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Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual 2023 - A Disaster for Esports

Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Simran Kanthi

The Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual 2023 got underway at 1 PM (GMT) on 14 January and started in an incredible fashion, as Redline Racing #1’s Max Verstappen went from P4 to P1 by the time they reached the first corner and braking zone at the Circuit de la Sarthe. An incredible battle ensued between Redline Racing #1 and #2, against the Porsche Coanda #20 car. James Baldwin (the world’s fastest gamer) was also right in the mix with the other three, he was driving for AMG Petronas.

The Simulator that the event was being run on is a video game from 2013 called rFactor 2, and it soon became clear that the event would really struggle to run on the game. Two Red Flags were brought out within quick succession of one another and the event organisers claimed it was due to “attacks”. However, scheduled wet weather, which was set by the organisers, was then overturned and did not happen in the race after they had fixed the red flag and server issues. The actual racing was phenomenal and the commentary team was absolutely fantastic as usual, with a great highlight being the “Jaffa Cake” debate in the early hours of the Sunday morning. Alex Brundle, Martin Haven, and many more veteran commentators made sure that the race was always entertaining, even when it occasionally hit a bit of a dull point.

However, a tragedy for the #1 Redline Racing car would strike, as Max Verstappen, leading the way with five and a half hours to go, was disconnected from the game and was returned to it in P15. Verstappen was expecting his laps to be given back so that they could return to where they were beforehand. However, the rulebook states: “In the situation where four or more drivers disconnect at the exact same moment, but with no clear evidence of server issues, Race Control may decide at their discretion to award the affected teams laps up to a maximum of three.

As there were only two cars affected by the disconnection, it meant that Verstappen would not be given his laps back and was now legitimately running in P15 with around five hours to go. Verstappen pulled into the pitlane and made sure that his frustrations were known.

Verstappen took to Discord to speak to the event organisers and had this to say, “So, I’m only going to write this once. It might get deleted. But who cares. After 5 months of prep. To fight for a title. Around 2 months of prep for Le Mans. This is what we get. This was a disgrace to the sim racing community and all the big brands and drivers involved. Big stutters all race. 2 red flags due to attacks you say. But then again people disconnecting. Some get their laps back, and some don’t. Because of this stupid 4 car rule. How can you even rely on rules when you can’t even control your own **** server.

Credit: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Verstappen continued, clearly unhappy after spending multiple hours racing and practising for ultimately no reason, “This is not the first time we do this. I’ve literally disconnected 3 out of 4 events. You might think after the 1st or 2nd time you learn. But this is just a disaster. The Le Mans organisation should really look at what they want moving forward. Because doing it on this platform is just a clown show. I’m never competing again and it’s down to your incompetence. I hope many people will follow my lead and we can build something nice somewhere else. Because all of us teams, brands, and drivers deserve it.

Verstappen was very adamant that he would not be returning to the Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual, which is a great shame, as this Esports event rose to fame due to the popular drivers from several different categories of racing coming together.

In the end, it was Redline Racing #2 that came home victorious and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual. The Redline Racing #2 was driven by Felipe Drugovich, Felix Rosenqvist, Luke Bennett, and Chris Lulham.

Was the Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual an absolute disaster? Was it an embarrassment for Esports and Sim Racing? Well, when a leader disconnects from a race and is told that they are legitimately right down the field, then this leads to all sorts of issues. All it takes is for a cyber attack on internet broadband for a specific area that a driver is using and it can take away their entire team effort. The four-car rule seems utterly ridiculous as it surely wouldn’t be of any interest for somebody to purposefully disconnect from a race. Therefore, the Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual 2023 was a disaster in terms of the result, which is a great shame considering the fantastic commentary and phenomenal racing put on display.

But what do you think? Was the Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual 2023 a disaster? Let me know in the comments below!

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