The fourth round of the Le Mans Virtual Series – the 500 Miles of Sebring – is underway, and it’s R8G Esports that leads LMP and Porsche Esports Team ahead in GTE at the halfway mark.
The race began with the LMP category flying in formation for the rolling start, with Erhan Jajovski for R8G Esports heading the pack into Turn One, ahead of the #22 GPX Rebellion Esports entry driven by Marcell Csincsik.
It was relatively well behaved on the opening lap, the top four holding their positions in the early running. Dennis Zeťák span in the ARC Bratislava car and the #11 Red Bull Racing Esports entry came to grief after coming into contact with a sideways #5 Williams Esports car.
For the GTE category, Kevin Siggy started at the front in the championship-leading #71 BMW Team Redline M8, ahead of both Porsche Esports Team 911s, the #92 and #91. Joshua Rogers in the #92, however, made the best use of the inside line, running side-by-side with Siggy for several corners before the Porsche slipped through into an early lead.
The big mover was the Ferrari Driver Academy 488, as Jordy Zwiers cut through the pack, up to fourth position with the podium in sight. It was here that was the main focus in the early running – the Ferrari chasing the BMW and Porsches, looking large in the rear-view camera.
Zwiers dived down the inside of DeJong on the ninth lap for third place, but in the process of being lapped by the LMP runners, the Porsche would re-gain the position soon after and the Ferrari would slip into the clutches of Charlie Collins in the #88 Proton Competition Porsche.
With the first stints nearly complete, the biggest mover in the field was British GT race winner and 2021 GT World Challenge Europe Esports Sprint Series champion James Baldwin, scything his way up from seventh on the grid to fifth, with fourth and third insight.
Several other cars tried alternative strategies, such as Team Fordzilla who stopped on Lap 12, but the majority of the LMP field, including the top bunch, stopped 10 laps later. Baldwin, however, opted to fit new soft compound tyres, costing the YAS HEAT driver 20 seconds extra in the pitlane and falling down to 10th. But, on track, he was once again picking off the opposition, setting purple sectors on almost every lap.
The aggressive strategy provided excitement on the track, but by the end of the second stint, he’d only made his way back up to sixth.
Drama befell the championship-leading Bono Huis, receiving a drivethrough penalty after making contact with the #888 Tesla R8G Esports BMW while trying to lap the GTE-class vehicle.
At the front of the field, as we’ve seen so many times this season, Jajovski was flying and keeping his lead from the very start. Likewise, with Jiri Toman now at the wheel, GPX Rebellion Williams was keeping hold of second. Michal Smidl in the #70 made a move in traffic on Michi Hoyer in the #444 for third.
In GTE, Siggy in the BMW had ceded the class lead after the initial pitstops, choosing to go significantly longer at this stage than his Porsche rivals, with deJong in the #91 leading teammate Ayhancan Güven in the #92.
67 laps remain in the 500 Miles of Sebring, but with several strategic calls yet to be realised, it remains anyone’s race.