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Mike Conway goes up against the likes of Fernando Alonso, Rubens Barrichello and F1 star Max Verstappen in the first ever 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual

Kent race driver Mike Conway was back behind the wheel at the weekend as part of the first ever virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The World Endurance Championship season has been delayed until later in the year because of coronavirus and racing for real at Le Mans should have taken place last weekend.

Virtual Le Mans 24 hour racing Picture: @Toyota_Hybrid (36793809)
Virtual Le Mans 24 hour racing Picture: @Toyota_Hybrid (36793809)

It was an event billed as the biggest sim racing event ever, with 200 drivers, including Formula 1 champions and Le Mans winners, competing remotely from 37 different countries.

The real 2019 Le Mans 24hr saw pole-sitter Conway suffer heartbreak with just an hour left, leading the event before suffering a puncture. His team had to settle for the second spot on the podium behind their sister Toyota Gazoo Racing team.

Prior to the 2020 virtual event Conway, from Sevenoaks, admitted he “doesn’t do sim racing” but backed team-mate Jose Maria Lopez to impress in the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing sim car.

Drivers had a chance to test out their virtual cars prior to the race and Conway admitted it was a very different feel.

He said: “With race cars all being about feeling the vibration and feeling connected to all four wheels when you drive a car, when you jump in a sim it’s very hard to feel that and then you have to trick your mind into feeling things differently.”

Kent race driver Mike Conway Picture: sutton-images.com
Kent race driver Mike Conway Picture: sutton-images.com

Joining Conway and Lopez was Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi - the three leading drivers in the World Endurance LMP Drivers' Championship standings - and they were racing alongside e-motorsport racer Maxime Brient, all supported remotely by a dedicated engineering team from their HQ in Cologne, Germany.

The much-hyped event attracted some of the star names in motor racing, along with the leading e-sport drivers. Fifty teams lined up to start and among the competitors was two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso.

Conway’s crew finished the race in 14th while the second of the Toyota Gazoo Racing sims, driven by Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, Kenta Yamashita and Yuri Kasdorp, finished 11th.

While Conway said he was treating it as a new experience fellow Toyota driver Hartley, in the #8 car, said it was a a huge team building exercise.

The fastest lap of the race was set in the final minutes of the race by sim racing veteran Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola, driving for Frant-based Jota-Team Redline.

He clocked a lap of 3 min 23.672 secs in the #37 car, one of two ORECA 07 LMP2 entries for the Jota team. Professional racing drivers Will Stevens and Gabriel Aubry were part of Uusi-Jaakkola’s team while Antonio Felix da Costa and Felix Rosenqvist lined up in #38.

The Rebellion Williams Esport #1 Oreca LMP, driven by Louis Deletraz, Raffaele Marciello, Nikodem Wisniewski and Kuba Brzezinski, were the race winners.

The actual Le Mans 24 hour race is set to take place on September 19-20.

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