Enthusiasts are in for a treat, as the 24 Hours of Le Mans is set to go virtual on the weekend of June 13 - 14
With the coronavirus threat spreading, motorsports all over the world had been directly affected, with postponements and cancellations across the board. So when we got the news that the Le Mans will resume in September, we were suitably excited. But little did we know that while the real prototypes and GTEs will take to the track on September 19 - 20 for the 88th edition of the world’s greatest endurance race, professional racing drivers and esport specialists will settle into their simulator seats on June 13 - 14 to compete in the biggest esports endurance race ever seen, the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual.
At the very outset, kudos to Le Mans for seamlessly integrating the dates for the virtual Le Mans with the actual race. This is because had the pandemic not struck, we would have seen the proceedings start on June 14. On to the meat of the matter: the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual. The event, organised by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Motorsport Games, will use the rFactor 2 gaming platform. Teams composed of four drivers – at least two professional drivers and a maximum of two sim racers – will challenge each other on the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit, for 24 hours, complete with driver changes. The grid will consist of a maximum of 50 cars (in both the LMP2 and GTE categories) going head-to-head in the most extreme test ever seen in the virtual world. And in another first in the virtual gaming scene so far, the race will be broadcast live on TV!
In keeping with the essence of the actual race, the game will also see dynamic day and night racing, as well as variable weather conditions. The damage setting will be switched on, with the option for damaged cars to be repaired in the pits, with refuelling and tyre changes an essential criteria. Next, as Le Mans is not a one-man race event, individual teams will work to create their own set ups to optimise performance. As mentioned, driver changes are compulsory, with each racer driving between four and seven hours, so it goes without saying that strategy will be at the heart of the race. A Race Director will ensure sporting behaviour throughout the event.
Speaking on the announcement, Pierre Fillon, President, Automobile Club de l'Ouest, said, "This first edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual opens a new chapter for our discipline. Current circumstances meant that the 88th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will take place on 19/20th September 2020. However, on 13/14th June, the initial date of our event, there will be a unique event augmenting endurance racing and its values: the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual, with professional drivers and specialists esport gamers racing together. For us, the organisers, for our competitors, our partners and our fans, we are now impatiently waiting for the start of this unique race on 13th June at 3:00 pm."
Gerard Neveu, CEO, FIA WEC, said, “Since the Le Mans Esports Series was launched two years ago, it’s been very satisfying to see it double in size and visibility year on year. That highlighted to us the huge appetite among the esports community for endurance racing and access to the jewel in the crown of the discipline, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual event is unique in very many ways, not least that it is not part of LMES, but a stand-alone event. As in real life, it will bring together the crème de la crème of automotive manufacturers, racing teams and drivers plus the world’s best sim racers competing alongside these global names. Truly something for everyone!”
Dmitry Kozko, CEO, Motorsport Games added, “Motorsport Games is delighted to be extending its relationship with the ACO and WEC to deliver the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual. It is further proof of the trust that motorsports rights holders have in Motorsport Games to deliver world class, genre defining esports. It promises to be a spectacular event bringing together the worlds of real and virtual racing like never before.”
Moving now to the format and schedule, and open testing sessions will be available during the week before the race. The 24-hour testing server will open on May 22, with three-hour test races scheduled 1pm onwards on May 24 and 29, and a single six-hour test race scheduled on June 7 at 10am onwards. Then, free practice sessions will be held between 10 am and 10 pm on June 10, 11 and 12. The qualifying session for the GTE class will also take place on June 12 at 6:15 pm, with the qualifying session for the LMP class scheduled soon after, at 6:40 pm. Finally, the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual race will start on June 13 at 3 pm (French time).
Teams are permitted to create their own custom liveries and control their own sponsorship, leaving some space for mandatory logos and partner space. Further details, such as entry list, will be revealed in the coming weeks. So watch this space!