GES Season Three in Review

With the five rounds of the Gathering of Tweakers (GES) Season in the record books, we look back at a what was a mixed season for the team.  The prototype championship was hotly contested, with a strong field making a top five finish a tough ask in a race, let alone the season.

The opening road at Road America saw the team’s first missed opportunity of the campaign, an 11th place finish was a bitter pill to swallow when a 6th place finish looked likely.  The lesson reinforced the fact that there is a trade off between risk and reward, and that it is often easier to lose a lot of time than it is to gain a little!  Legends Racing were not the only team to make mistakes in this first race however.  Thrustmaster Mivano’s botched start created chaos and earned them an early penalty they did very well to recover to 3rd from – and adding further weight to the argument that they were title contenders.  In the chaotic start SimRC saw a penalty for jumping the leader, and like the Thrustmaster Mivano entry, their remarkable recovery to 2nd underlined their championship credentials.  This was also the case for Simracing For Holland, whose race was compromised when they incurred the wrath of race control, earning a drive through penalty for blocking.  Whist this certainly impacted their placing when the race distance had been run, their 4th place finish highlighted that they too were very much in the hunt for the championship.  Indeed, the race at Road America would be the only round of the championship where the Dutch outfit were absent from the podium.  Whilst some of the favourites faltered, Backmarker Racing took full advantage, keeping out of trouble whilst demonstrating fine pace, and taking the first win of the season to lead the championship.  The result reinforced who the likely championship contenders would be, though no clear title favorite could be discerned, due to several of the team’s races having been compromised.

After the first round disappointment, the 3 Hours of Imola saw Darren and Adam achieve their best result in the championship with a deserved podium.  Whilst other teams found trouble, the Legends pair steered clear of any potential incidents, and advanced through the field as a result.  A pass on the penultimate lap for third place was the culmination of three hours of hard yet cautious racing.  SimRacing for Holland picked up their first win of the season, running away from the field when the Thrustmaster Mivano challenge faltered – courtesy of the combination of damage and a subsequent penalty.  The Italian team’s issues certainly dented their championship aspirations, as they finished 9th.  This would be the only time they failed to make the podium, but this result would haunt them at then end of the season as they narrowly lost 2nd place in the championship to the ever consistent outfit from SimRC.  Their yellow and black corvette never finished outside the top four, though they never found their way to the top step of the podium.  Consistency was also the hallmark of the Simracing For Holland team, the first round penalty being almost the only blemish on an otherwise immaculate season.  Their hat-trick of race wins, in combination with a 2nd and a 4th placing meant that they were runaway winners of the championship, and deservedly so.  Though Backmarker Racing would not return to the podium after their victory in the opening round, they continued to score reasonably well through the championship.  Whilst they would not threaten the trio at the top of the table, their opening win and subsequent solid scoring would mean that they would also not be threatened by the teams residing in the mid-table battle.

At Twin Ring Motegi the team hoped to repeat their success from Imola.  With the car’s setup “locked in” early, Darren and Adam both featured at the top of the practice timings, and after qualifying on the second row of the grid, another podium finish looked eminently achievable.  What followed would dash the team’s hopes for the race and the season, as an issue with the sim saw the team unable to leave the pits after their first stop.  Unable to finish the race – let alone challenge for the podium the Legends pairing were targeting – the team left what was hoped to be a happy hunting ground without a point scored.  In the championship battle, Thrustmaster Mivano delivered on the promise they showed in the opening two rounds with a win, though the mere two second margin over the ever-present Simracing For Holland meant the contest went all the way to the wire.  SimRC continued their consistently strong results with another podium, consolidating their position in the top three of the championship.

Round four saw Team Chimera driver Jamie Wilson cameoing for the team, as Darren Seal and the team’s two reserve drivers being unable to participate.  Whilst Wilson’s guest appearance allowed Legends Racing to participate in the round, his last minute inclusion also meant that a lengthy stop and hold penalty would be levied on the team.  After serving the penalty, the prototype field was almost a lap ahead and the enormity of the task ahead to salvage any result became brutally apparent.  The race saw the first red flag situation in championship history, server issues resulted in multiple disconnections that disrupted the proceedings.  Whilst many teams lost out, others benefited, the Legends amongst them.  With the gap closed to the nearest competition, Adam managed to move into 8th place, and was rapidly closing the gap to the ACME Racing entry.  Ultimately the ACME car would remain in 7th place, the last lap battle seeing multiple contacts between the cars, and the limits of what was deemed acceptable behaviour having been sorely tested.  Simracing For Holland took another win, with SimRC in 2nd and Thrustmaster Mivano in 3rd.  Whilst the mid-race red flag may have influenced who finished in which position – and what the gaps were between them – as in the rest of the season, the same teams finished on the podium once again.

At the season finale, the championship looked to belong to Simracing for Holland, a ten point cushion over second placed SimRC meaning that a 5th place finish would guarantee the title.  With the CleanX award within striking distance, the Dutch outfit set about overhauling the narrow gap to Legends Racing.  The laps from Douna and de Wit were not just fast enough to take the race with – and with it the title – they were all but incident free which would also change the look of the CleanX award standings.  Whilst the incident count of the Legends pair was a fraction of that of the majority of the prototype field, it was sufficiently high to fall behind Simracing for Holland.  The up and down race saw the Legends #109 machine line up on the second row, before spiralling down to 10th in the opening laps before staging a strong comeback.  The 5th place finish might have been cause for celebration after the compromised start, were it not for the loss of 4th place when ACME Racing moved ahead with a couple of laps remaining after reeling in the Legends in the final hour.  Thrustmaster Mivano finished 2nd, but the 3rd place finish of SimRC mean that the German outfit finished 2nd in the championship, one point ahead of the Italian team.

Legends Racing finish the season in 7th, one place behind their Season Two position.  Whilst there were high points in the season, they were overshadowed by the disappointments.  Whilst mistakes were made, there were also lessons learnt, and the team will become stronger from the experiences of the championship.  Legends Racing would like to thank the Gathering of Tweakers Endurance Series organisers for the work they have put in creating and administering this series, to thank the Racespot broadcast team for helping to transmit the spectacle of the championship’s multi-class racing to the wider world, thanks to iRacing for building and developing the sim platform, and thanks to our fellow participants who have helped to make this series into the top-tier simracing championship that it is, and Legends Racing looks forward to taking to the track with you all again soon.

GES S3 R5 Spa

The final round of the Gathering of Tweakers Endurance Series (GES) saw the championship return to the historic Circuit de Spa Francorchamps, having previously visited the track for round four of the 2015/16 season.  The track is a favorite of many drivers, with many of the 4.352 mile circuit’s 20 turns being some of the most well known in simracing.  The roller-coaster that is Eau Rouge and Raidillon often serves as the launchpad for passes down the Kemmel Straight, the high speed corners of Pouhon and Blanchimont offering overtaking opportunities for the brave … or foolhardy.  The finale of the 2016/17 GES would likely have drama aplenty, and nobody – not even champions elect SimRacing For Holland – would be taking anything for granted in the 4 hour race.

With qualification for the NEO Endurance Series 24 Hours of Le Mans now out of reach for the Legends, winning the Clean-X award and moving ahead of the Apex Racing UK Academy was the primary focus for the race.  Bridging the gap to the ACME Racing DP and matching the teams 2015/16 6th place finish in the overall standings would serve as the secondary objective, albeit one that would require a very strong final race free from the misfortune of earlier rounds.

On the iRacing service, Spa-Francorchamps is notorious for having unforgiving track limits, and exceeding them nullifies any qualifying lap.  In the race these incidents only impact the Clean-X Award standings, and as such many teams would ignore them and the track limits responsible for their generation, but in qualifying everyone had to respect them, and lap-times were slower for it.   After a difficult buildup to the race, qualifying on the second row of the grid was a pleasant surprise – in the sessions in the week leading up to the race the Legends pairing were off pace, and had struggled to set up the car.

The start of the race was a testing period for Darren – who started having also qualified the car in 4th place – as the cold tyres appeared to hamper the Legends #109 to a greater extent than the competition.  On the second lap multiple positions would be lost, starting with SimRC who managed to sneak by through Les Combes and Malmedy.  This then started a chain reaction, an aggressive move from Backmarker Racing forced the Legends entry wide at Rivage which allowed Torque Freak to take advantage and muscle their way past … which in turn presented Samba Racing with the opportunity to launch a speculative passing attempt under braking into Pouhon.  To further rub salt into the wound, Buschfink Racing Yellow moved ahead before the end of the lap after Darren locked up into the bus stop chicane, and a “net-code contact” between the two prototype left both with damage that would need to be repaired at the first round of pit stops.

Sitting in 10th place after the disastrous opening laps, the fight back commenced, with Darren dispatching the ACME Racing entry before jumping up to 6th when a massive incident on lap 7 shuffled the prototype field.  M-P Prototype Racing retired after sustaining massive damage, Samba Racing lost multiple laps whilst damage was repaired, and Torque Freak Racing and Buschfink Racing also suffered after sustaining damage in the incident. Having passed Buschfink Racing after the multi-car incident, Darren then set about reeling in Pedro Van Balen of Torque Freak Racing, passing him with a bold move into the flat out (if you have the nerve) Blanchimont corner on lap 39.

The recovery was complete on lap 63, Darren moving back into 4th place as Backmarker swapped drivers, though the damage was done some laps previously when Niklas Hjelm lost control at Raidillon and had a heavy contact with the tyre barriers.

Having recovered to the team’s starting position, Darren handed over to Adam on lap 70.  Only disastrous misfortune would see the podium places within striking distance, so the focus for the remainder of the race would be protecting the lead over the rest of the field.  The Backmarker team, having fallen behind through the earlier incidents, along with Buschfink and Torque Freak, would fail to provide a tangible threat again.  ACME Racing’s Sam Fitzpatrick however, showed good pace, and much like round four of the championship the Legends and ACME prototypes would provide a spectacle for the broadcast in the closing laps.  The teams exchanged the roles the held in the Nurburgring race, with ACME Racing acting as the chasers and the Legends Corvette trying to hold them at bay.  Fitzpatrick gradually reeled in the #109, aided in no small part by favourable interactions with the slower classes, and the fact that the Legends still had partial focus on the Clean-X award (though SimRacing for Holland looked to have sewn up that prize in addition to the main championship title).

Whilst the final finishing positions were decided in debatable circumstances in round four, in the season finale, the deciding factor was a fine pass by ACME Racing’s Sam Fitzpatrick with an audacious pass on the outside of Rivage.  Whilst Adam would remain close to the ACME machine, no passing opportunity materialised before the chequered flag was waved.

Much as 4th place slipped from the teams grasp, so too did the Clean-X award.  Seemingly with pace to spare, SimRacing for Holland drove an almost perfect race to top the award standings whilst racking up their 3rd win of the season, and winning the overall championship.  The loss of 4th place so close to the finish took the shine off what was still a good result, and dropping to 2nd in the Clean-X Award standings having led it for the rest of the season also smarted.  Whilst the Legends pair didn’t have the pace to challenge the leaders, they once again showed themselves to be a consistently strong presence in the field.