Louis Deletraz, Raffaele Marciello, Nikodem Wisniewski and Kuba Brzezinski have won the first-ever 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual for Rebellion Williams Esports while Porsche took a near lights-to-flag victory in the GTE category.
The #1 ORECA 07-Gibson started quite far down the grid, but made its way up towards the front of the grid as many of its rivals ran into trouble.
Polesitter Tom Dillmann took the start in the #4 ByKolles Burst Esport ORECA but was handed a drivethrough penalty in the opening hour after jumping the start. This promoted the E-Team WRT ORECA in the hands of Kelvin van der Linde into the lead, but the South African GT star lost the lead himself when he suffered a technical disconnect.
Van der Linde was not the only driver to suffer technical issues. Most notably, Fernando Alonso initially had to retire his #14 FA/RB Allinsports entry after just two hours due to a technical glitch. Alonso was handed a drivethrough penalty for hitting the #94 Porsche 911 RSR of Simona de Silvestro, but was given the penalty as he was pitting for fuel. As a result, the game would not allow his car to refuel, and he subsequently ran out of fuel, although he would later be allowed to rejoin the race.
Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud also suffered technical issues when his simulator malfunctioned several laps later, but remarkably, the 2019 Indy 500 winner had a spare simulator on hand, which he quickly plugged in and was able to continue.
Up front, Van der Linde’s disconnect turned into a three-car battle for the lead between the #24 Veloce Esports ORECA of Stoffel Vandoorne, the #20 Team Redline car of Max Verstappen and the #33 2 Seas Motorsport ORECA which had a strategical advantage after a strong opening stint by Oliver Rowland, which allowed them to extend their stint by a lap.
This played into their advantage in a major way when the race was red flagged at the end of the seventh hour due to server issues. As the red flag came out when the Veloce and Redline cars had already pitted, this promoted the 2 Seas entry, now into the hands of Devin Braune, into the lead at the restart.
The recovering ByKolles car, in the hands of pole star Jesper Pedersen, also joined the battle but suffered a sim failure of his own in the seventh hour, dropping him back down the order. The lead battle experienced more drama when the Veloce car first crashed out of podium position, taking that car out of the running for victory.
Team Redline was then taken out of the race while leading in the hands of Max Verstappen. First, the Dutchman was hit by Raffaele Marciello as the result of a technical glitch, and the F1 star then crashed again on the way back to the pits. The car was then retired after team-mate Atze Kerkhof also crashed, but like Alonso’s team, the car was allowed to rejoin after a second red flag stoppage on Sunday morning.
After this, the Rebellion Williams Esports crew seized the lead at the front during the night, fending off a challenge from the resurgent ByKolles crew on Sunday morning after it seemed like the latter had a better fuel strategy, but could not catch the leader despite a late charge which included a stunning pass by Jernej Simoncic, passing Michael Romanidis at the Porsche curvers.
It was not enough however, and Tom Dillmann, Esteban Guerrieri, Jernej Simoncic and Jesper Pedersen went on to finish second in the #4 ByKolles ORECA, ahead of Agustin Canapino, Jack Aitken, Marc Gassner and Michael Romanidis. Isa Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Oliver Rowland, Rory MacDuff and Devin Braune finished fourth in the #33 2 Seas Motorsport entry. The top five was completed by the #24 Veloce Esports 1 car of Jean-Eric Vergne, Pierre Gasly, Jarmo Opmeer and Isaac Gillisen
In GTE, the #93 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy, Ayhancan Güven, Josh Rodgers and Tommy Ostgaard took a dominant win for the Porsche Esports Team after starting from pole position.
The team briefly lost the lead to the #80 R8G Esports Team Corvette C7R of Daniel Juncadella, Mathias Beche, Erhan Jajovski and Risto Kappet, but the Porsche eventually won out and led the race for almost the entire way.
The Corvette survived two separate incidents and recovered to a third place finish. It was first hit by the #50 Richard Mille Racing Team ORECA of Katherine Legge, and was later the innocent bystander when Kappet was squeezed into the wall into one of the AF Corse Ferraris.
Second place in GTE Pro went to the #95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Nicki Thiim, Richard Westbrook, Lasse Sorensen and Manuel Bianco Lilla, while the R8G Corvette went on to finish third.
The #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche 911 RSR of Riccardo Pera, Loek Hartog, Michael Francesconi and Kevin van Dooren came home in fourth place, with the #64 Corvette C7.R finishing fifth as the best of the factory-entered Corvettes in the hands of Tommy Milner, Jan Magnussen, Dennis Lind and Alen Terzic.