Rebellion Williams Esport were victorious in a Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans that left Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly wanting to sample the real thing.

The online race was organised for this weekend instead of the real event, which was pushed back until September 19-20 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Professional drivers Louis Deletraz and Raffaele Marciello and sim racing specialists Nikodem Wisniewski and Kuba Brzezinski were the winning quartet on Sunday, the Oreca LMP taking the chequered flag 17 seconds ahead of the ByKolles-Burst Esport number four Oreca LMP.

The second Oreca LMP entered by Swiss team Rebellion took third place, from the 50 teams and a mix of 200 professional racing drivers and sim racers that entered.

Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Gasly were among the Formula One drivers to participate, along with former world champion Fernando Alonso.

Ferrari driver Leclerc finished 18th in the GTE class after getting behind the wheel for the final stint and the 22-year-old was left longing for the actual track of Le Mans.

He wrote on Twitter: "Thanks for being with me during the whole 24 hours guys!! The first 8/9 hours were very fun battling for positions."

He added: "Now I just want to do the real Le Mans though."

Gasly was ready to catch up on some sleep after coming through the endurance test. He helped the Veloce Esports team finish fifth.

Frenchman Gasly tweeted: "Top 5 for this first edition of the virtual 24hours of Le Mans. Never thought I would get that excited during a virtual race, very cool experience. It really makes me want to participate in reality one day! But for now, time to sleep.."

Alonso was restored to the race on Saturday after what he described as "a combination between human error and a game glitch" forced him to retire during the early running.

Fernando Alonso was restored into the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans after "a combination between human error and a game glitch" forced him to retire during the early running on Saturday.

Former Formula One drivers Alonso and Rubens Barrichello joined forces for the event, which is taking place due to the coronavirus pandemic forcing the postponement of the real race until September.

Their FA/RB AllInSports number 14 entry stopped on track after a penalty for a collision was imposed when the Spaniard entered the pit lane, meaning he ran out of fuel.

In a video posted on Twitter, Alonso said: "So, here we are - not the [Le Mans] 24 Hours virtual that we were hoping for.

"I think a combination between human error and a game glitch put us in a bad situation.

"I think the race directors gave us a penalty when we were on the pit lane, which is a little bit unusual, and the game doesn't allow you to block that penalty - to serve it a lap later, at least to put [in] fuel.

"So it serves the penalty but doesn't put [in] any fuel or tyres, so we didn't have fuel for the following lap.

"That glitch and probably that penalty when we were on the pit lane was not expected for anyone.

"Unfortunately not the race we were hoping for, and we did I think good preparations, so we will have fun on the next 24.

"Let's see if we can choose another race soon with this super team and let's enjoy."

However, a technical issue meant the servers had to be restarted and the race was red-flagged.

Alonso's team were subsequently put back into the field with more than 18 and a half hours of racing remaining.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso are the latest big names to sign up for the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Leclerc will form part of one of the three Ferrari teams with Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi and a pair of sim racers.

The online race will be held on June 13-14, when the real event – which has been pushed back until September 19-20 due to the coronavirus pandemic – was initially scheduled to take place.

Leclerc has some impressive recent experience in online racing, having been victorious twice in F1's Virtual Grand Prix series and putting together a run of five successive podiums.

Alonso, who has won the past two 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, will join forces with former F1 driver Rubens Barrichello for the FA/RB Allinsports team.

"Back to @24hoursoflemans this time for virtual 24h! Thanks @FIAWEC and all organisers to put this together. Will be fun," tweeted Alonso.

An all-female line-up of Katherine Legge, Tatiana Calderon, Sophia Florsch and sim racer Emily Jones will represent the Richard Mille Racing Team.

On Thursday it was announced Juan Pablo Montoya, who has competed in F1, IndyCar, NASCAR and came third in the LMP2 class at Le Mans in 2018, will drive for Team Penske alongside Simon Pagenaud, Dane Cameron and Ricky Taylor.

Jenson Button, F1 champion in 2009, is set to take part for Team Rocket Zansho, while AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly and Jean-Eric Vergne will team up for Veloce Esports.

Earlier this week it was announced Max Verstappen and Lando Norris will compete alongside a pair of sim racers for Team Redline.

Former Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella are also on the list of entrants.

Max Verstappen and Lando Norris will share a car for Team Redline in the virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans next month.

The famous endurance race had to be moved from June 13-14 to September 19-20 after the French government advised against mass gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An online event will instead be held on the original dates, with Formula One drivers Verstappen and Norris joining forces to take part.

The duo are able to pull off the all-nighter due to significant delays to starting the F1 season, which is not scheduled to begin until July.

There are 50 teams participating in the race, with former Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella representing the Fondation Princesse Charlene de Monaco.

Ligue 2 will adopt a 22-team competition next season following the coronavirus pandemic, the Professional Football League (LFP) decided on Wednesday.

There will be two additional teams in France's second tier in 2020-21, with Le Mans and Orleans remaining in Ligue 2 and Pau and Dunkerque moving up from the third division.

Last month, the LFP declared Paris Saint-Germain champions of Ligue 1 after ending the 2019-20 campaign prematurely due to COVID-19.

The final standings had been decided on a points-per-game basis after French prime minister Edouard Philippe said the season could not restart due to all sporting events being banned until September amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Amiens and Toulouse were relegated to Ligue 2 through just 28 matches, while Lorient and Lens were promoted.

Many-a-gamer can recall losing track of night and day, and such experience could prove useful after motorsport chiefs announced a virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans race will take place in June.

The real race was due to be held across June 13-14 but has been postponed to September 19-20 due to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing for a simulated version of the classic endurance test to take its original spot on the calendar.

Le Mans organisers confirmed the eSports event on Friday, stating teams would consist of at least two professional drivers and no more than two 'sim racers', with up to 50 cars able to take part.

Each driver will have to get behind the wheel for a minimum of four hours and a maximum of seven hours, with the race beginning at 15:00 French time on the Saturday.

The Automobile Club de l'Ouest, which runs the regular Le Mans race, said it had embraced the concept.

Its president, Pierre Fillon, said: "This first edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual opens a new chapter for our discipline."

He forecast it would "be a unique event augmenting endurance racing and its values".

The Toyota Gazoo team said it would be targeting the winners' "virtual champagne".

Gerard Neveu, chief executive of the FIA's World Endurance Championship, also gave his seal of approval.

Neveu said: "As in real life, it will bring together the 'creme de la crème' of automotive manufacturers, racing teams and drivers plus the world's best sim racers competing alongside these global names. Truly something for everyone!"

Thomas Tuchel declared himself pleased after Paris Saint-Germain were drawn against Saint-Etienne in the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue.

PSG saw off second-tier opponents Le Mans 4-1 in Wednesday's last-16 tie at MMArena to remain on course for a record-extending ninth success in the competition.

The Ligue 1 champions thrashed Saint-Etienne 4-0 in last weekend's league clash and head coach Tuchel had no complaints about being paired with Claude Puel's men in the domestic cup.

"It's a good draw because the match will be played at home," he told Canal+. "It's good that we don't have to travel.

"The main thing is playing at home, which is easier to organise and easier for the players. We have a lot of travelling in January and February so it's good to play at home."

Pablo Sarabia, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Kylian Mbappe gave PSG a 3-0 half-time lead against Le Mans, who pulled one back through Harrison Manzala early in the second half.

Angel Di Maria ensured a safe passage through to the last eight with his strike from range, but Tuchel felt PSG could have added more goals to their tally.

"We played players who have lacked rhythm, so I did not expect too much from them," he said. "We could have scored five or six, but we lost pace in the second half.

"We are now into the quarter-finals and there were no injuries, which was essential."

Choupo-Moting was brought into the side as one of eight changes and was on the scoresheet with his close-range finish shortly before half-time.

"When you win 4-1, it's important to be positive," he said. "We played in a good stadium with a good atmosphere.

"We were effective in the first period with three goals that made the game easy, but we must be even more dangerous."

Le Mans were the final remaining team from outside of Ligue 1 after eliminating Nice in the previous round, and coach Richard Dezire took positives from the run to the last 16.

"It's a match that will serve us well for the future," he said. "We beat the stadium attendance record today. Three or four years ago, we played at La Pincenardiere. 

"Today, we sold out the stadium to face PSG and we could have filled it three times. We are progressing at all levels. We know we still have gaps but we are working to correct them. The fundamental objective is to stay up this season."

Kylian Mbappe scored for a sixth game running as Paris Saint-Germain eased into the quarter-finals of the Coupe de la Ligue with a 4-1 win over Ligue 2 side Le Mans at MMArena on Wednesday.

The Ligue 1 champions made eight changes from their 4-0 win over Saint-Etienne on Sunday but proved too strong for Le Mans, who were the last remaining team from outside the top flight in the competition.

Pablo Sarabia, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Mbappe were all on target in the first half for PSG, who added a fourth goal through Angel Di Maria in the 47th minute.

Substitute Harrison Manzala pulled one back for the hosts, but Thomas Tuchel's men - record eight-time winners of the competition - saw things through to make it five wins in a row in all competitions.

Sarabia timed his run well to get on the end of Di Maria's left-sided cross and fire PSG ahead, with Pierre Patron getting two hands to the ball but failing to keep it out.

Le Mans eliminated Nice in the last round but their hopes of causing another upset took a hit when Mbappe squared the ball to Choupo-Moting after being played in by Marco Verratti's quick free-kick.

Mbappe added a third for the visitors 87 seconds later by taking Verratti's pass in his stride, holding off Pierre Lemonnier and beating Patron to extend his scoring run.

Some slack defending and goalkeeping early in the second half gifted PSG a fourth goal, Di Maria's attempt from range squirming through Patron's grasp.

Manzala cut inside and guided a shot away from Sergio Rico to give Le Mans something to celebrate, but it was plain sailing for the Ligue 1 giants in a quiet end to the match.

 

What does it mean? Much-changed PSG cruise through

Marquinhos, Di Maria and Mbappe were the only three survivors from the win over Saint-Etienne at the weekend as PSG boss Tuchel heavily rotated his side.

Despite the mass changes, the visitors eased through and will now be looking to improve on last season's shock quarter-final exit at the hands of eventual runners-up Guingamp.

Verratti at the heart of everything

Verratti caught out Le Mans with his quick thinking for PSG's second goal, which Choupo-Moting rounded off following some unselfish play from Mbappe.

The Ligue 2 strugglers were still coming to terms with that strike when Verratti again showed his quality by picking out Mbappe with a ball over the top for his side's third goal.

Poor performance from Patron

Keeping the likes of Mbappe and Di Maria quiet is difficult on a normal day, never mind when your goalkeeper gifts the opposition a couple of goals. 

Patron was caught out by Sarabia and Di Maria on their goals, making his only two saves of the match in second-half stoppage time.

What's next?

PSG return to Ligue 1 action with a home match against Amiens on Saturday, the same day Le Mans travel to the French capital to face Paris FC in their next Ligue 2 outing.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Thomas Tuchel claims Neymar is happy at the club and his own relationship with the forward has never been better.

Neymar was involved in a transfer saga earlier in the year, with a possible return to Barcelona failing to materialise before the deadline.

PSG fans initially gave the Brazil international a hostile reception on his return to first-team action, but he has reintegrated himself with some key performances.

With the January transfer window fast approaching, Tuchel insisted Neymar, 27, was in a good frame of mind in the French capital.

"Between him and me, not much has changed," Tuchel said at a news conference ahead of the Coupe de la Ligue clash with Le Mans on Wednesday.

"We have always had a good relationship. He's happy and expects the team to continue to grow. 

"He is accepted in the dressing room. He is extraordinary and is gaining physical capacity at the moment. 

"He still has a big heart, he always speaks frankly. He loves football and playing in a competitive team. We can enjoy it, it's great."

Neymar could be rested for the midweek fixture with Le Mans after Tuchel confirmed he will rotate his squad.

"This meeting is also an opportunity to give playing time to certain players," Tuchel said.

"Le Mans is a very aggressive, offensive team that can score goals. I expect a very courageous team in a big atmosphere. 

"We have to respect the opponent, the competition. It is up to us to show our quality - Le Mans will have nothing to lose."

Tuchel also revealed his excitement at the Champions League draw, which pitted PSG against former club Borussia Dortmund in the last 16 of the competition.

He added: "In the round of 16, anything can happen, it's a great team in Germany.

"It's a special match for me. I have a lot of friends, I lived there three years; it's an extraordinary stadium."

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