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Max Verstappen leads star-studded 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual | FOS Future Lab

10th January 2022
Andrew Evans

The final round of the Le Mans Virtual Series, the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual, gets underway this coming weekend, with a driver roster that includes not only the best digital drivers but some real-world superstars too – including reigning F1 world champion Max Verstappen.

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Officially sanctioned by the ACO and run in the rFactor 2 simulator, the Le Mans Virtual Series started back in September with a four-hour race at Monza. That was followed by three further rounds, with Spa hosting a six-hour event in October, an eight-hour race at the Nürburgring 24 circuit in November (which was abandoned due to technical issues), and Sebring staging another four-hour race in December.

These four races though were only a prelude to the main event, the 24 Hours of Le Mans itself, which features double points. In addition, while each team ordinarily only needs to field one professional racing driver (holding an FIA International licence) in a three-driver squad, the Le Mans race requires two pros and a four-driver team for each car.

The series has cars entered in two classes, with LMP2 as the top category and GTE as the second, and each championship stands finely poised at the moment. In LMP2 the #4 ByKolles-Burst team leads the #123 Team Redline car in LMP2 by just half a point – courtesy of the red-flagged Nurburgring round awarding half points – with the Sebring-winning #1 Rebellion Racing car only four points further back. Redline has a more healthy advantage in GTE, with the team’s #71 BMW M6 of Enzo Bonito and Kevin Siggy leading the standings on 77 points, 11.5 ahead of the #91 Porsche Esports squad featuring Josh Rogers. However, with 50 points for a win, it’s a wide-open field in both classes.

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Recently crowned F1 champion Verstappen is also well-known for his sim-racing exploits and is already a member of Team Redline, so naturally he’s been drafted in to drive the #123 LMP2 car. He’ll share driving duties with esports racers Max Benecke and Atze Kerkhof, and fellow pro and IndyCar racer Felix Rosenqvist.

Verstappen isn’t the only F1 driver in the field, as Juan Pablo Montoya will be racing a special guest car in the category alongside his son, F4 driver Sebastian. Fernando Alonso won’t be racing, but captains an Alpine squad, while Romain Grosjean’s R8G Esports outfit is in with a good chance of overall victory with a car featuring top-tier esports racers Erhan Jajovski and Isaac Price.

Formula E will be well represented, with Tom Dillman in the championship-leading #4 ByKolles car with F3 driver Bent Viscaal, Oliver Rowland racing the #70 Redline entry alongside F2 racer Felipe Drugovich, and Sergio Sette Camara in the second #444 ByKolles.

W Series driver Beitske Visser will also race in the LMP2 class with the #10 Mahle Racing car, while an official W Series entry will run in GTE featuring series drivers Ayla Agren and Fabienne Wohlwend alongside female esports specialists Emily Jones and Lyubov Ozeretskovskaya.

There are also spots for IndyCar racers Sage Karam and 2021 champion Alex Palou, ELMS champion Louis Deletraz – who joins the #1 Rebellion squad – and DTM’s Bruno Spengler and Daniel Juncadella. Two of the pros are also esports champions, with Veloce’s James Baldwin a previous winner of the World’s Fastest Gamer, and Rocket’s Marc Gassner a GT Academy winner.

The race gets underway at 13:00 UK time on Saturday 15th January and will run through to the same time on Sunday 16th January.

DTM’s official esports series, the DTM Esports Championship powered by MediaMarkt, has got underway with its first qualifying race at the Nürburgring.

The series will run two qualifying shootouts – this week’s race and another later in January - with drivers selected from an online qualification hotlap in RaceRoom Racing Experience. Thirteen drivers will qualify through each shootout – five in each of two heats, and three in a repechage – for the main series itself, which runs from February through to April. There’s also three wild card spots for a competition run at MediaMarkt branches in Germany.

Defending champion Moritz Lohner qualified at the first time of asking, coming through his heat just behind countryman and last season’s fourth-place driver Florian Hasse in third, with Italy’s Gianmarco Fiduci taking the win. More familiar names qualified through the second heat, which saw 2021’s third-place driver Tim Jarschel win from Kevin Siggy, with Marc Gassner in fourth. However British driver Jack Keighley, runner-up in 2021, had to come through the repechage race, winning from countryman Isaac Price with Marko Pejic in third as all three booked their spots.

As with last season’s championship, the overall winner of the 2022 series will win a real-world race seat in the DTM Trophy. Moritz Lohner claimed that prize in 2021, and after impressing at the test day went on to race for the full season, scoring two podium finishes on his way to eighth overall.

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  • Max Verstappen

  • Le Mans

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