6 hours into Le Mans 24 Virtual and the race already sparks controversy with Fernando Alonso re-joining the race.
When Max Verstappen started into the 24 Hours of Le Mans race at 3 PM CEST today, more than 30,000 people were watching him despite – or maybe even because of – the peculiar situation. The Formula 1 star wasn’t sitting in a real car as usual nor was he in the Northwest of France, where the famous circuit is located. Instead he was sitting in a simulator, competing in the virtual edition of the iconic race. Due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) decided to postpone the actual race to September 19-20 and organized a virtual edition instead.
[#LeMans24Virtual -Spotter Guide] 👀— WEC (@FIAWEC) June 11, 2020
Ladies and Gentlemen, these are the 50 cars and the 200 drivers ready to battle it out for the victory! 👊🏻
Download ➡️ https://t.co/zcefqY3BkH#WEC #LeMans24 #RaceAtHome pic.twitter.com/Wc0E3GQu81
The who is who of the racing world
The line-up reads like a comprehensive list of the best racing drivers in the world: Formula 1 Legend Fernando Alonso competes with his team FA/RB Allinsports #14, which also features Brazilian racing driver Rubens Barrichello and sim racing aces Olli Pahkala and Jarl Teien. There’s racing legend Juan Pablo Montoya with his Team Penske #6, Laureaus World Sports Award winner Sophia Floersch for Richard Mille Racing Team #50, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc with Ferrari – AF Corse #52 – and of course Max Verstappen, who is competing for Team Redline #20.
Porsche impresses in Qualifying
Overall there are two categories: LMP and GTE, which are based on the car models. Max Verstappen competes in the LMP category and even made a statement before the race started. The 22-year-old and his team managed to qualify fifth in their category with Bykolles-Burst Esport #4 leading the grid. South African driver Kelvin van der Linde and his team E-Team WRT #30 started on P2, 2 Seas Motorsport #33 on P3.
In the GMP category Porsche set a convincing example: The German sports-car manufacturer sent four teams into the race, staffed with some of the best drivers and sim racers. After an impressive qualifying, they claimed P1, P2, P4 and P7.
Fernando Alonso gets disqualified – but re-joins the race
While the start of the race was fairly quiet, the first controversy happened 30 minutes in: Fernando Alonso and Porsche #9’s Simona de Silvestro made contact at the entrance of Tetre Rouge. What seemed like a minor incident, became a huge controversy.
Alonso and his team FA/RB Allinsports #14 were on position 11, when the contact occured and had to accept a drive-through penalty for one second – while he was already in the pit. This meant he could not choose to take the penalty at a later time. This circumstance turned into a disaster for him and his team. Alonso did not have enough gas for another lap, so he and his team debated for 30 minutes what to do.
In the end they decided to commit to the drive-through penalty. They tried to finish the lap but did not have enough gas to get back to the pit, which resulted in the team’s disqualification. As if that wasn’t enough drama for one evening, 78 laps and about 5 hours into the race, host Ben Constanduros announced technical difficulties – the red flag was waved, the race had to be paused. While nobody knew what exactly was going on, the race resumed after around 20 minutes with several safety car laps – and Fernando Alonso’s FA/RB Allinsports #14.
The race committee decided to overrule the disqualification made by the game and allowed the team back in with a disadvantage of 6 laps to their contestants.
It’s a nice evening now to ride a bit on the bike…🚴♂️! Not the 24h we were hoping for 😂😂😂😂!— Fernando Alonso (@alo_oficial) June 13, 2020
Into the next challenge team @Allinsports_srl @rubarrichello @OlliPahkala @JarlTeien …any suggestions? Spa24? Nurburgring? Daytona? 💪 pic.twitter.com/KLmrORf2Aw
2 Seas Motorsport leads the pack
When the race fully resumed 81 laps in, 2 Seas Motorsport #33 led the overall standings, with Team Redline #20 closely following. In the GTE category, Porsche’s #93 with Ayhancan Güven stood on top of the leaderboard.
The race will continue until 3 PM CEST on Sunday. You can watch it live on YouTube, TV and several community streams.