New F1 champion Verstappen’s next challenge: winning virtual Le Mans 24

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The 24-year-old will take part in the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans next week, taking on some of the biggest names in motor racing and “sim racing”. A star-studded grid of 200 drivers will compete in a video game race, on simulators around the world for a winning prize of $ 125,000.

What is the 24 Hours of Le Mans?

The oldest active endurance event in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is won by the car that covers the greatest distance in 24 hours. The race, contested at the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France, is also one of the most dangerous motorsport events: 22 drivers lost their lives in 99 years and 83 spectators were killed in a single accident in 1955.

What is the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans?

The inaugural virtual race took place in the summer of 2020, after the annual real-world race was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event was watched by over 14 million viewers. Last year it became a full-fledged digital championship series.

Next weekend’s event will be the second officially sanctioned virtual race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and will be streamed live on YouTube, Twitch and Facebook.

How does the virtual race take place?

The race uses the rFactor 2 simulation game and allows competitors to drive LMP (Le Mans Prototype) or GTE (Grand Touring Endurance) cars on a virtually recreated Circuit de la Sarthe. Riders can compete from their homes using driving simulators – a wheel and pedal setup is mandatory. Teams can customize their machines with liveries, leaving certain areas free for official partners.

Raffaele Marciello, the winner of the 2020 edition, uses a “quite expensive” setup from his days as a Formula 1 test driver. There are three monitors for better immersion, but it is still “easy to get by. let the outside world distracted “.

“Your girlfriend is passing by. You look above and there is no car, only the roof of your house. Sometimes the doorbell or the phone rings, ”Marciello told The Indian Express. “But it’s also a good workout because you learn to stay focused for many hours at a time. When you’re in a real car on the track, staying focused isn’t a concern.”

According to the rules, a pilot cannot run for more than 7 hours. The rFactor 2 game’s day-night duty cycle means parts of the race will take place in the dark just like in real life. Vehicle damage is also set at 100%, which means that the damage will visibly affect the car and its handling. It can be repaired in the pit stop, but “very serious accidents and incidents could lead to terminal damage, for example falling wheels”.

Is this Verstappen’s first foray into racing simulation?

The F1 world champion is also passionate about racing simulation. In early 2020, when asked about the limbo caused by the coronavirus and his off-season training, Verstappen said on his official website: “Simulator racing is keeping me alert. What else can you do right now, you got to stay inside. and it’s fun, i really like sim racing anyway. Over the winter I have done a lot and try to practice my skills and improve them further. That’s why I like to do it.

Verstappen took part in the first virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans that year with fellow F1 driver Lando Norris. They were leading for Team Redline when a frozen screen resulted in a collision with future winners Rebellion-Williams Esports.

This time around, colleagues from Verstappen’s “Team Redline” include Swedish IndyCar driver Felix Rosenqvist and simulation racers Max Benecke and Atze Kerkhof.

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Who are the others in competition?

Reigning IndyCar Champion of Spain Alex Palou is on the pitch with two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and former F1 racer Juan Pablo Montoya, two-time Dutch F1 eSports champion Jarno Opmeer and an all-women team from the W Series.

Fernando Alonso, two-time Formula 1 world champion and two-time Le Mans winner, is the non-pilot captain of the Alpine esports team.


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