The Bahrain 8 Hours was won in LMP by Floyd Vanwall-Burst and in GTE by Oracle Red Bull Racing – the inaugural round of the 2022-23 Le Mans Virtual Series.
As the sun set at the first race of the 2022-23 Le Mans Virtual Series, Floyd Vanwall-Burst and Oracle Red Bull Racing won the Bahrain 8 Hours.
After a tight qualifying session the day before, the outstanding Redline team was on pole position in both classes, with Jeffrey Rietveld and Kevin Siggy setting the best times in LMP and GTE.
The fact that the reigning champions locked out the front rows didn’t tell the whole story, however, as the GTE field in particular was exceptionally tight. 15 of the 16 entries were covered by less than a second.
At 14:00 CEST, the bright Bahraini sun scorched the virtual tarmac and the 40-strong field raced down to Turn 1 to start a tough race.
Initially, pole-sitter Rietveld was tentative, allowing Jernej Simončič for Floyd Vanwall-Burst to move up briefly before the redline driver braked late to grab hold.
In GTE, progress was more frenetic as Red Bull Racing driver Yuri Kasdorp jumped from sixth to second on the grid. Enzo Bonito, who was fighting for the lead on the first lap, fought off the onslaught by defending heavily at Turn 4 in his Redline BMW.
However, the Italian got stuck in the early stages, twice over the agreed barriers at Turn 11 and receiving a drive-through penalty.
Redline versus Floyd Vanwall-Burst, this fight framed the race
He wasn’t the only one, as former Formula Pro Series champion Bono Huis used the same line, he warned against in the drivers’ briefing and received not one but two drive-through penalties, two out of four reprimands.
It was amid a frustrating race for the #63 AMG Team Petronas, who were later pulled out of the race along with car numbers 10 and 53.
“As an organization, there is no evidence that the disruptions to these cars are related to the race server and lobby host,” the Le Mans Virtual Series said in a statement.
Teams were given a maximum of three laps back, but the number 63 chose not to retake any position on the track. Meanwhile, the #53 AMG Team Williams finished seventh, collect valuable championship points.
Red Bull Racing took the lead in GTE early on and held it until the end
Perhaps more relevantly, Kasdorp made it to the top of GTE within the first hour, where the Porsche swapped positions with Dörr Esports’ championship debutant Project 1, which at the time was being driven by DTM Trophy podium finisher Moritz Löhner.
The two 911s drove back and forth for the first four hours before the German upstart’s luck ran out for Leonard Krippner due to an unfortunate PC hardware problem, forcing an early pit stop.
However, the R8G Esports Ferrari – driven by Formula 3 race winner Alexander Smolyar during the opening hours and qualifying – broke away and had carved out a lead with two hours to go. However, it all came to naught as a technical hiccup forced the retirement.
While the GTE fight was a strategic fight, leading up to overall victory it was a duel between two teams: Redline and Floyd Vanwall-Burst.
The No. 1 and No. 4 fought several times for position on the track and through strategic moves. In the latter stages, the number 1 appeared to have been aggressively saving fuel throughout the event, but with just over an hour remaining and strategies balanced, Simončič exited the pit lane as Luke Bennett pulled into Turn 1. They had slight contact, but both stayed behind, the #4 now in the lead.
The battle for the lead was tight throughout the eight hours
A few laps later, Bennett went too far, allowing Erhan Jajovski, driving for Romain Grosjean’s eponymous R8G Esports squad, to catch up. When both pitted for the final time, the R8G machine skipped the redline entry.
With 30 minutes left, Floyd led Vanwall-Burst ahead of R8G and Redline.
It also got hot in GTE as the sun went down and darkness swept over the circuit. Despite the earlier penalty, reigning champion BMW Team Redline #71 was back in contention thanks to an inspired drive from Siggy.
He found himself in the pits at the same time as the leading Red Bull with Dennis Jordan at the wheel.
Decisive battle for the lead in the GTE class resulted in a penalty for BMW Team Redline
When the BMW left the pits, the M8 was ahead, but the Porsche had a slight overlap. They ran side by side down the pit lane exit, with Siggy receiving the car’s second pass for pushing the Red Bull car over the white line.
However, the Bavarian model was still fighting for a podium spot, finishing third when an unlucky Patrick Schindler, driving for SIMMSA Esports, was poked around by a breakaway GR Vector Esport LMP.
In LMP, the number 4 extended their lead when Jajovski and Bennett collided intensely, with the latter making several attempts to overtake, resulting in contact but thankfully without permanent damage.
Things came to a head when Bennett backed inside at Turn 4 in a desperate move from several car lengths. He had the position but only fleetingly, falling back for fear of a penalty.
Luke Bennett pushed hard for Erhan Jajovski for second place but ended up third
Before him, the #4 Floyd Vanwall-Burst driven by Simončič, Jesper Pedersen and Damian Skowron had won a dramatic race.
“When I joined the server I was on soft tires and everyone else was on medium and I was panicking,” explained an enthusiastic Simončič.
“That turned out to be the better strategy. We were so confused by the redline approach but we knew we just had to move on with our plan and luckily I had the pace to take the lead and overtake.”
Oracle Red Bull Racing won the GTE class
Red Bull Racing had also managed to claim the GTE win thanks to Kasdorp, Dennis Jordan and Cooper Webster.
“Yuri was on fire, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Jordan said.
“We are very happy about the victory, but we still have to keep pushing for the next race.”
The next round of Le Mans Virtual on October 8, 2022 for the 4 Hours of Monza.
Le Mans Virtual Series, 8 Hours of Bahrain LMP Results
- Jesper Pedersen, Jernej Simončič, Damian Skowron – #4 Floyd Vanwall burst – 269 laps
- Jiri Toman, Erhan Jajovski, Marcell Csincsik – #8 R8G Esports +8,346
- Luke Bennett, Jeffrey Rietveld, Maximilian Benecke – #1 Team Redline +8,498
- Mitchell deJong, Tommy Østgaard, Zac Campbell – #20 Porsche Coanda +43.156
- Sérgio Sette Câmara, Michi Hoyer, Dawid Mroczek – #444 Nextview Vanwall Burst +1:08.480
Le Mans Virtual Series, 8 Hours of Bahrain GTE Results
- Cooper Webster, Yuri Kasdorp, Dennis Jordan – Porsche 911 RSR GTE – #99 Oracle Red Bull Racing – 244 laps
- Kasper Stoltze, Jordy Zwiers, Christian Michel – Ferrari 488 GTE – #51 SF Velas Esports Team +9.203
- Chris Lulham, Kevin Siggy, Enzo Bonito – BMW M8 GTE – #71 BMW Team Redline +1 lap
- Ramez Azzam, Sebastian Wunsch, Patrick Schindler – Ferrari 488 GTE – #66 SIMMSA Esports +1 lap
- Bruno Spengler, Ibraheem Khan, Joonas Raivio – BMW M8 GTE – #89 BMW Team BS+COMPETITION +1 lap