With the real-world race postponed from this week to September 19-20, organisers have arranged an online alternative that promises to be one of the biggest gaming events of the year. Racing publications such as Motorsport magazine have described the event as “unmissable”.
Manufacturers such as Ferrari, Porsche, Toyota, Aston Martin and Chevrolet will be represented by their best drivers.
Current Formula 1 stars Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovanazzi will share a GT-class Ferrari in the race, while rivals Max Verstappen and Lando Norris are set to drive together in a Le Mans Prototype (LMP) coupe.
Former world champions Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso are committed to the race, as are ex-F1 racers such as Juan Pablo Montoya and Rubens Barrichello.
Australian Le Mans and Bathurst 12 hour winner Matt Campbell shares a factory-backed Porsche entry with Kiwi housemate Jaxon Evans.
Teams are allowed to have up to two gaming specialists in each four-driver crew.
Aussie e-sports racer Joshua Rogers joins the fray fresh from winning Porsche’s online Supercup championship. Fellow Australian Emily Jones – a familiar face from homegrown Supercars e-sports coverage – joins an all-female crew led by British racer Katherine Legge.
Like the real race, the virtual 24 Hours will take place in day and night, through dawn and dusk. Race officials control the weather, which could involve a splash of rain at some point in the contest.
It promises to be a closer contest than the real race, as cars will offer identical performance within their respective classes.
Set to start at 11pm on Saturday night (Australian Eastern Standard Time), the race will be broadcast on streaming services such as Motorsport.tv as well as YouTube and some social media channels. Competitors will use PC-based rFactor2 software as opposed to popular racing sims such as iRacing, Project Cars, PlayStation’s Gran Turismo or Microsoft’s Forza Motorsport.
Former McLaren Grand Prix driver turned endurance racer Stoffel Vandoorne said the race will be tough on crews.
“It’s almost more exhausting driving a simulator in some ways than the real car – although they are completely different challenges. One is a more mental challenge for the brain and the other in real life is more physically challenging. Concentration will be key to make it through the race
Lucas Ordonez won Nissan’s GT Academy contest in 2009 and went on to become a professional racer, competing at Le Mans on five occasions.
“It’s set to be a huge event, and very exciting, with some big-name drivers and some excellent sim racers,” he said.
“It’s really good for the fans, who will be missing the real 24 Hours of Le Mans – it’s going to be a great show.”