The dust has just started to settle on the highly controversial season finale of the third running of the Virtual LeMans Series 2022-2023, with a lot of heated comments being thrown towards Motorsport Games, the organisers of the series, and license holder to the Virtual LeMans name. In case you have missed the latest fire being started in the sim racing world, here is a brief overview. LMP favourites Team Redline were leading the championship coming into the final round at LeMans, the number 1 car being driven by Sim racing stars Diogo Pinto & Jeffery Rietveld alongside two pro drivers, Aston Martin BRDC Driver of the year 2022 Luke Browning, and double Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen.
People like Luke and Max will bring a considerable amount of attention with them from their respective fanbase, and the event is a great opportunity for the sim racing world to show the real racing fans and champions what it has to offer, however the event won’t be remembered for the great battles that took place throughout the event (particularly in the night hours), the Team Redline number two car came home to win the LMP class, or the Romain Grosjean backed R8G esports car won the GTE class. Alas, the event will be remembered for the public scathing from Max Verstappen in particular, the champion labelling the event as “a clown show”.
Let’s take a look at what happened. In the first half of the event, the race had to be stopped due to a security breach on the servers hosting the race, on two separate occasions. Reports suggest that a DDOS attack had been initiated on the servers, making the game unplayable for all concerned, forcing the organisers to halt the race until the issue was resolved. Whilst this attack on the servers is, quite frankly, pathetic on the part of those conducting the attack, it raises questions about the management of the servers themselves.
After the DDOS situation had been resolved, the race continued through the night without too much drama, with plenty of racing action to keep the audience entertained, but in the latter part of the race, driver disconnects were a concern. This is always a concern for endurance sim racing, irrespective of the event, but there had been an alarming number of disconnects reported.
In the rulebook, it is stated that if four or more cars disconnect at the same time, the stewards have the discretion to award the lost laps back to the affected teams. However, if three or less cars disconnect in short succession, no consideration is given to awarding the laps back to the affected team, and this was the straw that broke the Verstappen back. Max had disconnected from the race whilst in the lead, and because Team Redline had been informed that they were not being awarded the laps back (for the above reason), Max parked the car in the garage, thus retiring them from the race.
On the surface, this may seem a rash decision, especially as the championship was on the line and the team had prepared for months for this event alone, but this was the culmination of numerous disconnects for the number 1 team (not just Max), and all the other teams affected by this same issue, and the feeling of injustice when laps had been awarded back to other teams but not to Redline (again, for the above reasons).
Max has vowed never to participate in this event again, and the sim racing world will be seen in a negative light because of this event. The fans took to social media to call for Motorsport Games to relinquish the license, and for another platform to be used for this event in the future. Sim racing is always trying to prove itself in the eyes of real-world racing fans, as well as drivers and sponsorship opportunities, which this event has done no favours to at all.
Should Max have retired the car in anger? Should the organisers have treated the situation differently? There are always two sides to each argument, as strictly speaking, the organisers did enforce the rules that were set out before the season began, and all participants agreed to adhere to, but when the servers themselves are identified as the issue, lessons must be learnt from this event.