The newly introduced Sports Car Open Championship visited the Nurburgring for the season opener, the 53 multi-class entries providing a packed field for the race weekend.
The start of free practice marked the point of no return, changing manufacturers was no longer an option, the car choices for the teams were set in stone. The free practice sessions were well attended, with many drivers joining to experience first hand how the cars and classes would interact on the 3.2 mile circuit. As anticipated, the pace at the front of the GT field was electric, and notably dominated by the Ferrari 488 GTE. The balance of Ferraris to Fords registered for the series had hinted at a potential imbalance of performance, and the lap times posted in the various free practice sessions reinforced this. The Nurburgring GP circuit has never been a happy hunting ground for the Legends, and the disparate pace of the Ford and Ferrari suggested that this would remain so, in both qualifying and the race.
A number of teams made mistakes when entering the race session – incorrectly numbered cars gave rise to 6 teams receiving costly penalties, some frontrunners amongst them. Such costly mistakes hinted at slightly lax preparation, but the start to the Legends race weekend was not without issue either. Qualifying and a significant portion of the race was compromised by an incorrect boost mapping. Darren did well to place and 26th overall, and 12th in class in qualifying, but the oversight meant that keeping pace with those infront was a huge task in the race.
After a clean start, Darren had to fight incredibly hard to remain in contact with Chimera’s Joshua Chin whilst fighting to remain ahead of the teams immediately behind. Courtesy of the boost-mapping blunder, Darren was fighting a losing battle, with Chin gapping the Legends entry as the number 54 dropped a couple of places.
As the GT cars are prevented from taking fuel on at the same time as changing tyres, double stinting the tyres was the obvious strategy – especially given the relatively low wear rates. Any loss in pace was more than compensated by the shorted pitstop times. This wasn’t the only strategy that teams were following though – Darren leapfrogged the Lions entry through the first pitstop, and the Chimera entry triple-stinted their tyres with Joshua Chin at the wheel.
Other than the issue with the incorrect boost mapping, Darren’s stint passed without incident – although as anticipated the racing unrelentingly hard. There was some incidental side to side contact whilst lapping a GT3 – something that was forced by the similarity in straight line speed between the two classes, and required a late move under braking into the chicane to make the pass.
After 72 laps, Darren brought the Legends Ford GTE into the pits for some new tyres, a full tank of fuel, and to hand the car over to Adam. He had a nervous start to his stint, before settling down and finding his rhythm, and coped well with the mid stint madness he ran into as lapping P and GTE cars combined with needing to lap the slower GTC class.
Only taking fuel on at the third and final pit stop of the race left the Legends in 22nd overall and looking good for a points finish in the GT class. The gap to the Chimera and Buschfink entries ahead looked unassailable – as it turned out to be. Behind, there was a gap to Stefan Coppens of Racing Lions, which Adam managed to extendd, but pressure was building behind the number 81 car – with Antti Terho of Scuderia Lento rapidly closing the gap to Racing Lions. Having closed the gap, Terho then passed Coppens in short order and proceeded to reel in the Legends machine. Neither Legends driver was able to extract the kind of performance on show by Terho in the 488 GTE, but it was hoped that the limited time remaining in the race meant that the Legends place would be safe.
Unfortunately, Terho’s pace was such that with 2 laps remaining in the race, Scuderia Lento were in a position to challenge. Adam was facing a frantic last lap and would have to make the Legends machine wider than wide, but a perfect storm of slow GTC traffic, a lapping HPD and another recovering HPD meant that Terho was able to take advantage and passed on the run down to T1 for the final time. A lone GTC entry then ended any chance of responding, oblivious to the GT class battle they interrupted, leaving the Legends to finish 11th in class, and just outside the points.
Overall, the race went pretty smoothly for the Legends. Having known the Ford was going to be off pace, having had a chance of a top 10 class finish was a unexpected bonus, though it was galling to lose the final points scoring place on the final lap.
Round 2 takes place on 5th November, as the champtionship visits the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. The race broadcast will once again provided by RaceSpot TV, and will feature on iRacing Live. We’ll see you there!