Everyone loves a good redemption story.
As kids, we’re raised by Disney tales that give us hope, that even in our darkest, most desperate hour, we can still be the hero. It’s almost engrained into our souls, in a way, to never give up.
I think it’s why so many of us root for the underdogs in real-life situations.
Under the lights in the Sakhir desert, the Le Mans Virtual Series opening contest at Bahrain Circuit featured just that. And like the fictional films from our childhood, an unexpected star emerged after eight hours of battle against the big guys—a sign that this season is an Any Given Sunday scenario.
Enter the #4 Floyd Vanwall-Burst car of Burst Esport.
“I think we got a bit cheated last year for a win,” said Jesper Pedersen, the team’s co-founder and driver.
“We were leading all but two laps at the Nordschleife and the race got cut short due to some sort of technical error. So actually, if we would have won that race, let’s say we pitted one lap later, we would have won the championship last year.
“I think it’s also a bit of redemption to get back and actually take the first win of the season and our first win of the series, as well.”
Thanks to some masterful strategy calling, the #4 LMP took the lead over Max Verstappen’s powerhouse Team Redline with just over an hour of race remaining at the iconic circuit—which fittingly made its debut in the series’ first event.
Teammate Jernej Simončič stayed calm, cool and collected, eventually taking the chequered flag and its statement win. Something Pedersen doesn’t take lightly, considering the Danish team, on paper, may be considered an underdog compared to Team Redline.
“It’s of course great to see and it’s a bit funny that a smaller team with a lower budget can fight the big guys, and the Formula 1 teams that have esport teams, as well.
“But I wasn’t surprised. So far, we have seven races in the Le Mans Virtual and in six of them we have been on the podium.
“I’m of course very proud of the guys. We have a very special way of preparing, so I think that’s also why we’re up there.”
The 28-year-old has been racing for almost 14 years. It’s been his passion since a young age when he was gifted a steering wheel and pedals. And even though Pedersen will suit up alongside fellow drivers Simončič and Damian Skowron throughout the LMVS, his role expands beyond the sim as a co-founder and team manager at Burst Esport, too.
“We started in 2018, and it was actually on the backfoot of winning a world championship race,” Pedersen explained that after taking a breather from real-world racing, a friend of his called upon him to jump back into the simulator.
“I hadn’t touched a sim in four, maybe five years. I may not be able to do it. And I showed up at the event—I didn’t have any simulator and so I couldn’t practice from home—and it ended up with us winning.
“We became world champions.”
He says the victory was an eye-opener, which led to Burst Esport’s inevitable formation. While the Dane juggles three unique hats for the company, his dedication to his team is admirable.
He says they all know how he feels about them and the win, considering they spent the rest of that Saturday evening after Bahrain “just chatting and having fun together.” Their bond is tight, something I’ve noticed that in any sport, when a squad truly competes for each other, is a magical ingredient for success.
In his long and lustrous racing career, Pedersen admits this triumph is the most meaningful one.
“I think it’s probably the single biggest win I have had,” he smiled.
“I would call Le Mans Virtual the biggest series in all of sim racing. Of course, there are other big tournaments, as well. But I would put Le Man Virtual as the number one.”
Not a bad accomplishment for the little team from Denmark: the redemption underdogs with a huge chip on its shoulder and its first win of the season in the rearview.