WEC: Redline wins virtual Le Mans Series

Felipe Drugovich, Oliver Rowland, Jeffrey Rietveld and Michal Smidl from Realteam Hydrogen Redline have confidently won the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans 2022, the finale of the virtual Le Mans Series (LMVS) 2021/22.

The final race of the first season of the esports endurance series was listed with a purse of $250,000. The team from Realteam Hydrogen Redline secured this prize. Because victory in the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans also made winning the title perfect for them.

Not only in the LMP class, but also in the GTE class, victory in the season finale went to the Redline team, in this case with the entry of BMW Team Redline with Kevin Siggy, Rudy van Buren, Lorenzo Colombo and Enzo Bonito .

Formula 2 driver Felipe Drugovich in the Redline Oreca with starting number 70 led the field of 50 vehicles and 200 drivers on Saturday, January 15, 2022 at 2 p.m. CET. In a thrilling qualifying session the day before, team-mate Jeffrey Rietveld had claimed pole, just two-thousandths of a second ahead of the #123 Redline-Oreca, driven by Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen.

In the GTE class, Red Bull Racing Esports took pole with the Corvette after Scuderia AlphaTauri F1 esports’ Sebastian Job put in an impressive lap.

But: Before the start of the race, there were six-minute penalties in the pit lane for the GTE polesitter with start number 111 as well as #56 Team Project 1 x BPM Porsche and #5 Williams Esports LMP because they did not have the required number of professional drivers had used.

There was a hardware problem for the line-up of the BMW GTE with starting number 31 known from the W series. So the car was already out of the race before the start.

Dramas throughout the prototype field

Although polesitter Drugovich led the first two corners of the race, the lead was short-lived. Verstappen passed Tertre Rouge on the first lap and took the lead early on.

From then on, the Formula 1 world champion tried to extend his lead. But the number 28 Veloce Esports car, driven by British GT race winner James Baldwin, had worked its way up from fourth to second place in the early stages. This duel set the tone for the first six hours: Verstappen versus Baldwin, Redline versus Veloce.

Further down the field, a serious incident threatened to end the race for the championship-leading number 4 car of Floyd ByKolles-Burst when Franco Colapinto in the number 31 car of Team WRT SIMTAG Esports crossed the meadow into the car by Tom Dillmann crashed – luckily both were able to continue.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas was hoping for a successful return to the Circuit de la Sarthe, but unfortunately Daniel Juncadella missed a shift and over-revved the engine. The team was eliminated after three hours.

Erhan Jajovski was also desperate in the #8 Oreca by R8G Esports, who attracted attention this season for Romain Grosjean’s team of the same name. After contact with Marcell Csincsik in the #22 Williams Esports car on the Mulsanne Straight, Jajovksi backed up into the wall, losing the rear wing and receiving a drive-through penalty.

As the race rolled into the evening, Redline’s #123 car was comfortably in the lead after a metronomic stint by VCO ProSIM champion Maximilian Benecke.

After more than seven hours, Verstappen was back at the wheel, but then chose an aggressive line over the curbs in the Ford chicane. The result was a spin and violent contact with the barrier, knocking two wheels off. That was the end of the race for the former leader.

The departure of Verstappen put the number 70 Redline sister car in the lead. And this leadership was then no longer relinquished. Formula E driver Oliver Rowland took the wheel of Rietveld while Michal Smidl controlled the race as Sunday broke.

There were times when Veloce Esports was hot on their heels. Former BTCC driver Mike Epps fought a gripping duel with Smidl. Ultimately, however, the #28 car gradually fell behind and lost second place to the defending champions – the #1 car from Rebellion GPX Esports.

A drive-through penalty due to contact with another car in the pit lane on Sunday morning further dashed Veloce’s hopes before the team ran out of fuel after just under three hours, bringing the race to an early end.

There were numerous incidents in the LMP class, most notably Juan Pablo Montoya, who crashed rear first into a wall before his son Sebastian clipped the nose of the #77 GTE-Porsche and spun into the tire barriers during the night and dropped out.

Also eliminated during the night was the #444 Oreca from Alpha Ind. ByKolles-Burst – oversteering led to a heavy impact in the wall. Meanwhile, #44 ARC Bratislava and #39 GRAFF by ProSimu got stuck with mechanical problems.

WTCR race winner Attila Tassi in the #5 Williams Esports Oreca retired later in the evening in the Porsche corners after spinning into the gravel trap and colliding with Alister Yoong’s #61 SEM9.Axle Porsche GTE. Due to a separate incident shortly before, it had already left the road.

“Chess game” in the GTE field

Things were no less exciting in the GTE class. In the early stages, Dennis Lind, 2021 British GT Champion, gradually fell behind the leading group in the #111 Corvette.

The first hour was dominated by the Porsche Esports Team, which was in the lead with starting number 91 in front of its sister car (starting number 92). The #71 BMW Team Redline M8 was third ahead of the Ferrari Driver Academy’s Ferrari 488. These four teams were to engage in a strategic game of cat and mouse for 24 hours.

The #71 BMW appeared to be able to add a lap to its early stints over the Porsches – something it has attempted in every race of the 2021/22 LMVS season so far. It wasn’t until the seventh hour of the race that the BMW in Siggy’s hands took the lead from IndyCar and NASCAR Xfinity driver Sage Karam.

However, the Porsches stayed close and seemed to have the fastest pace, albeit not the ideal strategy. Ferrari was not far behind either and swapped virtual podium places with the two Porsches over the course of the evening, depending on the length of the stint. All four were close together before BMW Team Redline slowly but surely pulled away.

Then, in the middle of the night, just over 14 hours before the end of the race, a catastrophe befell the Porsche with starting number 92. With Tommy Östgaard at the wheel, Nico Varrone in the #65 Panis Racing Oreca got in front of the Porsche and pushed the GTE car into the guard rail in the process.

Only one factory-supported Porsche remained in the race with serious damage. They weren’t the only participants in this class who had problems. Nevertheless, it has to be said that the GTE class generally showed a high level of driving skills.

Early on, Britcar race winner Jimmy Broadbent’s Porsche with starting number 56 was beset in the second Mulsanne chicane by WEC driver Ben Barker in the 911 with starting number 86 of GR Wolves Racing.

The two cars then collided twice off the track! Barker received a drive-through penalty for touching on corner entry and Broadbent for touching off the track. The #86 retired four hours later with engine failure.

Unfortunately for R8G Esports, the #15 Oreca and the #888 BMW collided in the Porsche corners, with French Formula 4 driver Elliott Vayron crashing into the guard rails but thankfully not retiring.

As the race drew to a close with just over two hours to go, the number 77 Proton Competition Porsche began battling the Ferrari for third place.

Kevin van Dooren, who had been struggling throughout the race, dueled with Ferrari driver Nicklas Nielsen. The two drove side by side through the second Mulsanne chicane, then through Indianapolis and also through Arnage. A lap later, as they were once again driving side-by-side through Indianapolis, Nielsen slipped into the guardrail and had to pit to repair the damage. Proton was now clearly in third place.

Esports racing at its finest

In the end it was the real team Hydrogen Redline with the drivers Drugovich, Rowland, Rietveld and Smidl who crossed the finish line first after 24 grueling hours and thus secured the second win of the season and also the overall championship title.

The number 1 LMP car was second, a minute and a half back, while the number 4 Floyd ByKolles-Burst car was third, a lap down, just missing out on the LMVS title.

“It feels like redemption for the past year, an amazing performance by the team at such an incredible event,” said Atze Kerkhof, Director of Team Redline, and continued: “2022 is off to a really good start. [In der GTE] we have prevailed. We had a great strategy, perfect engineers and teamwork. We weren’t the better car today, but we made it.”

In the GTE class, BMW Team Redline had an easy time from halfway through the race with Kevin Siggy, Rudy van Buren, Lorenzo Colombo and Enzo Bonito. The team even recovered from a shock when van Buren’s simulator failed just before halfway through the race, requiring him to travel three hours to Siggy’s location to complete the race on his simulator.

Gerard Neveu, Executive Producer of the 24h Le Mans virtual, sums up: “We are very satisfied. If 116 simulators representing the 50 cars are in use for 24 hours in 28 countries and are connected to the same server without it being lost during the If there are technical failures during a long race, that’s very satisfying.”

Result 24h Le Mans of the LMVS (LMP): 1. #70 Realteam Hydrogen Redline – Felipe Drugovich, Oliver Rowland, Jeffrey Rietveld, Michal Smidl – 407 laps 2. #1 Rebellion GPX Esports – Louis Deletraz, Agustin Canapino, Kuba Brzezinski, Nikodem Wisniewski 3. #4 Floyd ByKolles-Burst – Tom Dillmann, Bent Viscaal, Jesper Pedersen, Jernej Simoncic 4. #21 Graff by ProSimu – Arno Santamato, Jan Marschalkowski, Maxime Brient, Yohann Harth 5. #49 Yas Heat – Will Tregurtha, Sandy Mitchell, Marko Pejic, Balazs Remenyik

Result 24h Le Mans of the LMVS (GTE): 1. #71 BMW Team Redline – Rudy van Buren, Lorenzo Colombo, Enzo Bonito, Kevin Siggy – 367 laps 2. #91 Porsche Esports Team – Mitchell deJong, Laurin Heinrich, Mack Bakkum, Martin Krönke 3. #77 Proton Competition – Loek Hartog, Matt Campbell, Kevin van Dooren, Jeremy Bouteloup 4th #51 FDA Esports Team – Nicklas Nielsen, David Perel, Jordy Zwiers, Kasper Stoltze 5th #89 BMW Team BS+ Competition – Bruno Spengler, Robby Foley, Alen Terzic, Joonas Raivio


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