Stoffel Vandoorne has just completed his first laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe in all its eight-and-a-half-mile glory. Only he's not strapped into the SMP Racing squad's LMP1 prototype that he is racing in the 2019 24 Hours, nor is he even anywhere near Le Mans. The Belgian is actually sitting in a simulator in a darkened room 120 or so miles away.
Those laps are firmly in the virtual realm, but worthwhile nonetheless, according to Vandoorne. He reckons he's just got a decent feel for an event he is contesting for the first time aboard one of SMP's AER-powered BR Engineering BR1s. And that's exactly why he's in the simulator at AOTech to the south of Paris. He's undertaking the mandatory day here that each and every rookie must complete before heading to the great race.
There's no exception for a driver like Vandoorne straight out of Formula 1, nor Fernando Alonso, who was still a grand prix driver when he went to AOTech a little over 12 months ago. Porsche racer Mark Webber was one of the first wave of competitors to take what is billed by Le Mans organiser the Automobile Club de l'Ouest as a training programme on its introduction ahead of the 2014 edition of the 24 Hours.