After 18 hours of racing around the virtual Circuit de la Sarthe, the #70 Realteam Hydrogen Redline LMP continues to pace the field in the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual. Jeffrey Rietveld currently leads the event in the #70 ahead of the #1 Rebellion GPX Esports LMP, currently with Nikodem Wisniewski in the seat in second and the #28 Veloce Esports LMP with Isaac Gillissen in third.
In the first half of the race, the #123 Team Redline LMP entry looked to be the team to beat. With Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen crashing out in the Ford Chicane in the second quarter, that handed the control over to the #70. Likewise, both of the Porsche Esports Team cars seemed to have control of the GTE class. Eventually, the #91 Porsche fell behind on pit strategy and the #92 Porsche was mercilessly destroyed with just over nine hours remaining.
Now with only a quarter of the race to go and the sun back shining in the virtual sky, will the current top teams continue to drive into the heat of the day as the favorites? They’ve survived the night, but they still have six hours left to decide the 2022 champions. Both the season championship and the race championship will be decided in six hours for both classes.
TEAM REDLINE CONTROLS BOTH CLASSES
Leading at halfway, the #70 had Formula E driver Oliver Rowland behind the wheel and on top. On a slightly different strategy than the current second-place team, the defending champions in the #1 Rebellion GPX Esports LMP, Rowland gave the reigns of the #70 to Brazilian Formula 2 race winner Felipe Drugovich with just over 11 hours to go.
Meanwhile, the #1 changed hands between Louis Delétraz and Agustin Canapino with just under 10 hours remaining. Delétraz, along with team-mates Kuba Brzezinski and Nikodem Wisniewski, were a part of the 2020 winning effort. Canapino is new to this team in 2022, but was a part of the winning effort in the Sebring 500 back in December 2021.
With under seven hours and 30 minutes to go, during the 28th round of pit stops for the LMP class, pole winner Jeffrey Rietveld got back into the lead #70 car as Wisniewski took over the #1. They both continue to control their team cars
Around the 13:30 mark, there was a bit of a possible issue for the #70 on pitlane. As they were making their pitstop, the GTE entry of the #88 Proton Competition was also in the pits. Per race control, the #88 hit the stationary LMP and was handed a drivethrough penalty.
For the GTE classification, the #71 BMW Team Redline entry has been in control during this entire quarter. Driving through halfway, the #71 had Kevin Siggy behind the wheel and late into the night. Siggy stayed in until just under nine hours and 30 minutes remaining. At that time, he handed control over to Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland 2021 race podium finisher Rudy van Buren.
The #71 kept the lead, but another driver swap came an hour later when 2021 FIA Formula 3 Championship driver Lorenzo Colombo took over. Currently in the car, Enzo Bonito has the wheel of the lead GTE. Bonito took control with around six and a half hours to go.
Back in the second quarter of the race, the #71 took over the GTE lead from the #91 Porsche Esports Team, who all led the majority of the first quarter.
Martin Krönke led the #91 through the halfway mark, but it was Porsche Carrera Cup driver Laurin Heinrich who got behind the wheel with less than nine and a half hours to go.
Mitchell deJong hopped back in with just over eight hours remaining. As we cross into six hours remaining, Mack Bakkum is back in the #91. Unfortunately, the #91 wound up a full pit cycle behind the #71 around eight hours to go.
FIELD THINS AFTER ATTRITION THROUGH THE NIGHT
While the #70 and #71 continued their leading pace through the night, plenty of contenders found their demise before sunrise. The first reported incident during this block came early on when the current championship-leading #4 Floyd ByKolles-Burst LMP got into things with the #111 Red Bull Racing Esports GTE. The #4 reportedly had to pit for extra repairs.
A few minutes later, David Perel took the #51 FDA Esports Team Ferrari for a spin, literally. Perel was able to keep it out of the barriers and kept it going straight, only losing a couple of seconds. Not even a few minutes after that, the #25 Absolute Inspeed Racing Porsche had a spin at the end of Mulsanne Straight and backed it into the wall, requiring a wing replacement.
The first retirement of the third quarter came when the #444 Alpha Ind. ByKolles-Burst LMP was working traffic in the Porsche Curves. They caught a couple of slower GTEs off guard and spun across the track after heavy contact. After losing some tires, their race was over.
The next hour was fairly calm. Only the #49 YAS HEAT LMP entry driven by Will Tregurtha went for a loop in the Ford Chicane. When things went under 10 hours to go, attrition started to pick up again. The #25 got into trouble after contact with the #16 Pescarolo E-sport LMP. The shunt was enough to end the Chinese team’s virtual run.
A big loss came with nine hours and 30 minutes remaining. The #92 Porsche Esports Team entry, driven at that time by Tommy Østgaard, was taken out after contact with the #65 Panis Racing LMP. The #65, which had Nico Varrone behind the wheel, was awarded a drivethrough penalty.
Similar to an earlier issue for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas LMP entry, the Alpine Esports #36 expired a virtual engine prematurely when the gear went from fourth gear to neutral and back to first gear. Finnish driver Olli Pahkala was behind the wheel at that time.
Closing in on the eight hours to go mark, the #11 Red Bull Racing Esports LMP entry had a connection issue with Cooper Webster in the seat. Webster was able to reconnect, but the team fell from fourth down to 12th.
Just before six hours to go, another Alpine, the #14 Race Clutch Alpine LMP, had a massive issue and a disconnect moments after slamming the wall. Rory MacDuff rejoined the race and brought the car back out, but the car has major issues that could end their chances early. They fell from the Top 5 down to near the bottom of the LMP leaderboard.
Only 35 of the 50 entries are still on track as 15 teams are retired for the night. There have been no stoppages for any reason at this time. On top of that, the weather forecast for the rest of the race has clear skies expected. My fingers are crossed that this fantastic race stays clean and green and controversy-free until the end.
24 HOURS OF LE MANS VIRTUAL LMP STANDINGS AT 18-HOURS
- #70 Realteam Hydrogen Redline | Felipe Drugovich, Oliver Rowland, Jeffrey Rietveld, Michal Smidl – 304 laps
- #1 Rebellion GPX Esports | Louis Delétraz, Agustin Canapino, Kuba Brzezinski, Nikodem Wisniewski
- #28 Veloce Esports | James Baldwin, Mike Epps, Isaac Gillissen, Eamonn Murphy
- #4 Floyd ByKolles-Burst | Tom Dillmann, Bent Viscaal, Jesper Pedersen, Jernej Simončič
- #49 YAS HEAT | Will Tregurtha, Sandy Mitchell, Marko Pejic, Balázs Remenyik
24 HOURS OF LE MANS VIRTUAL GTE STANDINGS AT 18-HOURS
- #71 BMW Team Redline | Rudy van Buren, Lorenzo Colombo, Enzo Bonito, Kevin Siggy – 274 laps
- #91 Porsche Esports Team | Mitchell deJong, Laurin Heinrich, Mack Bakkum, Martin Krönke
- #51 FDA Esports Team | Nicklas Nielsen, David Perel, Jordy Zwiers, Kasper Stoltze
- #77 Proton Competition | Loek Hartog, Matt Campbell, Kevin van Dooren, Jeremy Bouteloup
- #89 BMW Team BS+COMPETITION | Bruno Spengler, Robby Foley, Alen Terzic, Joonas Raivio