Williams Esports added yet another example to the growing list of crossovers between real life and virtual racing, when the team won the prestigious virtual Daytona 24 Hours last week.
Ahead of the real life ‘Rolex 24’ at Daytona this coming weekend, the annual virtual equivalent was held last week on the iRacing platform.
This year’s running was claimed by iRacing as “the biggest sim racing event in the world” with more than 15,000 drivers competing across 95 sessions (multiple ranked runnings of the race), generating more than 1.8 million views
Williams competed in the top split, for the highest-ranked drivers in the world. While Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen grabbed the headlines with victory in the GTD class (which is what the IMSA series calls GT3 cars), the overall race was won by another real life champion, Agustin Canapino.
The Argentinian races in IndyCar for Juncos Hollinger, alongside Romain Grosjean – another driver hugely active in sim racing.
Augustin combines his real world racing with racing virtually.
“I have always been a sim racer first,” said Canapino. “I became a racing driver after that.
"The sim helps me to train for the real thing, and I always enjoy the passion and the challenge to compete in these top sim racers.
"The level is so high, it’s crazy. You have the have the whole team working professionally and perfectly to be able to win the top events like this.
“The team managed to produce an incredible set-up and strategy. My team-mates did an incredible job to take the front row in qualifying and build a lead into the evening.
"I gave everything on the night stint to make sure we were keeping the leading pace. We flew! Vamos!"
Canapino shared the winning GTP class ‘Williams Esports Playseat’ Acura with fellow Williams Esports sim racers Atte Kauppinen, Moreno Sirica and Carl Jansson, helping the team to seal back-to-back overall victories in the Daytona 24 Hours.
Williams were looking set for a dominant 1-2, after sweeping the front row in qualifying and running at the head of the field with two cars for the majority of the race.
Unfortunately, the pole-winning sister car, ‘Williams Esports Fanatec’, of Josh Lad, Jaden Munoz, Arthur Lehouck and Matt Farrow suffered a disconnection during the final morning and dropped down to 8th.
Munoz said: “It was an intense race. When the sun set, our car had tons of pace and we were able to chip away the lead from the sister car.
"After going back and forth all night for the lead, it was an awful feeling to lose our chances due to a disconnect.
"But we showed our dominance, the team still won the race, and I’ll be back for my next shot at victory.”
Welcome to the Williams Gaming Club
Join the community and race with us
Even the winning had to survive a scare when an LMP2 car had a disconnection and crashed into the side of the Williams, but thankfully the damage wasn’t severe and we were able to retain the lead through the repairs.
Williams also entered three cars in the GTD class. It was another dominant display in qualifying with the team completing a front row sweep of both classes.
But there was more misfortune for the pole position ‘Williams Esports Chillblast’ car, of Daniel Pasztor, Vasilios Beletsiotis and Daniel Lafuente, when they were knocked out of the race in a clash at Turn 1 inside the first hour.
The ‘Williams Esports BenQ’ car of Alessandro Bico, Parker White and Sota Muto contested the lead throughout the race with rivals Apex and Redline, with Daytona’s famous bump drafting providing close-up action
The Williams BenQ car finished 4th in the GTD class, while the other entry ‘Williams Esports Academy’ – the team’s driver development program entry – was also eliminated by contact from other cars.
White said: “The Daytona 24 is all about having a drafting partner, so it was very tough for us when the sister car got taken our early and we were left by ourselves for the rest of the race.
"We were able to change strategy and draft with other cars for some stints, and in the end ran clean for all 24 hours.”
Sirica, who shared the winning car with Canapino, added: “We’d done our homework and knew we had the best strategy for the end of the race.
"We survived some scary moments and some damage, but we could still keep the gap at the end.
"It’s taken me a couple of attempts, but finally I’ve got the win at Daytona – this is surely in the top three of the biggest race wins I’ve ever had.”