Simtech at Le Mans 24Hr

Saturday 17th April saw Simtech visit Circuit de la Sarthe the world famous circuit that hosts the 24hr of Le Mans race, this event was a privately organised race by irace.tv as there is yet no official Le Mans 24hr announcement by iRacing.

Taking to the grid would be our LMP2 team in the Dallara P217 and our GTE team in the trusted (if not passed it’s sell by date) Ferrari 488GTE.

LMP2 team: Dean Catherwood, Massimo Berta, Neil Stephenson, Scotty Angelo and Simon Whitton.

GTE Team: Bradley Hulse, Bram Claes, Kris Beeman, Lucio Franco and Matt Tempest.

Dallara LMP2 and Ferrari 488GTE at Le Mans Dunlop Curves

It was a race up until 1hr before the start that Simtech GTE thought that they would be watching from the sidelines as we only had 3 drivers available, however the reasoning behind this took priority over the race so it was not an issue for any driver and all thoughts were with Mark. We did however put out a late call for any driver wanting to take part in this event and we had 2 drivers step forward in Brad and Lucio, which saw the team enter with the maximum 5 drivers.

The race was scheduled for 2:00pm, but a bit of a mixup between GMT and BST saw the race start at 3:00pm(BST), so no real issues there, practice at 2pm, qualify at 2:40 and race at 3pm.

Qualifying went better for the LMP2 team ending in midfield of their class, whilst not so good for the GTE team it saw them near the rear of the field, however it became a bit of a surprise when on the grid there were LMP2 and LMP cars behind (non-qualifying), we expected these to be bunched with their respective classes, so this would make for an interesting start, and it did just that, normally each class would give the class in front a wide gap, and as we started the formation lap this did happen, so as the GTE class were exiting the Porsche curves the lights went green, now it is my understanding to make things fair, although the lights are green the race begins once cars are through the tight Ford chicane, and I’m pretty sure that the leader (or 2nd) thought this too along with most of the GTE field, however some of the GTE cars and the LMP2 cars at the rear didn’t get the memo or decided to take a cheating advantage of this and bolted when the lights went green, and as the leader continued to hold a slow pace we could see said GTE/LMP2 cars bolting off into the distance, not stopping when they noticed the leader (or 2nd) not doing the same, maybe something the stewards should have clarified before the race or looked at with penalties to the offending drivers, (just to clarify I believe this is done to avoid what would be an almighty cluster f**k in the Ford chicane) but alas this happened and that was that.

Dean starting the running for the LMP2 team

So the 24hr clock was counting down, Dean taking the 1st stint for the LMP2 team and Myself taking the opening stint for the GTE team, this turned into a pretty much hold position for a number of laps, nobody wanting to start with an early repair pitstop, however the LMP2 team did have a bit of an issue which forced them into the pits, but were not about to let that ruin their 24Hr race, so were soon back on track.

And it's go for the GTE team at Le Mans

The opening stints went relatively good for both teams with the GTE team getting through without incident and the afore mentioned pitting for the LMP2 team the only incident for them, the racing seemed fair and both teams were climbing through the field slowly, but consistency is key in a long endurance race, and although there were teams lapping faster that ourselves it was clear that spending 30 minutes in the pits is a price not worth paying for 4 second a lap over 20 or so laps, you really don’t have to be fast to enjoy endurance racing.

Lucio enjoying life on the Mulsanne straight

Lucio took to the GTE for the 2nd Stint and was joined by Max in the LMP2 car, once again with the field starting to spread out the racing was turning into more of getting through the laps, and once again the Simtech teams continued climbing through the field, with both teams in 12th (or their about) in their respected classes, with pit strategies disappearing like dust it is hard to know your exact position till 3pm Sunday (or as near as dammit).

Neil putting yet another lap on the car just before sunset

As the sun slowly set over the circuit the temperature dropped and the track became grippy, this is when the fun begins, you feel the car is ready to hold on to anything you can throw at it, but as the traffic is spread out, you just cannot see the afore mentioned anything till you are on top of it, so as said it is fun but also quite intimidating when your whole mirror is just the headlights of a faster car closing in, the corners appear out of the blackness and your braking markers are now just shadows of the objects you become to rely on during the day.

The GTE team had its fair share of bumps and scrapes throughout the night, however Bram, Kris and Bradley did a sterling job to get us through with a couple of required pit stops, coming out the other end still intact and still lapping away the hours, pretty much the same can be said for the LMP2 team, with Scotty, Neil and Simon pushing through the night and ensuring the car was still drivable and competitive for the closing 10hr run in (yeah 10 hrs is considered the closing stages at Le Mans).

Closing 10Hrs and both cars were still grinding away the hours.

GTE in P8 and LMP2 team in P9 as the sun was up, and I think both teams were happy with their positions after a hard night, but onwards we went, and more positions were gained, with the Ferrari getting to a great position of 6th and the LMP2 team closing in on 6th in their class, but time was now starting to run out.

As the Ferrari came around Indianapolis P5 was there and I mean there, they were however still a lap up on us, so firstly we hoped there was not too much damage too their car (it comes to a stage where you want all the runners to finish when you know the end is in sight, preferebly behind you, but you do want them to finish), and secondly you hope that it gives you a chance to close in on P5

P5 holding their brakes after a brush with the gravel an Indianapolis

I have to say that P5 held their brakes till it was safe to get going again, and alas not a lot of drivers do this, they spin and their though is to get going again at what ever cost, so thank you to ‘Buzz the Tower Racing’ for a safe rejoin and a great race.

The Ferrari did in fact gain P5 whilst the LMP2 team had moved into P6, but still with a few more hours to go we were still hunting and at the same time being hunted.

Can we wait till after the finish before trading shirts?

The LMP2 team received a drive through for a collision, however on review this was a little harsh as racing is racing, and they are going to be accidental collisions, however this did not stop their determination to hold on to their hard fought P6 in class, so were soon back out rolling along to the finish.

The Ferrari had a mighty close call with a LMP2 car that seemed to forget that there were 2 halves of a track and decided they wanted to be on our bit, just like a kid that has a toy, sees another kid with a different toy and decides that that is also his/hers, in the last hour of the race this was just a plain stupid move and we had to take averting action to avoid both cars ending their Le Mans right there, clever very clever (and I cannot even be bothered to name the team in question).

The end is in sight for the P217

So finally the 24hrs came to an end, the LMP2 team held on to their hard fought Position 6 and the GTE ¬†Ferrari was brought home in the very capable hands of 24hr debutant Kris Beeman in position 5, if you had offered these positions to the teams prior to the race, I’m sure they would have taken them (speaking from the GTE team, we would have taken your hand off).

A great result for the team and a show we are still going from strength the strength, a very big well done!

Kris crossing the line for the GTE team in the 24hr Le Mans

There comes point that you want the race to finish thinking that this is your last 24hr and this is down to tiredness however, after the come down of the race, you are soon looking for the next big endurance race, and this is next week at Nurburgring, will I be there? – not a hope ūüôā – (albeit Simtech Racing may well be).

A few weeks and it will be time to start looking for our next big team race and until then we will continue to take part in the official team VRS series.

VRS at Daytona Road

Daytona Road was the destination for Simtech Racing this weekend (3rd April 2021), 2nd outing at this circuit after the 24Hr endurance race that took place in Janurary.

3 Simtech Racing teams took to the track for this event, Simtech Racing, GT3 #1, GT3 #2 and GT3 #5 (I feel I need to point out that numbering has no bearing on the team, we increment the team number as needed).

Simtech Racing GT3 #1 drivers: myself, Muzzy and Bram.

Simtech Racing GT3 #2 drivers: Joseph Keaveney, Scotty Angelo and Dean Catherwood.

Simtech Racing GT3 #5 drivers: Peter Jones and Callum West.

 Simtech Racing GT3 #1 and GT3 #5 were in Split 5.

 

And it is Go go Go at Daytona
And it's go in the Daytona circuit sunset

Qualifying for STR GT3 1 was myself, and although the lap was OK I feel there was just a little more that could have been done, but we qualified 5th in the 50 strong field, STR GT3 5 qualified 37th, and in the split above STR GT3 2 qualified in 12th.

Headlights starting to blaze in the Daytona sunset

With all cars trying to hold position for the first few laps the the racing was close but not overly aggressive, knowing that an incident in the notorious hard braking points at this circuit has the potential to cause a major pile up kept drivers honest and patient.

Using the tow to take 4th position

However it was hard to be patient for an extended length of time when the drafting plays such a big part and it wasn’t too long before the positions started to change around, at some point during this spell of the race STR GT3 5 had an incident which enforced an early pitstop on them, but they were not about to call it a day, even with the car lacking power and were soon back out in the thick of the racing.

Simtech and Frobo212 Racing happy to trade positions in the draft whilst keeping it clean.

STR GT3 1 were soon on the tail of the 3rd position car of Frobo212 Racing and a race long battle was to follow but not always this close, they drove an extremely good race.

Throughout the first stint there was little drama (just how I like it), but good racing, lapped cars were happy to allow the leading pack through where possible whilst having their own battles.

Pitstop time as the sun has set in Daytona Road

Soon it was hand over time and what seems to have become a bit of a recurring theme we rolled into our pit box in 1st place, however we rejoined in 6th as some cars had taken a very early pit stop during the mid stage of the first stint, a tactic that was soon to become clear to us.

Muzzy was soon back into the racing.

Muzzy was out of the pits and straight into a series of good battles for his entire stint, pounding away at the laps and keeping the car safe.

Some good quality racing ensued which was very enjoyable to watch and seeing both Simtech cars on track together was a rare moment as Peter and Callum were also pounding away at the laps with their underpowered Ferrari.

STR GT3 1 (Muzzy) and GT3 5 (Peter) on the back straight of Daytona Road

Soon it was time for the last handover, Muzzy brought the car into the pits again in 1st place (we believe about 3rd overall) but the afore mentioned pitstop strategy was becoming obvious, there was approx 1 hr 10 minutes to go in the race, and the Ferrari could manage about 55 minutes on a full tank, so as Bram took to the track we started to test our previously used fuel saving techniques (coast into corners and adjust the fuel mapping to a leaner mixture), but after about 3 laps we were still not confident that this would get us to the end of the race, so we decided on a early fuel stop, with a generous guess to what was needed to see us through, we slightly over fuelled which in the scheme of things cost us about 3 – 5 seconds on the leader.

Bram taking 2nd and chasing the leader down.

So with an early stop to fuel us to the end Bram set about cutting through the traffic, with the laps running out he took 2nd place and started chasing the leader who was 30 seconds down the road, and it was quite a chase, whilst this chase was ongoing STR GT3 5 were cutting through the traffic and into 28th.

Bram coming across the line in 2nd at Daytona Road

Bram never got the chance to have one final run on the leader as the chequered flag came too soon for us, but he had done a great job closing the gap to 10.5 seconds, however we were pleased with our 2nd position and STR GT3 5 were very pleased to nurse their car over the line in a very respectable 28th position.

STR GT3 2 had an interesting race in their split, being caught up in a couple of accidents that were out of their control finally bringing the car home in 30th position, so once again all Simtech cars finished the VRS race and more experience was gained.

The next round is Lime Rock Park 10/04/2021 and we will be looking to field at least 3 teams.

VRS at the Glen

Simtech Racing kicked off the new VRS season on Saturday (20th Mar 2021) at Watkins Glen with everyone looking forward to the 3Hr team event, with 3 teams taking to the track for Simtech Racing, GT3¬†#1, GT3 #2 and you guessed it GT3 #3 (a lot of thought went in to our team naming as you can clearly see), this report’s focus is on GT3 #1 (due to the fact I was one of the drivers in said team), but I have to mention that GT3 #2 finished a very respectful 11th Joseph Keaveney and Dean Catherwood bringing the car home and in the same split GT3 #3 finishing an excellent 16th Mark Forte making his 2nd appearance for the team with debutants Callum West and Peter Jones taking the seat at the Glen, so hats off to both teams for excellent results, however could GT3¬†#1 make it a hatrick of good results?

Qualification P15 for Simtech GT3 1

Qualifying driver was myself, and to be honest qual could have gone better, my laps were about half a second off my practice pace so we ended up in 15th on a grid of 55 cars. 

Entering the Bus Stop at Watkins Glen

The start of the race was predictable, with most teams attempting to take it easy for the first few laps, however we did have our share of jet pilots that believed the finish line was 100yds after every corner, they soon wrecked their race (or worse, wrecked someone else race), patience is the key so we just tried to hold position the best we could till the cars began to string out a little.

Holding position again at the Bus Stop

Surprisingly the cars stayed close for much of the race, so holding position became quite important (but not as important as staying out of trouble), which Simtech GT3 1 managed to do across all stints.

Pitstop and driver change time

At the first pitstop we found ourselves in first position, however this was a false position as we had just managed our fuel a little better, and our true position was in the region of 11th / 12th, but we were still unscathed and ready for Muzzy to take over the running.

Muzzy taking the inside at the first corner

Muzzy set off straight into traffic, and showed his composure to stay out of trouble whilst holding position with some close nip and tuck racing, a little too close racing with a back marker where we believe the back marker was over enthusiastic or a little inexperienced made for a harder battle than it should have been (maybe the back marker never noticed the blue flag), however Muzzy soon dispatched said back marker and still totally unscathed with a nice inside overtake, whilst watching Muzzy’s stint just a few corners later I saw our battling back marker fight hard with another car on the lead lap, however this ended in a face full of tyre wall, hopefully said back marker has gained a lot of experience from this race and although he made it hard for Muzzy, he kept the racing clean.

Muzzy handed the car over to Bram, who set about business in the final stint, we were in about 20th position but with a lot of cars out of pit stop sync this was once again in the region of 11th / 12th after Muzzy’s stint.

Finally as the laps rolled on and cars pitted our eventual on track position came down to 11th, and with Bram putting in the laps he was able to take over 10th position and settle into tracking 9th (albeit with laps running out).

With 2 laps to go Bram managed to get the inside line on 9th position going into the Bus Stop, and although 9th turned in too sharply nudging the Simtech Ferrari it was the 9th position who spun (but luckily managed to keep their car out of the tyre wall), so with Bram bringing the car home in 9th Watkins Glen was over with a hatrick of great results.

Next week is Sebring, however Simtech have quite a few drivers racing the Sebring 12Hr so at present we do not know how many teams will be running the Sebring VRS.

VRS Suzuka

Simtech Racing took to the track on Saturday (6th Mar 2021) at Suzuka for the 3Hr team event, STR GT3 No.1 and STR GT3 No.2 were in the same split, whilst STR Pro were in a much higher split, the race started with STR GT3 No.1 starting 23rd and STR GT3 No.2 starting 34th, both teams got away well with Matt Tempest (No.1) and Neil Stephenson (No.2) taking the opening stint, however it could have ended so quickly got STR GT3 No.1 as at the hairpin for the first time they were very nearly collected as a innocent bystander, but luckily a few cm’s can make a lot if difference.

Sometimes a few cm's is all that is required.
Lucky for Simtech, but unlucky for the two teams involved.

The Mercedes driver put a wheel on the grass, so was pretty much a passenger for the rest of the short ride, and the Ferrari driver probably didn’t know what had just gone off, a bit of a shame for both teams, but alas one of those things, and I’m sure both teams will dust themselves off for next seasons VRS.

Muzzy driving the 2nd stint for STR GT3 No.2

BothSTR No.1 & No.2 had some good battles along the way in the first stint, before Bram Claes took the wheel for No.1 and Muzafar Ahmed made a long overdue return to the VRS fold, both drivers went on to drive very solid stints, with the odd battle here and there before handing the cars over to Joseph Keaveney  (No.1) and Debutant Mark Forte (No.2), and both drivers settled in  to their stints quickly.

Mark Forte making his debut for Simtech Racing

Mark had a few connection issues, but refused to give up till he had done his fair share target, however he surpassed this with some very confident driving whilst Joseph used all his experience to ensure that the car made it home unmarked in 11th position, STR GT3 No.2 came home in an at least deserved 22nd position.

With week 13 now upon us, there is a short break till the next season VRS starts (next race being the 20th March), and I’m sure both Muzzy and Mark will be looking forward to this as much as the rest of the team.

Well done all.

Simtech at Bathurst 12Hr

Saturday 27th February was 12Hrs of Bathurst day….I could stop the report right there and most Simtech Racing participants would be happy, I say most as from the fires of ‘Bathurst’ there was a single ray of light from Simtech Racing GT3.

So here is the short version if you do not want to read the very slightly longer version:

Team GT3 No.1 – Go go go…..good start, its going well, not sure that car is supposed to be sideways….BANG! WTF! – Bye!

Team GT3 Pro –¬†Go go go…..good start, its going well, did that wall just¬†rejoin¬†the track unsafely….BANG! WTF.

Team GT3 No.2 – Go go go….WTF, no worries the cars is still drivable, BANG!, Still drivable, 12Hrs¬†later P23! (so congrats to Bram, Stu, Joseph and Neil (in driver order I believe)).¬†

Simtech Racing GT3 No.1 and GT3 No.2 found themselves starting together on the grid, which as I’m sure any team will tell you has it’s good points and bad points, Good points include reports from the leading car of the duo, having a trusted rear guard and keeping pace with your team mates, the bad points that the weekend could be over for both teams in about 30 seconds (as in one crash could wipe both teams out in one foul blow), however both teams started relatively well.

A few bumps and scuffles (nothing major) saw Simtech Racing GT3 No.2 peel off into the pits for some minor aero repairs that was costing them time on track.

As dawn broke over Bathurst, both teams were still very much in contention, cars were running well, and the drivers were now settled after the hustle and bustle of an endurance race start.

Into the 2nd hour of the race and the sunrise coming over the top of the Skyline section at Bathurst has to be seen, well I say that as it is a thing of beauty if your not the driver thinking ‘Oh My! where has the track gone, my eyes, my eyes, Oh no I’m now in the dipper’, but both cars were still going strong (I say both cars but have excluded the Simtech Racing Pro Team as they were in a higher split that us, so can only speculate that they were also enjoying the sunrise).

This is the last picture from the camera roll, and is probably a fitting farewell to Simtech Racing GT3 No.1, as they were not to see this corner again, after enjoying the sunrise for one last time over the Skyline section, and feeling the acceleration you get from a good exit of Forrests Elbow the last thing you want to see is the car just in front starting to turn 90 degrees clockwise, then your world is turned upside down (quite literally) bringing your race to a shuddering halt in a steaming wreck of hot metal.

Shortly after the demise of Simtech Racing GT3 No.1 the Simtech GT3 Pro team decided to come out in sympathy for their now ‘We have nothing to do today’ team mates by picking an argue with a wall at Bathurst, and I can tell you that there will only ever be one winner in that fight.

Battered, bruised and exhausted Simtech Racing GT3 No.2 drove over the line just after 12Hrs of Bathurst, so a big congrats to all the drivers.

If you have read this short report and have never raced an endurance event I highly recommend that this is put high on your ToDo list, Come along to Simtech Racing, start your own team or if already a member of a team start arranging an outing for the next endurance event, you will never look back!

Simtech at Daytona 24Hr

Saturday saw the first big endurance race of the iRacing season, the Daytona 24Hr and at 2pm we were ready to Go Go Go!!! – but alas iRacing wasn’t quite as ready as the drivers, so would the race go ahead, well what seemed like a lifetime of Yes we going, no we are not going for just over 4hrs before a glimmer of hope leaked through that the race was on and at approx 6:15pm we were Go (Finally), Simtech Racing gridded¬† 2 teams for the now Daytona just over 28Hr race, with a little of stint shuffling (which I’m sure every team had to endure) we were off!
 
For the impressive LMP2 team lineup – Lucio Franco would be taking the hot seat, and for the GT3 team Matt Tempest got honour of leading a strong GT3 team (a feeling of send out the cannon fodder first for the GT3 team), and it wasn’t long before the GT3 team had a little shunt, in fact is was on lap 0 (yes zero) when a car decided to test the bumper on the Lamborghini, but luckily no damage was done.
 

So for the short version as we are still getting to grips with writing race reports whilst races are ongoing (and Matt was too busy filling out the insurance claims form from lap 0 (yes still zero, not even raced a lap and we got a shunt, however the shunter will remain nameless)) the race went off with the usual scrimps, scrapes and battles however with great all round stints both teams finished in 10th position in their split.

All at Simtech Racing gave their best, and as you know a lot can happen in 24 hours, With both teams feeling they could have ended higher in the order is surely a good sign for the future.

Amongst the usual Simtech Racing drivers we welcomed some new comers to the 24hr endurance events in: 

 
Joe Keaveney, Neil Stephenson & Stu Wood
 

And we are fairly confident they will be turning out for Simtech Racing in upcoming events as this is something like this grows on you once you have had a taste.

 

Well done all.

The next upcoming event will be the 12 hours of Bathurst the 26-28 of February!
Needless to say the whole STR looks forward to another fun team spectacle