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Reigning F1 champ crashes out of the lead of the year's biggest virtual race

Max power.

It's a month until we get to see the new generation of F1 cars properly unveiled, but ahead of all that this weekend saw the competitive return of reigning champion Max Verstappen as he took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual. Hosted on rFactor 2 and organised by Motorsport Games in collaboration with the ACO, it's perhaps the biggest virtual race of them all and a welcome fixture on the calendar ever since it was first ushered into life as a replacement for the real thing during the early days of the Coronavirus pandemic back in 2020.

As ever the event attracted some considerable talent from the world of racing, with the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Felix Rosenqvist and Oliver Rowland joining Verstappen - as well as a return of sorts for Mercedes to Le Mans, the silver arrows taking to the Circuit de la Sarthe in an official capacity since its infamous real-life outing in 1999 when its cars had the unfortunate tendency to hurl themselves into the scenery in spectacular fashion.

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There was no such drama this year, with the Mercedes team retiring on the three hour mark after blowing an engine, while out front Max Verstappen proved that his mercurial talents are just as apparent in the virtual world as in real racing as he put in a triple stint that saw his Team Redline capture and hold onto the overall lead.

His second set of stints behind the wheel wasn't quite so positive, however, with Verstappen making a mess of the Ford Chicane and ripping two wheels off the Oreca LMP2 car, crashing out of the lead and putting an end to Team Redline's efforts. The race was ultimately won in convincing fashion by Realteam Hydrogen Redline, with Felipe Drugovich, Oliver Rowland, Michael Smidl and Jeffrey Rietveld taking the top spot.

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