“The best e-Sports race I’ve ever seen”. Former F1 driver and double World Champion Fernando Alonso was not stingy with compliments, after the first ever virtual edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
For the first time since 1968, the almost 100-year-old sports car race could not be held in June, because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The event had to be postponed to September.
The global disease was an opportunity for many to test new ideas. The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) decided to connect the old world of motorsports with the new world of esports. On June 13 and 14, the virtual race, run on the rFactor2 platform, brought together the world’s best professional drivers with sim racing’s own elite: Red Bull F1 driver Max Verstappen or McLaren’s Lando Norris, as well as esports racers such as Nikodem Wisniewski and Kuba Brzezinski. In total, 200 drivers from 37 different countries.
TV viewers around the world could watch the event on mainstream channels (Eurosport, ESPN, Sky Sports and J-Sports). But many fans followed the race on the social networks. Organisers (WEC, ACO and Motorsport Games) said that they registered 48,919,403 impressions for the race week from their accounts alone. «Figures far beyond all previous championship records», said the WEC.
And they did not take into account the audience generated by the teams, partners and sponsors of the event. The FIA-WEC had asked YuzzitPro to allow all the teams to use its very efficient tool to cut live video excerpts from the race and publish them very quickly on social networks.
«We are used to working every weekend on esports events, using high quality video streams (1080P/60fps) up to 40 simultaneously for the most important ones. But this was the first time we had to coordinate so many teams and users (nearly 120) spread over different continents», said Laurent Fabre, YuzzitPro Strategic Accounts Manager.
More than 1,000 videos were generated during the race as well as hundreds of images captured from the video streams. 70% of the videos were less than one minute long, a perfect format for social networks.
«Social networks allow fans to see the highlights of the race in real time without having to follow the entire 24 hours», said Erwann Gervais, WEC multimedia coordinator.
According to WEC, the most successful videos were the ones with surprising content. F1 driver Charles Leclerc enjoying a yoghurt at 300 km/h in the iconic Mulsanne (or Hunaudières) Straight for instance.
Each team was given a YuzzitPro account. The WEC created a pre-roll which had to be run by all users. To spread the load, the teams were distributed on 3 different servers (one more was ready for backup). Producing simultaneous content on such high quality streams requires a large processing and storage capacity.
Before the race, community managers were trained during a short 20-minute webinar, so simple is the use of YuzzitPro.
«YuzzitPro has taken up a challenge that had not been planned long in advance. In just two weeks, a whole technical team worked to deliver a product fit for a very specific request. We really appreciate this flexibility », said WEC Julien Jenvrin Social Media Coordinator.
After 24 hours, the Virtual Le Mans was won by Rebellion Williams Esports, a partnership of the Williams F1 esports programme and World Endurance Championship (WEC) regulars Rebellion Racing. A winner of the last two real editions of Le Mans, Fernando Alonso, who ran out of virtual fuel during the race, finished 17th.