GES S3 R2 Imola

Round two of the GES championship ran at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari,  known colloquially as Imola, and until 2007 was the home of the Formula One San Marino Grand Prix.  The circuit is seen as the “home circuit” of Ferrari, and will forever be remembered for the tragedy of the 1994 Grand Prix and qualifying, which claimed the lives of Ayrton Senna, and Roland Ratzenberger.

For Legends Racing, preparation was far from optimal, and finalizing a setup was left later than normal, and far later than the team were comfortable with.  Having “locked down” a setup at the 11th hour, the Legends pairing of Darren Seal and Adam Parle were finally able to focus on the race, rather than the preparation for it.  Good traffic management, always crucial in multi-class racing, was expected to be more important than ever, with practice having demonstrated that safely passing the GT3 class would be difficult, more so when several of the Mercedes cars were running close together.

Qualifying duties were handled by Darren Seal, but unable to “hook up” a fast lap and recreate the laptimes posted in practice, the Legends DP lined up on row 5, in 9th place.  A dominant pole from Simracing for Holland was a signal of intent, with very little separating the other teams in the front few rows of the grid.

After issues at the start for the prototype class blighted the the opening round of the championship, in round two the first lap drama was provided by the GT3 class.  The Black Adder Mercedes got caught out by the early braking of the cars ahead, and in taking evasive action, lost control on the way into Traguardo and collected the NAB Racing car, before several other luckless teams also got caught in the incident.  The GTC class also had some significant incidents in the opening laps, and consequently a number of cars were looking decidedly second hand before the end of even the second lap.

Simracing for Holland showed themselves to be as dominant in the race as they were in qualifying, making good their escape early on after the 2nd and 3rd placed teams were involved in a pile up with the GTC traffic they were lapping.  Consequently, Simracing for Holland only temporarily relinquished 1st place to the recovering Black Adder Motorsport during their  pit stops.  Ultimately, they finished 66 seconds ahead of the 2nd placed Black Adder entry, having lapped the rest of the field.

The first 7 laps of the race were predictably busy for Darren, losing a position into T1, but regaining it when Nextlap Racing span.  Whilst the top few positions moved clear, there was a fight for places 7 to 9, with ACME Racing, Torque Freak Racing and Legends Racing running line astern.  This in turn allowed Apex Racing to become the fourth car in the line, but when lapping the GTC field for the first time, contact saw Apex in all kinds of trouble, with multiple cars caught in the aftermath of what was initially just a racing incident.  Weaving through the GTC traffic also spaced out the prototype field, and allowed a consistent tempo to finally be found.

Through the remainder of Darren’s stint, positions would be gained through capitalizing on the errors made and misfortune suffered by others.  Thrustmaster Mivano made the error on lap 16, receiving a stop and hold penalty for avoidable contact when attempting a pass on a GTC following a collision involving the Black Adder DP and Ace of Spades RUF.  Shortly before Darren’s first pit stop, TFR were collected by the already damaged and out of control Beast Racing GTC, which span and rebounding off a wall, starting a chain reaction that would see them hit TFR, who then had multiple contacts with the Core Racing RUF.  After struggling round Acque Minerali, the TFR entry was towed to pits, which in combination with the time for the  damage to be repaired dropped them several laps down on the field.

Darren would emerge in 6th after the first round of pit-stops, where he would stay for the remainder of his time in the car.  Only a contact from the Pure Racing Team GT3 on lap 46 gave the team cause for concern, the rear of the car showing some damage after the eventual GT3 winners shunted the Legends car whilst working their way past a GTC entry through Acque Minerali.  Race control intervened to give the Pure car a drive through for the incident, but fortunately the damage appeared be cosmetic only, and Darren brought the DP into the pits at the halfway point in the race to hand the car over to Adam.

Adam’s first stint passed without issue, and after pitting for the final time on lap 82, M-P Prototype Racing and Backmarker Racing were within reach and with it the team’s elusive first top-5 finish in the championship.  Whilst the 4th and 5th placed teams battled, Adam was able to narrow the gap, and when the two cars in-front collided on lap 94 the Legends DP sailed by, and as they continued to battle, pulled away.

Misfortune befell the SimRC.de entry on lap 96, hit from behind by the Pure Racing Team GTC car, and suddenly a podium finish looked possible for the Legends duo.  The gap to the German outfit ebbed and flowed as both cars weaved through the slower traffic, but with under 10 minutes remaining, a clear track ahead allowed Adam to close right onto the bumper of Chistoph Weitz.  Having been strong through Acque Minerali and Variante Alta on the preceding laps, a strong exit from the troublesome chicane allowed the Legends car to pull alongside Weitz.  Weitz then broke marginally too late for Rivazza, running slightly deep into the corner, and despite locking up and getting the car slightly sideways, allowed Adam to cut back and force his way through on the inside.  Protecting the inside line into Traguardo, the pass was finally cemented, and despite some GTC traffic in the closing part of the lap, held onto the place, and the first podium finish for the team.

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With such a problematic lead up to the race, the podium finish was a fantastic result the team could scarcely have hoped for.  The focus on clean, consistent driving paid dividends again, taking the team from a 9th place start to a 3rd place finish, and once more leading the Clean-X competition.

Having visited different venues for rounds 1 and 2, the GES now falls in line with the NES, with Twin Ring Motegi in Japan the next venue on the schedule.  Being a firm favorite of the team, and buoyed by the success from Imola, we will be hoping for a great race and result.  As ever, coverage will be provided by Race Spot TV and iRacing Live from 1830GMT on 10th December.

Legends Podium at Le Mans

iRacing’s latest Special Event took iRacers to the Circuit des 24 Heures du Mans for the greatest endurance race of them all, in the platform’s inaugural 24 Hours of Le Mans.  486 teams from all four corners of the globe signed up to compete in iRacing’s version of La Ronde Infernale which featured the HPD ARX-01c, the GT1 Aston Martin DBR9 and Corvette C6.R, and the GT2 Ford GT.

Legends Racing found themselves in split 5, in a field comprising 36 HPD ARX-01, the GT1 field comprised of 5 Corvette C6.R and 13 Aston Martin DBR9.  The HPD ARX-01 was far and away the most popular car in the event, with only the top splits able to have an equal distribution through the classes, and this undoubtedly changed the dynamic in fields 5-9.  Overall there were 308 HPD, 112 GT1, and 66 GT2.  Indeed, so overwhelmingly popular was the HPD, that splits 7-9 consisted of nothing but prototypes entries.

start

Recent recruit Adam Kell took responsibility for the car for the first 26 laps, guiding the team through what was a very tempestuous first hour and a half.  Starting 8th, Kell dropped as low as 15th in the chaos of the first 45 mins.  It was evident that some teams were significantly less risk-averse in their approach to setting up the car – running with lower downforce, and in their driving style – adopting a high risk approach that seldom pays dividends in endurance racing.  With an eye firmly on the final result rather than short term gains, Kell successfully navigated any potential trouble, and regained several places as the field began to spread out.

At the end of Kell’s 26th lap, the first driver swap took place, with Adam Parle getting into the car.  Parle’s first flying lap would prove to be the fastest of the race for the team, with only a handful of 3:35’s posted in the 384 laps completed, as traffic conspired to foil any quicker lap times from being set.  His stint was not without drama, as there was contact with the #17 Le Mans Rennsport prototype on lap 30 as Henrik Lindoff tried to force a pass rather than opting to wait for a couple of corners and using the draft down the Mulsanne straight to facilitate overtaking in an easier and safer manner.  Though neither cars would receive any damage, Lindoff ended up the worse off for his move, the side to side contact forcing him into the gravel and losing his team several seconds.

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Having seen low tyre wear at the first few pit stops, the team rolled the dice when Parle returned to the pits, opting to double stint the tyres, and saving the 16-seconds tyre changes typically took.  In addition to leapfrogging several other cars, this gave Parle some breathing space, but the respite was temporary.  Despite tyre wear remaining as low as expected, there was a definite reduction in performance after the stop, markedly so in the latter stages with Lindoff of Le Mans Rennsport getting by and building a gap by the end of the stint.  Several positions were reclaimed, but the gamble failed to pay off sufficiently, so the team reverted to their original strategy, and once again took a conservative approach to fuel and tyre management.

There was a scare for Seal early on in his first stint, the Squirrel Racing Corvette collided with the Legends HPD at the Indianapolis corner, spearing the car into the gravel.  Damage was minimal, little time was lost, and there was no loss of position, but it was another reminder of the perils of multi-class racing the team could have done without!  Seal then set about moving up the order, before handing over to the “junior” driver of the team.

As Geoff Rose took to the track for the first time, there was a setback as a penalty was incurred for speeding in the pits, this dropped the car several positions as Rose returned to the pits to serve it.  Once he had a few laps under his belt and his initial nerves had settled, the less experienced driver’s stint was otherwise very steady.

geoff

Pure Motorsport effectively removed themselves from the podium battle on lap 90, when a highly speculative passing attempt in the middle of the Porsche Curves predictably ended in contact. The Squirrel Racing Corvette can be absolved of blame, and came off the better of the two cars, as the Pure HPD spent a significant number of laps repairing damage before getting underway once more.

Luck plays a significant role in endurance races, and BlackAdder Motorsport suffered massive misfortune in the race.  Having led the race for 76 laps, they were collected by a barkmarking HPD that span out of control in the Ford Chicane, causing massive damage to the car.  Whilst they were able to pull straight into the pits, emerging 3 laps down on the eventual winners, only similar misfortune for the reshuffled top 10 would bring the #166 HPD back into contention for the win. Such was the calibre and pace of their drivers, they were able to complete a remarkable recovery drive to finish on the podium by the end of the race.

Through hours 8 to 16, misfortune befell several competitors, but the Legends drivers continued to keep the car out of trouble and were rewarded by moving up the field from 8th to 7th, to 4th, and this progress would continue through the final third of the race.

le-mans

By the end of Seal’s final stint in the car, the team found themselves sharing 2nd place with CIS Vortex Simracing, as the teams leapfrogged each other as a result of the pit stops being out of sync, but then the European outfit lost several laps after a GT1 Aston Martin DBR9 lost control and collected the HPD, removing their podium chances.

Endurance races seldom take place without some kind of “mechanical” issue, and exiting the pits after the penultimate driver change, Kell was immediately aware that he had one.  He had lost the force feedback on his wheel, giving him and the team more than a little cause for concern.  Whilst these concerns were quickly allayed as Kell put in some consistent lap times, traffic remained a constant source of unease.  The rear of the car was remodelled by a light contact from a fellow HPD, but thankfully the damage seemed purely cosmetic, and was repaired during Kell’s pit stop with no loss of time.

More significant was the misfortune that befell the #5 Pescara SRT entry – having been involved in a massive incident earlier in the race (they collided with a spinning Corvette, dropping them out of the lead) they had been moving back through the field and back into 2nd place when they had a mechanical issue of their own. Their HPD’s engine blowing up on the Mulsanne straight on lap 354.  Whilst they were able to recover the car back to the pits to repair the damage, the lengthy delay meant that a 15th place finish would be all they could salvage.  Their misfortune left Kell with a large gap behind to the battling BlackAdder and the GTL Virtual Racing Team entries, and in front the gap to Team NNR was such that only a disaster for the leaders would bring them within striking distance.

A clean run to the finish was all that was required to realise the podium finish that now looked highly likely.  Hickman returned to the car on lap 363, and 21 very cautious laps later, brought the Legends HPD through the Ford Chicane for the final time, to finish the race on the podium in 2nd place.

finish

After one final circuit, the car was returned to the Legends garage, and five somewhat fatigued Legends Racing drivers congratulated each other on a job well done.  For Geoff Rose, the race was something of a baptism of fire, in that it was both a sizeable and strong prototype field, yet he acquitted himself admirably. The team’s result once again reinforced the importance of keeping out of trouble – in races such as this doing so is worth more than a series of fast lap times, as it is easier to lose time in the pits than gain it on the track.  For Adam Kell and Gary Hickman, it was their first real collaboration with the rest of the team, and to get such a good result in a real team effort was a fantastic reward.  For Adam Parle and Darren Seal, it was another fine result in an iRacing Special Event – mirroring their 2nd place in the 12 Hours of Sebring race back in March.

Focus now switches back to the Gathering of Tweakers Endurance Series, and the various iRacing official series in which the team members are competing.  Le Mans was a fantastic event, and the team are all excited about returning for the next iteration of the race.