As the biggest sim racing event of all-time, the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual took place from 3pm on Saturday June 13th with 50 cars and 200 drivers competing via rFactor 2. And for all intents and purposes, it was pretty close to the real thing.
Alongside professional sim racers, a total of 115 real world motorsport drivers competed, including Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Bruno Senna, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud, Antonio Felix Da Costa, Charles LeClerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, and many, many more.
And the whole thing was broadcast on TV networks across 57 countries with presenters Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish. If you missed the live action, then here’s a handy highlights video.
Not only that, but many of the teams were run as official factory efforts. Some squads were collaborations between manufacturers and top sim racing teams, with others as the eSports division of the factories.
24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual Highlights:
In the field were a total of 30 LMP teams who were all competing in identical Oreca 07 cars, and 20 GTE teams who could choose the Aston Martin Vantage, Corvette C.7R, Ferrari 488 GTE or the Porsche 911 RSR.
Most teams were split between professional sim racers and their real world motorsport counterparts, although some teams either went with a single sim racer, or fielded a complete team of real world racers to use it as practice for the resumption of the World Endurance Championship.
24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual Results
The LMP and overall victory eventually went to the Rebellion Williams Esport #1 Oreca LMP driven by Louis Deletraz, Raffaele Marciello, Kuba Brzezinski and Nikodem Wisniewski.
They were followed home by the pole sitters, the 04 Bykolles – Burst ESport team with Tom Dillman, Esteban Guerrieri, Jerney Simoncic and Jesper Pedersen, and third went to the #13 Rebellion Williams Esport of Augustin Canapino, Jack Aitken, Marc Gassner and Michael Romanidis.
The GTE class victory went to the #93 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy, Ayhancan Guven, Joshua Rogers and Tommy Ostgaard, beating the Aston Martin Racing entry of Nicki Thim, Richard Westbrook, Lasse Sorensen, and Manuel Biancolilla, and the third placed Corvette of the R8G team with Daniel Juncadella, Matthias Beche, Risto Kappe and Erhan Jajovski.
There were drama for a number of teams, including the FA/RB team of Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello which ran out of fuel following a penalty for a collision. The Team Redline favourites of Max Verstappen and Lando Norris experienced technical issues, as did the Ferrari AF Corse entry of Charles LeClerc and Antonion Giovinazzi
24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual – The Aftermath
There are a few things which came out of the event, beyond various motorsports ‘fans’ running around social media and motorsport websites complaining that a virtual event isn’t real.
Studio 397 has released an official statement, following on from some technical issues which included two server issues leading to red flags and restarts.
And some tech glitches unfortunately affected Verstappen, Norris and LeClerc among others. Which would be three of the most popular drivers competing in terms of current lockdown fandom. Although Simon Pagenaud swapping his entire sim rig after a breakage shows that racers can overcome most things.
Obviously the internet is quick to complain and ask why the series didn’t use their particular favourite racing sim, and how there could be issues with a sim race on a scale that hadn’t been done before (in terms of professional involvement from drivers and media).
And that’s a bit of a shame, really. The current global pandemic has put a spotlight on sim racing that’s never been available until now, and many people have been working towards an event like this for decades. As a site which originally launched back in 2010, we certainly thought real world and sim drivers racing together in an FIA event would take many more years.
The coverage was also excellent, with the presenters, English commentary team and a whole host of interviews with legendary Le Mans drivers really conveying the feel that this was a proper event rather than just messing around until real motorsport resumes.
That more serious approach was also notable in the driving style of everyone participating, as aside from the occasional unfortunate incident, competitors were all keeping it clean and fast.
Having watched several hours of racing on both Saturday and Sunday, the virtual event was fairly indistinguishable from the real thing, with a similar amount of tension and drama as LMP cars weaved through the GTE traffic.
Hopefully the sim racing world can focus on pulling together to celebrate the best of the hobby (for most of us non-professionals), before the lifting of lockdown restrictions means the spotlight will return more to real world racing. After all, the more people we retain in the future as spectators or drivers within sim racing, the better it is for all of us, whether they’re in rFactor2, iRacing, Assetto Corsa Competizione, Gran Turismo or Forza. And it means bigger audiences, more customers and increased support for sim racing hardware manufacturers, game developers, and even sim racing websites!