Gathering of Tweakers Canadian Team Challenge

As has become customary, the Gathering of Tweakers hosted another end of season special event during iRacing’s 13th week of the season.  This 90 minute special would be another team event, with two cars per team – one in each class – and the total points scored by both cars giving the team their total score.  The venue chosen for the last special event of 2018 was the Circuit Giles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.  The cars chosen were the Radical SR8 and the Mazda MX5.

From the Legends, Darren and Adam teamed up again – having run in a number of GoT special events, most recently the Samba Challenge.  Having raced the MX5 in that event, Darren stepped up to the Radical SR8, whilst Adam moved from the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to the more sedate MX5.

A practice session ran the night before the event, allowing drivers to get up to speed and acclimatize to how the two wildly different car choices would interact on circuit.

SWEET CHRISTMAS – THE CLOSING SPEED!!!!!

With neither of the Legends normally found racing these cars, both were outside their comfort zones and this was a little bit of a voyage into the unknown.  There were some exceptionally quick drivers in the practice sessions, Adam was given a wake up call with regards to what was possible in the lowly Mazda, and some impressive lap times were being posted in the Radical field as well.

On race day, after a busy practice session, qualifying went reasonably well for both drivers.  Darren qualifying 5th in the Radical field and Adam qualifying in 7th in the larger MX5 class, giving both drivers the hope of a good points scoring position when the chequered flag was waved, and hopefully bringing home a very good team result.

However, at the beginning of the race, this hopes faded somewhat.  Adam had a start that could have gone little worse; grabbing neutral after a solid standing start saw him drop several places, before a slow down on the exit of the final chicane moved him to the very back of the field.  The slow down penalties are very severe at the Circuit de Giles Villeneuve, and to a much greater degree on the opening lap.  Having nowhere to go but up, Adam managed to move back through the field, picking up a number of positions before the first round of pit stops for the MX5.

In the Radical, Darren put in a solid performance, picking up a couple of positions through the first 10 laps, and for a large part of the race sat in 3rd, dropping to 4th place when a recovering Paul Ilbrink managed to move ahead.  For Darren, and the Radical field as a whole, the massive speed difference between the classes was what defined the race.  Both drivers found the car and track combination to be challenging, and the interaction between the two classes meant there was never a moments peace for either field.  The closing speed was such that there was little to no margin for error due to the gulf in performance between the two.  Darren found this out on several occasions, getting tripped up by MX5 drivers making last second snap decisions that necessitated some evasive maneuvers.  The sight of the chequered flag being waved was a welcome one, as there was finally an opportunity to relax after bringing the Legends Radical home in 4th place in class.

The pit stops for the Mazda drivers was a source of some consternation, with a number of drivers – Adam among them – getting stuck in the pits.  Whilst solving the pit-stop puzzle and getting back onto the track, time and position was lost, and a very quiet race followed as the MX5s were widely spread.  Nonetheless, Adam’s fight back continued, and by the race end he had improved on his grid placing, and finished 6th in class.

It was a shame that there were only 9 teams in the event, the addition a number of solo participants in the MX5 boosting what would otherwise have been a somewhat sparse field, and the pit bug spaced out the MX5s and severely hampered the likelihood of any close racing.

Overall it was an entertaining and enjoyable event, and with the two drivers coming home in 4th and 6th in the Radical and MX5 respectively, the Legends finished 2nd in the team challenge, in what was another very enjoyable event, providing a definite break from the norm for the Legends duo who are used to racing in the IMSA and Sports Car Open series.

SCO Season 2017-2018 Round 3

Round three of the five race Sports Car Open championship took place at the historic Spa Francorchamps circuit.  This is a legendary venue and a firm favourite for many drivers.  This was the first night race of the season, something that would bring a different set of challenges to the table.

Darren and Adam managed to get the car set up relatively early in the week, only minor tweaks being made as race-day loomed.  Despite being very competitive with the other Ford GTE entries, the Ferrari 488 once again dominated the leaderboards in the free practice and pre race warmup sessions.  With better single lap pace, better long-run pace, and consistently quicker pit stops, questions remained unanswered regarding the Ferrairi favouring balance of performance for the GTE field.

In the GTE field, a costly mistake was made by the Rubagelline team, receiving a disqualification for a rules infringement.  For the team sitting 4th in the championship, giving up the opportunity to score points at Spa will have irrevocably damaged their aspirations for the season.

Darren once again took charge of qualifying and the first half of the race.  In qualifying, he extracted everything he could from the car, but the laptime of 2:10.719 was only good enough for 10th in class – firmly in the GTE midfield.  However, of the Ford entries in the race there was only the SRN entry that posted a faster time.  Vendeval once again posted a phenomenal lap, one of only two teams to break 2:10, their 2:09.750 was good for pole in GTE, narrowly beating the 2:09.803 of Team GT.

For the GT field the start was clean, a line of 20 cars snaking through the famous Eau Rouge  before the concertina effect brought the Core and Torrent cars together at Malmedy.  Torrent were spun around and several further contacts followed as people took avoiding action.  The Legends came through unscathed, but the incident bunched the GTs up and Darren was surrounded as the cars ran though Rivage two abreast, losing a position to NOMAD as the teams found their way back into single file on the run down to Pouhon.  Team GT suffered a blow at the end of the lap when they span on entry to the Bus-Stop chicane.  Their wait for the other GT cars to file through meant any thoughts of a win were all but gone.  Darren passed the NOMAD car in textbook fashion, taking advantage of the slipstream down the Kemmel straight on the second lap, and when the Revolution Ferrari span, the Legends had moved up three places in as many laps.

The Chimera entry appeared to be fuel saving from the outset, showing their hand and the intention to get an extra lap out of a stint.  However, the power of the draft was such that the chance to overtake on lap 5 was too good to pass up, and then it was Legends Racing that was able to lift and coast whilst both teams stretched the gap back to Racing Lions in another of the Fords.

Chimera were the closest competitors in the first hour, the gap to them ebbed and flow as the lapping HPD traffic broke things up,  and allowed the recovering Team GT to close and subsequently pass by.  Darren also moved ahead of Team Chimera whilst the white and green Ford GT continued to fuel save and guarantee the extra lap.  As the hour rolled around, Legends sat 8th, with Chimera still tucked under the #56’s rear wing, before staying our and going one lap further on the stint as expected.

The running order was unchanged in the seconds hour, though busy  as  the three classes all caught up with each other once more, with HPDs passing GTs, and GTs passing GTCs.  This period was very well managed by Darren, but the traffic repeated intervened to grow the gap to the Buschfink entry whenever Darren had managed to close it.  As the track became clearer once more, Darren pressed his advantage passing the #73 under braking into Les Combes and moving the Legends back up into 7th shortly before bringing the car into the pits for the second time and handing over to Adam.

Chimera once again stretched their fuel a lap further than the rest of the field, and Josh Chin remaining in the car allowed them to jump up the standings – albeit temporarily – as the other teams also swapped drivers.  Their alternative strategy would hit problems – more specifically, colliding with the subsequently disqualified Discovery Motorsports entry – on lap 62, and their fight with the Legends ended with the significant damage collected in the crash.  Adam remained in 8th despite passing the struggling Chimera car – as Joshua Chin allowed an easy pass Jeffrey Ooms of Buschfink made an opportunistic pass and dived past both the Chimera and Legends Fords.  Ooms’ pace advantage allowed him to continue to climb up the standings on his way to a 4th place finish.

Later in the race Team GT had another unforced spin and collided with a GTC car.  The damage from a collision with was sufficient to force their retirement, promoting Legends back to 7th.  All the while, good consistent pace by Adam increased the gap to the chasers, and allowed him to reel in Ryan Huff of SRN before passing them and moving into 6th place.  The pass was an easy one, the lapping SimRC HPD forcing through pushed Huff off line at Eau Rouge and having to leave the track at Radillon and having to slow on the exit.  Whilst the pace advantage Adam held was such that this pass for position was likely, having the place handed to him was something of an anticlimax.  SRN were never in contention to retake the position, so it looked like 6th place would be the final placing for Adam and Darren.  AB Racing’s stop and hold penalty gave the team the slimmest of chances at a top 5 finish, but they emerged some 4 seconds ahead after serving their penalty.

Finishing 6th in class, and as the top placed Ford, this was a great result for the team, and a further improvement over the finish at Monza.  The team is already looking forward to visiting the Ciruit Of The Americas in January, and trying to break into the top 5.  In the championship, Legends Racing now sits 8th in the championship, tied with Buschfink Racing.  SRN Motorsports sit in 10th, 4 points behind, with Racing Lions and Champs iRacing a further 4 points back.  Looking further up the table, Team GT and Torrent Motorsports have a 4 point advantage over the Legends, with Rubagelline having slipped to 5th with their no score through disqualification.  A top 5 season finish will require some good fortune and some excellent results, but is still within reach.  Consolidating the teams top 10 place remains the immediate goal however.

Racespot will once again take the broadcasting reins for the 4 hour race on 7th January, on behalf of iRacing Live.  We’ll see you there!