The Sports Car Open visited the Nurburgring for the third round of the championship and the two Legends entries arrived having had wildly different results at Monza, arriving in 4th and 13th position in the championship.
The Nurburgring GP circuit is a wildly different beast, and the weather too was markedly different with extremely mild temperatures throwing the Legends entries a significant curve ball. The low temperatures contributed to some blisteringly fast lap-times being set in the pre-race practice session and through qualifying. Nick Rowland posted a 1:43.239 qualifying lap for the #36, placing 9th in the Prototype field, with Darren Seal posted a 1:43.766, putting the #37 in 12th in class.
The opening laps of the race were predictably tense, with all the teams scrambling for position. There were a few near misses for Nick in the #36 as he battled hard with Imulse Racing’s Timo Heyden, but both he and Darren survived the opening hour. Both Legends entries had productive first stints, with both cars advancing 3 places to sit 6th and 9th after the first round of pit-stops.
Both Legends entries ran 1 lap longer than the rest of the Prototype field but with the extremely cold track temperatures and the resulting faster laptimes, even if this was repeated in every stint a 6th stop would still be required, so whether to fuel save or not became a moot point.
Not only were laptimes faster, but tyre wear was lower, and all the prototype teams opted for a single full pit-stop where they changed tyres and completed the requisite driver swap. This only became apparent at the second round of pit stops, by which point the Legends were committed to two such full stops, and facing losing crucial seconds by doing so. Adam Parle and Paul Richards took over control of the #36 and #37 respectively after the first third of the race was run. With the other teams not following this schedule, both entries dropped back before the balance was redressed at next stop.
Disaster struck for the #37 on lap 75 when Paul’s computer crashed, leaving the Legends White trio anxiously waiting for the “tow” back to the pits, and being able to get back into the race. After losing several laps, Darrel took over whilst the deliberation over what to do continued before ultimately the decision was made to retire the car. The only slightly positive piece of news for the team is that they competed sufficient laps to be classified in the race result, and notched up a further 3 points for championship – albeit leaving them trailing 13th placed Thrustmaster Mivano by 8 points.
With Paul Searle unavailable in the #36, and two full stops planned, it was left to Nick Rowland to book-end the middle stint run by Adam Parle. After a solid run through this central portion of the race, the #36 was placed in a net 5th position – with Buschfink to pit shortly after the now sole Legends HPD took to the track. With fresher tyres at his disposal, Nick was able to reel in Patrick Richter of the NoName entry, but ultimately ran out of time to catch and pass the #40. When the chequered flag was waved, the gap to Richter had been whittled away to a scant 2.4 seconds.
Whilst another 5th place finish was a solid result for the #36, again it could have been better. The conservative strategy followed was the teams undoing. The tyres didn’t wear as much as expected, the laptimes didn’t drop off as much as anticipated. The cost to the team could be measured in seconds, but in such a competitive environment, every second counts, and those seconds lost prevented the team from registering its best result of the season.
Whilst not yet set in stone, at the midway point of the season, the podium positions look locked in by the front-runners in the prototype field. AVA look favorite for the title , with CoRe and NoName likely to complete the podium.
Behind the leading trio, Legends #36 drop to 5th following the Heusinkveld podium. One strong result by World of SimRacing, InSim – Sailors, or Buschfink Yellow could see a shake up for 5th, will all three teams within striking distance of the Legends entry, and the second half of the season will likely see this battle intensify.
The #36 Legends Racing entry aims to build on a very solid first half of the season, and start to challenge the incumbent front-runners for a place on the podium and securing a top five placing in the championship. Legends Racing White will be hoping to bounce back in the remaining three races, and register some better results.
Round 4 of the season takes place on 6th Jan at the Circuit of the Americas, with action once again being broadcast by RaceSpot TV.