World Drivers’ Champion Max Verstappen described the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual event that took place last weekend as “a clown show” after technical issues caused multiple red flags and disconnects that eventually led him to withdraw from the race.
The 24 hours of Le Mans virtual (opens in new tab) was launched in 2020 after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the real Le Mans. The online race, in which drivers from all over the world all compete from a distance, is designed to be as close as possible to the physical event. It has very strict rules and requirements: among other things, at least two of the drivers in each four-person team must be FIA-licensed (or equivalent) professional drivers. Verstappen actually drove in that debut event in 2020, as did fellow F1 driver Lando Norris.
Verstappen has since returned for subsequent Le Mans Virtual events: as a Formula 1 driver and reigning world champion, he doesn’t have much time to spend on sims, but he told the Washington Post (opens in new tab) last week that the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans “is very important to me and the team – and we’re hoping for a great weekend to take the win.”
“We are treating this as a real, live race,” said Verstappen. “We are fine-tuning the car’s setup and testing it in the hottest and coldest conditions, in rainy and dry weather, day and night. It takes weeks to prepare and many people don’t.” I don’t realize that.”
Unfortunately, the race did not go well for him at all. As explained by traxion.gg (opens in new tab), the opening hours of the event were interrupted by disconnects and two red flags, bringing racing to a complete standstill for over an hour. Those problems were eventually resolved, but Verstappen, who was in first place at the time, got a connection a few hours later. Drivers who had previously disconnected were given laps back to effectively erase lost time, but that did not happen in Verstappen’s case as fewer than four vehicles were hit. That is why he decided to withdraw.
“Look at this. They call it amazing bad luck. This is just incompetence,” said Verstappen as he drove off the track and retired from the race. “They don’t even control their own game. This is already the third time this has happened to me, that we are kicked out of the game during this race.”
In a Post-Race FAQs24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual executive producer Gérard Neveu seemed to blame the technical problems on possible DDoS attacks.
“Within the first seven hours of the race it became clear that we had serious server problems, which led to us red flagging twice during the race,” said Neveu. “After some initial investigation, it appears that some race participants have inadvertently disclosed the IP addresses connecting them to the server, which is not the intention.
“This put us in a weakened position and we were exposed to some security breaches that caused the global disconnection from all competitors. It should never happen if the IP addresses are properly protected.”
A disconnect for @Max33Verstappen and @TeamRedlineSim from the lead of the race 😬#LeMansVirtual Powered by @TraxionGG pic.twitter.com/bCILhnI9l1January 15, 2023
DDoS attacks are unfortunately common in online gaming, but Verstappen – perhaps because he held this event at a higher level than, say, a round of Warzone – was clearly in no mood for apologies. Neveu confirmed in the FAQ that the Le Mans virtual race would return in 2024, but Verstappen said he will not take part in it.
“What’s the Point?” he said after leaving the race. “You prepare for five months to try to win this championship, you lead the championship, you try to win this race that you have been preparing for two months, and they handle it like that. I mean there are two red flags been.” , they blame, I don’t even know what, people DDoSing the server… Honestly, it’s a joke. You can’t call this an event. It’s a clown show. “
It is possible that Verstappen will change his mind by the time 2024 arrives. It was, if you get down to it, a kind of tantrum, and the vow not to return came in the heat of the moment. Neveu also promised a “full investigation” into the issues, saying organizers will “look at our processes and guidelines to try and mitigate the issues” [the] chances of similar problems happening in 2024″, and depending on how that plays out, it could also help change his mind. For now, though, Verstappen sounds very much like a gamer who’s had enough.
“I think I’m going to delete the game,” he said. “That’s nice. Will free up some space on the PC.”
interesting, Team Red Line (opens in new tab)– the digital racing organization that Verstappen drives for – finally won the virtual race of the 24 Hours of Le Mans after all: after beating the #1 Redline car, the #2 Redline car, driven by Felipe Drugovich, Felix Rosenqvist, Luke Bennett and Chris had knocked out Lulham then took the checkered flag.