Toyota’s hybrid hypercar took the spoils in the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans, but this weekend marks the start of another marathon and this time it’s virtual.
Two years into its centenary, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has always been the greatest endurance challenge in world motorsport, as well as one of the most dangerous races there is.
It claimed the lives of 22 drivers, while 83 bystanders were killed in a single crash in 1955. The machinery may have gotten stronger year on year, but spectacular closing speeds have also increased.
Contested from his living room, the virtual series deserves to be considerably safer. Repetitive strain injuries are probably the worst case scenario – and it won’t cost millions to lead each team.
The virtual event was prompted by the postponement of the actual Le Mans 2020 race due to Covid, but its popularity saw it continue as a winter series. This year the race has become a digital endurance championship.
A joint venture between the racing game developer Motorsport Games Inc and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, organizer of Le Mans, there will be four first rounds inspired by the World Endurance Championship (Monza, Spa-Francorchamps, Nurburgring and Sebring) before the field arrives at the famous Circuit de la Sarthe for the final of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The opening events will take place online only, while the climax will bring the drivers together in the same hall.
Which cars are affected?
Thirty-eight cars will compete in the LMP2 and LMGTE categories. The former uses the uncompromising Oreca 07 ‘prototype’ race car, while GTE uses supercars that have on-road equivalents.
In this context, the pilots will drive one of the five machines: the Aston Martin Vantage, the BMW M8, the Chevrolet Corvette C8, the Ferrari 488 and the Porsche 911 RSR. Very cool, even in the form of pixels.
Who is racing?
The 177 drivers competing will include a mix of 60-40 pro simulation racers and tarmac kings, including F1 veterans Jenson Button, Bruno Senna and Stoffel Vandoorne, as well as newcomers to Formula 2 and 3, the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Formula E, W Series, IndyCar and Extreme E.
BMW, Ferrari and Porsche will be represented by their own official esports teams, as well as Red Bull Racing and a handful of other real teams, as well as a host of racing sim outfits that will be well known to e-racers.
Teams from 12 nations will compete. Rebellion Williams will be there to defend their title at last year’s inaugural competition, which was watched by a global TV audience of 14.2 million.
The ultimate gaming platform: take on the champions of endurance racing
Samsung’s 49-inch CHG90 curved gaming monitor has a 144Hz refresh rate, high dynamic range, and 32: 9 aspect ratio so you can see how much rubber is left on the front tires.
The Playseat Pro Formula Mercedes AMG F1 seat is comfortable for hours on end, and its ForceLock system keeps you bustling without the risk of breaking it.
The Fanatec Bentley GT3 wheel was designed for use on a real Continental GT racing car. It has a 3.4-inch screen for telemetry, a forged carbon bezel, and magnetic paddles.
£ tba, available in October
When is the winner announced?
This twice confrontation will not take place physically in France. Instead, the champagne will be vaporized at a special televised event during the Autosport International Show (ASI) at the NEC in Birmingham on January 15-16.
For this, each team will field four drivers – two players and two FIA international competition license holders.
The rules for exchanging fuel, tires and drivers are identical to reality. The prize pot is one of the biggest ever in esports: £ 183,000. Rightfully so, it’s money for supercars.
How can I watch it?
The first round of the Le Mans Virtual Series, the Four Hours of Monza, will take place online tomorrow from 12:30 p.m., with qualifying tonight at 6 p.m.
At the same time, amateur racers with the rFactor 2 simulation game (Studio 397, £ 23.39) can take part in the Le Mans Virtual Cup to earn a place on the grid for the grand final at ASI, Birmingham.
Ask the Doctor: Leo Wilkinson, Automotive Editor-in-Chief of Cazoo
What is E10 gasoline?
You might have noticed that gas stations started selling a new type of gasoline called E10 and wondered what it was.
In short, it is the new “standard” gasoline at all pumps. The new E10 gasoline contains 10% ethanol, while the E5 gasoline it replaces contains – you guessed it – 5%.
The change was made to make our gasoline more environmentally friendly and, according to government figures, this could reduce total CO2 emissions from cars by up to 2%.
Most petrol cars in the UK can use E10, including all those sold new since 2011 and many made after 2000. You can check if your car can use E10 here: gov.uk/check-vehicle-e10-petrol.
If your car cannot use E10, you can always refuel with premium gasoline (slightly more expensive gasoline at gas stations) as that will continue to be E5 fuel.
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