E-Team WRT is basing its virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans engineering effort from Circuit Zolder having set up a makeshift pit bunker specifically for the esports endurance race.
Much like Ferrari in the GTE class, E-Team WRT will run its strategy from a central location out of the Belgium sportscar racing squad’s base in Zolder.
The successful GT3 outfit has also recreated a pit wall for its engineers and strategists in its bid for outright victory from the front row of the grid in the online event.
While its four drivers, including Kelvin van der Linde, will participate in the race remotely from their respective homes, the team will monitor everything throughout the 24-hour race on the same software they use in real-life racing.
The WRT entry will start second in the 50-car field, with van der Linde leading off the Oreca 07 LMP2 car that he shares with fellow Audi driver Dries Vanthoor and sim racers Fabrice Cornelis and Arne Schoonvliet.
“They’ve managed to link up our real-life strategy software that we use in all the real-life races, so they’re basically monitoring everything we do,” van der Linde told Sportscar365.
“From the setup point of view they’ve been looking at stuff non-stop, we have a channel that we do our debriefs on after testing sessions.
“We’ve been testing three to four hours a day and then they send out pages of analysis. There’s some massive real-life influence there.
“What’s also cool is our whole engineering team is based from Circuit Zolder for the race, they’re in that workshop and setting up like a normal engineering booth as we would have in a race.
“If they have any questions for each other they literally just look to the guy next to them and ask the question which I find is really cool, while all the drivers have their setups at home.
“The original plan was to have all of us in Zolder but with the restrictions, it was too difficult even for me to travel that far for a couple of days but maybe next year it might be easier to achieve.”
The South African said that waking up on Saturday morning was “like a real race day feeling” of excitement with the event receiving plenty of attention.
In the lead up to the race, van der Linde believes the WRT squad has “exceeded our own expectations” amid a highly competitive grid made up of “pro-simulation teams”.
“The way you go about setting up a car on a sim is very different from the way you do it in real life; from that point of view some of these guys are much more experienced than us,” he added.
“All four of our drivers real and sim are within half a second on the track so I think that’s one of our strengths compared to some of the other teams.
“It’s a little bit like in GT3 racing the Pro-Am vibe where the Pro puts it on pole and then the Am jumps in but this time around the real-world pro drivers seem to be the Ams in sim racing.”
Race Expected to Be 24 Hour Sprint
While real-world 24-hour races have often been referred to as twice-around the clock sprint affairs, van der Linde says the online event will be even more “flat out” due to a handful of variables.
“You have no technical failures in the sense that the car or engine can break so from a material point of view you’re going to be going flat out.
“The only things we have to manage our tire wear and fuel consumption which is essential because we have to stretch our fuel numbers to be able to make 10 laps per stint so you have to do a little bit of fuel-saving every stint.
“I think we have a good chance, I really do, I think we just need to survive the first four hours, there’s more chance of a crash in the first few corners than in real life but luckily being on the front row it’s safer.
“There’s also a chance of a possible server crash and there’s a lot of outside elements, but we have a good starting point so we’re out of all the dramas, fingers crossed.”
The race starts at 3 p.m. CEST (9 a.m. ET).