This weekend marks the end of the 2021/22 edition of the Virtual Le Mans Series, the championship that began midway through 2021 and closes with the most eagerly awaited race, the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours. It starts on Saturday at 2pm and can be seen on various channels, including those of Ferrari and the organisers. As always this year, the Maranello marque is entering one car, the Ferrari Driver Academy Esports Team’s number 51 488 GTE.
One goal. The standard of driving has been very high all season among the teams, that have to be made up of four drivers with at least one FIA sanctioned real race driver and two or three sim racers. Unfortunately, the FDA Esports Team is out of the running for the title, which is already in the hands of the 71 car of BMW Redline (Rudy Van Buren, Lorenzo Colombo, Kevin Siggy and former FDA Esports Team member, Enzo Bonito). That’s why Nicklas Nielsen, David Perel, Kasper Stoltze and Jordy Zwiers will be throwing caution to the wind and adopting a maximum attack strategy, aiming for a podium finish. They will be up against fierce opposition in this race which has attracted the likes of Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen and Indycar title holder Alex Palou.
A special show. Ferrari will provide special coverage of the Virtual Le Mans 24 Hours with a live show covering the entire race, but paying particular attention to car 51 and the other 488 GTE in the field, the SMMSA Esports car driven by Gustas Grinbergas, Ramez Azzam, Armin Binder and Sebastian Wünsch. There will be several guests dropping by, including Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 driver Charles Leclerc, the team’s Racing Director Laurent Mekies, FDA Esports Team Principal Marco Matassa, marque ambassador Marc Gene and many other endurance racing specialists. To follow the event just go to https://live.ferrariesports.gg/ andhttps://live.ferrariesports.gg/ https://www.twitch.tv/ferrariesports. The organisers will show the event on YouTube and https://www.twitch.tv/traxiongg?lang=it.
The team. The FDA Esports Team includes three of the crew who drove in the first running of this race 18 months ago. Looking at the drivers, the only new name is that of Jordy Zwiers, even if he’s a familiar face at Ferrari, having driven another Prancing Horse car in the previous Le Mans event. The Dutch sim driver was born on 23 July 2000 and is the youngest crew member. He has sim raced since 2017, specialising in endurance races. He finished second in the Virtual Le Mans series in his debut season and did the same again the following year in Division 1 of the Virtual Endurance Championship, also taking pole and the win at the Le Mans 24 Hours. He again took part in this series in 2020 and last year he joined the car 51 crew, helping them to twice finish in the points.
Nielsen. Nicklas Nielsen was born in Denmark on 6 February 1997. In 2017, he tackled sports car racing for the first time, taking part in the Ferrari Challenge, winning his first two races. That was enough to tempt him to stay with the Prancing Horse’s one-make series, which proved to be an excellent training ground. One more season in this category and then it was time for the inevitable move to the 488 GTE in 2019 when he made his debut with Luzich Racing in the European Le Mans Series. Along with Fabien Lavergne and Alessandro Pier Guidi he took four wins from six starts to take the title with the 488 GTE, always claiming the Rookie of the Year accolade. He also began competing in WEC races, driving a 488 GTE for AF Corse, in the LMGTE Am class, alongside François Perrodo ed Emmanuel Collard. At the end of 2019, he became a works Ferrari Competizioni GT driver, winning the GTE-AM title, as well as the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours and the GT World Endurance Challenge Endurance Cup driving a 488 GT3 Evo 2020.
Perel. South African David Perel was born on 7 May 1985 and is a great example of an accomplished professional driver who is also competent on a simulator. Over the past years, he has raced a 488 GT3 Evo 2020. He first raced sports cars in 2016 with Kessel Racing, winning a round of the International GT Open championship in Barcelona. In 2017, he was the most successful Ferrari driver, taking three AM class title wins, the Sprint, Endurance and Overall in the Blancpain series. That same year and the following one, he won first the Am class in the Spa 24 Hours with Kessel Racing and then did it again with Rinaldi Racing, with whom he came second in the Pro-Am class of the GT World Challenge.
Stoltze. Finally, Kasper Stoltze. He was born in Denmark on 12 March 1989 and after six seasons in karts and five racing historic cars, he developed his skills in simulators, starting back in 2005. With the rise of esports, Stoltze secured some impressive results, with stand-out drives in the Virtual Endurance Championships and the Endurance eRacing World Championship, winning races and titles, including three wins at Le Mans. Apart from victories at the French track, he produced a memorable drive in the 2015 GTR 24H at Le Mans, when he came close to winning after a sensational comeback that saw him make up over 4’30” on the race leader.