July 17, 2024

A team from Southeast Asia showed the global motorsport community that racers from the region are a force to be reckoned with when they clinched top four at the biggest sim racing competition in the world, the 24 Hours Le Mans Virtual.
Axle Sports, founded by former Formula 1 driver Alex Yoong, fielded two teams in the competition which saw a high-profile grid of racers including current Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen, Juan Pablo Montoya, and some of the best e-sports drivers in the world.
Le Mans prototype (LMP) car #21 of team SEM9 Flash Axle was piloted by racers Naquib Azlan of Malaysia and Inigo Anton of the Philippines as well as gamers Mohammad Aleef of Singapore and Josh Purwien of Australia.
Yoong, who is also the team manager, said: “I’m so proud of this group of drivers. I always knew they could be world-class and today, we showed the global motorsport community what we are capable of. Thank you to SEM9 for partnering with us. Also, to Team Flash and JMX Phantom who collaborated with us and Next Level Racing who provided our rigs.”
The 17-year-old Anton of Baguio City, who raced with the team for the first time in a global competition, could not contain his excitement.
“We were all just so excited to race with Max Verstappen. I won’t deny that I was completely starstruck. We dreamed of making it to the top 10. Our team boss, Alex Yoong, believed that we could make it to the top five as long as we all worked hard for it. Then we end up being fourth in the world,” said the young Filipino racer.
Azlan added, “We have won races and even championships before but this is probably the sweetest moment we’ve felt as a team.”
Team SEM9 Flash Axle was unofficially voted as “the most impressive team” and considered the dark horse by race commentators, as its members were the only outfits from Southeast Asia who competed in the endurance series alongside the likes of Realteam Hydrogen Redline, Red Bull Racing Esports, R8G Esports, Veloce Esports, Panis Racing, and Alpine Esports.
The first four races in the Le Mans Virtual Series were held online between September and December 2021, with the 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual taking place as the climax to the premier endurance e-sports championship, which offered a prize pool of $250,000.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual (LMP) final was won by Felipe Drugovich, Oliver Rowland, Jeffrey Rietveld, and Michal Smidl for Realteam Hydrogen Redline.
In the grand touring endurance, the BMW Team Redline entry driven by Kevin Siggy, Rudy van Buren, Lorenzo Colombo, and Enzo Bonito took the laurels.
Around 50 cars took to the grid at Circuit de la Sarthe, with only 33 teams finishing the full 24-hour race. – Harley F. Palangchao