Last year’s champions, Team Redline, lead the LMP category of the 8 Hours of Bahrain – the first round of the 2022-23 Le Mans Virtual Series. In GTE, Project 1 by Dörr Esports head its class.
Following a closely-fought qualifying session yesterday (16th September), the #1 car sat on pole position, with colleagues on the #7 BMW heading GTE, with Jeffrey Rietveld and Kevin Siggy respectively setting the best times.
As the virtual afternoon sun beat down on the 40 cars, Rietveld was tentative, allowing Jernej Simončič for Floyd Vanwall-Burst momentarily nosed ahead. The Redline driver braked later, however, to hold on.
The GTE class started seconds later, with Yuri Kasdorp in the Red Bull Racing Porsche leaping from sixth to second and challenging for the lead after a flying start. Enzo Bonito, who was at the helm of the pole-sitting BMW Redline for the first stint, held on following a staunch defence.
Back to the top class, with just 10 minutes complete, Joshua Rogers made the first clear overtake of the race, sending the Porsche Coanda entry down the inside of Michal Smidl in the second Redline for fourth overall. The car would later retire, however, thanks to a localised network issue.
Soon after, the leading LMP entrants started lapping the GTE field, and Kasdorp used this as an opportunity to snatch the class lead. Simultaneously, Formula 3 race winner Alexander Smolyar leapfrogged DTM Trophy podium finisher Moritz Löhner for third in the melee.
Smolyar would soon dispatch Bonito for second, before the former leader would be hit with a drivethrough penalty for repeated track limit violations at Turn 11. As detailed pre-race, using the kerb upon corner turn-in was deemed acceptable, but running off the circuit before it was not.
Another car that fell foul of this ruling early was the #63 AMG Team Petronas driven by Bono Huis, running off track after a warning and subsequently receiving a penalty. The car would later disconnect, along with the #10 and #53. Under sporting code 18.104.22.168, a maximum of three laps were gifted back, and the #53 continues inside the top 10.
However, the #63 chose not to reappear.
“As an organisation, there is no evidence to see that the disconnects of these cars were related to the race server and lobby host,” read a Le Mans Virtual Series statement.
Up front, Simončič had chipped away at Rietveld’s lead, and after coming across the AMG Team Williams of Jakub Brzezinski – who was on a differing strategy – the two effective leaders had a tête-à-tête, running side-by-side for several laps before the former eventually prevailed.
This framed the battle at the head of the field, the Burst Esport-affiliated teams taking the fight to the Redline steamroller.
Jesper Pedersen was now behind the wheel of the #4, on the same lap and keeping within a handful of seconds behind Maximilian Benecke and current Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup champion Diogo Pinto in the #1 and #2 Redlines throughout his stint.
In GTE, Oracle Red Bull Racing continued to lead for the opening hours, with its closest competitor being championship newcomers Project 1 by Dörr Esports. Just before the four-hour mark, the German squad overhauled its fellow Porsche-equipped team to lead in its very first Le Mans Virtual Series race.
As the race enters its second half, both classes are finely poised. You can watch the final stages live on the Traxion.GG YouTube channel.