The calm after a storm.
It’s usually the time to best reflect on the chaos that sometimes ensues in heavy pressure situations. I guess you could say the 24 Hours of Le Mans was a bit of exactly that. But after the clouds pass, there’s usually a pretty serendipitous moment of clarity; a sunrise over the horizon that reminds us of the hopeful light that inevitably shines through after the darkness.
For Porsche Coanda Esports, a season filled with consistency and a collective mindset brought them their one shining moment (if you know, you know) in the form of an overall victory in the 2023 Le Mans Virtual Series championship.
“It’s a fantastic team effort. Coming into the season new with the LMP car, against a lot of teams that have been doing it for a few seasons now, was certainly a tall order,” said driver Mitchell deJong.
“So, super proud of everyone. Huge team effort, and so many hours. That’s what it’s all about.”
Teammate Joshua Rogers, who made the switch to the # 20 car for the last race, echoed deJong.
“Just to see the joy in everyone’s face after the weekend, even though the race itself didn’t necessarily go to plan, to be able to see that excitement from the championship win was fantastic.”
Rogers admits the championship redemption felt pretty good.
“Given how last season went in the GTE for us in the # 92 car, it wasn’t the best year. So to be able to come back and I guess redeem ourselves in a way, I think it’s fantastic.”
A lot has changed since then, actually. Not only did the team swap from the GTE class to LMP, they also locked in a legendary collaboration.
After representing Porsche in the 2021-22 LMVS, the German sim racing squad partnered with the iconic brand to become Porsche Coanda Esports. Even their revamped motto—RECODE THE RACE—seemed to foreshadow their future success.
Back in September, I spoke to team principal Philip Stamm about the flashy new phrase, which he told me is a focus statement to keep them one step ahead of the competition.
It’s almost like he spoke the Le Mans Virtual Series win into existence.
The 24 Hours itself wasn’t a walk in the park. Amidst the restarts, Porsche Coanda and Team Redline battled for the lead in the middle of the night. Something deJong says was a “very stressful situation.”
“Obviously, after the restart, it kind of shook things up. We felt like we had a comfortable advantage in the beginning, also with the fuel advantage that we had.
“But you know, that went out the window and we had to reset from there. Josh had a good start for the first restart and then I took over the second due to driving time. It was stressful.”
The San Diego native recalls how difficult it was to manage their pace, especially when the weather cooled down.
“We wanted to keep our fuel advantage, keep doing the same strategy, but also keep the track position. People had different strategies for how they were saving and how they wanted to manage the driver stints. So, Jeffrey [Rietveld] and I had some very intense battles. Thankfully, we all ended up coming out okay,” said deJong.
Within the epic battle, the team suffered a setback after incurring a penalty. Rather than simply fold in the face of adversity, the # 20 LMP car kept pushing.
“That’s the thing I think I love about this team. We have the ‘Never Give Up’ attitude no matter what. We could be a lap or two laps down, but we will still go for everything.”
Never give up. It’s such a simple concept and one that, at times, weeds out the champions from the rest of grid. Even after a disconnect for Rogers, the team kept going.
“Whatever happens, happens. You just have to take it on the chin and try to do the best you can,” said Rogers.
“Unfortunately, once a disconnect happens, there’s not much you can do. It was just how it was and at the end of the day, we did the best job we could, and that’s coming out of the race,” he said.
Stamm added that having more than half the race in front of them was reason enough to continue with their strategy. Which, in the end, paid off.
“We learned in Bahrain what a real disconnect with wrong timing means,” the team principal recalled from Round 1.
“When it’s on the in-lap, then the race is completely over. I mean, everyone treats it differently. Even four or five hours after that, there could still be a red flag or some issues.”
Just like in real-world racing, problems arise. I mean, life in general is full of adversities and as individuals, or as a team, we choose if we’re going to make lemonade out of the lemons we’re given.
Sometimes, others decide to throw those lemons in the trash bin. And that’s okay, too.
It is inspiring to see how Porsche Coanda’s consistency throughout the Le Mans Virtual Series kept them going, though, even when faced with unfavourable conditions along the way.
Maybe the RECODE THE RACE motto represents more than just a rebrand. It’s a testament to their persistence, no matter what obstacles emerge. In general, that’s something Porsche stands for and linking with Coanda Esports is an admirable move beyond the track, as well, given the culture they’ve created in their not-so-little sim racing hub in Germany.
“The deal with Porsche is like a partnership on eye level,” said Damian Theato, the Creative Director behind Porsche Coanda Esports.
“It’s not like a marketing trick or anything. It’s really on eye level, working together, cooperating on the sporting side of things with Philip and being deeply involved with the Porsche guys.”
Porsche clearly sees the value in esports, hence joining forces with Coanda. Theato says they really feel the appreciation within the brand, which has allowed their team to grow in a way that highlights why these events exist in the first place.
“In the end, the whole motto of the esports communication is to not only go down a path that has always been there, but to go left and right and discover new things.”
One of those new things was a 25-hour, non-stop stream on the Porsche Twitch channel which included a broadcast team of experienced sim racing commentators who were live on location at the Coanda hub.
Something Stamm hopes will be their standard moving forward.
“Le Mans is a very special event. I think there’s a very special connection between the brand Porsche and the Le Mans name and event. That’s why it’s kind of like a halo weekend for us, where we show off what we can do,” said Stamm.
“Where we can use that setup to educate the unknown about sim racing and represent sim racing in the best possible way by trying to get as many new viewers for the future.
“We’re in a growing market and I think it’s very important to take the lead. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Congrats to the Porsche Coanda Esports team for taking home the Le Mans Virtual Series crown and for being a beaming light on the horizon of sim racing.