The 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual will return in January 2022 as the final round of a five-race championship organized by the ACO and Motorsport Games.
The Le Mans Virtual Series builds on last year’s standalone 24-hour sim race held on the original mid-June weekend of the postponed real-world 2020 Le Mans edition.
It will consist of online endurance races held on rFactor 2 at Monza, Spa, the Nürburgring and Sebring, building up to the live Le Mans finale which is due to take place at the Autosport International exhibition show in the UK on Jan. 15-16.
The full-season grid will be capped at 38 cars split between LMP and GTE classes. Those full-time entries will gain automatic access to the 24 Hours, while the rest of the grand final grid will be determined by a selection committee.
Teams can nominate up to five drivers for each lineup, with crews consisting of both real-world professional drivers and sim racing specialists.
A similar format was used for the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual where real-world competitors and sim racers teamed up in each of the 50 cars. Most opted for a half-and-half split, while others enlisted three real-world professionals.
The race attracted a large field of motorsport stars such as current Formula One drivers Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso.
Several FIA Endurance Championship regulars also took part including Toyota Gazoo Racing, ByKolles, TDS Racing, Team WRT, Porsche and AF Corse.
Rebellion-Williams Esports won the race with an Oreca 07 driven by Raffaele Marciello, Louis Deletraz, Nikodem Wisniewski and Kuba Brzezinski. Porsche took victory in GTE.
“Following the real 24 Hours of Le Mans in August 2021, we are delighted to now launch the Le Mans Virtual Series which will include as its highlight the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual,” said ACO President Pierre Fillon.
“The link between real-life motorsport and esports is now an essential element for our manufacturers and teams, and we all look forward to an excellent season of esports competition.”
The launch announcement for the new championship has stated that its intention is to become “as prestigious and recognizable” as the real-world FIA WEC.
The Le Mans Virtual Series includes a $250,000 US prize post, half of which will be distributed at the Le Mans finale. A provisional entry list is due to come out next week.
TotalEnergies, Thrustmaster, Rolex, Goodyear, LEGO Technic and Algorand have been named as the official series partners.
Gerard Neveu, Motorsport Advisor to Motorsport Games and former WEC CEO, commented: “Last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual was a huge success, and we have an opportunity to do it even better this time.
“This year, the event will further benefit the teams, partners and, of course, massive gaming and spectator audiences worldwide.
“We are extremely pleased to have secured the support of such an impressive portfolio of partners, and we can’t wait to get started this season with the reveal next week of some top-class names on the entry list.”
Le Mans Virtual Series Schedule:
Sept. 25 – 4 Hours of Monza
Oct. 16 – 6 Hours of Spa
Nov. 13 – 8 Hours of Nürburgring
Dec. 18 – 6 Hours of Sebring
Jan. 15-16 – 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual (at ASI)