Le Mans Virtual Series, a joint venture between Motorsport Games Inc. and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), returns this September for more of the elite, endurance esports competition which has attracted world motor racing champions, captured global attention, and received plaudits from teams, drivers and fans alike. The announcement was made today at the official ACO annual press conference ahead of the 90th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Last year’s successful Le Mans Virtual Series culminated in a thrilling 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual in January 2022 with multiple, major motor manufacturers entering teams and F1 World Champion Max Verstappen and IndyCar Champion Alex Palou within the 200-strong driver line up. An impressive, cumulated TV and digital audience figure of more than 81 million (Source: YouGov Sport) was registered throughout its 5-month season.
Similar to the 2021/22 series, all five rounds of the coming series will be held online on the rFactor2 platform including the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual, the climax of the premier endurance esports championship. This format allows teams to compete virtually on simulators located all around the world, for a total prize fund of US $250,000.
To allow more flexibility within professional drivers’ schedules – now fully restored after the disruption of the global health pandemic – a change has been made to the driver requirements. Teams must enter one professional driver in at least one regular round of the series (Rounds 1-4) instead of the full season.
The 2022/23 calendar features some of the world’s most famous and recognizable racetracks across three continents which will challenge drivers from the real and sim worlds, and thrill the millions of esports enthusiasts around the globe. New for 2022 is the season-opening 8 Hours of Bahrain, a more modern classic which fits in comfortably with the history and legendary status of Monza, Spa, Sebring and, of course, the most iconic venue of them all, Le Mans.
Giving their full and continued support to the Le Mans Virtual Series will be some of the world’s best known and most prestigious brands: Thrustmaster as Official Hardware Partner, Rolex as Official Timepiece Partner, Total Energies as Official Energy Partner, Goodyear as Official Tire Partner, Algorand as Official Blockchain Partner, and LEGO® Technic as Official Engineering Partner.
Pierre Fillon, President of the ACO, commented: “We are very pleased to have supported and followed the success of the Le Mans Virtual Series to date with, as its highlight, the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual. The link between real-life motorsport and esports is an essential element for our manufacturers and teams, and we believe it has an important role to play in attracting a new, younger audience both on and off track. We all look forward to another excellent season of esports competition.”
CEO of Le Mans Virtual Series, Gérard Neveu, said: “Last year’s Le Mans Virtual Series was extremely successful but we always aim for better! The audience figures and returns we saw in 2021-22 go a long way towards recognizing the support of our impressive portfolio of partners, the collaboration of elite manufacturers and the commitment of the best sim racing teams including our current champions, Team Redline. We are confident we will continue to attract champions from all different categories of motorsport and sim racing, and that we can produce another exciting and professional esports series for the massive worldwide gaming and spectator audiences to enjoy.”
The vision for the virtual series remains to be as prestigious and recognizable as the real-world FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans as its cornerstone event. The esports series will continue to use rFactor 2 as its platform, which is focused on the sim racing audience and provides a more authentic racing experience. Focus on increased race and strategy analysis and professional broadcasts of the races will further boost fan interest and engagement. As in previous years, FIA-licensed drivers and sim racing experts compete together in either LMP or GTE models. More details on the entry list will be revealed at the beginning of September.