After three class victories and 17 consecutive starts in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Aston Martin Racing ace Darren Turner is about to notch up another first in his illustrious career this weekend when he makes his debut in the ‘Virtual’ version of the event (13-14 June).
The 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual [LM24V] promises to be the biggest official esports sim-racing event since the coronavirus lockdown began in March, bringing real motorsport to a temporary halt and spawning a host of celebrity online races featuring many of the sport’s superstars.
Aston Martin Racing is entering three-works Vantage GTEs in the event, which will run on Studio 397’s rFactor 2 PC-based platform and is being organised by WEC and Motorsport Games.
The LM24V is designed to be as close to real-life as possible, with four-driver line-ups, fuel and tyre changes, realistic damage, weather and lighting, and of course prototype and GTE classes. There are 50 entries in the field, comprised mostly of the regular FIA World Endurance Championship field as well as two Formula 1 world champions and five current grand prix drivers, several IndyCar aces and more besides.
Turner will be joined by his regular WEC team-mate Ross Gunn and his former co-driver and fellow 2017 Le Mans winner Jonny Adam in the #98 entry. The rules stipulate that each crew can feature a maximum of two expert sim-racers and assisting Turner in his car will be Giuseppe De Fuoco – the 2018 Endurance sim-racing world champion.
It won’t be entirely unfamiliar territory for Turner though as the three race drivers will take turns using his GT simulator at Base Performance Simulators, in Banbury.
The rig is the perfect tool for the job, built out of a shell from the new Aston Martin Vantage, it features proprietary engineering, a Cosworth-built dashboard and the same Alcon pedal box and callipers you find in the WEC GTE race-car. To finish it off, the simulator will be running in works team colours for the event.
“I’m super excited for this race,” said Turner, who only began sim-racing in the spring and has already starred in The Race All-Star Legends Trophy. “I’ve been involved in quite a bit of sim-racing recently, partly to stay sharp and also to keep busy and have some fun. I’ve learned that it is not as easy as it looks, and if you want to be competitive, you need to give yourself every advantage including plenty of practice.
“The Le Mans 24 Hours Virtual will be really special though because we’ll be racing cars that are modelled on the ones we race in real-life, and of course it’s on the most famous sportscar circuit in the world. The challenges are similar and, just like in the real race, each stint is going to be like a flat-out sprint.
“I’d like to thank Giuseppe De Fuoco and his fellow sim-racing team-mates, Tiziano Brioni, Manuel Biancolilla and David Greco (who are all working with the Aston Martin Racing team). Their speed is exceptional and their experience and knowledge has been invaluable as we chase a competitive edge. It’s deeply impressive how good these guys are.”
A 20-minute qualifying session will take place at 1710 BST, Friday 12 June, to decide the GTE class grid. Meanwhile, the race will be shown live in every global territory on the majority of WEC’s television partners, but the full 24 hours can also be viewed on the FIA WEC and 24 Hours of Le Mans Official YouTube, Facebook and Twitch Channels from 1400 onwards on Saturday 13 June.