It was time to celebrate a racing icon in Round 3 of the 2017 Project CARS esports major series, as the SMS-R Championship took on the king of endurance racing, Le Mans. This weekend saw the major Project CARS series attend the legendary French circuit for the first time. In the previous race at Silverstone, our drivers had to battle with the elements in wet conditions at Silverstone. This time, they had to get used to racing in the dark at incredible high speed along the famous long straights of the Mulsanne.
Once again, the Pro Class drivers and teams piloted LMP2 machinery, with the Challenger Class contestants backing them up in the always-popular GT3 class. This is a fixed-setup championship, so the GT3 cars were actually just as fast as the LMP2 machines along the long straights of the Sarthe circuit. This made for a big challenge throughout qualifying and the race, as the LMP2 drivers could only maximise their cars' performance levels through the handful of fast corners on the course. This reduced the amount of lapping and traffic during the race, and kept things very tight indeed. The night-time action presented a new challenge too.
After 2 races, sim-racing stalwarts Team Redline were leading the Pro Class championship coming into Round 3. Followed very closely by series underdogs, VP Gaming. Would other teams fight their way to the front at Le Mans? Would Team Redline start to pull away in the championship? Or could VP Gaming pull off another remarkable result? Read on to find out what happened at Le Mans, and catch-up with video of all of the action.
Proceedings got underway at Le Mans with an extended qualifying session. 20 minutes instead of the usual 10, to account for the extreme length of this colossal 8.4 mile circuit, and to give the drivers a chance to squeeze in a few extra laps in the session.
A few substitute drivers appeared for the Pro Class teams this time out. Dalexi, came in for Magic Michael for Team Redline. StorM took SoniK’s place in SDL, and DyndaS continued to deputise for BAM’s Khaki, who is still out with a leg injury.
Several Pro drivers failed to set valid lap-times in qualifying after they were caught out by the length of the circuit which prevented them from having enough time left to record a lap towards the end of the session. It was a mixed-up grid heading into the race, and we knew that we were in for a big battle.
eSports+Cars' main man, DriverR1 made a great start at the front of LMP2 to jump StorM and take the lead away from SDL's pole sitter. Tidgney also made a good start in GT3 to lead the class. Unfortunately Maxence of the TX3 Pro team suffered an early retirement on lap 1 with technical issues.
We saw some amazing drafting battles in the opening laps with P4 to P7 running 4-wide down the Mulsanne. DriverR1 wasn’t able to pull off his usual tricks in the opening laps to build a big gap, thanks to StorM sticking onto his tail in the slipstream early on. StorM made a fantastic pass on DriverR1 into the chicane on the Mulsanne, but Driver stayed in his draft to try and retake the pace at the next corner, only to have StorM defend his position beautifully on the outside, to keep the lead for SDL.
The slipstream kept the whole LMP2 field very close together, as Mangator suddenly closed right in on DriverR1 and it became a 3-way battle for the lead. FlamedPhoenix also made a brilliant move to take P9 away from CAR Ralphy on the outside. Some terrific battles were underway throughout the LMP2 field. Raskemenn almost made a very brave dive on Ralphy through the Porsche Curves, but thought better of it in the end. There’s no way through there!
We then saw yet another fantastic overtake. This time by VP Isaac as he took P3 away from Mangator through the chicane. He made the most of the slipstream to overtake on the brakes on the outside of the Redline driver. Rotax then joined the back of these guys to make a it a 3-car fight for positions 3, 4 & 5 in Pro Class. However, thanks to some earlier damage, Rotax went into the nighttime part of the race with no headlights! That forced him to back away slightly from the battle to play a safer game.
Back in the GT3 class, Tidgney was continuing his brilliant performance ahead of Yoohan and F.Mate. All three drivers were racing cleanly, with some decent gaps between them at the mid-point in the race. Isaac then dropped back down to P5 off-camera in the LMP2 class with 12 minutes to go. That put Mangator back up to P3, and Rotax up to 4th. Up at the sharp end, StorM was pulling away comfortably from DriverR1. He’s SDL’s substitute driver, but his performances might be justifying a permanent place in their regular 2-car lineup in the future.
Team Redline’s Dalexi sadly had an technical issue with 10 minutes to go, which forced him to rejoin the race from the pits, ultimately costing championship leaders, Team Redline a lot of points in this race. With StorM leading and Rotax 4th, things were looking good for SDL with just a few minutes left in the race. It got even better for SDL when Rotax took P3 away from Mangator with just 1 and half laps left to go. Mangator lost another place to VP’s Isaac on the final lap, as Isaac pulled off another amazing job for his team.
Tidgney finally had luck go his way, along with a fantastic drive, to win the race in the GT3 Challenger Class. It was an absolutely tremendous day for him. He finished ahead of his nearest Challenger Championship rivals as Yoohan came 2nd and F.Mate 3rd.
In the LMP2 class SDL were the team of the day as StorM took victory with his teammate Rotax 3rd, which made for the team’s best result so far in this championship. It was a tricky afternoon for series leaders, Team Redline, after Dalexi finished at the back of the class, while Managator did a solid job to take 5th. It was also a very split result for eSports+Cars, who had DriverR1 put in another good performance in 2nd, but Ralphy could only manage 11th in class, possibly after picking up some damage early on in the race.
These results were enough for SDL to take the lead in the Pro Class team standings, ahead of Team Redline who dropped to second place, just 10 points adrift of SDL with 3 races gone.
Unfortunately, the Pro Class results for Round 3 are currently under investigation due to excessive track-cutting at Le Mans by all teams.
Standings and results will be updated after ESL has posted the latest points information at the ESL play website.
NExt: Round 4
There's a short break now before we reconvene for Round 4 of the championship at the mighty Spa circuit in the forests of Belgium. Tune in live on Twitch on Saturday June 24 to watch all of the action.
Don't forget to visit the ESL website at the link below to register to race in the next Go4 Cup on PC. Take the chance to show your skills to the world, and you might even qualify to compete in Challenger Class later this season.