Red Bull Dominates to win Le Mans Esports | FOS Future Lab
A three-man Red Bull squad has taken the overall win at the Le Mans Esports (LMES) finals, to become the second team to take the title.
Although the racing world took to esports for much of this season due to delays in the real world caused by COVID-19, esports had to deal with its own postponements. The LMES is one event that has been particularly affected, as it was originally scheduled to take place during the real race, within the Le Mans Village.
However, with the real race delayed by three months – to this past weekend – and travel restrictions in place, LMES also had to find an alternative schedule. That took the form of a remotely run event over four days leading up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans instead.
A total of eight teams qualified to the Pro class, including last year’s winning Veloce Esports team, and LMES assembled a ninth team – by the name of “Wolves of Dawn” – from esports racers whose teams hadn’t qualified. The Pro-Am category consisted exclusively of individual drivers who’d qualified via online competition, assembled into three-driver teams by the LMES organisers.
LMES employed an elimination format, with the two lowest-ranked teams each day knocked out, to leave three squads in each category – Pro and Pro-Am – fighting for the victory in Friday’s finale. That meant that, for the first three days, more attention was on the back of the grid than the front, but that didn’t stop Red Bull from announcing its intent from the first green light.
The first day saw the teams driving pre-1970s cars, and Red Bull’s Robin Betka claimed a lights-to-flag victory at the Le Mans Bugatti Circuit in Jaguar D-types. Two subsequent third-place finishes, for Alex Arnou in the Aston Martin DBR1 at Silverstone and Aurelien Mallet Ferrari 250LM at the full Le Mans circuit, put the squad top of the day’s standings, ahead of Lazarus and Williams. The Fast Racers Forza squad and that all-star Wolves of Dawn team spent much of the day’s action trading last and second-last places, and were duly eliminated.
Day two, and the 1970s-1980s racing, saw the points reset and this time it was Lazarus that took to the top of the table. Betka once again won out for Red Bull, taking a win at the long Le Mans course this time in the Porsche 935/78, but team-mate Mallet had a collision with a backmarker in his race which handed victory to Lazarus’s Ross May in the Porsche 917/20 event at Monza. Tobin Leigh made it the double for Lazarus, in a 70-lap race at the Nürburgring in the Jaguar XJR-9s, winning from Williams’ Isaac Price. As with the previous day, the Solar Vision Racing and RYZE Motorsport teams were largely fighting among themselves, and dropped out at the end of the day’s racing.
The third day would see at least one of the four favourites eliminated, and with two drivers from each team driving in each race it became a true team performance. Red Bull claimed the win in all three races, as well as two further podiums, to ensure a place in the Friday final. Lazarus and Williams claimed the remaining four podium spots, with Lazarus second in the Peugeot 905s and Peugeot 908s and Williams second in the Porsche RS Spyder Evo.
That meant that defending champions Veloce Esports, and fifth-place Total Performance Racing fell one round short of the final day, leaving Lazarus, Red Bull, and Williams to fight it out for the $35,000 first prize.
Now running all three drivers in each race, the final day’s events were more tactical than ever. However Betka immediately set about keeping his record intact, by winning the first race in the Audi R15s, in a Red Bull 1-2 ahead of Mallet. Race two saw the exact same result, with Betka leading Mallet home in the Porsche 919s. With nearest challenger Lazarus recording a 3-4 finish in the first race and third in the second race, it essentially meant Red Bull only needed one car higher than 6th to claim the title.
Williams did upset the form book however. After some underwhelming results in the Friday races, Kuba Brzezinski found his way to the front of the final race, in the Ferrari 458 GTE, and never looked back. Nevertheless, the man behind him was Betka once again, with Mallet rounding out the podium to give Red Bull a decisive victory.
In the Pro-Am category it was the three-man “LM Squad” of Johan Bergera, Alex Harrison, and Gary Mitchell, who took the overall win – with Mitchell putting in an unbeaten final day performance of three class wins from three – and the $17,500 first prize.
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