(Reuters) – Max Verstappen will try to add a virtual Le Mans 24 Hours triumph to the Formula One world championship he won in Abu Dhabi in December.
The 24-year-old Dutch driver will be up against some top names from the world of motor racing and esports in the Jan. 15-16 event.
Spain’s reigning IndyCar champion Alex Palou is in the field along with double Indianapolis 500 winner and former F1 racer Juan Pablo Montoya, Dutch two-times F1 esports champion Jarno Opmeer and an all-female W Series team.
Double Formula One world champion and two-times Le Mans winner Fernando Alonso is non-driving captain of the Alpine esports team.
Red Bull’s Verstappen, who won the F1 title with a controversial last lap overtake of Mercedes’ seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, entered the virtual endurance race in 2020 with McLaren’s Lando Norris.
They were leading for Team Redline when a frozen screen led to a collision with eventual winners Rebellion-Williams Esports. Verstappen’s pro team mate this time is Swedish IndyCar driver Felix Rosenqvist.
The virtual Le Mans 24 Hours is broadcast live on YouTube, Twitch and Facebook and uses the rFactor2 platform, with racers competing on simulators around the world for a $125,000 winners’ prize.
The five-race Le Mans Virtual series has an overall prize pool of $250,000.
The inaugural 2020 version, created to fill a gap after the real 24 Hours was postponed and held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was watched by more than 14 million viewers.
The virtual 2022 edition had been scheduled as a live event to be held at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham, England, but that was postponed due to the continuing pandemic.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge)