Rebellion Williams Esports takes the overall victory, Porsche finishes first in the GTE class, at the inaugural Virtual Le Mans 24h
The Virtual Le Mans 24h was the first of its kind endurance sim racing event, seeing drivers from all disciplines of racing come from Formula 1, GT racing and endurance racing to participate in a 24-hour long esports event. There were also retired drivers like Fernando Alonos, Jenson Button and Juan Pablo Montoya trying their hand at this virtual sim racing marathon. Rebellion Williams Esports had a total of four cars competing, of which the #1 took the win by just over 17 seconds, after 24 hours of racing! Porsche’s #93 car dominated in the GTE class, winning by over a lap.
The Virtual Le Mans was one of the most entertaining sporting events we’ve seen recently. Yes, that is probably because there haven’t been very many sporting events this year but also because it was a genuinely interesting race. There were red flags, crashes, safety car periods, and while reliability issues that often plague cars in the real thing didn’t exist in the game, the numerous technical glitches and issues with driver’s sim racing rigs, surely made up for it. Moreover, the FIA and WEC actually had real stewards watching the whole race through different cameras and governing the full thing! While you could have watched Motorsport’s official livestream with proper commentary, it was more fun to watch competitors livestream, like Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and YouTube sensation Jimmy Broadbent, who gave us an insight into how much skill is actually required for sim racing and how much strategy and planning went into the race.
Talking about Lando Norris, his and Max Verstappen’s team — Team Readline — were in the lead for a good chunk of the first half of the race before a technical issue essentially broke their car and landed them into the pitlane. They did end up returning in the final four hours but only managed to finish in 25th place. Charles Leclerc also faced technical issues, with his Ferrari 488 GTE landing up on its roof in the pitlane, his team ended up finishing 18th in the GTE class. Fernando Alonso was slapped a stop and go penalty for causing a collision, with Simona de Silvestro who was racing in a Porsche GTE. Ultimately, Rebellion Williams Esports took first place, fending off a late charge from the ByKolles car which finished second, followed by the #13 Rebellion-Williams taking the final podium spot. Porsche’s #93 led for the majority of the race, with Le Mans winner Nick Tandy, Porsche Supercup frontrunner Ayhancan Guven, Porsche Esports Supercup champion Joshua Rogers and Norwegian sim racer Tommy Ostgaard at the wheel. In fact, the top three cars in the GTE class were all Porsche’s at one point of a time, but the #91 and #92 cars faced trouble when switching drivers. Aston Martin’s #95 car came in second, followed by the Romain Grosjean team’s Corvette in third place.
It was a very interesting race, and it allowed a rare insight into what goes on in a ‘cockpit’ during an endurance race. It isn’t often that you get to see how drivers like Lando Norris brake and accelerate (thanks to the pedal cam on their livestreams), or respond to things like fading tyres and fuel levels dropping. You also don’t get to see professional racers yawn while pounding down the Mulsanne straight in virtual darkness. However, if you want to see drivers actually battle it out for 24 hours, this year's Le Mans will be held on September 19 - September 20!