W Series Esports team enters 24H Le Mans virtual
Updated: Jan 8, 2022
A team of W Series racing drivers will join forces with professional simracers to tackle the second edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual - one of the biggest simracing events in the world.
The all female championship W Series will make its return to the world of Esports and announced its participation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual – one of the biggest events in simracing – with a team under its banner. W Series moved its 2020 championship to a full-online edition when the Covid19 pandemic hit; the W Series Esports League featured all its real-life racing drivers plus the addition of a few guests in selected races. The iRacing-based championship turned out to be a great success and 2019 runner-up Beitske Visser took the title after a spectacular battle with Marta Garcia. Many drivers put all their efforts in improving their simulator skills during the lockdown, exponentially boosting simracing's popularity among fans of traditional motor racing. So much so that the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the biggest races on the planet, organized a fully-virtual event that involved most of the real-world motorsport: teams, drivers, engineers – as well as simracing professionals – entered the rFactor-competition which became the biggest Esport race in history. Among the teams, Richard Mille Racing's all female crew lined up Sophia Floersch, Tatiana Calderon, Katherine Legge and simracing specialist Emily Jones, as well as Porsche factory driver Simona De Silvestro raced in an official Porsche squad. The success of the event – which was also televised and received unprecedented media attention during the time of the first global lockdown – convinced the promoters to repeat the race in the 2022 winter break, and the entry list is again an impressive one: current F1 champion Max Verstappen, Indycar champion Alex Palou, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sergio Sette Camara, Tom Dillman, Louis Deletraz, Felix Rosenqvist, Bruno Spengler, Oliver Rowland, Dani Juncadella, Jack Aitken – are just some of the high-profile racing drivers that are set to join the field. Among them, there will also be W Series and WEC driver Beitske Visser, who continued to be a very active simracer since 2020 and entered special events with professional simracing teams. Beitske will race for the #10 Mahle Racing Team, and will share the wheel of a prototype car with fellow racer Philippe Denes and with gamers Muhammed Patel, Michele D'Alessandro and Nathan Lewis. But the real news is the return of W Series in the realm of simracing: in the #45 BMW M8 GTE, Fabienne Wohlwend and Ayla Ågren will be joined by Lyubov Ozeretskovskaya and Emely Jones. The team is supported by Bristol Street Motors. Wohlwend, 24, was the first Ferrari Challenge world champion in 2018, before being selected by W Series for its inaugural season. Wohlwend claimed a pole position and a podium in Misano, and was often in the front running positions. In 2021, the driver from Liechtenstein continued to show great speed in the Tatuus F3 car: she was on the podium in the season opener in Austria and was protagonist of a stunning duel for the victory with Alice Powell at Silverstone. A second half of the season marked by a few technical issues meant that Wohlwend slipped to sixth in the drivers' standings, but she is very likely to be among the title contenders in 2022. Fabienne was also active at the simulator in 2020: alongside her W Series Esports League campaign, she also entered the Porsche Supercup Virtual series. Ayla Ågren, 28 from Norway, moved to the United States early in her racing career in order to pursue the Road to Indy program. In 2014, she was crowned champion in the F1600 series, with 3 victories and 8 podiums. Due to a lack of funding, though, she was forced to halt her career after 2017 and only returned to racing in 2021 having been selected for the second season of W Series. Ågren also performed well in the W Series Esports League; she was seventh in the standings with a podium to her name and entered the rFactor2-based All-Star Esports Series by The-Race. Ågren is also a successful spotter in the US and was part of the female-forward Paretta Autosport operation at the 2021 Indianapolis 500. Joining the two W Series racing drivers will be two drivers that are a proper bridge between the racing and esports worlds. Kazakhstan's Lyubov Ozeretskovskaya, 25, started racing at the age of nine and became karting champion in her home country two years later. In 2014 and 2015, she entered the Formula Masters Russia, a series derived from the European Formula Abarth that would later become Formula 4. In 2019, Ozeretskovskaya – née Andreyeva – raced in the Formula 4 South East Asia championship, where she scored 12 points. The driver from Kazakhstan went on to become a successful simracer as well, as she focused on several online championships and built a following online. Australian Emily Jones, 28, also started karting at 10 and her background is therefore also in real-life racing. Known with the "Emree" nickname, she is one of the most popular and competitive female simracers worldwide, particularly active in the Gran Turismo circles. In 2020, she was part of the all-female Richard Mille Racing team, became the first female simracer to win a FIA Gran Turismo Top16 Superstars race, won the Porsche Esports Supercup All-Star Series and was part of the official Supercars Championship eSeries among the others. Jones has also won the iRacing version of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so she is very experienced in endurance races.
Logan Hannah, 20, will be the fifth woman in the race: the young driver has raced competitively in Formula Ford 1600, as well as the Trophy Round of the UAE-based Formula 4 in 2019. She will enter her first Le Mans Virtual in the #84 Aston Martin by Prodrive Esports Team, alongside David Pittard, Tom Canning and Lasse Sorensen. The race is the final round of the Le Mans Virtual Series, a joint venture between the organizers of Le Mans, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, and Motorsport Games. It will be a live televised event with drivers racing remotely from around the world on 15/16 January, and will feature a 50-car field – a mix of LMP and GTE entries.