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.

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!

SCO Season 2017-2018 Round 2

Round two of the Sports Car Open took the championship to Italy and the historic Autodromo Nationale Monza.

The Tifosi would be happy to see the veritable cornucopia of cars sporting the prancing horse in the GT and GTC classes, and through the free practice sessions, the Ferrari still clearly had the upper hand in the GT field.  Whilst the gulf between the Ferraris and Fords was less marked at Monza, the 488 GTE did seem to remain the more competitive car.  Another concern for the Ford GT driving Legends was that the GT3 class were even more difficult to pass than they had been in the season opener, their formidable straight line speed – particularly in the draft- necessitating late passes under braking or “cooperative capitulation” by the GT3s.

Once the dust had settled from qualifying (and there was a lot of dust!), the Legends sat 26th overall and 11th in class.  Darren’s qualifying time made Legends Racing the 2nd placed Ford GT, with only Team Chimera’s Joshua Chin qualifying higher.  Starting 11th, a points finish was definitely on the table for the team, and very much the main target for the race.  Progress up the field would be difficult though as the Ferrari’s were dominant again with the GTE spec 488’s all but monopolizing the first 5 rows of the GT class.

The start of the race was clean, the Variante del Retifilio can often see incidents in the early laps, but all three classes avoided crippling their races at the first corner.  NOMAD Racing were an early casualty on lap three, losing control through the Variante Ascari, the damage from the ensuing contact leading to the first retirement of the race.  Ascari claimed another victim in the first quarter, Joshua Chin of Team Chimera spinning and getting hit by one of the following cars – the 12 minutes of required repairs ending their podium charge, though they would finish the race.

The Legends #56 machine held a narrow advantage over Racing Lions in the early laps, and through much of the first hour the Dutch outfit were within touching distance, the gap ebbing and flowing as the HPD traffic lapped them.  The battle with the Lions Ford was cut short though, when they were involved in an incident with one of the protoypes.

Approaching the end of the first hour, the Legends sat 9th, having moved up two places from the start.  The team gained a further two places through the first round of pit stops, double stinting the tyres to reduce the time the car was stationary.  Darren’s second stint passed largely without incident with him running steady laps, the only scare being a near miss with a GTC class car.  The recently lapped Mercedes missed their braking point and only avoided collecting the Legends Ford through a timely evasive manoeuvre by Darren.

At the half way point, Adam entered the car, exiting the pit lane in 6th, but the place gain would only be temporary as Scuderia Lento’s Joonas O Vastamäki overtook on lap 70.  For the Legends to remain on a three stop strategy required a fair degree of fuel saving, and fighting the cars on different strategies was only going to hurt the overall result.  The strategy meant that pace suffered, but saving time through double stinting the tyres and avoiding the additional stop meant that moving back into 6th place was a realistic possibility.  Ultimately, the pace of Vastamäki in the Scuderia Lento Ferrari was such that when he reemerged from their final stop, they were ahead and with fresher tyres and more fuel, barring a mistake the positions were settled.  The three stop strategy had paid dividends though, with Legends Racing finishing comfortably ahead of SRN Motorsports, Racing Lions, and Revolution Simracing who rounded out the points scoring positions.

Finishing 20th overall and 7th in class was a really pleasing result for the team, after the disappointment of missing a points finish at the Nurburgring by the narrowest of margins.  Finishing well inside the points at Monza was a source of some celebration, and the duo of Seal and Parle felt they had extracted the most out of the car, the setup, and the race strategy.

The solid result will move Legends Racing up the championship standings, and leave the team looking forwards to the 4 hours of Spa-Francorchamps, which is the next race in the championship on 3rd December.  Once again, coverage of the event will be provided by Racespot TV and iRacing Live.  Spa is a popular venue for racers and racing fans alike, and we look forwards to seeing you there!

SCO Season 2017-2018 Round 1

The newly introduced Sports Car Open Championship visited the Nurburgring for the season opener, the 53 multi-class entries providing a packed field for the race weekend.

The start of free practice marked the point of no return, changing manufacturers was no longer an option, the car choices for the teams were set in stone.  The free practice sessions were well attended, with many drivers joining to experience first hand how the cars and classes would interact on the 3.2 mile circuit.  As anticipated, the pace at the front of the GT field was electric, and notably dominated by the Ferrari 488 GTE.  The balance of Ferraris to Fords registered for the series had hinted at a potential imbalance of performance, and the lap times posted  in the various free practice sessions reinforced this.  The Nurburgring GP circuit has never been a happy hunting ground for the Legends, and the disparate pace of the Ford and Ferrari suggested that this would remain so, in both qualifying and the race.

A number of teams made mistakes when entering the race session – incorrectly numbered cars gave rise to 6 teams receiving costly penalties, some frontrunners amongst them.  Such costly mistakes hinted at slightly lax preparation, but the start to the Legends race weekend was not without issue either.  Qualifying and a significant portion of the race was compromised by an incorrect boost mapping.  Darren did well to place and 26th overall, and 12th in class in qualifying, but the oversight meant that keeping pace with those infront was a huge task in the race.

After a clean start, Darren had to fight incredibly hard to remain in contact with Chimera’s Joshua Chin whilst fighting to remain ahead of the teams immediately behind.  Courtesy of the boost-mapping blunder, Darren was fighting a losing battle, with Chin gapping the Legends entry as the number 54 dropped a couple of places.

As the GT cars are prevented from taking fuel on at the same time as changing tyres, double stinting the tyres was the obvious strategy – especially given the relatively low wear rates.  Any loss in pace was more than compensated by the shorted pitstop times.  This wasn’t the only strategy that teams were following though – Darren leapfrogged the Lions entry through the first pitstop, and the Chimera entry triple-stinted their tyres with Joshua Chin at the wheel.

Other than the issue with the incorrect boost mapping, Darren’s stint passed without incident – although as anticipated the racing unrelentingly hard.  There was some incidental side to side contact whilst lapping a GT3 – something that was forced by the similarity in straight line speed between the two classes, and required a late move under braking into the chicane to make the pass.

After 72 laps, Darren brought the Legends Ford GTE into the pits for some new tyres, a full tank of fuel, and to hand the car over to Adam.  He had a nervous start to his stint, before settling down and finding his rhythm, and coped well with the mid stint madness he ran into as lapping P and GTE  cars combined with needing to lap the slower GTC class.

Only taking fuel on at the third and final pit stop of the race left the Legends in 22nd overall and looking good for a points finish in the GT class.  The gap to the Chimera and Buschfink entries ahead looked unassailable – as it turned out to be.  Behind,  there was a gap to Stefan Coppens of Racing Lions, which Adam managed to extendd, but pressure was building behind the number 81 car – with Antti Terho of Scuderia Lento rapidly closing the gap to Racing Lions.  Having closed the gap, Terho then passed Coppens in short order and proceeded to reel in the Legends machine.  Neither Legends driver was able to extract the kind of performance on show by Terho in the 488 GTE, but it was hoped that the limited time remaining in the race meant that the Legends place would be safe.

Unfortunately, Terho’s pace was such that with 2 laps remaining in the race, Scuderia Lento were in a position to challenge.  Adam was facing a frantic last lap and would have to make the Legends machine wider than wide, but a perfect storm of slow GTC traffic, a lapping HPD and another recovering HPD meant that Terho was able to take advantage and passed on the run down to T1 for the final time.  A lone GTC entry  then ended any chance of responding, oblivious to the GT class battle they interrupted, leaving the Legends to finish 11th in class, and just outside the points.

Overall, the race went pretty smoothly for the Legends.  Having known the Ford was going to be off pace, having had a chance of a top 10 class finish was a unexpected bonus, though it was galling to lose the final points scoring place on the final lap.

Round 2 takes place on 5th November, as the champtionship visits the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.  The race broadcast will once again provided by RaceSpot TV, and will feature on iRacing Live.  We’ll see you there!

Sports Car Open Season 2017-2018

Real life racing driver and prolific iRacer Nicki Thiim has the motto “Go Hard Or Go Home”.  In late 2017 Legends Racing are taking this to heart, and will be competing in the highly competitive Sports Car Open 2017-2018 Season.

The schedule for the season has been released,starting with the 4 Hours of the Nürburgring on 8th October 2017, and concluding with the 4 Hours of Sao Paulo on the 28th January 2018.  The other tracks on the calendar are Monza, Spa-Francorchamps, and the Circuit of the Americas.

The HPD ARX-01C makes up the Prototype class,  the Grand Touring class  will be running the Ford GT and Ferrari 488 GTE, and the Grand Touring Challenge class will run the Audi R8 LMS, the Mercedes AMG GT3, and the newly introduced Ferrari 488 GT3.

Legends Racing’s entry is comprised of Paul Richards, Gary Hickman, Adam Parle, Darren Seal and Adam Kell.  The teams vehicle of choice is the 2017 Ford GT GTE.

The series was oversubscribed, but being one of the early entrants Legends Racing’s place on the grid is confirmed.  Now the teams will focus on the initial round at the Nürburgring … and assessing where the closest competition will be coming from.

All the classes contain a host of familiar teams and drivers, and the standard promises to be very high throughout all the classes.  With the GT field comprising 24 teams (4 Ford GT, 20 Ferrari), every race promises to be a battle royale, and one the team are relishing.

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.