2019 Daytona 24

Darren Seal, Adam Parle, Adam Kell and Gary Hickman returned to action in the Chevrolet Corvette C7 Daytona Prototype for iRacing Daytona 24 Hours.

Darren Seal took on qualifying duties for the Legends quartet, posting a 1:37.4 laptime that placed the team 8th of 19 prototype in split 3 of 20 for the event.

Unfortunately, even before qualifying, the 2019 iRacing Daytona 24 Hours had started in similar circumstances to all too many of the platforms major events … mired in server issues.  Teams and drivers took to the iRacing forums, to YouTube live streams and other social media platforms to vent their frustrations at what is becoming irritatingly routine.

With cars warping all over the track on account of the poor connections to the server, there was little to do in the first hour than try to run very conservative laps.  The issue was finally resolved by the end of the first hour, iRacing having isolated the cause of the issue.  It was an embarrassing admission that the cause was ultimately the platform’s “Denial of Service” policies kicking in due to the large high amount of traffic that the event garnered.  By this time, Seal had pitted for the first time, and with the connection issues resolved, racing could truly begin.

The team sat 6th, but facing the realization that due to a change in the prevailing wind, the Legends Corvette was hitting the limiter on the banking far too early.  Whilst still able to post reasonably competitive laptimes, the car was lacking the ultimate pace of the front-runners, and would also make any passes on the oval banking extremely difficult.

Seal handed over to Parle for the first of the driver swaps – who struggled initially, losing several positions.  Over the course of his double stint however, he got into a rhythm, and recovered to 6th before handing over to Kell.

At this point, the fight seemed to be over 6th only, with the top 5 positions over a minute ahead, but with more than three quarters of the race ahead anything could happen, the priority was lapping consistently and avoiding trouble.  Although Kell dropped back a little through his stint, the fight for 6th would continue as Seal took control again.

In his second stint, Seal reclaimed 6th position, and inherited 5th when the NOMAD prototype was left on its roof at the international horseshoe.  However, as they went on to win the split, this proves that even relatively large setbacks are not insurmountable in races of this length.

Unfortunately the setback the Legends would faced dwarfed that of the NOMAD entry … after a very solid double, disaster struck on Seal’s inlap.  As he headed onto the banking for the last time, his steering wheel lost connection … and with it Seal lost the ability to steer the car.  Though the “blip” was momentary, it was sufficient to send Legends Corvette into the wall and suffer a major impact.  A secondary contact with a second car compounded the issue.  Although Seal was able to limp back to the pits (suffering a second momentary wheel disconnection on the way) the required repairs would drop the team some 13 laps back from the leader with no guarantee of a competitive car following the repairs.

As such, with three quarters of the race yet to run, it was with a heavy heart that the team decided to withdraw from the event.

Hopefully the 2020 running will be free from the embarrassing server issues, and the team will have better luck in the race.

GoT GTE3 Challenge

 

When iRacing’s Week 13 rolls around, you know what to expect:

  1. Chaos on track with unconventional combinations using new or unfamiliar content
  2. The venting of spleens on the iRacing forums at the lack of “official” races, a lack of service availability as the new build is deployed, new and unusual bugs encountered … or a combination of all three.
  3. The Gathering of Tweakers End of Season Finale.

Adam P, Darren and Mike opted for a hefty dose of option 3 with the GoT GTE3 Challenge – a  mixed class event involving the GTE and GT3 classes at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA).  The Ferrari 488 was the car of choice for the team in the more popular GT3 class.

The format for the event was a single qualifying lap setting the grid for a ten minute qualifying race, the result of which formed the starting positions for the 90 minute feature race.

Adam qualified 7th in class, 0.108 seconds ahead of Darren in 8th, which was something of an overturning of the form demonstrated in practice, where Darren had been consistently quicker.  Such upsets can and do occur in single lap qualifying where a single mistake holds particular significance.  9th position in the GT3 class was occupied by the familiar name of Jamie Wilson of Team Chimera and Mike completed the Legends line up starting a little further back in 15th.

With the qualifying race grid set, the cars started the race with a rolling start.  As mentioned in the race broadcast, this ten minute teaser served little real purpose – there was little to be gained in the 5 lap race but much to lose, as demonstrated by Darren’s sufferance of a perfect storm of misfortune and misery.

After swapping places with Adam in the first run through the esses, the infamous pyramid kerbs of doom at COTA unsettled Darren’s car on lap 2.  This led to a track cut and a slowdown penalty which stubbornly refused to clear, and forced Darren to drop to 12th in class.  Worse followed when at the end of the lap 4 Darren was barrel rolled at the last corner and forced to retire, leaving him with the unenviable task of starting the feature race from the back of the GT3 field.  Adam started 7th and finished 6th, the positional gain coming at the expense of Patrick Martin who crashed out, and Mike similarly moved from 15th to 14th.

Adam spent the majority of the feature race looking at the rear wing of the Mercedes of Jan Hein Lever.  In the first half of the race the drivers were very equally matched, with Adam never having an opportunity to pass.  Whilst the GTE Porsche of Maurice Wertz was ever present in the rear view, the #128 similarly never had a chance to progress.

Darren on the other hand seldom saw the back of the car in front for more than a lap as he made steady progress through the field, moving into the top ten in class in the first ten laps of the race.  Gerrijts, Joerimann and Koole presented him with a sterner challenge, but they too were dispatched as the inspired recovery drive continued.

With the prospect of GTE traffic to contend with, Adam dived into the pits on lap 31.  Lever pitted at the same time and also declined to take tyres, meaning the cars exited the pits as they entered it, with Adam’s frustration looking set to continue in the final third of the race.  The Legends Ferrari was clearly faster through the technical corners at COTA, but the sheer grunt available to the Mercedes on the front and back straights meant that passing was not going to be easy.

Darren pitted a few laps later, coming back out in 5th and significantly closer to Adam than anticipated due to a string of slow laps behind the struggling Lever.  The Mercedes driver had been doing everything he could to prevent a pass, nearly causing a collision on more than one occasion through delaying accelerating off the slow corners.  Having gotten wise to the this tactic, on lap 35 Adam took an adjusted line through turn 11 to set up a pass on the brakes into turn 12.  With the pass completed, and unhindered by the struggling Dutchman, Adam soon opened a much needed gap as behind him Darren and the charging Marco Derix had closed to within 4 seconds.

On fresher tyres, Derix was able to force his way by Darren before dispatching Jan Hein Lever with 12 minutes to catch Adam.  Ultimately, the time lost behind Lever meant that Derix was able to close the gap, and one more demonstration of Mercedes muscle saw Adam drop from the final podium place into 4th on the penultimate lap.  Darren’s Herculaen recovery drive saw him pass Lever – who continued to fall back through the field on his tortured tyres – and following Adam to a top 5 finish.  Taking no tyres at the stop was Mike’s undoing, with a puncture on lap 39  leading to his retirement, and finishing 14th in class.

 

With two top five finishes – albeit achieved in very different ways – this was a fine result for Adam and Darren, and whilst Mike wasn’t able to achieve a top ten finish, it was an enjoyable event for all the Legends.

For Adam and Darren, focus now shifts to the iRacing Le Mans Series and the Sports Car Open, where they will buck the trend of recent years by being in separate entries rather than sharing the same car.  Mike, not being involved in the SCO, will be racing the Skip Barber Formula 2000 and Radical SR8.

2018 iRacing Spa 24

iRacing Special Event – 2018 24 Hours of Spa

Image result for circuit de spa logo

21st to 22nd July 2018 saw the Legends trio of Darren Seal, Gary Hickman and Adam Parle take to the famous Circuit de Spa Francorchamps for the iRacing 24 Hours of Spa.  The 2017 running saw a Legends quartet advance from a lowly 42nd place start in split 2 to finish 15th in a very strong field, and in 2018 the team were hoping for another relatively trouble free race and another strong result.

In the 2017 race questions needed answering regarding the Balance of Performance (BoP) as the races were almost a one-marque affair.  The 2018 running gave the teams a choice of 6 GT3 machines and whilst the Audi and Mercedes machines proved most popular, there was still a good mix of cars on track.  The Legends outfit opted for the Ferrari 488, being one of the less often run cars in the Legends Racing stable.

528 teams registered to race around the clock, and mirroring the 2017 race, the Legends trio found themselves in split 2 of 9.  Darren’s qualifying time of 2:15.412 meant the team lined up 23rd of the 59 entrants in the split, which as ever contained a number of familiar names – FitzSty Motorsport, Team Heusinkveld, Torque Freak Racing, SRN Motorsports, MSP Phoenix , Probatum Racing and others.

With the pre race warm-up completed, the grid formed up ready for the rolling start that would begin the gruelling 24 hour event.  Having posted the qualifying time for the team, Darren also started the race for the team, taking responsibility for avoiding the myriad of pitfalls likely to present themselves at the start of such an event.

Navigating the opening hour of the race is generally regarded as the most difficult portion of the race, though the driver starts considerably fresher than in any subsequent stint!  Surviving the opening laps and the first hour of the race was the first objective for the team, collecting damage at this early juncture would compromise the rest of the race.  Therefore keeping out of trouble was of paramount importance – even if it meant sacrificing lap time and track position.

The Mindtrick Motorsports team clearly had a different approach to the start of the race, going two-wide into Eau Rouge at the first opportunity.  Rather than rolling the dice on the opening lap Darren lifted off the throttle to tuck in behind the #001 Audi, but otherwise held station.  The opening laps were frantic, and with cars running nose to tail every mistake resulted in positions changing.  Darren was able to take advantage, moving up 7 positions in the next 6 laps and positioning the team in the middle of the a train of cars covering 14th to 19th.

Darren continued to run in the pack of cars until lap 18, when the R70 Thrustmaster BMW was getting increasingly impatient – starting to make dangerous moves.  Having already nudged the back of the Legends Ferrari on lap 3, the R70 car was threatening a repeat performance lunging to the inside at La Source.  Darren ran wide to keep out of trouble though it presented Mindtrick Motorsports with the opportunity to move back through, and allowed the TFR Mercedes to latch onto the Legends bumper.  TFR’s Barraclough managed to get by after Darren was forced to run wide at Blanchimont to avoid a spun car, but TFR’s positional gain was short lived as Darren retook the place on the next run down the Kemmel straight.

With the first hour in the books, the Legends had moved from 23rd to sit 18th.  Further advances up the standings followed in the next hour, with differing pit strategies starting to change the complexion of the race.  The R70 Thrusmaster entry had continued their campaign of uncompromising overtaking attempts, and the inevitable collision between them and the Follow Me eSports entry gifted a further two places to the Legends who would sit 13th as the second pitstopand first driver swap loomed.

With Adam at the wheel, the team continued their steady march up the standings bringing the Legends within touching distance of a top 10 placing.  Adam’s otherwise solid stint wasn’t completely devoid of incident however, locking up after touching the grass under braking, Adam made contact with the Berlin SimSport entry.  Fortunately both cars appeared to be without damage, though the German entry suffered a greater loss of track position.

Shortly after Adam’s first pit stop the team were sat in 8th following another slipstream assisted pass at the end of the Kemmel straight.  Ahead, Phil Letchford of XCM Cross Continental Motorsports was opening up the gap Adam had been closing prior to their change of drivers, whilst behind the Legends #237, following their driver swap BerlinSimSport’s Fabian Klockner was also closing down the gap.  With four hours run, the team were already inside the top ten after something of a dream start.  Finishing in the top 10 was very much a target having started 23rd, so it was fantastic to sit in 8th as Adam handed back to Darren for his second time in the car.

With the race being somewhat more settled then he found it to be in the first couple of hours, Darren was able to lay down consistent laps to reel in SimTag Spa racing.  The #5 car was duly passed with another textbook overtake under braking at the end of the Kemmel straight.  The task of reeling in 6th place Flat Six Racing was made difficult by battling backmarkers, but after the Japanese outfit changed drivers Darren was able to close the gap and make the move on Toshinori Konishi and into 6th.

Another single stint for Adam followed, though there were no changes for position, and with nearly a third of the race run, Gary stepped into the car for the first of his stints.  At this point in the race changes in position were extremely infrequent, with all the teams hammering out lap after lap, each one bringing them closer to the finish.

Whilst Gary didn’t have the opportunity to pass the SRN entry, he had closed the gap sufficiently that shortly after taking over after midnight, the Legends leapfrogged SRN whilst they were in the pits and moved the the #237 Ferrari into 5th place.  Indeed, shortly after Adam’s stop the team found themselves in 2nd as ACRL Grello crashed out and Heusinkveld pitted.  The time in 2nd was shortlived however, with XCM Cross Continental Motorsports and Flat Six Racing’s drivers putting some blistering laps in to close the gap and overtake, and a four way battle for 2nd was well established when Adam handed over to Darren.

Unfortunately, after a flawless start to the race, an issue at the next stop lost the team some time, dropping the team to 5th place and off the back of the battle for 2nd.  The team stayed in the top five for the next few hours until a backmarker collided with the car during Adam’s final stint at the wheel.  Whilst the damage wasn’t as serious as it could have been, it was nonetheless sufficient to cause the team to lose time and drop to 6th in the standings.

With nineteen hours gone and the requisite repairs carried out, the team moved to a fuel saving strategy to avoid an extra visit to the pits inside the final hour.  The pit lane at Spa is extremely long when using the full endurance layout, and an extra stop would mean a significant loss of time – the time lost through fuel saving would be more than compensated by avoiding that run through the pit lane.

The strategy to fuel save gave the team a strong chance of finishing inside the top 5, but a second incident involving a back marker put that possibility in jeopardy, before a repeat of the pit-stop problem experienced earlier in the race rendered a top 5 finish extremely unlikely.  Gary took over for the final hour, but the gaps to the competition were such that all was to be done was to drive the car to the finish.

After the highs experienced earlier in the race, with the steady climb from 23rd on the grid to 2nd place, missing out on a top 5 placing through a combination of misfortune and errors made what was a still a very strong result somewhat bittersweet.  The trio of drivers had combined to form what was an extremely competitive outfit, and raised the bar for the 2019 running, which should be a very different animal with the day to night transitions promised by iRacing.

The next iRacing special event is another 24 hours event – with the GT3 cars making way for the mighty Protoypes and GTE machines at the Le Mans 24 hours, and the team has every intention of a similarly competitive entry taking to the grid at the Circuit de la Sarthe.  We’ll see you there!

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.

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.

iRacing Spa 24 Hours

iRacing Special Event – 24 Hours of Spa

July 22-23 saw the next iRacing Special Event of 2017, the 24 Hours of Spa.  This mirrors the real life 24 Hours of Spa, an event that has been taking place in in Belgium since 1923.

The race was conceived by Jules de Their and Henri Langlois Van Ophem just one year after the inaugural 24 Hours of Le Mans was run. It debuted over a 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) circuit, on public roads between the towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot.  The track has seen several revisions, the present 7.004 kilometres (4.352 mi) circuit was inaugurated in 1979, and has had only minor revisions since.

The current event is part of the Blancpain Endurance Series calendar, although it previously ran as part of the FIA GT Championship which featured GT1 and GT2 machinery, and by various touring car series. Currently, the cars fall under the FIA GT3 and GT3 Cup classifications.

The iRacing event gave the competing teams a choice of five GT3 cars, though the vast majority of teams opted for the Mercedes AMG GT3, which lent the grids a very homogenised look.   For the Legends, the choice was only ever between the Mercedes and the Audi, as these were the only GT3 cars available for the iRacing IMSA series, Blancpain Sprint and Endurance Series, the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen iRacing Special event, and the Spa 24, and the Mercedes was the preferred option regardless of performance.  The lop-sided car selection once again indicates that iRacing’s Balance of Performance (BoP) requires addressing.  There were 133 Mercedes cars between the top 3 splits, and a mere 35 teams choosing one of the other GT3 cars.  In simracing, as in the real world, BoP is an evil, but a probably necessary one.  Participants competitivity should not compromised by vehicle selection, and as it stands, it is.  With each new season, the BoP is readdressed – but for the tracks for the season as a whole, not for individual venues.  With teams and drivers under no obligation to drive the same vehicle, allowing driving whichever is the most competitive car at each venue.  For this event in particular, the BoP was flawed, and highlights that perhaps future special events should have the BoP set independently.

The #501 Legends Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 would start in split 2 of 8, starting 42nd of 56 entrants.  This was the expected split, but somewhat further back on the grid than hoped for!  The familiar names of Black Adder Motorsports, Gathering of Tweakers, Probatum Racing, GTL-VRT, SimatoK eSport, and FitzSty Motorsport were distributed throughout the field, there were to be no surprises with regards to the level of the competition.  Having established where the team would start, attention turned to expectations for the race.  Given the pace on display at the front of the race, any dreams of finishing the race on the podium would likely remain just that, a top 15 finish was still a lofty goal and that was the target that was decided upon.

Rates of attrition are often high in events such as this, contact with other cars (or the scenery) – even if not proving race ending – invariably compromises the car’s performance and incurs a significant time penalty through a required visit to the pits.  It is often said in racing that you cannot win a race at the first turn, but you can lose it.  In endurance racing the same can be said of the first hour – successfully navigating this hectic period of the race is critical.  Adam Kell took responsibility for the first couple of hours of the race and avoided the numerous potential pitfalls, most of which presented themselves in the first few laps.  Avoiding “divebombs” and stricken cars cost the team several early places, but the benefits of an undamaged car significantly outweigh such short-term losses.  FitzSty Motorsport were gridded just one place ahead of the Legends entry, and expected to present a race long challenge.  This challenge wouldn’t materialise though, a lap 3 incident leaving them several laps behind with only the first few minutes of the 24 hours recorded, and making a long race suddenly seem that much longer for them.

After the initial loss of places, Kell advanced, settling down in 44th place, with three teams in touching distance ahead.  With few opportunities for fuel saving in the hectic first hour, Kell brought the Legends Mercedes into the pits on lap 27 for the first of many stops.  The second hour of the race set the tone for the next twenty-two, with Kell lapping steadily and moving up the standings.  With 120 minutes of the race run, the team had moved up to 40th place as Kell handed over to Adam Parle on lap 53.  The march up the standings continued with through stints three and four, and after an undramatic double stint, Adam handed over to Darren with the team having advanced to 30th.  The incident count for the team was also steadily increasing, though at a significantly reduced rate to the rest of the field.

For the uninitiated, iRacing operates an automatic incident system, 0x for incidental contact, 1x for “off track”, 2x for a loss of control, and 4x for car to car contact. It is a blameless system, so if two cars collide, both get 4x assessed regardless of who is at fault.  This is meant to encourage clean driving, as incidents reduce your safety rating, which is intrinsically linked to your license level, and your license level dictates what evens you can compete in.  Typically iRating events have a 17x limit, after which competitors are disqualified, but no such limit exists in the 24 hour events and so if willing, unscrupulous drivers and teams can effectively trade their safety rating for speed.  Through the top three splits, there were some 59000+ incident points logged.  The race saw many drivers dropping from an A license to a C or D, and this event will now likely be a catalyst for changing how these longer “special” races are handled.

After the two Adams brought the team from 42nd to 30th, Darren’s consistency and pace saw him gain another six places through his double stint, and with six and a half hours run, Gary Hickman took over in 24th place.

Inevitably, the further up the standings the quartet moved, the harder any further advancements were proving.  Nonetheless, throughout the night more positions were gained, although some minor damage was picked up throughout this period after a car-to-car contact.  The damage was cosmetic only though, mere seconds being required to rectify any problems.  At the 15 hour mark the team were running  in 21st, though as teams pitted the team would briefly move as high as 18th.

By the end of hour 19 the team had moved into the top 20, and with 5 hours left in the race focus fell on strategy, and ensuring that a costly “splash and dash” wouldn’t be required at the end of the race by running for an additional lap in each stint.

Having fought long and hard to advance to 20th, two places were then gifted to the team, firstly with SimatoK eSport’s unassisted visit into the barriers at La Source, and then with some madness involving Horizons at the bus stop – a reckless pass/divebomb causing the backmarker to see red, retaliate, and inflict massive damage on the highly placed team.  Consequently, with 180 minutes remaining in the race, the #501 machine was sitting in 18th.

Gary Hickman’s final time in the car saw a gamble taken, with Gary double stinting the tyres.  The move saved some 20 seconds, and moved the team into a fight with BerlinSimSport and GermanSimracing.de.  Whilst the battle continued, elsewhere on track the was another significant casualty – with the Real Championship entry tangling with Probatum Racing on lap 533.  The team that started from pole had race ending damage from the incident, and once more the Legends were gifted another position.  When Gary handed over the Adam Parle, who had the honour of piloting the car to the finish, bringing the car home in 15th place.  Adam brought the car safely home, the team having completed 586 laps– a total of 4104.344km driven.

Barring a few bent body panels and some traded paintwork, the race went very much to plan for the team.  There were no required repairs, minimal optional repairs, and the pit schedule went as planned.  There were no hardware dramas, no connection or server dramas, none of the problems that plagued the iRacing Daytona 24 Hour race.  On track, whilst the team witnessed some dangerous driving, some unfathomable choices, and some sheer bad luck, it was seldom witnessed first-hand.  Whilst never in a position to trouble the top-10 in the field, it was nonetheless a very strong showing from the team.

iRacing 24 Hours of Le Mans 2017

iRacing’s premier road endurance race – the Le Mans 24 Hours – ran once again on 10th-11th June 2017.

In the inaugural race in 2016, Legends Racing finished 2nd in the prototype class in split 5 of 9, in a race that saw new additions Gary Hickman and Adam Kell cementing their place in the team, and relative rookie Geoff Rose participating in his first 24 hour event.

In the 2017 race, an almost unchanged quintet of Legends once again drove the HPD ARX-01c. Steve Elson, a new addition to the team since the 2016 event, would take the place of Geoff Rose, with the remaining lineup of Gary Hickman, Adam Parle, Darren Seal and Adam Kell unchanged from last year.

The week running up to the event was a busy one, iRacing’s additions of the Ferrari 488 and Ford GT GTEs meaning a lot of teams had their work cut out to get up to speed, getting their cars painted and setups tweaked. For the Legends, the challenge was getting used to the different dynamic between the classes compared to 2017, learning how and when to pass the new cars, whilst simultaneously tweaking the setup as race day approached.  With the five drivers becoming more and more comfortable, focus shifted to longer stints and overall race strategy, and who would drive when. With the running order decided, the Legends were ready for the event.If the 2016 event was popular, but the 2017 event proved to be even more so.  Over 700 teams joined the event, racing in 13 splits. The Legends quintet found themselves in split number 2, with some extremely fast competition.  The 2016 race was hard work and the 2017 running of the race promised to ratchet up the difficulty several notches … and then some.  There were some familiar names in both classes, SimatoK, Trinity MSports amongst those in the prototype class and Thrustmaster Mivano and Team Chimera to name but two in the ultra-competitive GTE class.

Gary posted the fastest qualifying lap for the team in the days running up to the event with a laptime of 3:31.616, but his blistering lap still only sufficient to place the team 23rd of 29 in the prototype field in split 2. Pole position was an almost incomprehensible 3:28.946 by F4H Motorsport.

Having looked through the grid, and cast an eye over the competition, the team set out their immediate goals.  Goal one – survive the opening few laps, and the first hour. Goal two – finish the race. Goal three – place inside the top 15.

After a 60 minute warmup period, the starting drivers took to the grid for the rolling start, and as the Patrouille Acrobatique de France thundered past and painted the sky with the tricolour, the race got underway with Adam Kell at the wheel of the #501 Legends Racing HPD.

 

In the start of any race such as this, the vast majority of teams look to establish a rythm and avoid trouble.  Whilst the team’s conservative approach meant that the team had dropped to 25th at the end of the first lap, it also meant that trouble was avoided on lap two, trouble that massively impacted teams starting further up the grid.  Baseline Racing Team, XRS Team Racing, Team DFTBA, AplineEagleRacing and RDS iRacing all involved in a massive incident on the Mulsanne on lap 2.

As those involved limped or were towed to the pits, Kell and the #501 machine moved up to 20th.  In the first hour of racing seconds and places lost or gained are largely immaterial, it’s laps lost through damage at this point that prove to be the major factors in the overall result, and through this initial stint, Kell avoided these pitfalls with aplomb. With the first 30 minutes completed, the team were able to pause for breath and take stock. The pace at the front of the field was electric, this would be an extremely tough race, moving up the standings would be a massive fight.

Without any fuel saving, the HPD could complete just 13 laps of the Circuit de la Sarthe, and on lap 13 Kell brought the car into the pits for the first of many times, took on fuel and tyres, and headed back out for the second half of his first stint in the car. Ahead, whilst the leaders pitted, 2nd and 3rd did not, managing to eke out a 14th lap, and already different strategies were emerging and shaking up the running order up and down the field.

As Kell brought the Legends HPD in for the second stop, and to hand over to Le Mans debutante Steve Elson, the team found themselves in 20th, seconds behind 19th placed TNT Racing, and with a significant gap back to Origin Front Row Racing. As Elson took to the track, the leaders lapped the #501 for the first time, reinforcing the incredible pace on display at the sharp end of the race.

Elson’s first stint passed without incident, though his lap-times were slightly hampered by some bodywork damage that had been collected during Kell’s time in the car.  Somehow the damage had been missed by the team, and it was only fully repaired during the pit-stop when Elson handed over to Adam Parle.   Later in Elson’s stint, an incident involving Virtual Jnrs and Worldracing promoted the #501 to 19th.

Elson handed over to Parle on lap 53, who then took full advantage of a quieter track to post some consistent times, and through a combination of this and other teams suffering ill luck, the team found themselves progressing up the standings.   Lap 56 marked the last time the team would sit outside the top 20, and sat 15th when Parle handed over to Seal on lap 79.

Continued consistency from Seal, Kell and Hickman saw the team in 13th by the 9 hour point.  Car to car contact lap 111 caused the team some concern, but fortunately there was minimal damage. Other than the contact, it was business as usual – run lap after lap, then pit for fuel and tyres, and repeat.  Through the night progress continued to be made up the standings with Parle, Hickman and Seal behind the wheel, advancing up to 11th with 9 hours to go, and the team moved into the top ten on lap 223.  A significant setback was suffered shortly after Hickman brought the car into the top 10, as he – and a significant number of other competitors – suffered a disconnection from the server.  The problem was one that dogged splits up and down the event, and one that has caused much discontent on the iRacing forums.  The team lost a couple of positions, and went a lap further down as a result, but fortunately had Darren Seal ready and waiting to drive, and he was able to jump into the car at short notice to take over.

The connection issue suffered by the team, and the relative gaps to the competition was the catalyst for a change in strategy that saw the team commit to fuel saving to get an extra lap from the tank, and entertaining double stinting the tyres – something the team hadn’t done thus far in the race. Trying to reduce the number of pit stops and minimising the time the car was stationary for was key to any chance of further progress up the standings.

As the end of the race started to finally come into view, there was no prototype on the same lap, and with three quarters of the race run, it looked very much like 10th was as far up the standings as the team were going to go, but further connection problems saw one of the top ten cars – Champs iRacing HPD – lose multiple laps and promoted the Legends into a single digit position – 9th.

Gary Hickman brought the Legends HPD safely home after the 24 hours had elapsed, the team having completed 388 laps, and driven nearly 3300 miles.  The top ten placing was a great result for the team, though the issues that blighted the race did take the shine off the result a little.  Nonetheless, it was a fine performance, and a very enjoyable event.

 

GoT Samba Challenge

As another iRacing season draws to a close, the Gathering of Tweakers team once again organised a season finale – the Samba Challenge.

The event was team based, with teams comprising two drivers and each driving a different car in a separate class.  The overall winners of the event would be the team with the combined highest points total, requiring a strong finish in both classes.  This time the GoT admins selected the Mazda MX5 and the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for a 90 min multi-class battle at the home of the Brazilian GP, the Autodromo José Carlos Pace, more commonly refered to as Interlagos.

For Legends Racing, the familiar Parle/Seal pairing would take to the track once more.  Darren selected the MX5, leaving Adam to run the Porsche.  The MX5 and 911 Cup are cars seldom raced by either driver, so the event was going to be something of a baptism of fire, and it would be an uphill struggle to repeat the 4th place finish in the GoT American Team Challenge in the 2015 Season 4 finale.

The entry list was of high quality with an average iRating of 3800+ in the Porsche and 3400+ in the MX5.  With unofficial and official practice sessions were well attended, and the pace required to place near the front of the field was clear.

A lack of seat time notwithstanding, in the colder sessions, Darren was a formidable force in the little Mazda.  Adam wasn’t able to be quite so competitive in the faster class, but was getting more comfortable in the car.

Race day saw ambient and track temperatures have risen somewhat from the practice sessions, neither Legend found the change to be to their liking, and both found themselves further down the timesheet than they had hoped.

Qualifying for the race was a single flying lap, and neither Adam nor Darren were able to “hook up” a lap they were happy with, a double downshift proving costly to Darren, and a big moment exiting Merghulo similarly compromising Adam’s lap.  The end result was a disappointing 21st grid placing, with Darren starting 12th in class.

After the disappointing qualifying lap, Adam made a great start, passing two cars in the run to turn one, and completing a pass on a third car through the Senna esses.  Darren had a solid start to the race, biding his time and taking advantage of others making mistakes, gaining five places through the same number of laps.

First few laps of a race are always hectic, but the classes had barely found their rhythm when the Porsche field caught the MX5’s for the first time.  Whilst there were some gaps at the front of the field’s, in the midfield it was very busy.   As the tightly packed Porsche and Mazda fields converged, some drivers were bound to lose out.  In the MX5 field, Darren was spun by a contact with Dirk Federmann, shortly before Adam clipped the SimRC MX5 of Fabian Danz – the SimRC car ended in the wall, and massively compromising their potential result.

Adam had a couple of chances at passing Oosterhuis on lap 14, but the door was closed firmly on both occasions, and subsequently the Dutchman was able to pull away.  For the remainder of the race, the only major drama was produced by the interaction with the slower class.  Darren rolled the dice, pitting early on lap 17, but constant lapping traffic meant he never really had any clear air to take advantage of.  Adam similarly found the laps after his stop on lap 35 to be devoid of drama, save for the occasional close encounter with the slower class.

Adam ultimately brought the Legends Porsche home in 16th place, gaining 5 places through the race, and Darren finished inside the top 10, placing 9th.  Overall, the team finished 15th.

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.

 

2017 iRacing Daytona 24

The 2017 iRacing Daytona 24 Hours took place on the weekend of 21st-22nd January.  The 13 parallel races saw over 700 teams from around the globe were competing for glory in the first 24 hour race of the year.  The prototype class featured the mighty Chevrolet Corvette C7 Daytona Prototype, whilst the GT3 field had their choice of the German GT3 cars currently in iRacing – the Audi R8 LMS GT3, the BMW Z4 GT3, or the Mercedes AMG GT3.

For the first time, Legends Racing would have two cars in an event of this magnitude, both running in the Prototype class.  The #109 car – driven by Gary Hickman, Adam Parle, Paul Richards and Darren Seal – would be racing in split 2 of 13, whilst the #609 – driven by Steve Elson, Geoff Rose, James Steel and Mike Taylor – raced in split 7.

Steve, James, Mike, and Paul would make their 24 hour racing debut, and for Steve and James in the 609, this would also be their first taste of endurance racing including driver swaps, they really were being thrown in at the deep end!

The strategy for both cars had been laid down in advance, each driver would burn through two tanks of fuel before handing over control to the next driver.  Generally, in racing the field spreads  out relatively quickly, and the frantic first couple of laps give way to drivers finding their own space on the track and establishing their rhythm.  At Daytona, the long stretches round the oval – and the draft that accompanies it – means that the field runs much more closely than normal, and for an extended period of time, and consequently it was only in the latter part of the first stint that the rhythm for the race was finally established.  When the first driver swaps took place, both cars were holding their own, in the #109, Darren was moving up to 10th, whilst Steve had carried the #609 into 7th.

Whilst these races run over 24 hours, it is the first few minutes, and indeed the first few hours  that are arguably the most important; not in terms of making up positions, but in preventing damage to your car.  Whilst you undoubtedly need to have pace and consistency on the track, you also need to minimize both the number of visits you have to the pits and the duration of them.  It is frequently said in racing that to finish first, first you must finish, and a clean start to the race was the initial step towards completing the last lap.  Whilst the #109 had several car-to-car contacts during the race, only one of these required any repairs, and were able to be completed during scheduled stops.  The #609 did not fare quite so well, the quartet losing several laps through a combination of unforced errors unavoidable contacts.

With several hours behind them, all the participants in the races would be affected by the event that has subsequently become the main talking point, a server or connection issue that caused many teams to lose connection, and drop out of the race. Whilst the cause of the issues is still being investigated by iRacing, the result was a specific type of warping, or, essentially, communication errors between the clients and the server. Despite having experienced the problem in the Gathering of Tweakers Endurance Series, there was nothing the team could do, in the #109 Darren lost his connection, and with it the team lost 3 minutes, or approximately 2 laps, and dropped 3 places in the overall standings.  Whilst there was evidence of further ongoing issues during the remainder of the race, the #109 wouldn’t drop out again, whereas the #609 crew were fortunate and were not affected at all.

With the bulk of the early laps in the #109 completed by Darren and Adam, the unenviable “night shift” was handled by Gary and Paul, and the two highest rated Legends drivers soon fell into the routine that was race, refuel, repeat.  There would be a number of scares and near misses during the night with other competitors demonstrating the effects of mental fatigue.  Having lost several laps due to the server/connection issues, the team would need to unlap themselves to progress further up the standings.  Consequently although the position of the #109 would remain relatively static through the mid-part of the race, slowly but surely the cars ahead were being reeled in.  The #609 also largely held station during this period, laps lost due to required repairs being carried out meaning that they too had large gaps ahead of them that would need to be reduced in order to move up the order.

With three quarters of the race run, the #109 were up to 8th, the #609 in 12th.  With some good fortune a top ten finish for both cars looked to be within reach.

Ultimately, for the drivers of the #609, the finish was somewhat anticlimactic, damage sustained in a collision requiring some lengthy repairs, 5 laps were lost, and the team dropped to 14th.  Other teams also encountered problems late in the race, reshuffling the order once more, and the #609 finished 12th.

The close of the race for the #109 was not without issue either, a second spurious penalty caused not by any on-track misdemeanor, but by the ongoing server issues plaguing the race, and one which had major implications on the teams result.  Whilst the 15 second stop and hold penalty could be combined with a driver swap, being required to pit early to serve it severely compromised the strategy of the team, and condemned the #109 to requiring a “splash and dash” just prior to the end of the race.  This additional visit to the pits saw the team drop to 10th position.  Whilst the 9th place machine was tantalizingly close ahead, the 11th placed outfit of GTL-VRT Gold were similarly close behind, and brought with them the threat of finishing outside the top ten.  Indeed, on the last lap a clump of GT3 cars filing through the bus-stop saw Gary’s progress impeded, and the gap was closed further still.  GTL-VRT Gold would exit the bus-stop chicane right under the rear wing of the Legends Prototype and benefiting from the draft, and with the GT3 cars now cleared, it was a drag race to the line, one that fortunately the #109 finished marginally ahead in.

 

Despite the event being marred by the issues leading to multiple disconnections and constant discontinuities, for Legends Racing, the event was a success.  Although neither car was able to repeat the 2nd place finish achieved in the inaugural iRacing 24 Heures du Mans, both cars completed the race, and both finished in creditable positions.  Some of the more recent additions to the team experienced endurance racing with driver swaps for the first time, and with it cemented their place in the team.  In races such as the Daytona 24, every driver plays their part, whether they are in the car, acting as a “spotter” or crew chief, or just lending moral support. The iRacing Daytona 24 was a team event in the truest sense of the word, one that all the participating Legends found to be thoroughly enjoyable, if physically and mentally draining, and occasionally punctuated by moments of frustration!

The team are already looking ahead to the iRacing 12 Hours of Sebring , which takes place on 11th & 12th March.  When the event ran in 2016, Darren Seal and Adam Parle finished 2nd in their race, narrowly missing out on the win.  In 2017, Legends Racing aim to run multiple cars, building on the experiences from  Sebring, Le Mans, and most recently Daytona, and targeting repeating or bettering past results.