Mike Conway and his TOYOTA GAZOO Racing team will enter a new challenge this week as the very first Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours event takes place.
The WEC season, due to be completed in June, has been delayed until later this year, with races in August, September and November now scheduled, due to recent events. So TOYOTA GAZOO Racing accepted an invitation to participate in the 13-14 June virtual race, held on the same date as the originally-scheduled Le Mans 24 Hours.
Car #7 will see Mike joining regular drivers, and World Championship leaders, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, alongside e-motorsport racer Maxime Brient, 23, from Le Mans.
Racing from his home in the UK, Mike, and all the 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.
With no LMP1 hybrid cars available for the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours, like all other prototype entrants TOYOTA GAZOO Racing will participate with an Oreca 07 LMP2 car, specially modified to feature the TS050 HYBRID livery.
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 Fernando Alonso’s FA Racing squad, as well as regular WEC competitors Rebellion, Aston Martin and Porsche.
Mike Conway: “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.”
Hisatake Murata, Team President: “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. 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.”
Official tests sessions have been running since 9 June, with a 12-hour slot each day from 10am CEST for free practice, and another seven hours from 10am CEST on 12 June. The starting grid will be determined by a 15-minute qualifying session for each category, beginning at 6.15pm on 12 June, while the race begins at the traditional time of 3pm CEST on Saturday.
The action will be streamed live across social media and streaming platforms, with further details on how to watch here.