This weekend marks a massive milestone in sim racing as the first fully professional Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours race, supported by real teams and attracting a star-studded field of drivers, so much so that simRACE247 have aptly dubbed it the most important race in the history of sim racing.
Ahead of this historic occasion, we tapped up FIA WEC head of communications Fiona Miller to get the official line on the pixel-version of the world’s greatest race.
With regards to the importance of the event and our imposed label as “The most important race in sim racing history” the response was confident albeit modest, “That’s a big claim to live up to, but we have done everything possible to make this event exactly that.
“We used the opportunity offered by this extraordinary time to put on an event the weekend that the 24 Hours of Le Mans should have taken place, and because so many drivers are still not able to travel and are not back to real-life racing, we were able to put together the star-stuffed grid we have.”
It is highly unlikely that even real Le Mans would attract in a single year the likes of Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button to name just a few of the mega racing stars that will be in action.
Miller acknowledged, “It’s hard to imagine that this grid of pro drivers would be assembled together at any other time, plus the best sim racers in the world.
“As a result of the grid we attracted interest in the TV programme that’s being made around the 24H Le Mans Virtual which is affording us a worldwide audience. If all goes well, it will indeed be the most important race in sim racing history!”
The decision to make rFactor 2 the official platform was a brave one as iRacing has a very robust platform geared for these events and with the 3-billion laps turned on the service this month, they ooze experience.
But credit to Studio 397’s uber-realistic physics and benchmark-setting gameplay, including weather, night-day transitions as well as very effective broadcasting tools which this event demand.
“We are in partnership for this event with Motorsport Games, who run the Le Mans Esports Series with us, and rFactor 2 was their recommendation,” explained Miller.
While the virtual world is more controllable than real world, other elements could impact the success of this event. Keep in mind there will be 1000 or so drivers doing stints during the 24-hours on one server and, one expects, an unprecedented audience that could hit the millions.
This could be the most viewed event in gaming history, and certainly the most followed in sim racing which of course prompts visions of worst-case scenarios that might occur online.
Miller explained, “We acknowledge that all games are subject to technology and that the worst can happen with server crashes. With 50 cars, 200 drivers in 36 different countries we are testing this technology to the limits but we were assured by rFactor 2 and Studio 397 that they could make it work.
“Best case scenario is that we only have minimal disruptions and that the drivers above all have fun competing in this unique event,” she added.
The entry list reads like the who-is-who of real racing as well as sim racing’s best drivers and aside from watching on ESPN in the USA, you can also follow the race through these methods free-of-charge:
YouTube: FIA WEC and 24H Le Mans YouTube channels
Facebook: 24H Mans Facebook page
Twitch: Via the official Le Mans Esports Twitch account.
FIAWEC and 24H Le Mans websites
FIAWEC and 24H Le Mans official App – whole race, all completely free of charge