That tiny gap was all it took to secure a massive second-place podium for the #8 LMP car, driven by Erhan Jajovski of R8G Esports, in Round 1 of the Le Mans Virtual Series last month at Bahrain.
And just like the timing would suggest, it was a dramatic duel right down to the chequered flag at Bahrain.
“It was quite a perfect race, I would say, once we switched to single stints,” said Jajovski.
“I think we did a pretty great job.”
Near the end of the incredible eight-hour event, the #4 car of Floyd Vanwall-Burst held tightly onto first while Jajovski played a game of cat and mouse with Team Redline’s Luke Bennett. After pitting for the final time, R8G wiggled ahead.
“I didn’t think I would jump him in the pits. I gained like two seconds on him, but the goal was always to get [Jernej] Simončič. But at the end, [the gap] was like six seconds, and there is no way you gain six seconds on Simončič,” Jajovski laughed.
With around 30 minutes to go, Bennett turned up the heat and pushed for an overtake, which led to a brush of contact between the two drivers.
“He was trying so hard to get me… it was very intense. I got frustrated by the move, obviously. I was flashing my headlights on him.
“He was playing games with me, trying to stay on my bumper and stuff. That’s why I cut him off a bit before the last turn. I tried to play the same game as him, but he managed to stay close and attack me on the next one. Somehow, I managed to stay in front of him.
“It felt amazing.”
Considering Bennett is fairly new to the rFactor 2 platform and this was his first time ever competing in the Le Mans Virtual Series, his experience in the contest was a positive one.
“For me, personally, I was quite happy with the way I drove and the way the race went,” explained the Team Redline driver.
“I think I managed to get the fans’ hearts at the end with a good hard battle with Erhan.”
Bennett says the support of his Redline teammates made all the difference, despite his own lack of familiarity with the sim racing platform. From the UK driver’s point of view, the final pitstop and eventual leapfrog by Jajovski was a bit surprising.
“It sort of set a goal for me for that last half an hour, or whatever it was, to try and battle my way through,” said Bennett the slight mixup in the pits.
“Although I didn’t manage, it was a good battle. I don’t think either of us did anything too bad with racecraft and such. I may have done once an aggressive move, but I gave the position back and I knew I was going to get a penalty.
“You know, seeing the R8G car in front of me, a team that we battled with for two years, it was certainly a car that I wanted to overtake and I gave it my best, but it wasn’t quite the one. There were a few times I thought, ‘if I keep my nose in here, there’s gonna be a crash.’ So I thought maybe sometimes it was a bit too aggressive on the braking. That’s racing…I understand. I probably would do something similar myself.
Ultimately, Jajovski’s defending kept Bennett at bay.
The epic game of cat and mouse, of course, had to come to an end eventually. However, both drivers are looking forward to the next race at Monza, kicking off on Saturday 9th October.
“The aim is to win,” said Jajovski.
Bennett had a cheekier response when I asked him what he hopes to accomplish this coming weekend.
“Winning hopefully. I mean, that’s the goal, right? I don’t know, maybe another battle like that would be good for the cameras but come out on top this time I suppose.”
Who says esports isn’t as thrilling as the real thing? Subscribe to the Traxion.GG YouTube channel to catch all the action in the Le Mans Virtual Series this season.
Qualifying is live from 6 pm BST / 7 pm CEST on Friday 7th September, followed by the main race on Saturday 8th September at 12.30 pm BST / 1.30 pm CEST.