A large group of LMP2 cars navigating the Dunlop chicane.
rFactor 2

Baldwin Headlines Le Mans Virtual Line-up

With the season nearly upon us, we know who will be competing in the second season of the Le Mans Virtual Series. Here is the line-up.

Image credit: Le Mans Virtual

With its Le Mans Virtual Series opener taking place this Saturday 17 September, we now know who will be the main season entries and the drivers that will compete for them. 40 teams will take to the virtual Bahrain circuit on rFactor 2, with 24 of those competing in the LMP class and the other 16 will drive a Ferrari, Porsche, Aston Martin or BMW in the GTE class.

The series spawned from the landmark 24 hours of Le Mans Virtual event in June 2020, in which the top real-world and sim racers united to participate in an incredible event. The championship ran its first season from September 2021 and it ended in January 2022 with the second running of Le Mans 24 Virtual, in which sim racing powerhouse Team Redline took the double, claiming both class 24 hour victories and championships.

Heading into the second season, plenty of big names are involved. So without further ado, here are the highlights from the reveal of the teams and drivers stream.

Mercedes Stepping Up for LMVS

For the 2022 edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans Virtual, Mercedes entered with the likes of 2-time F1 Esports champion Jarno Opmeer and Formula Pro champion Bono Huis. Coming off the back of winning the V10 R-League in their first season, they’ll be fielding a full season entry in the LMP class for the Le Mans Virtual Series.

Huis remains involved although it would appear Opmeer will be directing his efforts towards the F1 Esports season, and as such he will not undertake the full LMVS season. He could, however, take part in the 24 hour finale, but time will tell whether that’s the case. After all, he barely got to turn a wheel in anger as the Merc entry retired before Opmeer could drive in the race.

But to make up for the loss of one big name, they’ve signed a few others.

Mercedes have come in swinging after picking up Graham Carroll and James Baldwin. Carroll being an ex-Red Bull driver who has jumped over to Merc for Le Mans Virtual, and Baldwin who is our July Hero of the Month being granted this opportunity through his connections with Veloce.

Along with Carroll, Baldwin and Huis, there’s also real world driver Elias Seppänen. The Finn was 3rd in the German F4 championship to now-FIA Formula 3 drivers Jonny Edgar and Jak Crawford. Also a prevalent sim racer, having competed for BS+COMPETITION.

Big Name Returns

From one name synonymous with modern Grand Prix to one with historical connotations. Back in March, we reported the news of the Brabham name joining the virtual racing world, making their debut in the VCO Esports Racing League. The Brabham Esports team are operated by Zansho Simsport, who also operate Jenson Button’s Rocket Simsport team.

They have since competed in the SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge Esports series, and it only made sense for them to enter the Le Mans Virtual Series.

An Oreca 07 LMP2 car on rFactor 2 in a green and gold Brabham livery.
Brabham’s return to Le Mans and top level endurance racing comes in virtual form. Image credit: Le Mans Virtual

In terms of drivers, Brabham have gotten a few of Zansho’s more prominent drivers. Jan von der Hyde was the rFactor 2 GT Pro Series season 3 champion, Devin Braune who has won the last two World eX races and Arne Schoonvliet who competed in the inaugural event with WRT.

Also in that WRT entry in the 2020 edition was Dries Vanthoor, a real world racer who will be part of Brabham’s team. Vanthoor currently leads the GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup and will be competing in the final round this weekend at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, but will compete in the LMVS for one of the first four rounds and then the 24 hour finale.

Porsche Aiming for Glory

In the first running of Le Mans Virtual, GTE honours went the way of Porsche. In partnership with Coanda, they raced four 911 RSR in the inaugural event and last season but for this season, they’ve split their focus across both categories. Two LMP cars will run under the Porsche Coanda name with prevalent sim racing real world Porsche drivers Ayhancan Güven and Laurin Heinrich driving each entry.

They will also be joined by the official Porsche esports work drivers. These drivers being Martin Krönke, Mack Bakkum, Tommy Østgaard, Mitchell DeJong and 2-time Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup champion Josh Rogers. They’re also joined by 2022 PESC title contender Zac Campbell.

As for the GTE class, Coanda have teamed up with real world racing outfit Proton Competition. These entries will include the likes of newly-crowned Porsche Supercup champion Dylan Pereira, 2-time Australian Supercars Eseries champion Dayne Warren and 2022 PESC 5th place finisher Charlie Collins.

After seeing Redline double up in both the LMP and GTE class last season, Porsche and Coanda will be aiming to do the same. Speaking of Redline.

Champions Returning Strong

Team Redline will be fielding a single GTE class entry in partnership with BMW, whilst they will have two LMP entries. Their partnership with Realteam Hydrogen that resulted in the overall 2022 edition victory hasn’t been continued, so both LMP entries will be purely Team Redline.

For their GTE entry, three of the four drivers from the race winning team return. Kevin Siggy and Enzo Bonito will compete as will Rudy van Buren, now a Porsche Supercup full-time driver and has just been signed by Red Bull to be their F1 simulator development driver. They will also be joined by former British F4 racer Chris Lulham.

As for their LMP entries, they include Josh Thompson, Michal Šmídl, Maximilian Benecke, Luke Bennett, Jeffrey Rietveld and our June Hero of the Month and Porsche TAG Heuer Esports Supercup champion Diogo Pinto. As for real world racers, Daniel Juncadella will compete as will seemingly inevitable soon-to-be 2022 F1 champion Max Verstappen.

Other Major Entries

In the 2022 Le Mans Virtual, Prodrive ran an entry in the GTE class and one of their drivers was Lasse Sørensen. The Danish Touring Car champion has been involved in sim racing for many years, and has just started up his own sim racing team Fyra Simsport. They’re teaming up once again.

As far as other noteworthy bits of news, also taking part is Arnage Competition. They are a new presence in LMVS which is not so seasoned on rFactor 2. Another team that hasn’t been overly involved in rFactor 2 competition is Dörr Esports and they’re teaming up with Project 1 Racing, with DTM Trophy driver Moritz Löhner part of the line-up.

Other big names doing the full season include Panis, Pescarolo and even Vanwall through their affiliation with ByKolles whose entries are operated by Burst Esport. Then there’s also of course the usual suspects from last season like R8G, BS+, Ferrari, Red Bull, Williams and YAS HEAT-Veloce.

To find the full entry list for the 8 hours of Bahrain, click here. The broadcast begins at 1:30pm CEST on 17 September, and it can be viewed on the World Endurance Championship or 24 hours of Le Mans YouTube channels.

Who do you believe will win the Le Mans Virtual Series? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!

Luca
Biggest esports racing fan in the world.