Rebellion Williams Esport dominated the inaugural 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual to take two of the three overall podium positions, the #04 ByKolles – Burst Esport entry finishing second.
Nikodem Wisniewski, at the wheel of the #1 Rebellion Williams Esport ORECA 07 he shared with Louis Deletraz, Raffaele Marciello and Kuba Brzezinski, crossed the line 17.781 seconds ahead of the #04 ByKolles – Burst Esport entry piloted by Tom Dillman, Esteban Guerrieri, Jernej Simoncic and Jesper Pederson, Simoncic taking the final stint.
Completing the podium positions was the sister #13 Rebellion entry with Agustin Canapino, Jack Aitken, Marc Gassner and Michael Romandis sharing the driving duties. Gassner, a late replacement into the #13 car, took the chequered flag.
In the GTE category, three different manufacturers shared the podium positions with the #93 Porsche Esports Team Porsche 911 taking the class win, the entry driven by Nick Tandy, Ayhancan Güven, Joshua Rogers and Tommy Østgaard.
Second in class was the #95 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage driven by Nicki Thiim, Richard Westbrook, Lasse Sorensen and Manuel Biancolilla.
The #80 R8G Esports team Corvette C7.R. piloted by Dani Juncadella, Mathias Beche, Erhan Jajovski and Risto Kappet completed the top three finishers in GTE.
Rebellion Williams Esport entries ran strongly in the opening hours and, as the morning broke at La Sarthe, the #1 and #13 entries were first and second on track. The #04 ByKolles entry was third as the twice-round-the clock entered the final two hours and gained an advantage by staying out a lap longer than the Rebellion pairing.
Jernej Simoncic, who drove the final stint for the #04 quartet, was on an charge in the final hour and passed the #13 car with Michael Romandis at the wheel at the Dunlop chicane after which the Czech driver set about catching the leader.
Despite making up five seconds, Wisniewski in the #1 car had enough of a margin to control the race from the front and crossed the line nearly 18 seconds ahead of Simoncic.
The race, the first virtual 24-hour race at this level, ran smoothly with the running interrupted only twice by technical incidents relating to the server. The second stoppage, with less than five hours remaining, allowed the then-second placed #13 entry to close the gap to the leader from two minutes down to 13 seconds.
Raffaele Marciello, driver of the winning #1 Rebellion Williams Esport ORECA 07, was delighted to have been part of the winning driver line-up:
“Everything I do, I try to do well,” said the 2018 Blancpain GT Series drivers champion. “I knew I had really good teammates, so I had to train well the last three weeks. At the end I though we had good pace. We also have to thank Martin behind the scenes for the strategy and timing. I’m really happy. I wanted to win a sim race. I’m really proud of Nikodem and Kuba who are amazing sim drivers.
We really wanted to take it seriously. I quite used to racing with a simulator because I did it from 2010 to 2015 but it’s not easy because you don’t have the outside feedback and it’s easy to get distracted.”
Teammate Williams Esport driver Nikodem Wisniewski, winner of the 2019 Fanatec 12h of Sebring, had to watch his fuel consumption on the final stint.
“It was stressful having that advantage to claim the victory because we needed to save fuel,” said the Polish pilot. “We noticed that we needed to save at least two laps on the fuel. I came on and just pushed the car to the limit while trying to make it to the finish line safely. We had to adapt our strategy because of the timing and red flags. The car was amazing. I’m really proud of the guys and to have such good teammates.”
In the GTE class, Tandy, Güven, Rogers and Østgaard’s #93 Porsche started from pole and was rarely out of contention. 22-year-old Güven, Porsche Carrera Cup France champion in 2019 and 2019 and FIA GT Nations Cup winner in 2018, took the lead shortly after the first restart to put the #93 Porsche Esports team entry into a position it would retain for the remainder of the race.
2015 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Nick Tandy was pleased that the hard work of Porsche Esports and his teammates had paid off.
“The emotion is the same as any other race I’ve gone through I think, because the build-up, anticipation and amount of work that goes into it (and) the amount of people who are relying on this car, or these four cars in this instance, it builds the tension and that excitement.
“When it means so much to not just you but a lot of other people, including a manufacturer like Porsche, the emotion is undescribable.”
The FIA World Endurance Championship re-convenes, in the real world, for the Total 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on August 15.