Jean-Eric Vergne (three Le Mans 24 Hours starts) will be competing at the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Veloce Esports 1 team. He’ll be sharing the #24 Oreca 07 LMP2 with Formula One driver Pierre Gasly and simracers Jarno Opmeer and Isaac Gillissen. “The simulator has been doing overtime but it’s great fun! We’ve been training with Stoffel Vandoorne and the other drivers from the Veloce Esports teams. We’ve been doing tests, just as we would for the real-world race. We’re trying to get to grips with how the game works because the set-ups we use in the real race are not necessarily the right choice on the simulator. We’ve got a lot to learn,” he tells us. The French driver and his team are taking the event very seriously. The drivers have all done a share of the testing work and shared their feedback before deciding together on their prototype’s settings. “We defining our tyre strategy. Damage to the car is also very realistic. For example, if we hit a wall, the rear wing comes off. It’s going to be a very difficult race. There are 200 drivers, and the bar is set very high with drivers from Formula One, Formula E and the FIA WEC. There’s an amazing grid. The organisers are pulling out all the stops to make sure the race goes smoothly. I’ve had a fibre network installed at home to make sure that my connection doesn’t drop out,” says the driver, who competes for G-Drive Racing in endurance. So what are his hopes for this unique race? “It’s all going to be very friendly. We want to set up a good car and hope for a good result. Then again, we’re racing against people who are experts in this kind of thing. Max Verstappen and Lando Norris grew up with simulators and sim-racing. When they don’t have a real-life race, they spend their weekend on the simulator. They’re serious gamers and I think they’ll be unbeatable. Our goal is to avoid mistakes, to finish the race and to rank as high as we can. I’m not going in with illusions of winning.”
100 HOURS’ PRACTICE FOR SIMON PAGENAUD
Simon Pagenaud, the first French driver to take the IndyCar title and winner of the Indy 500 in 2019, will also be competing. He will be at the wheel of the #6 Oreca 07 LMP2 for Team Penske, teamed with Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Ricky Taylor as part of the only crew without a simracer. “We’re doing it to support the 24 Hours of Le Mans and to entertain people. It’s a great event bringing together some big names from motorsport, some big teams from different disciplines. Driving the Team Penske car is extraordinary and it’s a way of bringing IMSA and the ACO closer, ahead of the rule change due to come into force in 2022. Personally, I want to take part as I’ve already spent 100 hours training on the simulation platform. Driving down the Mulsanne Straight at night feels so real, it’s incredible!” explains Pagenaud, who has raced the Le Mans 24 Hours four times, including three times at the wheel of a Peugeot 908.
Just like the real race, the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans will have celebrity starter – former professional basketballer Tony Parker, another Frenchman who made it big in the United States, like Simon Pagenaud. “He had an amazing career and it’s great to same him take an interest in motorsport. There are so many reasons to watch this race. Seeing all these big names from motor racing having fun together is great and I’m delighted to be part of it.”
The Virtual 24 Hours of Mans will start at 15:00 French time which, for Simon Pagenaud who lives in North Carolina, means 9 a.m.!“I’ll have my wife with me. It’s going to be a long day but a good one as I have a few friends coming over. I hope we’ll make it to the finish! It’ll also cheer up the team’s engineers, while they’re still at home,” the driver concludes.
More on this topic: #LEMANS24VIRTUAL – In the cockpit with Patrick Pilet (Porsche).
PHOTO: The #24 Oreca 07 LMP2 fielded by Veloce Esports 1 driven by Jean-Eric Vergne, Pierre Gasly and simracers Jarno Opmeer and Isaac Gillisen.
BREAKING NEWS: THE 2020 24 HOURS OF LE MANS TO BE RACED BEHIND CLOSED DOORS