Virtual Le Mans: More than a game for F1 legends Alonso and Barrichello

Formula 1 legends Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello head into this weekend’s Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours hungry for success after strong performances in the lead up to the one of the most important sim racing events in the history of esports.

Teamed with sim racers Olli Pahkala and Jarl Teien, the Torque Esports-backed FA/RB Allinsports squad scored a win in preparation for this weekend’s race on Sunday when they crossed the line first in a six-hour practice event.

A select field of 50 cars will contest the virtual version of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend with Alonso aiming to add a virtual victory to his pair of real-world successes in the French endurance classic over the past two years.

The two-time F1 World Champion (doing a lap of virtual Le Mans in the video above) has shown he is just as quick in the virtual world in recent weeks – recording a five-race streak of wins in Torque Esports’ The Race All-Star Series powered by ROKiT Phones.

“I’ve been enjoying the esports races a lot over the past couple of weeks, along with the preparation for this Le Mans event,” Alonso said. “I’ve been working on my performance and also testing together with the team to find the small things that can make a difference. It’s been an enjoyable process so far.

“The preparations for the real 24 are definitely different, especially on the physical side and a bit on the mental approach. I’m able to be here at home, and I can focus on preparing myself. It’s a different preparation, but once the green light is on, it’s more or less the same feeling behind the wheel.

“I think the level of attention is going to be extremely high. The race is going to be a couple of percentages lower than the maximum. It’s a tough race, but a long one, so I think we need to take it step by step.”

The two Formula 1 stars are treating this weekend’s event as more than just a game. The team is backed by Torque Esports’ simulator manufacturer Allinsports which is headed by ex-Ferrari, McLaren, and Red Bull development and electronics expert Anton Stipinovich.

Alonso’s Allinsports eRacer simulator was delivered to the Spaniard in early May. He joined the likes of Barrichello, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Charles Leclerc, Emerson Fittipaldi, Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran, David Brabham, Conor Daly and Nicholas Latifi as an Allinsports sim user.

Former 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 winner team Greaves Motorsport has been recruited to engineer the race effort for the FA/RB Allinsports team’s entry – handling testing, race preparation, logistics, and strategy for tomorrow’s race.

Despite the fact the Formula 1 duo have 633 Grand Prix race starts and 43 wins between them – both – along with their sim racing teammates – have left no stone unturned in their preparation for the event.

“I raced against Fernando for many years, and there’s always been a mutual respect – I think that’s why he gave me a call to see if I wanted to race with him in the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual,” Barrichello said.

“I was honored. For me, it was a great pleasure to be with Fernando. Along with Jarl and Olli – the four of us gel very well together, and that’s been a great help.”

With the Spaniard, Finn (Pahkala) and the Norwegian (Teien) in the same time zone, Barrichello has been tasked with testing “overnight” from his home in Brazil.

“My hours are much later for them, so I leave them with some setup choices overnight and ask some questions that I have. When I wake up around 7 a.m., it’s noon for them, and I already have the answers,” Barrichello said.

“I think the race is going to be very competitive. We have seen that our car is extremely quick. Fernando’s been quite impressive in the car, and the other two guys are so fast as well!

“I’m coming along quite well. Like always, instead of being 48, I will feel like 20 again on the race track. I’m in love with the game, and I’m in love with being part of this team. We’re going to do our best to try and win this, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual will feature a global television package including ESPN in the USA and Eurosport across Europe and Asia.

The US broadcast on ESPN2 will lead into the global premiere for season two of Torque Esports’ World’s Fastest Gamer documentary, which can be binge-watched by fans from 5:00 PM US Eastern Time on Saturday, June 13.

Barrichello was on-site in Las Vegas last year for the final day of World’s Fastest Gamer as a guest judge alongside fellow Formula 1 ace, Juan Pablo Montoya, and “gamer to racer” stars Jann Mardenborough and Rudy van Buren.