Team Redline director Atze Kerkhof has been reflecting on his mixed feelings over the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual after the #1 entry – driven by Max Verstappen amongst others – was forced to withdraw.
Verstappen and teammates Jeffrey Rietveld, Luke Browning and Diogo Pinto had been leading the event while Verstappen was at the wheel.
However, the Dutchman was beset with connection problems which forced him to retire from the running. The lead – and ultimately the victory – then went to Team Redline's #2 car, driven by reigning Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich, IndyCar and Formula E racer Felix Rosenqvist, Chris Lulham and Luke Bennett.
Team Redline also secured P2 in the GTE class, leaving Kerkhof pleased with the squad's success.
"That makes the feeling of satisfaction prevail," he told RacingNews365.com.
"Those two teams showed so much backbone from a hopeless position. That had to do with strategy and adaptability. You learn an awful lot during a race like that and then it's important to analyse that to intervene as quickly as possible."
Team Redline director brands server issues 'unacceptable'
However, Kerkhof was left disappointed by the team having to drop out of the lead of the race through no fault of their own.
"It is now the fourth time in a row that we dropped out in leading position. Once it was due to our own driver error, all three other times it was due to server problems," he explained.
"That is unacceptable. That's disrespectful."
Earlier in the event, the race had twice been red-flagged because of server issues, which organisers said were due to a suspected security breach. Kerkhof feels that the connection problems are not acceptable given what is at stake for many of those involved.
"For Max, only the competition counts, he is not doing this for the money," Kerkhof said.
"Who sets aside a lot of free time to help the team, but also to promote the race. As a two-time F1 champion, he was fully on board for this biggest race of the year.
"This event involves a hefty prize pool [€250,000]. Our drivers will survive this, but there are also a lot of drivers who lean on this prize money and who just suffer heavily. That kind of prize pool ensures the professionalism of the sport and also makes a lot of bets on it.
"We are not the only ones who are damaged, but we are perhaps more vocal about this because we want to put pressure on the issue. This obviously cannot continue in this way. Don't forget also that there is a decent entry fee to be paid per team per car."
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Connection problems did not just affect Verstappen
Kerkhof has stressed that Verstappen was not to blame for his connection issues, with the problem affecting many others in the event.
"He lost the connection at exactly the same time as another driver. When that happens within milliseconds of each other, you know it's not Verstappen's PC, but the server," he added.
"And every year the people at rFactor 2 [the platform on which this race is run] cry out that the problems will be solved and every year it turns out to be the opposite."
Kerkhof can understand Verstappen's comments about the problems, with the Dutchman having called the event a "clown show" as well as saying that he would not return.
"We won't see him back again. A lot has to happen if we want to see Max back on rFactor," Kerkhof continued.
However, Verstappen will continue with Team Redline, who compete in a range of sim events.
"We are active in all major sim racing competitions. From rFactor to iRacing to Assetto Corsa," Kerkhof said.
"And while we are absolutely not happy with rFactor, we assume this will be fixed for next year. This will also have been a wake-up call for them after all.
"This was very bad publicity in a race where all eyes were on it because Max was competing. And then to make such a fool of themselves, they have themselves to thank for that."
Reaction to Grosjean comments
Kerkhof's frustrations are directed at rFactor rather than the race management.
The latter did decide not to return the laps lost as, according to the rules, this only happens when four drivers or more lose the connection at the same time.
"There is something to be said for following the rules, but it is clear that those rules are not right. Not when it is clear that there have been connection problems throughout the race."
Former F1 driver Romain Grosjean – who is an ambassador of Motorsport Games, the platform that hosts sim racing competitions – compared the connection issues with mechanical or technical failures in actual motorsport. Kerkhof does not agree with his comments.
"That, of course, makes no sense at all. In Melbourne [at the 2018 Australian Grand Prix], when his teammate [Kevin] Magnussen's tyre came off after a pit-stop, the [Haas] team did everything possible to fix the problem," Kerkhof said.
"When Grosjean's Haas then crashed out due to exactly the same mistake a few laps later, they were massively screwed and the whip goes out in the team to NEVER let this happen again. We all saw this in Drive to Survive.
"So this situation is better compared to a software platform that has not been getting its servers stable for several years. So if Grosjean says that, he better shut up."
While Verstappen does not seem likely to race on rFactor again, he remains a part of Team Redline. Will he make an appearance again for the squad over the winter?
"Never say never, but the F1 season is also about to start again soon, so possibly not," Kerkhof commented.
"His motivation might also have taken a dent."