Dane Cameron will be hoping his participation in next month’s virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans can serve as a “first step” to making his debut in the real-life running of the French endurance classic, which has been on the Acura Team Penske driver’s radar for a number of years.
The reigning IMSA DPi champion was confirmed Thursday as part of Team Penske’s lineup for the June 13-14 race, to be run on rFactor 2 in place of the actual event that has been postponed to September due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cameron will join his IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya as well as teammates Ricky Taylor and Simon Pagenaud in team’s Oreca 07 Gibson entry, as one of the few all-pro real-life racing lineups expected.
Speaking to Sportscar365, Cameron explained that Frenchman Pagenaud helped assemble the program shortly after the event was announced by the ACO earlier this month.
“He was the first one that brought it to everyone’s attention that it was happening and it kind of came into the wheelhouse for all the sports car guys,” Cameron said.
“But definitely, when I will get woken up in the middle of the night to jump on the sim I’m definitely going blame him for it!”
Unlike a number of other sports car racing drivers, Cameron admitted he lacks any significant sim racing experience but stressed that he and his co-drivers will be taking a serious approach.
“I’ve had a basic sim for for quite a while, just for fun more than anything else, and I’ve used it for more for learning some tracks here and there,” Cameron explained.
“As far as actually racing online [it’s] maybe [been] two races.
“I did a Dinner with Racer’s event and we did the big Penske event with Verizon. Those are literally the only two official online races I’ve ever really done.
“I’ve ordered a bunch of gear at the start of this pandemic, like a lot of other drivers in the paddock. I had a few bits and pieces get lost on the way.
“The parts I’ve been missing actually just showed up.
“I’ve been spending [the last few days] trying to bolt it all together with a heavily upgraded rig. I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks trying to get that thing calibrated and dialed in.”
While all three of his co-drivers have previous Le Mans starts in real life, Cameron has yet to make his race debut, citing the lack of available seats due to the influx of full-season FIA World Endurance Championship entries.
Whether his dabble in the virtual race will lead to a seat in the near future, however, remains unclear although Cameron said he’s hopeful.
IMSA and the ACO’s recently confirmed LMDh platform, which is currently scheduled to debut in 2022, could end up being Cameron’s route to La Sarthe, should Acura and Team Penske continue its top-level prototype involvement with the new platform.
“It seems really tough to get that first crack at Le Mans in the real world,” Cameron said. “We’ve been trying every year now for number of years. It’s been pretty difficult when you’re not a part of the WEC season full-time just to find out opportunities.
“It’s been a little bit difficult in a race that I’ve been trying to get to. I think it’s on everybody’s bucket list.
“For sure it’s a great event, not just to go but, but obviously try to win.
“It’ll be fun to least get a few hours on the on the track in the virtual world, so if nothing else, it’ll be a good first step maybe and and definitely some experience in the pocket and a bit of fun to go with it.”
Cameron said he’s expecting a “tough” race particularly with Team Penske’s lineup lacking extensive sim racing experience.
“We don’t have any sim racers on our squad,” he said. “That will be pretty difficult for us.
“There seems to be a bit of a delta from the heavily experienced sim guys to the pro guys like myself and Ricky, who don’t do a ton of time on the sim. I think we’ll be playing a bit of catch up but we’ll do our best. We’ll start practicing here and see how it shakes out.
“I think your competitive instinct takes over, as a racing driver, that you want to do well. We’re all a pretty competitive bunch of guys who are used to being successful.
“I think we’re realistic in the fact that we know how difficult it will be that we’re not super experienced in the platform and we don’t have two sim racers like most the other entries appear to have so I think that will make it tough.
“But we’re certainly taking a serious approach and we’re going give it our best to make a strong result.”