SCO Season 2017-2018 Round 5

The final round of the innagural Sports Car Open season took place at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace.  Often a venue for real world title deciders, in the SCO finale both the Prototype and GTC titles hung in the balance.

With a seven point lead in the Prototype standings, Vendeval Black held the advantage over Thrustmaster Mivano.  SimRC.de were also in contention (mathematically at least), though in reality this was going to be a straight shootout between the top two teams.

In the GT class, having already won the title following their win at the Cirtuit of the Americas, Vendeval would only settle for another win to complete a perfect season.  CoRe looked likely to finish second, with Follow eSports and Scuderia Lento fighting over the final podium step.  Legends Racing sat fifth coming into the final round, tied with Rubagalline Racing.  SRN, Torrent Motorsports and TeamGT Freem close behind.  For the Legends duo, the aim was simple … to finish as the top Ford and 5th in the championship.

In the GTC class, Vendeval were leading and looking to take a historic triple – taking all three class titles.  The GTC title however, was the hardest fought with Vendeval, Hellenic and CoRE all very much in contention.  With seven points covering the contenders, this was going to be one to watch.

The practice and warmup sessions confirmed how close in pace the GT and GTC classes were.  Whilst the prototypes were be able to pass the slower classes with ease, the GT and GTC classes had to cooperate more than ever.

In the GT field, ABRacing took pole position, with the all conquering Vendeval entry a mere hundredth of a second behind.  Buschfink racing blue started third, highlighting that their fourth place finish at Spa was no flash in the pan and provided cause for concern when looking at the championship.  With the Legends starting eighth, the eight point lead held over the #73 outfit would not be enough if they scored their first podium of the season.

There was once more a significant difference in performance between the Ferrari and Ford.  Eight tenths of a second seperated the respective leading entries … as ever the Ford having no answer to the pace of the Prancing Horse.  SRN took the honour of being the fastest Ford in 6th, with the FitzSty Ford and the Legends machine mere hundredths behind.

At the front of the race, the front row of the grid was occupied by Vendeval and Mivano, setting up their shootout for the title.  Back in the GTC field, SRT eSports Green once again demostrated their evident pace, grabbing class pole ahead of trio of title contenders CoRe, Vendaval, and Hellenic Racing Blue.

In opening lap the FitzSty Ferrari managed to pass, dropping the Legends to ninth in class.  With the leading Fords threatening to build a gap, passing the #77 was crucial, but it was lap nine before Darren managed to craft a fine overtake in turn one.  Reeling SRN in then became the next objective, with the Legends needing to finish ahead in the race to stay in front in the championship.  After the HPD field filtered through for the first time, the Ford train was firmly established!!  The FitzSty, SRN, Legends and Chimera Fords were covered by less than a second.

Darren battled past the SRN Ford on on lap twenty nine, before the the Ford train was split in two three laps later.  The Helenic Racing #121 was deemed to be at fault and causing the turn four pileup.  Darren did his utmost to avoid contact, but with so many cars running so close together on track, contact was inevitable.  Whilst the damage was light, the loss in time was costly.  With SRN and Chimera several seconds up the road, and Sam Fitzpatrick’s robust defending preventing progress, the team rolled the dice, committing to an early stop.

The gamble backfired, with the #56 rejoining just behind the leading GTC cars.  Fractions of a second were the margins involved, but the poor track position led to losing time whilst passing the only marginally slower GTC car.  In the first hour SRN appeared to be in pole position in the Ford fight, but with Team Chimera’s strategy of maximizing stint length, they too appeared to be a strong position.

The Legends and FitzSty entries appear equally matched, with Seal and Fitzpatrick swapping positions a number of times in the second quarter of the race.  FitzSty had a gap of several seconds after the second round of pit-stops,  with Fitzpatrick staying in the car for a triple stint whilst  the Legends drivers swapped over at the midway point.

The gap to FitzSty and SRN was written off ten laps into Adam’s stints, a turn one incident promoting the #56 car to 7th in class.  SRN were issued with a drive through penalty having been found to be at fault and – with SRN and FitzSty now trailing – boosted the Legends hopes of a championship top five finish.  Sam Fitzpatrick was able to catch up with Adam following his turn one incident, and when Adam ran wide at the Descida do Lago, FitzSty moved ahead.  Whilst Adam was able to remain in touch, the drop in position had major implications for the championship.

Fitzpatrick handed over to Gregory, who would bring home the FitzSty Ford, but with Adam closing the gap in a matter of laps, it looked like the #56 and #68 would surely trade places once again.   A light contact with the CoRe GTE entry in the Senna Esses proved expensive for both team.  A momentary loss of control by Maik Palush resulted in a loss of the race lead for CoRe and and time lost in the Legends versus FitzSty fight.  Undaunted, Adam reeled in Ben Gregory once more, but time and again Gregory’s defence proved more than a match for Adam’s pace.  Having to lap the GTC cars, and cooperating with the lapping Protoypes meant that gaps appeared between the two Fords, but they were shortlived and Adam was soon hunting for an opportunity to pass once more.  Unfortunately, the chance to pass never materialised, and FitzSty and Legends would finish seventh and eighth respectively.

The Prototypes had an eventful race, the outsiders for the title – SimRC.de Black – crashing out on the opening lap, and both of the main contenders received penalties during the race.  Vendeval rebounded from their drive through penalty to take the race win and with it the title.  Mivano were issued with a heavier penalty, their stop and go spelling the end of their championship aspirations though they would remain runners up.

The hotly contested GTC crown did not dissapoint when it came to drama.  Vendeval had a race to forget, off the pace and dogged by problems, their 9th place finish dropped them out of contention.  SRT eSports Green – devoid of points for the rest of the season – backed up their pole position start with an impressive drive to the finish, taking a well deserved win.  With Vendeval out of title contention, it was left to CoRe and Helenic Racing Blue to fight for the GTC crown.  CoRe Simracing’s second place finish to Helenic’s third led to CoRe overturning a two point deficit to take the innagural GTC title by a solitary point.

In the GT field, Vendeval did indeed round out a perfect season with their fifth win, CoRe finishing on the podium to consolidate their championship position.   Follow eSports had their best result of the season, their second place finish helping them beat Scuderia Lento to third in the championship, the Italian outfit remaining fourth.  The inability to pass the #68 machine ultimately cost the Legends their hoped for championship finish.  Buschfink Racing Blue scored their second fourth place finish of the season, and with it broke the tie on points to leapfrog the Legends duo and round out the championship top five.

Despite having missed the top 5 placing by the narrowest of margins, Darren and Adam can take solace in being the top ranked Ford GT.  Throughout the season the Ferrari 488 showed to be the stronger of the GTE car choices, the Fords almost forming a sub-category in the GTE field.  The Legends duo did themselves proud with some strong performances – finishing as the top Ford demonstrating once more that they belong in championships of this caliber.

The season was another learning experience from which the team will come back stronger.  Heading into future seasons Legends Racing will enter the fight better prepared, and better equipped.  For now though, all that remains is to thank the Sports Car Open admin team for a fantastic season, to congratulate the newly crowned champions on their success, and to warn our rivals not to rest on their laurels … we surely won’t!

2018 iRacing Daytona 24

The Daytona 24 Hours was a highlight of 2017 for Legends Racing, with 8 team members combining to race a pair of Daytona Protoypes in the first multiclass endurance event of the year.  The event was plagued by technical problems, but did little to mar what was otherwise a very enjoyable race which saw the first entry finish a very creditable 10th in split 2 of 13, with the second Legends entry finishing 12th in split 7.

In 2018 the Legends fielded a single car, but the event was nonetheless highly anticipated.  For new recruit Nick Rowland this was his first official outing with the team, linking up with the experienced Legends quartet who brought home a top 10 finish in the 2017 event.

For 2018, the GT3 class saw the BMW swapped out in favour of the GT3 variant of the Ferrari 488.  An additional class was also brought in between the Prototype and GT3 classes, the GTE class pairing of the Ferrari 488 and Ford GT bridging the performance gap.

The Ford GTE is the car currently being driven by Adam and Darren in the Sports Car Open race series, the final  round taking place on 28th January 2018.  As such, the decision was made to race the Ford in the 24 hour event … despite the performance advantage that the Ferrari seems to continue to enjoy.

How to extract the maximum laptime and be competitive in the draft was a conversation that continued through the week leading up to the event.  With the GTE cars some 3 seconds adrift of the pace of the Prototypes and only 2 seconds faster than the GT3 field, traffic management would be more crucial than ever.  The GTE cars hold an advantage over the faster Protoypes in the slow corners, whilst the GT3s possess immense straight line speed performance – particularly when in draft – and possess an advantage in the braking zones.  The majority of passes on slower classes were anticipated to be done on the steep banking of the oval, where the draft would also setup passes on the competition as well.

 

When the race servers went live, the thousands of paying iRacing customers found history repeating once more … the warmup prior to the race saw teams struggling to connect to the event.  This was the first of several complications that the team faced.

With qualifying taking place for the entire week leading up to the event, logging a competitive lap-time was going to be crucial as the margins separating the cars were expected to be extremely fine.  Gary Hickman’s time of 1:40.516 meant that the Legends #56 Ford was gridded 1st in class and 20th overall in split 5 of 17.

Being placed in split 5 was a surprise for the team, having anticipated being several splits higher, but there were still some familiar names that would be in the hunt for the race win.  The race win had to be the ultimate goal, certainly a podium finish was a strong possibility, and anything less than a top 5 finish would have to be classified as a missed opportunity.  As ever though, the immediate goal was survive the often tempestuous opening laps and the first couple of hours.

Sadly the class pole position was of no benefit, Darren never even saw the green flag before being disconnected, and lost several laps before being able to take to the track and starting to progress back through the field.  The recovery stalled some 5 laps later when a second disconnection led to a further loss of laps and position.

The server connection issues continued to plague the participants, and this in turn had a major impact on the race for the Legends.  A Mercedes vanished on the oval section, only to later reappear at turn 1 and driving into the side of the Legends #56 Ford.  This contact resulted in a loss of top speed on the banking, which impacted lap times and stymied the teams ability to narrow the gap to the leading cars in the race.

For the majority of the rest of the race, the team were thankful to avoid further bad luck, with things finally starting to proceed as planned.  Despite the damage to the car, Darren and Nick guided the team through the opening hours, and combined to recover to 4th in class.  Gary continued to take the fight to the opposition, and closed in on the podium places then occupied by MSP Phoenix, World of Simracing and F4H Motorsport.

With World of Simracing crashing on lap 300, the #56 machine – then piloted by Adam – was promoted to the third step of the podium, where the team would remain for over 500 laps.

The podium places looked all but decided before the race even reached its mid way point.  The impact of the server problems had affected the podium-sitters to differing degrees, which meant that the gaps between them were artificially large, and not likely to be closed without further external influence.

Following the complications of the race start, a podium place was deserved, and when Nick Rowland took to the track with under 90 minutes remaining in the race, it was assumed that a podium finish was a formality.  One final pit stop brought the Legends within touching distance of the podium, before having 3rd place cruelly stolen away with another disconnection.  The final disconnection allowed Lit Lenovo Motorsport to move into the final podium position, and relegated the Legends to an extremely disappointing 4th.

The team could and should have been challenging for the race win – MSP Phoenix, whilst being consistently quick, had better fortune than most.  The 2 lap advantage they held after the initial round of disconnections was always going to be difficult to close down, and the additional damage suffered by the Legends in the first hour of the race made the task all but insurmountable.  Without the laps lost through server issues and the damage to the car  – which can also claim the problems as a root cause – the fight with MSP Phoenix could have been an interesting one.  Their lead over the Legends quintet at the race end was 4 laps, 3 of which can be attributed to the multiple disconnections suffered, with the remaining margin being due to the accumulation of time lost through damage suffered.

Disregarding the negatives of the race, it was a fine performance by the team, and Nick Rowland’s contributions proved valuable as the newest addition to the team.  Despite having missed out on a podium finish through sheer bad luck, Legends Racing are pleased to have been one of the leading teams in the event.  Our strong quintet of drivers promises much for future races.

Legends Racing Welcomes Nick Rowland

Legends Racing would like to announce a further expansion of the team with the addition of fellow UK racer Nick Rowland.

Simracing since 2006, Nick brings a wealth of experience with him to the team. Having converted to iRacing from rFactor, Nick was the 2015 Season 3 Division 3 Skip Barber Race Series Champion, and prior to his move to Legends Racing was involved with the Positive SimRacing Driver Development Programme.

With rFactor, Nick’s notable simracing exploits include being the runner up in the SimInk 2012 Superleague Drivers Championship, where he finished on the podium in 13 of the 18 championship rounds, winning twice. He and Midnight Motorsport teammate Lukas Euler were dominant in the constructors championship, combining to win the title by a significant margin. As manager of Midnight Motorsport, Nick steered the team to success in 2013, where they repeated their 2012 dominance, once again taking the drivers and constructors championships.

A keen motorsport enthusiast, Nick can also be found behind the wheel in the real world, having raced a number of 24 hour karting events, and most recently was a grand finalist in the 2017 Ginetta Want2Race Competition.

Legends Racing are really pleased to have Nick onboard, and hope to have the upcoming iRacing Daytona 24 race as his “real” initiation into the team, and look forward to many races with him in the future.

SCO Season 2017-2018 Round 4

Circuit of the Americas – COTA for short – is the newest and most up to date venue that SCO visits this season. Whilst perhaps not the most popular venue on the iRacing service, the circuit has proven time and time again to be a great venue for multi-class endurance racing.

In practice, in the GTE field, the dominance of the Ferraris over the Fords continued, hopes of a tweak to the Balance of Performance having long since disappeared.  CoRe SimRacing and Vendeval once again topped the timing screen, with Scuderia Lento a little further back.  Times posted by the teams running the Ford GT were very similar, and the racing between the teams promised to be similarly tight.

In qualifying, a tenth of a second separated CoRe and Vendeval for pole and 2nd in class, SRN Motorsports’ Steven McGarvey showed good pace and was the lead Ford on the grid, 5th in GTE.  Whilst Darren couldn’t quite piece together a perfect laps, leaving a couple of tenths behind, his time was sufficient to be the 2nd placed Ford and 7th in the GTE field.  A trio of Fords then followed in the form of Racing Lions, Team Chimera, and FitzSty Motorsport.  Overall pole was MSP Phoenix in the Prototype class, a thousandth of a second being the slimmest of margins over second placed and championship toppers Thrustmaster Mivano Racing.  Vendeval took pole in the GTC class.

The opening lap was somewhat chaotic – Darren had to allow Racing Lion’s Frank van Brandwijk to move ahead through the esses, and whilst the compromise would lose the team a position, a likely very damaging incident was avoided.   Later in the lap there was a multi-car collision involving Racing Lions amongst others, which left Chimera’s Ford GT resting on it’s roof, the net result being that Darren finished the opening lap in the position in which he started.

Following the incident that resulted in Team Chimera’s retirement, there was no pause for thought, as a very competitive fight shaped up between SRN, Revolution, Legends and FitzSty.  This allowed the top 4 in class to escape up the road, and creating a gap that could not be bridged – Vendeval and CoRe swapped places, Vendeval staying in the lead bringing home the win with CoRe in second.  Scuderia Lento and AB Racing finishing third and fourth as they had qualified.  When SRN finally fought past Revolution, they too would escape up the road and would not be caught.  The SRN entry would prove to be the fastest of the Fords, and would round out the top 5 in the GTE class.

A massive incident involving Revolution ended their fight, Darren showing Jedi-like reflexes to avoid amassive crash as the #65 Ferrari span in the middle of the high speed esses.  Thrustmaster Mivano’s lapping HPD, and the Ford of FitzSty Motorsport’s Sam Fitzpatrick also safely navigated the danger.  V1 Pro and Revolution, although both continued, were both severely affected by the crash.  Having served the iRacing assessed slow down penalty for cutting the course, SRN’s McGarvey was some 8 seconds up the road, and the fight continued with the FitzSty entry.  An error would let Fitzpatrick pass, and getting the better luck with traffic, Fitzpatrick had a 3 second lead approaching the midway point when Darren handed over to Adam in the Legends #54, and Sam Fitzpatrick handed the FitzSty #68 over to Kristian Mikle.

The Legends car was the first into the pit lane, Adam having had a couple of laps to acclimatize before Mikel brought the FitzSty entry back out of the pits.  As Mikel got up to speed, Adam closed the gap by a couple of seconds, before the FitzSty entry was involved in a collision at the penultimate corner that span them around and damaged the car.  This incident allowed Adam to pass, and was gifted a 3 second gap, which he was then able to build on, having a comfortable gap to work with when he brought the car into the pits for the final stop.

With damaged repaired, FitzSty’s Mikel picked up the pace, but Adam was able to respond in kind, but it was FitzSty’s unaided T1 spin on lap 101 that ensured Adam and the #56 Ford had a comfortable run to the finish, and another 6th place.

The second consecutive 6th place finish, in combination with some absentees in the GTE field, means that Legends Racing move into 5th in the championship.  The season finale takes place on 28th January, at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace.  Although the GTE title has already been won by Vendeval,  the Prototpye and GTC titles are wide open, and the 4 Hours of Sao Paulo will decide the final championship standing.

As ever the event will be covered by RaceSpot TV and iRacing Live – we’ll see you there.