2017 iRacing 12 Hours of Sebring

The third iRacing Special Event of 2017 was the 12 Hours of Sebring.  The annual event typically runs the week before the real world race at the testing 3.74 mile circuit.  This race was one of the highlights of 2016 for the team when Adam Parle and Darren Seal finished on the podium in split 2, mere seconds behind the winning Torque Freak Racing entry, with two Legends cars running in the event in 2017, the team were hoping for another strong result.

In the real world, the race serves as preparation for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the track’s extremely bumpy surface combined with Florida’s perennial hot weather proving a stern test of a car’s reliability. In simracing, it is a different set of reliable equipment that is required. Computers, peripherals and connections are tested rather than engines, gearboxes and suspension linkages, and whilst the physical demands on the driver are very different, the mental demands on the driver are much more relatable.  Completing the 12 hours of racing is a significant accomplishment in both arenas.

Having served in the Daytona 24 and the Gathering of Tweakers Endurance Series, the team once again opted to drive the Chevrolet Corvette C7 Daytona Prototype.  Gary Hickman and Adam Kell would run the white livery, with Adam Parle and Darren Seal running in the traditional blue.  Though there were some late setup changes required following the deployment of the new iRacing build, both cars posted solid qualifying laps to set them up well for the race.  Long stint pace was something of an unknown, and strategy was still in a state of flux when the drivers registered for the event.

It was hoped that both cars would be in the same race, but unfortunately the pairs straddled the division between splits 2 and 3, and lined up in separate races rather than lining up together on the grid.  In split 2, Adam K and Gary started 12th, with Darren and Adam P starting 7th in split 3.

The start in both splits was predictably chaotic, and both of the starting drivers did a sterling job to stay out of trouble.  Both cars gained places, the #the #109 rising to 5th in split 3.  There were a number of near misses, notably when Darren narrowly avoided being collected after a competitor strayed onto the grass and lost control.

Whilst both car survives the opening stint, there was bad luck for the #609 car of Gary and Adam K, a setback at the first pit losing them a few positions, and a continuation of the problems at the second stop compounded the issue.  The major incident of the race occurred on lap 58, when the #609 hit a stranded car, and the resulting damage required 16 minutes of repairs.  Undeterred, they returned to the track, 11 laps down on the leading prototypes, and keen to avoid further complications.

After the chaotic opening stint, the #109 had a less problematic time than the sister car.  Having run as high as 5th, as the field settled down, Darren and Adam found themselves back in 8th.

With several hours behind them, both driver pairs continued to run well.  The #609 weaved their way back through the GT traffic that had passed them whilst the required repairs were carried out, whilst the #109 tried to make up ground on those cars ahead.

With laps seldom unencumbered by the slower GT3 class, good management of traffic was crucial.  Some cars paid the price for throwing caution to the wind when trying to lose as little time as possible in traffic, gifting places to the more conservatively focused Legends drivers.  Other cars denied probability to lap consistently quickly through the heavy traffic, and their good fortune meant that closing gaps and gaining places became extremely difficult.

After 12 hours of racing, Gary and Adam K brought the white Legends Racing car home in 18th in split 2, a good finish given the problems they faced in the early part of the race, when they emerged from the pits in 53rd overall.  Adam P and Darren finished in 8th in split 3.  With difficulties due to the recent sim platform updates, and limited opportunities to set the car up, the top ten placing was a very pleasing result.

The team now look ahead to the next iRacing Special Event, the Nurburgring 24 on 22-23 April.  The “Green Hell” presents a very different challenge to Sebring, and combined with the increased race duration, the event promises to be the most difficult event the team haven taken on.