With just over five and a half hours left in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual, Max Verstappen, and therefore the #1 Redline LMP entry shared with Luke Browning, Jeffrey Rietveld and Diogo Pinto, has withdrawn from the race.
Heading into the race, the car was at the top of the championship standings, 18 points ahead of Floyd Vanwall-Burst, following the reigning Formula 1 world champion’s entry into both the Spa and Sebring rounds of the championship earlier in the season.
The race was beset by disconnections in the early stages and two red flags, eventually sourced to a suspected security threat. Through the night, the race progressed without interruption.
The #1 car was in contention throughout. Verstappen took the lead of the race at the start, and that set up an incredible battle with the AMG Petronas then driven by Autosport Esports Driver of the Year James Baldwin.
Through the night, both Redline cars were in a fierce battle with the #20 Porsche Coanda LMP, lighting up the track with hard racing – Jeffrey Rietveld eventually taking the lead after over an hour of close-quarter racing in an incredible display of racing aptitude.
At 5.30 am CET, seven cars disconnected, the #20, #21, #23, #29, #71, #100 and #966. Under rule 14.11 of the sporting regulations, they were granted their missing laps back. The #20 Porsche Coanda, for example, remains in third place with five hours remaining.
At 6.47 am CET, the #1 and soon after the #100 Arnage Competition LMP disconnected from the event. The #1 was leading at the time. They would rejoin, but they were not awarded a lap back.
“In the situation when four (4) or more drivers disconnect at the same exact 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,” states the sporting regulations.
As there were only two cars affected at 6.47 am, the regulation is clear that laps are not granted a lap back for less than four cars disconnecting. The #28 Yas Heat Veloce entry was in a similar situation earlier in the race, and the same rule was applied with no lap handed back.
At 7.24 am, when Verstappen was behind the wheel of the #1 car in 14th position, he was informed by Team Manager Atze Kerhof that the lost lap would not be reinstated. Upon hearing the news, Verstappen pulled into the pitlane and on the Redline Twitch stream, looks to leave the race, hitting the escape button in dramatic fashion.
“You prepare for five months to try and win this championship, you’re leading the championship, you try and win this race that you prepare for two months and they handle it like this…” said Verstappen.
“People are still getting disconnected, and now of course also at one point we were hit by it, and then they are just not dealing with it, because they need even more people to disconnect.”
“Honestly, it’s a joke, you cannot call this an event, a clown show. That’s why it’s better to retire the car, because driving around in P15 for six hours makes no sense for everyone.
“It’s a disgrace for all the effort we put in as a team. I really hope the organisers really consider where they put this race forward, because on this platform, it’s not going to work.
“That’s it, game over. I think I have more chance if I go to Vegas and go to the casino, I have more chance to win.”
Once a driver has exited the race, it’s a DNF and the car cannot rejoin unless there’s a red flag. Kerhof was more upbeat when interviewed on the broadcast, with two other Redline cars still fighting for victory.
“The race is a little bit bittersweet, of course, with the LMP leading with Felix [Rosenqvist] driving and the BMW [GTE] making up ground just into P2, that’s all we can wish for in this current situation, I’m delighted,” said Kerhof on the race broadcast.
“Now the #1 is out, we’re fully focussed on the #2.”
The $125,000 prize pool is split evenly between the 24 Hour race and the total championship standings for the Le Mans Virtual Series. Points are paid out down to 10th place, with double points for the 24-hour race.
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