The Porsche Coanda Esports Racing Team will field two LMP2 racing prototypes at the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans this Saturday. The factory squad is determined to clinch its first overall win at the season highlight of the Le Mans Virtual Series and aims to grab its chances in the fight for the championship title.
Porsche has notched up 19 overall victories at the real 24 Hours of Le Mans. This makes the sports car manufacturer by far the most successful brand at the world’s most famous endurance race. This coming weekend, the fledgling Porsche Coanda Esports Racing Team (PCERT) works team aims to build on this success story in the digital world. At the first edition of this virtual 24-hour race in 2020, the international squad from Gronau in Germany’s Münsterland region clinched first place in the GTE class. Last year, the 911 RSR achieved second place.
PCERT now contests the top LMP2 category for the first time on the rFactor 2 simulation platform with Oreca 07 prototypes. The two top-class cockpit crews have set themselves the ambitious goal of climbing to the top podium step in the overall ranking and have their eye on the championship title in the Le Mans Virtual Series. The endurance highlight takes off on the virtual Circuit des 24 Heures on Saturday (14 January) at 2:00 pm CET.
“Sim racing is another important topic for Porsche Motorsport and we put a lot of emphasis on it,” states Thomas Laudenbach, Vice President Porsche Motorsport. “In 2019, we established the Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup. This series has long enjoyed a special status in the scene and has produced some great talent. Last year we joined forces with Coanda Esports to create our own factory squad. This is the first time we pursue overall victory at the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans and we’re also determined to have a say in the title decision. Just like in real racing, success depends on meticulous preparation and flawless performances at the highest level. Of course, we also hope we have that little bit of racing luck on our side.”
Sim racing experts share the cockpits with real racing professionals
The virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans represents the highlight and the finale of the Le Mans Virtual Series. A special feature of this championship: seasoned professionals from real-life motorsport share driving duties in the digital racing cars with sim racing experts. The PCERT works drivers Joshua Rogers, Dayne Warren (both Australia), Mitchell deJong (USA) and Mack Bakkum (Netherlands) for instance, receive backing from the two Porsche contract drivers Ayhancan Güven (Turkey) and Laurin Heinrich (Germany) as well as the newly-appointed Porsche Junior Bastian Buus from Denmark and Morris Schuring. In 2022, the Dutchman tackled the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup and the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany.
The grid line-up includes many other well-known names from the motorsport scene, most notably the reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen (Netherlands), the former Grand Prix driver and current IndyCar star Romain Grosjean (France), the ex-DTM champion Bruno Spengler (CDN), the three-time world touring car champion Andy Priaulx (UK) and many more.
Porsche Coanda Esports Racing Team has championship title chances
Five rounds make up the 2022/2023 season of the virtual Le Mans Series. The season kicked off on 17 September with an eight-hour race in Bahrain and continued with the 4 Hours of Monza on 8 October, the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on 5 November and the Sebring 500 on 3 December. After a mediocre start, the Porsche Coanda Esports Racing works team managed to turn the tide in the LMP2 class with a one-two victory at Sebring. After 134 laps, Rogers, Bakkum and Heinrich crossed the finish line first in the No. 23 Oreca 07-LMP2 racing car, 2.785 seconds ahead of the No. 20 sister car driven by deJong, Tommy Østgaard (Norway) and Güven.
Heading to the final round on the digital Circuit des 24 Heures, the No. 20 car fielded by PCERT ranks third with 58 points behind the Team Redline with 78 points. The No. 23 Porsche Coanda car lies fourth with 46 points. With 50 points awarded to the winner of the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans, both vehicles have very real chances to clinch the title.
To increase the chances of claiming the first overall victory in the digital version of the endurance classic and the championship title, Team Principal Philipp Stamm has reorganised the driver line-up: Rogers and Heinrich switch to deJong and Güven in the No. 20 car. Bakkum shares the sister car with Buus and Schuring plus Warren as a new addition. For the first time, the Australian replaces Østgaard as a Porsche Coanda Esports Racing Team works driver.
“The one-two result at the 500 Miles of Sebring has given the team a huge boost in motivation. After a short break over the festive season, we launched into preparations early for Le Mans. We’re sure we’ve drawn the right conclusions from the previous races. Our preparations are running to schedule,” said Stamm. “Still, a 24-hour race is always something special. Anything can happen. For this reason, the main thing for us is to find an answer to every scenario.”
Six digital Porsche 911 RSR tackle the GTE class
Similar to the real 24 Hours of Le Mans, the field also includes a virtual version of the GTE class comprising a total of 45 vehicles. The Porsche 911 RSR is the most popular model in this category, with six digital racing cars competing. Proton Coanda Esports campaigns two RSR: The No. 77 car is helmed by Loek Hartog (NL) and Jefferson Giassi (BR) with the sim racers Charlie Collins (UK) and Paschalis Gkergkis (GR). Sharing the No. 88 entry are Raoul Hyman (ZA) and Germany’s Alexander Tauscher with Bryn Collins (UK) and Kevin van Dooren (NL).
Project 1 by Dörr Esports competes with drivers Marc Gassner (D) and Norbert Kiss (H) joined by Germans Moritz Löhner and Leonard Krippner. Inspeed Racing from China is represented by Wenlong Lu, Xiayufei Li, Yanzhe Li and Rafael Lobato from Portugal. Dennis Lind from Denmark and Ayumu Iwasa from Japan compete for the Oracle Red Bull Racing team with Dennis Jordan (D) and Yuri Kasdorp (NL). P1 Sport combines the Danish trio Frederik Schandorff, Oliver Rasmussen and Rasmus Busk with Turkka Häkkinen from Finland.
The schedule (all times CET)
The virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans begins on Saturday, 14 January 2023, at 2:00 pm local time. The joint qualifying for GTE and LMP vehicles starts today (Friday, 13.1.) at 7:10 pm. The 15-minute Hyperpole session gets underway for both vehicle classes at 8:30 pm. A two-hour warm-up begins at 10:00 am on Saturday. The race finish is scheduled for 2:00 pm on Sunday.
How to watch the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans live and at Porsche
Porsche will report on the 24 Hours of Le Mans live from 1:30 pm on Saturday. At the event area of the state-of-the-art PCERT racing centre in Gronau, the eight factory squad drivers take turns in the simulators. Rounding off the programme are interviews with experts and competitors, analyses and background reports, which will be aired until 2:30 pm on Sunday. The event will be streamed on Porsche’s Twitch channel. As always, Porsche posts the latest racing information on its Twitter account @PorscheRaces. Live timing is available on the Porsche Motorsport-Hub.
Several social media channels offer a live stream of the virtual Le Mans endurance race on the rFactor 2 simulation platform, for instance, YouTube (www.YouTube.com/traxiongg and www.YouTube.com/user/FIAWEC) and Twitch. The event organiser will also post the latest news on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @lemansvirtual.
Source & Credits: