The Petit Le Mans special event is a 10-hour endurance race held annually in October on the professional iRacing sim platform with three different classes, replicating the real-world event. These classes are: GTP (also known as LMDh or HyperCar), LMP2 and GT3.
The Williams team had entered the top split of the event with three Prototypes and three GT3s against the likes of Max Verstappen’s Team Redline, Ferrari, Alpine, Coanda, BS+ and fellow close competitors from ESL R1: Apex Racing Team.
As well as this, we also had an additional Williams Esports Academy car running in the second split! In total, we had 7 cars running for the team over the 10 hours – becoming the largest Esports lineup.
Kenneth Gulbrandsen, Jaden Munoz
Williams Team Razer (LMP2)
Moreno Sirica, Atte Kauppinen
Williams Esports Academy (GT3)
Kamil Grabowski, Jerzy Glac
Williams Chillblast (GT3)
Alessandro Bico, Sota Muto
Mercedes-AMG Team Williams #55 (GT3)
Daniel Lafuente, Nicolas Mateo
Mercedes-AMG Team Williams #53 (GT3)
Vasilios Beletsiotis, Daniel Pasztor
START OF THE RACE
Starting off the race in the top split, the team were slightly spread out with the Williams MAHLE in P9 and the FANATEC a little bit behind outside the top 11 for the GTP class, whilst the Team Razer LMP2 started in second and for the GT3s – The Chillblast machine lead the pack with #53 Mercedes-AMG Williams in P3 and the #55 Mercedes-AMG Williams in a tricky position in P13 and having to make some early moves!
In the first two hours, all cars were moving slowly forward through the grid despite being tangled in some close battles and we had good momentum. Sadly though, within the first hour – Vasilios and Daniel Pasztor in the #53 Merc had suffered the first of the incidents through turn 1 where they had to DNF due to major damage; this would become the bane of our further problems later in the race.
With one of our Mercedes-powered duo out already, the other #55 Mercedes-AMG Williams however was still on track and had just recovered well up to P7 from a big hit off the track that sent them down to P13 beforehand!
THREE HOURS IN
At this early stage in the race with just three hours down, in the GTP Class – our Williams MAHLE had gone from P9 all the way up into P3 and was chasing down the lead against Team Redline, URANO and Apex Racing Team! As for the FANATEC, Kenneth Gulbrandsen and Jaden Munoz were steadily getting up there and made it closer into the Top 10 after completing a well-timed pit stop strategy and overtaking the cars ahead.
Team Razer had now taken P1 and were comfortably gaining a nice gap and keeping a strong distance from the rest of the LMP2 cars as they showed incredible pace around the Road Atlanta circuit, already 30 seconds up from P4 and 10 seconds from P2 and P3 with Atte behind the wheel at the time.
Alessandro Bico and Sota Muto were continuing to dominate the GT3 class at the front in the Williams Chillblast and had led almost every lap so far with +17 seconds on P2 behind, truly separating themselves from the rest and forecast to be an entire minute ahead of P7 by the end of the race while in split two, the polish teammates of Kamil Grabowski and Jerzy Glac were fighting for the podium places in the Williams Esports Academy car at the same time!
FOUR HOURS IN
Between then and the halfway point with six more hours to go – we suffered yet another DNF in the GT3s and for the other Mercedes-AMG Williams #55 of Daniel Lafuente and Nico Mateo who again were caught up at Turn 1 from a Hypercar sending it through the inside and hitting them out into major damage after showing promising advances up the grid.
On a more positive note despite our losses, the Williams MAHLE GTP remained in P3 and was beginning to catch up to the front two again – this was about to be a pit-stop strategy battle right until the end with an eight-second gap between all three of them! Not only that but Moreno Sirica and Atte Kauppinen of Williams Team Razer LMP2 were also firmly cruising up at the front as the leaders and were off in the wind as they had already lapped nearly half of their class!
Amongst the traffic, Bico and Muto were consistently gaining even more time and had added an extra +3 seconds to the car behind with +20 seconds leeway in total now. They were really showing what they could do to the thousands of viewers watching on the LIVE broadcast!
Josh Lad was now in the Hot seat for the Williams MAHLE GTP as we had caught up by seven seconds in one hour to the front two and the chase for the lead was just 10 metres ahead! So far, they had gained six positions and were on make it eight in total just a few laps later when they overtook Redline and URANO!
For the LMP2 and GT3 class, things begun to quieten down a little bit, but we held onto our respective leads and continued to push on with safe gaps behind us and working through the race with our eyes on the Win.
The Williams FANATEC GTP was now back in P11 after dropping down to P14 an hour before from pit-stop strategies with LMDH Williams Esports Academy Driver Jaden Munoz in control and pushing the car closer to the top 10 pack once again!
FINAL FEW HOURS
With just two hours left of the event, we hit nightfall and the headlights were on!
The team had completely locked out the grids and were leading every single class in the top split for GTP, LMP2 and GT3 whilst Williams Esports Academy were still P2 in the second split as well!
At this point, we were fully focused on completing the grand slam and it was completely possible with how our drivers were performing. Williams MAHLE were now +8 seconds ahead of the car behind, Team Razer were an incredible full minute ahead of their class and had lapped every car bar one!
Our Chillblast GT3 was also now a full minute ahead of the other cars in class with Alessandro Bico piloting the machine like a Champion to a very likely victory before disaster struck at Turn 1 for a third time in a row with 50 minutes left of the 10 hours and were hit off and into a heart-breaking DNF by yet another LMDH, unfortunately, coming to contact with us by 1-2 metres worth of an invisible wall called ‘netcode’.
PETIT LE MANS 2023 WINNERS!
After 10 intense and action-packed hours of racing at Road Atlanta, Williams Esports MAHLE and Williams Team Razer came home as overall GTP and LMP2 Winners in the top split with Josh Lad, Matt Farrow, Moreno Sirica and Atte Kauppinen!