24h Le Mans
09/06/2020 - 17:01

#LEMANS24VIRTUAL - Maxime Brient, simracer with Toyota Gazoo Racing

23-year-old Maxime Brient is a simracer competing with Toyota Gazoo Racing, teaming up with Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and José María López for the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Le Mans native, who has already raced for real at the 24 Hours Karting, tells us how is approaching the event and how he is working with the professional racing drivers.
#LEMANS24VIRTUAL - Maxime Brient, simracer with Toyota Gazoo Racing

Tell us about your simracing experience.

“I started in the discipline on the Project Cars game. At the end of 2016, I took part in a few small competitions and then moved on to iRacing in 2017. Like José María López, I was part of the Mivano Simracing Team. I’ve already completed the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice on iRacing. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been training on rFactor, ahead of the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans. When you’re familiar with iRacing, it’s not too hard to switch to another simracing platform.

How are you preparing for the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans?

“Things are going well so far. The professional drivers are getting to grips with the simulator. The engineers are mainly working with me and Yuri Kasdoprt, the simracer in the #8 car, because we’re experienced with sim-racing. We’ve planned some test sessions with our teammates and we’re helping the pro drivers make the switch to sim-racing. Some of them, like Mike Conway, are keen for our input, whereas José María López has plenty of experience with the simulator environment.”

You’ll be competing for Toyota, the current 24 Hours of Le Mans title-holders. How does that feel?

“I’m not putting myself under too much pressure even though it’s a pretty special event. More than anything, I intend to enjoy myself because it’s a unique opportunity for us simracers. We’re staying humble as a team and we just want to entertain the fans while doing the best we can and having fun.”

We can imagine that it’s pretty satisfying being on a team with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, FIA WEC World Endurance Championship drivers?

“Sure, because I’ve watched them compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans or on TV. I got the chance to speak to them at Le Mans in 2019, about how they came so close to victory [a puncture in the final stages of the race stopped them from taking the win]. They were obviously disappointed but that’s the race for you. So many things can happen. A few weeks ago, I would never have imagined myself sharing a car with them in a race like this. I’m really lucky.”

I like the fact that GTs and prototypes race alongside one another. It’s amazing.
Maxime Brient

You’ll be up against drivers like Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa and Lando Norris - virtually, at least. How does that make you feel?

“I know a bit what it’s like because Max Verstappen and Lando Norris play on iRacing and I’ve already competed against them. Racing against all the big names in one race is an amazing opportunity and I intend to make the most of it, because I’ll only get this one chance.”

How have you been training for the race?

“I started on rFactor a short time ago. I’ve been training for an hour or two each day, while revising for exams at the same time because I’m on an engineering course. It’s going well and we’ve set up some joint practice sessions with the other drivers on the team. Kamui Kobayashi and Brendon Hartley are not in the same time zone but that could be an advantage for the race. We’ve taken part in three test races during which I completed my ten mandatory laps.”

Tell us about your love of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ve been to the race every year since 2006. It’s the race I appreciate the most. This year, I’ve got the opportunity to do the Virtual 24 Hours. If I got the chance to do it for real, that would be amazing. My father and I always go to the Raccordement grandstand. It’s one of the greatest races in the world. I like the fact that GTs and prototypes race alongside one another. It’s amazing. You’re aware of the race’s history as soon as you arrive at the circuit.”

Would you like to become a professional racing driver?

“All simracers dream about going professional. I’d love to switch between virtual and real racing. From 2008 to 2011, I drove karts at national level, racing against drivers like Gabriel Aubry [driver with Jackie Chan DC Racing in FIA WEC] and Thomas Laurent [driver with Signatech Alpine Elf in FIA WEC]. I took part in the XC30 French and World championships at Le Mans in 2016. In 2018, I competed in the French Endurance Championship. I came third with the SO24 team.”

Don’t forget: the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans will take place on 13-14 June 2020, the date originally scheduled for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, now postponed to 19-20 September 2020 due to the international health crisis.

See the full entry list for the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual.

More on this topic: #LEMANS24VIRTUAL - Lucas Ordóñez is looking forward to a great show!