The ACO - the governing body behind the Le Mans 24 Hours - used this weekend's round of the World Endurance Championship at Silverstone to announce and kick off the Le Mans esports series, which will see players compete to win part of a $100,000 prize pot and the chance for a place on the podium at next year's Le Mans.

The first round of the series has already kicked off, with a preliminary qualifier taking place to coincide with the Silverstone round of the WEC, and with future rounds that lead into the final at next year's Le Mans in June to coincide with upcoming events on the official WEC series calendar.

The esports series has got considerable buy-in from the ACO - the WEC's CEO Gerard Neveu was on-hand for the announcement, as was 2018 Le Mans winner and two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who's already heading up his own esports team.

"I'm happy to be an owner of a team, I'm very proud of what the guys are doing, and I think that you will have a huge success with this new adventure, a lot of people are behind it," Alonso said at the announcement event. "The possibilities that esports has are unlimited. We have probably not reached the limit yet, we will keep discovering more.

"Esports is a reality, it's no longer a fantasy or a game," Alonso continued. "It's a platform that works not only for gamers, but for professional drivers too. We have been using simulators for a couple of years now, learning tracks and developing cars. Now, we have a fantastic fanbase outside motor racing, they love what we do, but they do it differently. It's not better, it's not worse - and it's a little bit cheaper than the real cars, too."

WEC isn't the first big motorsport series to put its weight behind esports - F1, under the guidance of new owners Liberty Media, has ramped up its involvement, with a number of F1 teams getting involved in the official esports series, while this weekend a former WRC2 driver won the World Rally Championship esports title - and it shows that the motorsport world is beginning to take esports very seriously indeed.

The Le Mans esports series will be using Forza Motorsport 7 for its inaugural series, and offline events taking place at various races and shows over the next few months will also help pool together winners from the online events.

Registration is now open on the official Le Mans esports series' website, and qualification for the initial Silverstone races runs through until August 31st.

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Martin Robinson

Martin Robinson

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Martin is Eurogamer's features and reviews editor. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

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