As an official partner to Le Mans Virtual Series, Goodyear extends its relationship with the promoters of the world’s most famous endurance race into the digital sphere. With 14 overall wins to its name, Goodyear has a long and storied history at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. More recently, the tyre brand’s appointment as the exclusive tyre of LMP2 at Le Mans, and also in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and European Le Mans Series (ELMS), makes it a key partner of the prestigious event. Expanding this relationship into the virtual sphere is the next step on a Le Mans journey that began in 1965, when Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt won for Ferrari.
This legacy has been continued in recent years since Goodyear’s return to Le Mans in 2020. In the 2021 edition, Goodyear supplied tyres to every LMP2 team, just as it does in each round of the WEC and ELMS championships as part of its role as an official partner to Le Mans organising body the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO). Now, the step into the computer-generated world with 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual and the Le Mans Virtual Series is the latest chapter in Goodyear’s history at the Circuit de la Sarthe in north-west France.
“Goodyear enjoys a long association and partnership with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and we were delighted to return to the race in 2020,” says Ben Crawley, Goodyear’s Motorsport Director. “Since then, our involvement has increased even further, supporting 26 cars in the 2021 edition. The Le Mans Virtual Series is a fascinating complement to the real race that carries the same spirit of endurance racing as seen in WEC and ELMS, so we are thrilled to be a part of it. Esports is growing, the industry is booming, and the technology is incredible. Whether on the real race track or the virtual one, global motorsport events like the 24 Hours of Le Mans give Goodyear a platform to reach millions of fans around the world.
“Le Mans Virtual Series doesn’t just offer fans something to fill their endurance racing fix over the off-season – far from it. With esports continuing to grow, it’s an important part of endurance racing and we want to be involved at a high level. For Goodyear, the technological advances present us with opportunities to draw comparisons between virtual and real racing, taking learnings from the virtual world and supporting our wider motorsport involvement.”
The visibility of Le Mans Virtual Series is immense. The award winning 2020 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual attracted a cumulative audience of over 14.2 million through its broadcast in 57 different countries on high-profile networks like Eurosport, ESPN and Sky Sports1. The reach of Le Mans Virtual Series is no surprise; the entire esports industry is booming. It’s expected that 474 million people will have watched an esports event in 2021. Reaching an audience of this size allowed worldwide revenues to hit $947 million last year2.
In the virtual world, Goodyear isn’t just involved in the Le Mans Virtual Series. Through its extensive partnerships with motorsport series across the globe, the Goodyear name is visible in other motorsport esports platforms. One of these is WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup’s own esports championship, where Goodyear is present as the real-world Cup’s exclusive tyre supplier and official partner, reaching touring car racing fans across the globe.
Virtual tyres, real learnings
Learning how to use virtual tyres is of paramount importance in sim racing. As an official partner of the Le Mans Virtual Series, Goodyear has developed a virtual tyre specifically for that championship which draws on data used in real-world motorsport products.
“If you’re coming in as a total learner to sim racing, you’ll learn a lot about the tyres,” Mutch notes. “Very quickly, you’ll learn that in a longer race, medium tyres are better than softs because the softs will be really fast at the start of the stint but then they’ll be a few seconds off. On mediums, you can do double stints, but on the softs you can’t.”
Mutch believes that it’s “absolutely” possible to apply Le Mans Virtual Series tyre strategies to real-world races, and as a result the experience of sim racing has helped him to improve on the tracks that Britcar visits. On the other hand, the similarities between the formats mean that real-world drivers can get even closer to the sim racing specialists of the Le Mans Virtual Series.
“It gives a very real representation of tyre strategy in motorsport,” Mutch reckons. This is largely because virtual tyre modelling has evolved so much over the last few years, through the inputs of manufacturers like Goodyear, which brings a wealth of experience designing real-world racing and road tyres.
“Especially in the way the tyre heats up and the way it degrades,” he says. “For one, you know it’s working because every time we go into a long race, such as the Spa 24 Hours, we really had to do a lot of testing as to which tyre compounds to use. This is a perfect example, because the softs will degrade a lot faster than the mediums but they’ll be quicker initially. So absolutely, the evolution in the tyre physics has been huge, and it’s working really well in the Le Mans Virtual Series.”
(1) Source: https://motorsportgames.com/24-hours-of-le-mans-virtual-record-viewership/
(2) Source: bbc.co.uk
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