexandre (Brazil) track editing, Frederico Gentil (Brazil) painting all nationcars' liveries, Marcelo Melo (Brazil) rendering the cars in MAX for beautiful presentations, Ben Harbur (US) polishing the MOD, Kinho Iglesias (Brazil) general help, Marcelo Pinto (Brazil) helped on serving the races, Rodrigo Jabour (Brazil) general help, Ant Carlos (Brazil) brought us confidence and experience, and all drivers from different countries who tested and gave their statements about it-Leandro Schimidt (Brazil) sim-racer. And, the most important person who is indirectly responsible for all this is GJon Camaj {who}, together with his team (Image Space Incorporated), created this amazing game concept- Customize, Control, Connect in rFactor-so we can build and customize our cars, and make it run in any famous circuit we can think of ... so we owe him much respect in all this.

AUTOSIMSPORT: As for the mod itself, which can be downloaded here, can Mak share in its evolution?

Mak: The ASRWC mod was made by the Armaroli brothers. Marcelo designed and created the full version of the FA2 Formula Armaroli, and Luciano designed the mod himself, shaped the cars, edited tracks, and painted the liveries of all the nation cars. Luciano and Marcelo have been the strongest point of the group, creating the most necessary aspect of the league and, without their hard work and dedication to the league, all this would not have been possible. They have achieved extraordinary work in this mod and those who participate within the league will see this.



AUTOSIMSPORT: How were the Team Managers for each nation selected?

Mak: When the registrations came up, we advertised the league to various simracing sites like FSR, RSC, and many others. It was basically first come, first serve. The first person to apply for their nation seat was given the seat holder position of that nation. Our aim was to bring as much interest into ASRWC as possible. By allowing these first comers to take up the seat of their nation, it allowed word of ASRWC to spread as they tried to find drivers. These seat holders posted in their own forums and other sites which made other nation members want to check out the league and become interested. In my case it was fairly easy. I've known Déthan for many years and, when I heard of the project, I had asked to have the seat for Team Greece, seeing as I am one of the rare sim-racers from Greece. The seat holder is responsible for finding his own drivers however, so the league only takes care of seat holder positions.

AUTOSIMSPORT: Will the nations represented represent the same nations that are featured in the real-world A1GP?

Mak: The first season will see a select amount of countries racing in the championship. The amount is undecided yet, but to give you an example-if we have 20 nations racing this year, then the first 20 nations that registered will receive the first option to race this year, whilst the others will compete in a hotlap season to prepare them for drafting in the next season. Only the top 14 teams can carry over to next season's championship, which leaves the remainder having to fight a shootout with the outside nation teams {in order to} qualify for next season's championship. It is a process devised to bring more competition between the nations and make it fairer when choosing which nation goes in the following season-rather than just choosing a select few from the amount, we offer them a shootout which gives everyone a chance to qualify. It is a more equal session for everyone. The reason we have also allowed so many non-real-life A1GP participating countries is due to the fact we {had} hoped that the real-life nations may become inspired from our league and look into the real-life A1GP series. In this form of publicity, we try to boost the real-life A1GP series' popularity in countries that have not participated in it.

AUTOSIMSPORT: This league is a long one in terms of time with a significant summer break-usually online series tend to be far tighter schedule-wise. Is there a reason for this?

Mak: We understand that many simracers around the world have a real-life to handle and cannot spend each weekend racing online. We've tried to make a calendar that is not only convenient for the members, but also good enough to satsfy their season of racing. The break we have is during a period where most of the members have holidays or go on holidays with their families, and the league wanted to accomodate this time of the year so that the drivers do not miss out on races. The league really cares about how their drivers react to the timetable and wants to have a timetable that suits all members.

AUTOSIMSPORT: The tracks are, as far as I can tell, also made specifically for the series-who made them, and how accurate are they? In other words, what was the process involved and could you also explain the cars and their accuracy in a similar fashion?

Mak: The tracks ASRWC will be using are pre-made tracks from the track modeling community of rFactor. We have asked for permission from the track builders to use their tracks within our league, in addition to making several changes ourselves, such as graphics, textures, and any sponsor/investor logos that need to be placed on track billboards or signs.

Of course in our first year, we are more reliant to the track work of others, but we are planning ahead on changing that and having our own track modelers create our own tracks from Season 2007 onwards. We are in talks with MMG (Mak Mod Group), the creators of F1 1950-2006 Mod for rFactor which is still in production, on creating solely new tracks from scratch that will be used for this league. We are very confident that a deal will go through as the manager of MMG is also an admin at ASRWC known as Petros Mak!

AUTOSIMSPORT: Prizes?

Mak: As we are trying to get sponsors to support this championship, we are asking them to give us some computer equipments (Processors, Video Cards, Input Devices) that we can offer to the winning nations...

AUTOSIMSPORT: What are the most important features of this series, and can you explain a little about the vision of giving sim racing a 'sporting' profile, as opposed to a 'video game' stigma which many in the community believe is an obstacle to simracing's growth.

Mak: We had wanted to portray a professional setup to show to the sim-racing world and the real-life potential sponsors and investors, that this league is a serious league. But those that see the league must bear in mind that, for the first year, our aim is mainly to have fun and see how the season pans out. We try to emulate the real-life A1GP series, bringing along most of its rules, and we offer to sim-racers a chance to represent their nation in the World Cup of Sim-Racing.

To give the league a sporting profile rather then a video game profile, we have devised nation team websites that will be sub-directories from the ASRWC site, and each nation team will have one and be responsible for keeping it updated. Not only does the nation team have to provide drivers in each race, they also have to work on promoting their team to a real-life audience that will follow the league, and also work on the media department of their nation team site to keep their nation fans happy.

Each nation site will also have two language options, English and the respective nation's language. So as you can see, the league places great emphasis on promoting the nations all over the world. The caliber of drivers is extraordinary and they all have an immense amount of skill. We have many drivers in this league that all the best sim-racers from around the world should come and test their skills against.

The level of racing will be high by any standard, with the competition against drivers expected to be at its absolute highest. ASRWC may be a new league, but all things have a beginning just like the real-life A1GP did. Whilst our first year will be more of a fun year, we are hoping ASRWC will grow into one of the biggest sim-racing leagues out there as the years progress.

AUTOSIMSPORT: Are the starting places all filled up? How did you assign the drivers, and explain a little about the selection process for drivers.

Mak: We are not filled up. We accept seat holders of nations that have no current seat holders to register even during the season. Nations may have four drivers registered to their nation team at any one time. However, there is nothing stopping the nations having more drivers on back-up and having them race if any of the others can't. It just takes a driver switch process to do that, so it's quite simple.

The nation's seat holder has the right to choose whoever he/she likes to race if they choose to; however, if a nation has more then one driver, we have a race qualification where every driver from every nation participating in the current season has to attend. The drivers of each nation with the best time will be selected to run the race whilst the others will sit out. So it's more of a battle between the drivers to qualify. This is the process held in order to give all the nation drivers a chance in qualifying for the race. Whilst one driver may be faster on some tracks, another may be faster on another, so the nation would want to initially produce the best driver they have for the given track. If a nation only has one driver, then they do not need to participate within the qualification session.

AUTOSIMSPORT: We wish you all the best guys!