Team Redline completes 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual clean sweep | FOS Future Lab

17th January 2022
Andrew Evans

Leading esports outfit Team Redline has won both classes at this weekend’s season-ending 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual, and with it secured both titles.

It was an all-Redline front-row in LMP2, as the #70 car driven by esports racer Jeffrey Rietveld took pole position in the #70 Realteam Hydrogen Redline by 0.002 seconds from recently crowned F1 world champion Max Verstappen in the #123. However Verstappen took the lead on the first lap, beating F2 driver Felipe Drugovich – taking the first stint for the #70 – into Tetre Rouge. Drugovich would also lose out to Dani Juncadella in the #67 Mercedes-AMG entry, and James Baldwin – former “World’s Fastest Gamer” – in the #28 Veloce car. That put the #123 into the championship lead, further enhanced by the points-leading #4 ByKolles car, driven by Tom Dillard, being speared by Franco Colapinto in the Team WRT #31 as he crashed through the Esses, also on lap one.

In fact the race for the LMP2s had a high rate of attrition. Juncadella was the next of the leading cars to exit the race, as he blew the engine nearing the three-hour mark, over-revving thanks to a double down-shift. The headline retirement though was Verstappen himself. After handing over to Max Benecke, the Dutch driver took driving duties again for the third stint. However he was too aggressive with the kerbs at the Ford Chicane, took flight, and crashed into the outside barriers, ripping both of the left wheels off the car and retiring it on the spot. That effectively left LMP2 as a three-car fight, with a handsome lead for the #70 car ahead of the defending champion #1 Rebellion, with the #28 Veloce machine in third. Of course that wasn’t to last either, as the Veloce car ran out of fuel with three hours remaining with former BTCC driver Mike Epps at the wheel.

Ultimately, the consistency of Drugovich, Rietveld, Oliver Rowland, and Michal Smidl meant a relatively comfortable victory, by just over a minute from the #1 Rebellion car of Kuba Brzezinski, Agustin Canapino, Louis Deletraz, and Nikodem Wisniewski. Incredibly, the #4 ByKolles team of Dillmann, Jesper Pedersen, Jernej Simoncic, and Bent Viscaal managed to finish one lap down in third, despite that massive lap-one accident, and the three cars also took the top three spots in the championship.

In the GTE class there was drama even before the start line. After setting the class pole position courtesy of Sebastian Job, the Red Bull #111 Corvette received a six-minute penalty for driver requirement rules breaches – each team should field two professional racing drivers and two sim racers, but the #111 included Dennis Lind as its sole pro – to be served in the pits. The official W Series entry didn’t even make it that far. Fabienne Wohlwend disconnected from the race during the parade lap, which resulted in the all-female car being eliminated without so much as a metre of racing.

Without the #111 at the front, the battle for GTE honours was effectively between the #71 Team Redline BMW of Enzo Bonito, Rudy van Buren, Lorenzo Colombo, and Kevin Siggy, and the two official Porsche team entries in cars #91 and #92. However, though the Porsche cars had better pace, the BMW was able to run a lap longer on its stints, eventually eking out an advantage on the road.

The race ended for the #92 Porsche of Ayhancan Guven, Sage Karam, Tommy Ostgaard, and  Joshua Rogers with just over seven hours remaining. A passing prototype squeezed Ostgaard off the circuit exiting the Porsche Curves, with the GTE car smashing into the barriers and losing a wheel.

Redline didn’t quite have it all sewn up though. An equipment failure on van Buren’s driving rig meant he had to drive over to team-mate Kevin Siggy’s house – a three-hour trip – in order to jump on his rig to complete his driving time requirements. That hiccup aside, the Redline team was able to coast to a 30-second victory ahead of the Porsche #91 of Mack Bakkum, Mitchell deJong, Laurin Heinrich, and Martin Kronke, with the #77 Proton Competition Porsche a lap further back in third. Redline had already been championship points leader going into the race, so that result merely confirmed it.

Meanwhile the ADAC GT Masters staged a pair of shoot-out events to select the grid for its 2022 season, which gets underway in February. The events, staged in RaceRoom, would see 10 drivers qualify from each to join the best drivers from 2021 this year, which includes three-time champion Moritz Lohner.

As with the similar DTM Esports shootout, it was Gianmarco Fiduci for Team Fordzilla who won the first shootout at Spa, finishing second to Jack Keithley and third behind Marc Gassner to top the table on points. Tim Jarschel of MRS Esports won the second shootout, courtesy of a second spot behind Marko Pejic and a win at Hockenheim. Jeffrey Rietveld, Kevin Siggy, and Nikodem Wisniewski also qualified.

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