If you had the choice, would you want your sim to come from another generic gaming company, or from the man who Ferrari poached from McLaren in the late 1990s to handle its electronics in one of Formula 1’s most technological eras?
You’d pick option two. Obviously you would pick option two!
Allinsports – recently fully purchased by The Race’s sister company, Torque Esports – makes everything from bespoke sims to ready to play rigs, and its stunning set-ups adorn the houses of the likes of Charles Leclerc, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Sitting on a bank at Kyalami and watching his hero Jody Scheckter pound around, South African Anton Stipinovic (above, right with Schumacher) knew he wanted to work in Formula 1. He was immediately hooked and as many did in the 1970s and 80s, he found the quickest way to get to England and get his hands dirty on any F1 team that would take him. First that meant doing his military service, and working for Nissan Motorsports filled the void of wanting to move to Europe.
After moving to the UK permanently in 1990, Stipinovic went out to Germany to work for AMG and Zakspeed, and eventually ended up scoring a job at McLaren.
While the 1990s were a turbulent time for electronics in F1 in terms of elements being encouraged and banned and vice versa, it was also up and down for McLaren. It had lagged behind in terms of electronic development at the start of the decade while Williams and then Benetton dominated, but by the time Stipinovich was in charge on the electronics front it appeared to have worked itself out.
You can’t help but enjoy the lineage: the man behind arguably the most dominant F1 team in history’s electronics, now developing some of the top simulators on the market
“I was an electronics track engineer, so I did all the races and tests during those years,” says Stipinovich. “We took care of the whole-car electronics, gearbox and differential. In those years there was no electronic aids allowed, and we dominated Ferrari mainly on the starts. Their big frustration was how well McLaren could start. Michael [Schumacher] should have won championships in ’98 and ’99 if they could start properly.
“I loved working in McLaren, it was an incredible team. It was incredible to work with the team that Ron Dennis created and if I didn’t get an incredible offer from Ferrari, I really would have loved to carry on working for McLaren, really a tremendous team.
“I got an offer to go work with Ferrari and it was one of my childhood dreams. I worked there during all the championship years, the Schumacher years, I was again doing a similar role only now in 2001 electronics were freed up, so we had launch control, traction control, anything and everything you wanted to do was possible – and that was my cup of tea.
“It was an incredible team, working with Michael, Rubens [Barrichello], Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and all of these amazing people taught me such a lot. I also really loved living in Italy. It’s an incredible, cultural place. And its racing history is as significant as the UK’s. Different, but just as important.”
“I worked in a lot of top teams in those two decades, part of many championships and I felt I had enough medals. I wanted to pursue something that I always wanted to do and that was to start my own business” :: Anton Stipinovich
You can’t help but enjoy the lineage: the man behind arguably the most dominant F1 team in history’s electronics, now developing some of the top simulators on the market.
Thanks to Scheckter, Ferrari has always been a huge part of Stipinovich’s life. But few work for the same team forever in F1, and soon another offer came calling.
“Then Red Bull popped up, I got an incredible approach to join them as head of research and development, and it was something which I really wanted to do,” recounts Stipinovich. “I left Ferrari on really good terms, because in 2006 we [Red Bull] had Ferrari engines and electronics, and I was in Red Bull in the first years – 2005, ’06, ’07.
“Then Adrian [Newey] came on board and it was a big challenge for me to manage such a large group of people instead of just a small group like I was used to.
“Ferrari was kind of against simulators in those times because they had two test tracks and three test teams, they were like ‘what do we need a simulator for!’” :: Anton Stipinovich
“I did it, and I realised that that was the limit that I wanted to do in Formula 1. My preference was to stay closer to the car than getting involved in the politics.
“I realised my limitations but also knew what I wanted to do. I knew I had achieved all that I wanted to achieve in Formula 1, I worked in a lot of top teams in those two decades, part of many championships and I felt I had enough medals. I wanted to pursue something that I always wanted to do and that was to start my own business.”
That happened in 2008, a pivotal year for anyone involved in electronics in F1 because they basically became standardised – the same on all the cars. For a man who had enjoyed free rein during the most dominant period in F1 history with his electronics, that wasn’t ideal for Stipinovich and it seemed like the perfect time to switch things up.
“I was involved in simulators from the very start, so in like 1997 McLaren were the only team doing simulators and I was lucky enough to be part of the team in those years,” he says. “The person who looked after the simulators was still there until recently [Caroline Hargrove].
“Ferrari was kind of against simulators in those times because they had two test tracks and three test teams, they were like ‘what do we need a simulator for!’. Red Bull, simulation was one of my departments, and I’d always been interested and fascinated by it. So I decided to start my business in Italy doing simulators. We partnered with the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2009.”
Since then, Allinsports hasn’t looked back. Whether it’s been developing a straight-out-of-the-box sim rig for real-world stars – you just pick your parts depending on how much you want to spend and whether you’re going for looks or performance – or building a completely bespoke sim to help Ferrari with the development of its FXX project, the company has done it all.
It’s helped set up old heroes like Emerson Fittipaldi and Rubens Barrichello – who have been competing in The Race’s Legends Trophy. But it has also contributed to the first steps in proper simulation for some of the karters and junior single-seaters Ferrari has prioritised over the last 10 years with the FDA, including the likes of Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi.
The latter has often been credited for the accuracy of his simulator work and helping turn around race weekends for Ferrari, before he took a full-time seat in F1 with Alfa Romeo.
“The majority of our competition started out in gaming so we started from different sides and ended up in the same place, but I like to think the fidelity of our simulators is more real” :: Anton Stipinovich
In its deal with Torque Esports, Stipinovich’s outfit is able to continue that link to bringing the youth through as it has done in its work with the Ferrari Driver Academy.
Its eRacer rig is used in the World’s Fastest Gamer competition, which is ongoing at the moment and has helped to launch the likes of Rudy van Buren to fame, and James Baldwin to a real-life McLaren seat with Jenson Button’s GT team. Van Buren will also race full-time when 2020 gets underway in the Porsche Carrera Cup in Germany.
Arenas and big sim competitions are the next step forward for Allinsports now, having conquered the plug-in-and-play and bespoke simulation scene.
Helping with that step forwards, it’s not just Stipinovich behind Allinsports’ success. His business partner Giacomo Debbia worked for the Ferrari F1 team for 25 years, and oversees production as technical director at the factory – also in Maranello, as it looks to move forward after the $1Million-plus deal to join Torque Esports.
At the heart of everything though is what Stipinovich and Debbia offer: their real-life experience.
“I would say something that we pride ourselves upon is our racing backgrounds,” Stipinovich says. “So we developed simulators that are as close as possible to the real world.
“We came from racing backgrounds and our heritage is racing and we’ve developed simulators that are as close to the real thing as possible. The majority of our competition started out in gaming so we started from different sides and ended up in the same place, but I like to think the fidelity of our simulators is more real.”
Reality is at a premium right now in the current coronavirus outbreak. And if Allinsports is good enough for Leclerc, Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso and Barrichello, it’s good enough for anyone. Allinsports’ sims might just be coming to a place near you once the current pandemic is over.