The SMP Racing team is one of the wildcard entries in the Le Mans Esport Series final. The Russian outfit will be up against some of the best gamers in the world at the Super Final and has a trio of drivers, all proud to be representing Russia. We met them during the qualifying sessions.
Ruslan Sabitov was a member of the 2014 Olympic skeleton team and 2014-15 European champion. He remembers his first video game experience of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the Rfactor racing simulator. “I enjoy this circuit because you can reach some really high speeds. It gets your adrenaline flowing. I like both versions, with or without the chicanes,” the gamer says. He has less experience on Forza Motorsport but is familiar with the style of game. His first game was F1 Challenge 99-02, which was well known for the huge number of mods available.
Aleksandr Kliuev started car out on Ubisoft’s Racing Simulation 3, a highly sophisticated sim racing game for its time (2002). He then moved on to Richard Burns Rally, a game much appreciated by the community for its extreme difficulty. “My first memory of Le Mans was with Gran Turismo 5 or 6. I love the circuit, it’s iconic. I like fast circuits, but not those with long straights and few curves. I’m not a fan of Monza, for example. I also enjoy shorter, faster circuits like Hungaroring and Suzuka.”
The driver says he’s proud to be representing Russia on the international stage. “With SMP Racing, we have the opportunity to fly our country’s flag and raise the profile of esport. It’s still in its very early stages in in Russia but things are developing fast.”
Egor Ogorodnikov came to sim racing just two years ago with Assetto Corsa. He then turned to iRacing, which gave him his first experience of the full Le Mans circuit. “I like this circuit, it’s fast, especially the older configuration on which you can reach some awesome speeds.” Aleksandr Kliuev has already taken part in a few 24-hour endurance races and knows how to handle the pressure. “Things are very different at Le Mans. When you think about it, with lap times close to four minutes, there is no other circuit like it. It’s a real challenge and I love it.”
PHOTO: LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES DU MANS, 2019 LE MANS ESPORT SERIES. Will we see Russia on the top of the Le Mans Esports Series podium?