The ambitious project to host the Le Mans 24-Hour race as a virtual race on June 13/14 has attracted several of the leading prototype teams, the latest being Toyota Gazoo Racing.
However, as there are only two categories in Virtual Le Mans, (LMP2 and GT) like all other prototype entrants Toyota Gazoo Racing chose to compete in LMP2 class and its drivers will be piloting Oreca 07 LMP2 cars, specially modified to feature the TS050 Hybrid livery.
Car No 7 will feature regular drivers and World Championship leaders, Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, alongside e-motorsport racer Maxime Brient, 23, from Le Mans.
Sébastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley represent the regular No 8 drivers. They are joined by Toyota Gazoo Racing Racing WEC Challenge driver Kenta Yamashita, replacing regular WEC racer Kazuki Nakajima, while Yuri Kasdorp, 23, from Montfort in the Netherlands, completes the line-up.
Mike, José, Sébastien, as well as Maxime and Yuri, will race from simulators in their European homes, while Brendon joins from New Zealand. Kamui and Kenta will be based in Tokyo, where Kazuki will be on hand to support Kenta.
All drivers will be supported by a dedicated engineering team at Toyota Gazoo Racing’s base in Cologne, Germany, where set-ups and race strategy will be analysed and developed.
Event regulations require at least four drivers per car and the team has chosen to take two experienced and successful e-motorsport racers, to bring knowledge of the rFactor 2 software and its set-up characteristics.
Although Toyota Gazoo Racing has won the last two Le Mans 24 Hours and both 2018-2019 WEC titles, the team approaches its e-motorsport debut with humility and has the simple target of entertaining fans who have waited since Austin in February for on-track WEC action.
It faces strong competition from famous names from worldwide motorsport who make up the 50-car grid, including entries from IMSA and Indycar legend Penske Racing, sim racing powerhouse Team Redline and Toyota Gazoo Racing Argentina, as well as regular WEC competitors Rebellion, Aston Martin and Porsche.
The first official sessions will take place on 9-11 June, with a 12-hour slot each day from 10 am Central European Summer Time (CEST) for free practice, and another seven hours from 10 am CEST on 12 June. The starting grid will be determined by a 20-minute qualifying session for each category, beginning at 6.10 pm on 12 June, while the race begins at the traditional time of 3 pm the following day.
The action will be streamed live across social media and streaming platforms, with further details expected soon from event organisers.
“E-motorsport is a new experience for us, so we approach the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours with a combination of excitement and modesty. We want to give endurance fans something to be excited about, and to fill the gap on 13-14 June caused by the postponement of the Le Mans 24 Hours,” says Hisatake Murata, Team President.
Mike Conway adds: “I don’t have much experience of e-motorsport but I’m looking forward to a new experience and I will do my best. In a way, it’s totally different to our normal WEC racing because we are definitely the underdogs in this race. Looking at the e-motorsport experience of some other teams, we know it’s extremely difficult to challenge. But we’ll have fun and I hope the fans will enjoy it.”
Brendon Hartley quipped: “It’s going to be a strange experience to participate in a 24-hour race with Séb and Yuri in Europe, Kenta in Japan and me in New Zealand. The good thing is that no-one needs to be awake in the middle of the night; with our crew, it’s always daytime somewhere. But I’m looking forward to it because it’s been a long time since our last WEC race.”