Joystick Racer: With 200 km/h over the race track - A childhood dream becomes reality for Janis McDavid

The dream of driving a car has always played a major role in Janis McDavid's life. For him, this freedom means being able to decide for himself where he wants to go and when. But there is much more behind this freedom, "that I am just like everyone else on the road. It doesn't matter that I don't have arms and legs. That's a great feeling." A good ten years ago, Janis McDavid was able to make this dream come true with a Mercedes Sprinter customized for him and has since been on the road 320,000 kilometers without an accident, just with a 4-way joystick and the Space Drive driving and steering system.

"As a child, I actually always dreamed of cool sports cars," he says. This dream has now also come true in a BMW M3. Professionally, according to the official safety regulations, equipped with a fireproof racing suit and helmet, Janis McDavid takes his seat. As is customary in racing for every driver, the seat has also been specially adapted for him. He has mastered a first test at the Hockenheimring with flying colors.

The idea of turning a childhood dream into reality was born during Jani's visit to the PARAVAN Mobility Park a good year ago. Actually it was about his new car, which will be a minibus again, but which is supposed to be much more agile and faster than the old Sprinter. Janis McDavid asked the question, "Can't we go even faster? "Sure it can," said PARAVAN Managing Director Roland Arnold and showed Janis his latest project, an Audi R8 LMS GT3, the world's first sports car that manages completely without a mechanical connection between the steering unit and steering gear - approved by the German Motor Sport Association (DMSB). Why not test this technology on the race track with a 4-way joystick?

"When I see that Janis is now driving on the race track, it's incredible for me," says Roland Arnold enthusiastically. For him, this innovative project is a matter close to his heart and at the same time an important sign of inclusion. "With this project, we want to encourage other people to overcome boundaries, with a technology that will play a very central role in the development of future autonomous vehicle concepts and will benefit everyone".

Janis McDavid enthusiastically accepted the driving challenge, in which there were two decisive innovations for him at once: to accelerate properly for the first time with a high horsepower car. Secondly, it is a premiere for Janis McDavid to be on the road with the 2nd generation of the driving and steering system Space Drive. The first tests made it clear: "I felt many differences, if only because the car is lower. In addition, it drives through the curve much more precisely, a decisive difference to Space Drive 1".

Three critical points had to be mastered in advance by the PARAVAN technicians: joystick and suit, the curves and speed. The challenge here: the 4-way joystick, completely integrated into the customized seat shell, must remain firmly under Janis' armpit even at higher speeds and with the corresponding centrifugal forces on the race track. "First and foremost, it was important that Janis sits firmly and his safety is guaranteed. He must feel comfortable and secure. That is the basic requirement", says Alexander Gräff, who was responsible for the technical implementation of the project and who, as drift world champion, has gasoline in his blood himself.

After the conversion was completed, the first tests followed, accompanied by driving instructor Ralf Buhmann, first on the road, then on the PARAVAN practice course with the first drifting insoles and finally on the airfield in quantities of the necessary speed. This enabled the mobility specialists to check whether Janis had the necessary grip in his seat. "Breaking the 200 km/h sound barrier for the first time was a mega feeling. Ralf said to me: "Hey kid, don't focus on the speedometer, look at the road!

Janis McDavid had respect before the first tests on the Hockenheimring. "I don't want to go for a drive, I want to do some gassing," says Janis. "I like testing limits, but I'm still careful and of course I don't want to damage anything. For this he has a prominent coach, Bernd Schneider, five-time DTM winner, who himself sat in the Space Drive Cockpit of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 this season and has also tried his hand at the joystick. "And here on the inside you canter a little bit because you simply need less distance if you include the left curb", the professional explains expertly as he guides Janis through the racing line on the track, "then on the inside you go in and after the apex you go slightly to the gas and then accelerate out".

"He mastered this phenomenally today. Janis didn't just drive easily, he grabbed the racing line. I told him exactly from where to where to turn in, apex and he mastered it perfectly! Goose bumps in the car for me," the experienced driver said afterwards. "I still can't realize what that means in the end," says Janis, completely blown away by his first drive. "This is a childhood dream of mine that has now come true. We have taken a big step forward in terms of mobility and for Space Drive. Who would have thought that you don't even need arms and legs to drive a race car on the race track here?"

Now Janis McDavid is eagerly awaiting his first official assignment, which had to be postponed until spring due to corona conditions. Then he will hopefully - before the safety car - be able to drive the formation lap in his BMW in a really big race.


The next step for Janis McDavid in mobility: from Space Drive 1 to Space Drive 2 and from the Mercedes Sprinter to the BMW M3 at the Hockenheimring Photo: PARAVAN


Last check, Bernd Schneider checks the correct fit of the equipment Photo: PARAVAN


A dream comes true when he drives over the Hockenheimring in a BMW M3 adapted to Jani's needs Photo: PARAVAN


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