Ahead of next weekend’s debut Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota Gazoo Racing has announced their driver line-ups for their two cars. Five of the six regular FIA World Endurance Championship drivers will be racing from around the world, with two esports drivers joining the team.
Car #7 sees its full WEC line-up taking to the virtual grid, with Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi all listed in the cockpit. Making up the fourth driver – a requirement for the Virtual Le Mans – is 23-year-old esports racer Maxime Brient. Brient, from Le Mans, started esports racing in 2018 and takes part in iRacing tournaments. He has some esports race victories at the Circuit de la Sarthe to his name, so being from the town and having won round the track he should bring some good insight to his team mates.
On getting the call up from Toyota, Brient said: “It’s really exciting to be part of the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing driver line-up for the first Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours. Of course, I know all about the achievements of Mike, Kamui and José in WEC, and I’ve raced together with José previously in e-motorsport, so I can’t wait for this.”
In the sister car, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley will share the sim from across the globe as Hartley is currently based in New Zealand. Their usual team mate Kazuki Nakajima will be replaced by Kenta Yamashita, but the Toyota works driver will be on hand to assist his fellow patriot during the race. Their esports driver is 23-year-old Yuri Kasdorp from Montfort in the Netherlands, and also has a lot of experience sim racing around Le Mans. He has been e-racing since 2019 and recently won the rF24h the Rerun 2019 – LMP 2 Tournament with fellow esports drivers Devin Braune and Jordy Zwiers.
“It is really nice to get the opportunity to participate for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing in the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours.” Remarked Yamashita. “Originally, next week should have been my Le Mans debut in LMP2 with High Class Racing, so it will be unusual to be in Tokyo driving for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. I will do my best to be part of an exciting race for the fans.”
Kasdorp added: “I have been spectator at Le Mans a few times so it’s a dream come true to participate alongside amazing drivers like Séb and Brendon, who have won the race twice, as well as Kenta, the reigning Super GT champion.
“I can’t wait to work with my team-mates and to wear the TOYOTA GAZOO Racing uniform for the first time, racing at Le Mans on a simulation I know very well.”
As no LMP1 cars are available for the Virtual Le Mans, both Toyota teams will be racing in Oreca 07 LMP2 cars featuring the TS050 HYBRID livery. With the global spread of the Toyota drivers, it may come as an advantage as during the race it will always be daytime for one of them, meaning no one will be awake in the middle of the night.
“E-motorsport is a new experience for us, so we approach the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours with a combination of excitement and modesty.” Hisatake Murata, Toyota Gazoo Racing Team President said. “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.
“It is a new experience for most of us but we are looking forward to competing again, and seeing what we can do in this very competitive field.”
Action for the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans starts next Tuesday, 9th June with a 12-hour free practice session available for all participants from 10am CEST. This format continues to the 11th June, with free practice reduced to a seven hour session on the 12th due to qualifying taking place at 6:10pm CEST.
The traditional start time of 3pm CEST will be taken on Saturday 13th June, with the race coming to an end 24 hours later at 3pm on Sunday 14th June.