When iRacing’s Week 13 rolls around, you know what to expect:
- Chaos on track with unconventional combinations using new or unfamiliar content
- 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.
- 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.