WEC chief hopes Virtual Le Mans attracts outside interest

Gerard Neveu is optimistic next week's Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans will spark more interest from drivers outside of sports car racing to enter the real-world race.

WEC chief hopes Virtual Le Mans attracts outside interest

Following the postponement of the 24 Hours of Le Mans until September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an inaugural virtual edition of the endurance classic will take place on the original date of 13-14 June.

The Esports event is a joint venture between the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, the FIA World Endurance Championship and Motorsport Games, and features a star-studded grid mixing real-world drivers with professional sim racers.

Regular WEC entrants such as Toyota, Porsche, Aston Martin and Ferrari have all joined the grid along with many of their factory drivers, with reigning Le Mans champions Sebastien Buemi and Fernando Alonso both part of the 200-driver field.

The event has also attracted interest from a number of drivers outside sports car racing, including Formula 1 stars Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris, none of whom have previously raced at Le Mans.

"This is a story that you can only tell with a virtual race," WEC CEO Neveu told Motorsport.com.

"To have all these champions coming from different world series in motorsport is usually very difficult to do, because normally they are supposed to have their respective races on this weekend.

"I'm not sure that in the normal period that it would be possible to do it at the same level of interest and same grid.

"When we started to discuss it, we immediately received a very enthusiastic return from the teams and the drivers. Any people that we started to discuss it with, they had exactly the same response, and so did the drivers.

"When you discuss it with the drivers, for example, Fernando Alonso. This guy is an amazing champion, he won everything, including Le Mans twice. I said: 'OK, are you in?' He said: 'Of course I'm in!'

"When I saw the first tests they did two days ago, he was immediately on the right level. He is working a lot for it.

"This is now a target for all of them - how can I win the race? How can I fight for the victory?"

Neveu was excited by the prospect of the virtual race acting as a first introduction to Le Mans for the likes of Verstappen, Leclerc and Norris, all of whom he would like to see enter the real-world race in the future.

"For the young drivers, I'm pretty sure the majority of them dream to one day be in Le Mans, because this is one race you want to put in your pocket for sure," Neveu said.

"They are young now, so they are focusing on another career which is logical. They are looking at this, but they have an opportunity to try Le Mans virtually, this is the beginning of the story.

"We know that Verstappen or Leclerc or the current F1 drivers can win everything in F1. But we would like to see these guys one day fighting for victory at Le Mans.

"If they can be F1 world champion, and one day win Le Mans, and then winning the Indy 500 for example, the iconic motorsport events, it would be a pleasure.

"That is exactly what happened with Fernando Alonso. We have an incredible respect for Fernando, first of all because he is an amazing champion with an incredible career. But he had the courage [to enter Le Mans], which is not the same for all the world champions.

"Many of them said 'hmm, Le Mans, I'm not sure!'. But Alonso, he took the risk to do it. He did it with an incredible spirit. For me, it is an example of a complete champion. And now he is trying to win the Indy 500.

"So what this guy is doing in his career is just amazing."

The Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans takes place on 13-14 June, and will be broadcast live on Motorsport.tv.

All information on the event can also be found on 24virtual.lemansesports.com 

shares
comments
Rothgeb/Brooks take Pro League wins at Talladega

Previous article

Rothgeb/Brooks take Pro League wins at Talladega

Next article

It’s Vandoorne v Wehrlein for Race at Home title

It’s Vandoorne v Wehrlein for Race at Home title
Load comments
How an unlikely tie-up won sim racing's biggest prize Prime

How an unlikely tie-up won sim racing's biggest prize

An unlikely partnership between World Endurance Championship LMP1 privateers Rebellion Racing and Williams Formula 1's highly-successful sim racing team yielded victory in the inaugural 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual. Here's how it triumphed in the biggest sim race ever staged

Esports
Jun 15, 2020
How seriously should Esports be taken? Prime

How seriously should Esports be taken?

As interest in Esports has increased during the coronavirus lockdown, the lines have become blurred between what's real and what's virtual - especially when some high-profile participants seem to be playing for laughs, says Luke Smith

Esports
Jun 10, 2020
Why Abt's deception left Audi with no choice Prime

Why Abt's deception left Audi with no choice

Daniel Abt's suspension by the Audi Formula E team - and possible loss of his drive - for fielding a ringer in an Esports event could be considered an overreaction. But in a wider context, his employers had little other alternative

Esports
May 26, 2020
How Leclerc is embracing his new mission Prime

How Leclerc is embracing his new mission

The emergence of Ferrari F1 driver Charles Leclerc as a Twitch streaming star has been one of the pleasant surprises of lockdown so far. He says it is giving fans a greater insight into his nature, but that's not his primary purpose

Formula 1
Apr 23, 2020
Leclerc's Virtual GP annihilation deserves great credit Prime

Leclerc's Virtual GP annihilation deserves great credit

The introduction of Charles Leclerc, Alex Albon, George Russell and Antonio Giovinazzi to Formula 1's Virtual GP last weekend meant it was a step above the franchise's debut two weeks ago. But a dominant performance from Esports newcomer Leclerc stole the show

Esports
Apr 6, 2020
How the hidden side of being fast has been exposed Prime

How the hidden side of being fast has been exposed

The lack of real track action so far this year hasn't stop drivers from keeping their racing brains 'fresh', as former F1 star Stoffel Vandoorne suggested last weekend.

Esports
Apr 2, 2020
Why entertainment isn't Esports greatest virtue right now Prime

Why entertainment isn't Esports greatest virtue right now

MotoGP's virtual #StayAtHomeGP was a sad reminder of some of the storylines that could be unfolding had the real-life season not been delayed indefinitely by the coronavirus pandemic. While we can bemoan Esports as being a poor relation of the real thing, it has an even more important function to perform

MotoGP
Mar 30, 2020
F1’s pantomime Virtual GP is fun but unsustainable Prime

F1’s pantomime Virtual GP is fun but unsustainable

F1 Esports' inaugural Virtual Grand Prix last weekend provided brilliant entertainment to those tuning in to watch a mix of F1 drivers and celebrities battle on track, but was a missed opportunity for marketing its own Esports stars. A change of approach is needed if it is to successfully fill the void until the resumption of proper racing

Esports
Mar 24, 2020