Winner of the last two 24 Hours of Le Mans with Toyota Gazoo Racing, Sébastien Buemi is taking the Virtual race very seriously: “It’s a race like any other, after all. I always approach a race with the aim of winning it. I always do my best, but it has to be said that simracing isn’t at all easy. We did a test run and it was complex. I’ll be hoping to be free of connexion issues and aiming to get the car safely back to the pits at the end of my stints. At the same time, if it doesn’t go well, my life doesn’t depend on it. But I’ll do my best.”
The Toyota Gazoo Racing teams feature one simracer rather than two, the maximum authorised. Based in Le Mans, simracer Maxime Brient will be sharing the #7 with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López. Dutchman Yuri Kasdorp is the sim expert in the #8, teamed with Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kenta Yamashita. “The Simracers are a great help. We’ve learned a lot from them. I didn’t realise how much we could perfect our racing line for the game. José María López knows the guys well as he has been part of the Simracing scene for several years now. I think he advised the team on who to hire. We professional drivers still have plenty left to learn. There’s no magic recipe. To be good, you have to practice hard”, says Sébastien Buemi. Driver changeover is just one of the drills: “We practised a lot because it’s pretty tricky. You press a button to request to pit. Then you have to decide who’s going to take over.”
I keep at it, trying to improve
Norman Nato, , driver of the Veloce Esports 2 #16 Oreca 07 LMP2 is teamed with Stoffel Vandoorne, Eamonn Murphy and Tomek Poradzisz. “Stoffel lives near me so instead of buying all the gear twice, it was easier to go to his. He has a really good set-up and is an experienced simracer. It’s more fun when there are two of you. I’m not great at the tech side of things, so he’ll be on hand to help me if anything goes wrong.”
Four-time Le Mans 24 Hours racer and former Formula One driver Olivier Panis will be competing alongside his son Aurélien and simracers Adam Pinczes and Nuno Pinto. Panis Racing Triple A has entered a second car in LMP. The #31 will be in the hands of Tristan Vautier, Nicolas Jamin (who raced the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Duqueine Engineering last year), Hany Alsabti and Thibault Cazaubon. “I keep at it, trying to improve. I think it’s a wonderful idea to host the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s going to be a great event. But simracing is a whole different world to ours. To me the key here is to avoid making mistakes rather than try to go as fast as possible. As team leader, it’s great: tyres, cars, damage... none of it costs anything. I also think this race will be a springboard for simracers because many of them are already professional,” says Panis.
Free practice is from 10:00 to 22:00 CEST today. The Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans is this weekend, 13–14 June, the weekend the actual race was scheduled to take place this year before the Covid-19 pandemic decided otherwise.
BREAKING NEWS: THE 2020 24 HOURS OF LE MANS TO BE RACED BEHIND CLOSED DOORS