The FIA World Endurance Championship will resume next week in Florida with the 1000 Miles of Sebring on 15 March. Thirty Le Mans Esports Series virtual championship gamers from around the globe will take part in the Floridian round this coming weekend, a decisive race ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
Three invitations are up for grabs this weekend for three gamers to take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans in Forza Motorsport 7 during the "actual" race in June.
After the qualifying rounds at Silverstone, Fuji, Shanghai and Birmingham - which culminated in four driver line-ups - this is the North American race. Like the inaugural round of the Le Mans Esports Series at Silverstone, the gamers will hit the same track as the drivers for the 1000 Miles of Sebring, causing both real-world and virtual competitors to face the demanding Floridian circuit.
Sebring circuit is legendary, based on a converted former US Army Air Forces airfield, known to be bumpy and exhausting for both car and driver. Utilized through the end of the World War II by the American Army, the circuit alternates between concrete and asphalt, amounting to a stress test for racing cars. It has long served as an ideal location to prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The gamers already familiarized themselves with the track when they worked to clock the fastest times and secure their starting spots for this weekend. Thousands of competitors chose a 2014 Audi R18 for the qualifying phase, with more than 3,000 gamers trying their chances in Forza Motorsport 7 back in February.
For the North America zone, Sauber ZooM took the pole in 1:44.789. TX3 Bilysoo and Vanquish followed in 1:44.830 and 1:44.881, respectively (the top 10 all qualified in under 1:45.00). For the Asia zone, only JSR AziDhk for Japspeed Racing qualified under the symbolic bar of 1:44.984. For the Europe zone, another Japspeed Racing team member scored pole position, JOTA Commando in a time of 1:44.527, the best overall. The top nine gamers in the Europe zone proved fastest in the world, confirming the high level of competition in that zone.
Gianmaria Bruni (driver of Porsche GT Team's #91 Porsche 911 RSR: "You really have to become one with the car, find the perfect balance and have faith in your car. It's the only way to go faster on the bumps [at Sebring] when the car is slipping and sliding in every direction." The cars are put through the ringer and drivers suffer from very little rest time and constant pressure to keep the right pace despite the bumps.
The incomparable track is truly demanding, a challenge these gamers are ready to take on!
Follow all three races this weekend on the Le Mans Esports Series Twitch channel. After this round you can still qualify for the 24 Hours of Le Mans grand finale at the Spa-Francorchamps qualifying round (register for free) at lemansesports.com