Around this time of year, like countless other Brits, I’d be packing up my car with a tent, a sleeping bag and a few crates of beer and making the drive across France to the greatest race of them all – in fact, I’d say it’s one of the greatest sporting events of them all. But Le Mans, like every other big sporting event, isn’t happening this June – for the first time since 1968, when civil unrest gripped France, the race has been pushed back to September. In its place, though, is something that promises to be pretty special – the Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual, an officially sanctioned esports event taking place in rFactor 2 in place of the traditional event this coming weekend.
It’s undoubtedly the high point of what’s been an exceptionally busy period for racing esports, where we’ve seen real-life drivers partake in outstanding virtual battles – and occasionally embroil themselves in controversy too. It boasts a driver roster that’s the measure of any that have lined up at the Circuit de la Sarthe, with multiple winners of the real event such as three-time winners Andre Lotterer and Darren Turner, joined by double winner Fernando Alonso and F1 hotshots such as Charles LeClerc, Max Verstappen and Lando Norris. For motorsport fans starved of real action for some months, it’s something to salivate over.
For organisers Motorsport Games, though, I imagine it’s something to fret over – as someone who struggles to get a handful of mates together to run some hotlaps in iRacing, the idea of herding some 200 drivers, and relying on 200 different internet connections, has me breaking out in a cold sweat.