After a suspected security threat derailed the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual, the race has continued through the night, with a four-way battle for the overall lead between Team Fordzilla, Porsche Coanda and the two Team Redline entries stealing the show.
At the restart following two red flag periods, Mitchell DeJong led in the #20, but reigning champion Jeffrey Rietveld – in the #1 shared with Max Verstappen, Luke Browning and Diogo Pinto – had the Porsche Coanda driver in his sights.
Just seconds later, with just over 16 hours remaining, the overall lead changed, the Redline driver overhauling the Porsche Coanda. But the move was far from straightforward.
An attempt around the outside of the first Mulsanne chicane was rebutted, but the same move at the second worked. All the while, Team Fordzilla’s meteoric rise continued, British Formula 4 driver Georgi Dimitrov suddenly on the tail of the top two.
But, the Ford-backed machine was on an alternative strategy and dipped out of the battle into the pitlane. During this time, Jiri Toman or R8G Esports ran wide at the pitlane entry, losing a spot to Brabham’s Jan von der Heyde.
Once these stops were completed, Fordzilla jumped to the top, but deJong didn’t give up, wrestling his way back ahead of Rietveld for second.
After the next round of stops, Porsche, Ford and the two Redline cars were all fighting for the lead.
Rietveld went down the inside of Ford’s Gianmarco Fiduci at the Virage de Mulsanne, with team-mate Luke Bennett following through.
Recent DTM driver Ayhancan Güven was holding his own in the lead for Porsche Coanda, keeping the chasing pack at bay – but only just.
In fact, the battle between the leading Porsche and the two Redline machines went on for two stints, back and forth. Güven’s defence was staunch, elbows-out, bordering on desperate. It provided the most riveting action of the race so far, fighting for the lead with 15 hours remaining.
It all came to a head when the #20 Porsche received a drivethrough penalty after turning in on the #1 – although the penalty wasn’t for that move alone, but rather a build-up of reprimands. Güven dropped down to eighth initially, fighting back to fourth.
Also in strife, and worse than a penalty, the #5 Williams Esports LMP ran out of fuel in the pitlane. Set for retirement, Markus Søholm in the #39 pushed it down the lane four laps later, and it was able to continue, albeit several laps behind.
Formula 3 champion Victor Martins was at the helm of the #37 Alpine car in the early hours of the European morning, and engaged in a fierce battle with R8G’s #18, clattering into the side of Martin Hemmingsen at the second Ralentisseur. The Dane went back down the inside at Virage de Mulsanne, with Martins running wide into the gravel.
In GTE, BS+Competition’s BMW of Bruno Spengler, Phillippe Denes, Alen Terzic and Ibraheem Khan was in charge, with the fightback nearly complete for the R8G Esports Ferrari. After an earlier technical issue, it had now fought back to fight for the lead, albeit with a different pitstop strategy. This was thanks in part to the red flags bunching the field together and the demise of Coanda.
First, the #88 Coanda 911, which had run in the top two for the first six hours, clipped the wall at the exit of Arnage, damaging the 911 and dropping down the order.
Worse would befall its sibling. The #77 was leading until Charlie Collins had a steering wheel hardware failure, plunging the front of the Porsche into the barriers and into a crushing retirement.
Championship leaders BMW Redline was having a mixed run. Former World’s Fastest Gamer winner Rudy van Buren tried to go around the outside of the #26 of Christian Malghera at the first Mulsanne chicane. Not being able to make it around the right, he tried to go on the inside at the second part of the complex, but wasn’t far enough up the inside. He made contact and span.
The Dutch driver fought back however, and now with Enzo Bonito behind the wheel sat fourth after 12 hours. Elsewhere, the #10 Mahle car of Beitske Visser, Jimmy Broadbent, Michele D’Alessandro and Muhammed Patel found the gravel at Indianapolis, having to reverse out.
With BS+Competition ahead and fighting R8G, it showed that the M8 could be hustled around Circuit de la Sarthe with aplomb.
24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual 2023, Hour 12 LMP Standings
- #1 Team Redline – Max Verstappen, Luke Browning, Jeffrey Rietveld, Diogo Pinto – 152 laps
- #2 Team Redline – Felipe Drugovich, Felix Rosenqvist, Luke Bennett, Chris Lulham – 152 laps
- #36 Alpine Esports – Sacha Lehmann, Leo Boulay, Collin Spork, Tom Lartilleux – 152 laps
- #966 Team Fordzilla – Ramon Piñeiro, Georgi Dimitrov, Gianmarco Fiduci, Alessandro Ottaviani – 152 laps
- #23 Porsche Coanda – Bastian Buus, Morris Schuring, Mack Bakkum, Dayne Warren – 152 laps
24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual 2023, Hour 12 GTE Standings
- #89 BMW Team BS+Competition – BMW M8 GTE – Bruno Spengler, Phillippe Denes, Alen Terzic, Ibraheem Khan – 138 laps
- #888 R8G ESPORTS – Ferrari 488 GTE – Alexander Smolyar, Scott Andrews, Timotej Andonovski, Erhan Jajovski – 138 laps
- #11 Project 1 by Dörr Esports – Porsche 911 RSR GTE – Marc Gassner, Norbert Kiss, Moritz Löhner, Leonard Krippner – 138 laps
- #71 BMW Team Redline – BMW M8 GTE – Rudy van Buren, Lorenzo Colombo, Kevin Siggy, Enzo Bonito – 138 laps
- #99 Oracle Red Bull Racing – Porsche 911 RSR GTE – Dennis Lind, Ayumu Iwasa, Dennis Jordan, Yuri Kasdorp
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