Max Verstappen took to the sim racing world to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual – but crashed when in the lead and had to retire.
The Formula 1 World Champion was racing in the #123 Team Redline LMP car, but ended up off the racing line heading into the Ford Chicane after overtaking a lapped car, leading him to run across the kerbs and ended up careering into the side barrier, critically damaging his car and eliminating his team from the race.
Verstappen was visibly frustrated after qualifying for the virtual event, now in its second year, having qualified just 0.002s off pole position. The Dutchman took the lead on the first lap, however, and was able to gain a significant advantage over the rest of the field with his team-mates, Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar driver Felix Rosenqvist and sim racers Max Benecke and Atze Kerkhof.
Things didn't end well for Max Verstappen in the #LeMansVirtual, retiring after crashing out from the lead of the race 😬
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) January 16, 2022
But their sister Realteam Hydrogen Redline car won the overall classification, with the #70 car having Formula E driver Oliver Rowland and Formula 2 talent Felipe Drugovich behind the wheel, alongside sim racers Michal Smidl and Jeffrey Rietveld.
They beat the Rebellion GPX Esports car in the LMP class, whose team contained both Williams F1 Esports drivers, alongside former Haas reserve driver Louis Deletraz and Argentine racer Agustin Canapino.
Redline also took victory in the GTE class, with the #71 BMW taking the chequered flag. There was drama in the race for them, however, as driver Rudy van Buren had to travel three hours in the middle of the night in the Netherlands to arrive at a team-mate’s office to be able to drive after his own simulator set-up had failed mid-race.
Among other Formula 1 figures, it was also a disappointing end for Fernando Alonso, who was team manager for the #36 Alpine Esports car – they also retired midway through the race due to an engine issue, being just one of 16 retirements through the field.
There were plenty of world-class racing talents on show, with former F1 favourite Juan Pablo Montoya taking part in an LMVS Guest Car alongside his son Sebastian, while reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou raced for Team Fordzilla.
Two professional drivers partnered two sim racers in each team, with the simulated race having had both day and night elements to it, reflecting real life around the 13.6km circuit.
The Le Mans Virtual championship series was developed as an idea when the world was locked down during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic and has grown into a popular addition to the sim racing calendar, as evidenced by the calibre of drivers on show in the Le Mans Virtual.
The winners of the race take home a $125,000 (£91,500) prize pot between them, half of the $250,000 fund made available through the course of the season.