Last weekend, the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours was virtual, hosted by Motorsport Games in rFactor 2 and featuring the world’s best real and simulated racers. It was the third time Motorsport Games had hosted the show and after the largely drama-free 2022 event there was little reason to expect problems. Unfortunately, this one didn’t go so smoothly: after seventeen hours, Max Verstappen said he really hoped “everyone uninstalls the game.”
how did we get here The first seven hours of Saturday’s competition saw two red flags caused by security breaches in the server hosting the race, resulting in more than an hour of downtime. Gérard Neveu, the executive producer of the event, explained the situation like this after the checkered flag:
After some initial investigation, it appears that some race participants accidentally leaked the IP addresses connecting them to the server to the public, which shouldn’t have happened. This left us in a weakened position and we were subject to a number of security breaches that led to the global separation of all competitors. It should never happen if the IP addresses are well protected.
In fact anyone who surfs rFactor 2 Servers on Steam during the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual would have seen the server’s full IP address and name, which uniquely identified the session as a tag, practically begging for repeated trolling:
As amazing as this is, it only tells half the story. Max Verstappen, who is Redline’s No. 1 Oreca 07 fought for the lead all day and into the night with team-mates Jeffery Rietveld, Luke Browning and Diogo Pinto. Around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, seven other cars were simultaneously disconnected. All of them got their distance back, due to a race control rule that returned laps to separate cars as long as a group of four or more was involved.
A little over an hour later, No. 1 Redline car with Verstappen at the wheel coincided with the No. 100 Arnage Competition LMP, acc traction. Both cars returned to the race, but neither of them received losing laps as the total number of cars separated at one time was less than four. Verstappen, now in 14th place, was informed that race officials would not take any action and he immediately parked the car. Then, streaming livehe said the following:
They call it unbelievable bad luck – well, that’s just incompetence. They can’t even control their own game. And this is the third time that this has happened to me, that I’ve been thrown out of the game in this race.
It’s also the last time I’m participating, because what for? You prepare for five months to try and win that championship, you lead the championship, you try to win this race that you’ve been preparing for two months, and you’re handling it that way. I mean, every two red flags they blame – I don’t even know – people are DDoSing on the server. They cut the rain because that’s probably already having a big impact, and then people still get separated. And now of course we got hit by it once too and then they just don’t care because they need more people to disconnect (to return rounds).
It was assumed that changing weather conditions increased the load on the server. That could explain why the track was restored to a dry state after one of the red flag periods. Verstappen was also apparently caught off guard by a “connection failure” at one of the Mulsanne chicanes early in the race, forcing a spin. You can determine the moment when his car lags behind in the replay:
The two-time Formula 1 champion had even more to say:
Honestly it’s a joke. You can’t even call this an event. It’s a clown show. That’s why it’s better to immobilize the car, because driving around for six hours in P15 makes no sense for everyone. It’s a shame for all the effort we’ve put in as a team. I really hope that the organizers will also consider where to take this race. Because it will not work on this platform. Game over… I think I have (better) chances if I go to Vegas and just go to the casino. I think I have more (one) chance to win.
It’s just a shame for everyone on the team. I mean, we all wanted to do well here, prepare, and then you get that. (sighs) Well, I guess I’ll uninstall the game. That’s nice. Frees up some PC space anyway. And I really hope everyone uninstalls the game.
Verstappen later repeated many of these statements on Discordwhile adding that he hopes the sim racing community “can build something beautiful elsewhere” because “teams, brands and drivers deserve it.” Romain Grosjean – himself driver of the winning car in the GTE category – objected to Verstappen’s comments, which compares a breakup to a mechanical failure in a car. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better answer to this false equivalence than Bradley Philpot’s, so I’ll just embed this here:
The problem with Verstappen’s ‘let’s push Le Mans somewhere else’ idea is that teams, brands and drivers can’t do itÂ go anywhere else, especially if they seek the official endorsement of the Automobile Club l’Ouest, organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Motorsport Games has renewed an exclusivity deal with the ACO in 2021. iRacing – another popular racing sim – had to make significant changes to its own annual Le Mans event. iRacing was also forced to cancel his own Indy 500 and informed players that due to Motorsport Games terms they are no longer allowed to stream sessions involving the Dallara R18, DW12 or IR-05 with Indycar. The publisher’s first Indycar title is slated for release later this year.
Binding racing series in lengthy exclusive contracts while eliminating beloved competitors and Delivery of defective products quickly tarnished Motorsport Games’ reputation in the sim racing world. The company’s ledger could suffer as Nasdaq stock fell below $1 last summer, forcing an emergency reverse stock split to keep the company public. Motor sport games in November lost a number of key people. And just yesterday, a new report from Insider Gaming Citing anonymous sources inside the company, an employee claimed to be blackmailing the publisher by threatening to reveal the source code of four games – including the upcoming Indycar title – if employees weren’t paid unpaid wages by Jan. 25.
It certainly wasn’t trending for motorsport games, but I certainly hadn’t “Max Verstappen tells gamers to uninstall rFactor 2‘, selected on my bingo card for 2023. It kind of makes you wonder what’s going to happen next – it could literally be anything at this point.