The 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual might not sound as daunting as the real thing, but this historic online endurance race does come with its own set of challenges. Unpredictable connection interruptions, glitches, and simulator equipment failure sit at the same level as the real world’s retirements and crashes, and these unique traits are the ones that give eSports its own charm.
Not wanting to miss the golden opportunity to represent the country, Malaysian-based racing outfit Axle Motorsport managed to secure a spot on the grid of this historic race which was limited to only 50 cars on the grid and on an invitation-only basis.
Each team was required to have four drivers (two real world drivers, two sim drivers), and Axle Motorsport’s entry was represented by none other than the team’s founder and Malaysia’s ex-F1 driver Alex Yoong, his son Alister Yoong which is also a real world racer, and two talented sim racers of Mika Hakimi and Naquib Azlan.
This race was not as simple as four drivers changing seats in the course of 24 hours as it requires a proper team effort. They had Nabil Azlan to stand in as the reserve driver, Lip Han Tat as the race engineer in making sure the car and hardware setup were in its optimum condition, and Emitsa Shirazi to manage the team.
As the clock turned 9pm local time on 13th June, the lights turned green and the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual was on the way. Starting the race from 26th place in the Oreca LMP2, team Axle Motorsport had set their sights to improve their position and it did not take long for them to fight the field and climbed up to 24th place during the race.
However, drama started to kick in after the second hour of the race as the team was involved in a number of crashes in the following hours, dragging them down to 30th place. But the crashes were not the only one that pulled them down as they also faced laggy connection in the early stages of the race which made things trickier for the team.
As if the connection problem was not enough, the team soon experienced hardware issues with their brake pedal which cost them precious time down the straights. After giving the pedal a quick fix, the team continued their momentum and gained quite a number of positions along the way.
All the challenges thrown towards the team just made their fighting spirits burn brighter as they gradually improved their position as the hours go by. Even when the team was unexpectedly booted out of the server and losing precious laps, they quickly rejoined the race and gave a great chase to make up the positions before reaching as high as 23rd place in the 22nd hour.
But no race ever goes exactly as planned and there will always be unexpected surprises lurking around the corner. In the final hour of the race, all the hard work almost went down the drain as the steering wheel suddenly got disconnected. The team franticly tried to fix the issue and while they did have it working once again, the grounds they made up earlier was lost and team Axle Motorsport finished the race in 28th place with 350 laps in the bag.
The whole race was a roller coaster of emotions, but the team did learn a lot through this unique experience in accomplishing goals and working together as a unit. Although the driving sensation was not quite like real life, Alex did enjoy his stint in the LMP2 and the flow of the race was very similar to the real one.
Will Axle Motorsport take part in another Virtual Le Mans if they were to run it again in the future?
“Definitely,” said Alex.