– The Season Finale. Race 8 of the Virtual Le Mans Series season brings us to the French countryside for the 6 Hours of Le Mans. The mix of dedicated private track and country roads make a treacherous trek, but one that every endurance driver desires to traverse. For the final race, Jordy Zwiers will take the lead in the #48 SHQM LMP2, with Brian van Beusekom sitting as the co-pilot.
Pre- Le Mans series standings are:
3Wide Motorsport: 72
SHQM can win the championship by winning the race, and if 1Aco finishes 8th or lower. Meanwhile, P2 sticks if finishing P3 with a 3Wide race win.
Team Manager: Greg Hall
Engineer (Pit Wall): Greg Hall & Jon Uyan
Drivers: Brian van Beusekon, Jordy Zwiers
Reserve Driver: Jon Uyan
This is the only race of the year where the qualifying session is a mixed one, with both Prototypes and GTs on the track. This increased the difficulty, as it was tough to distinguish when a GT car would be a roadblock through the Porsche curves or the like.
Jordy made the best of the conditions, slotting the car into P4 with a 3:32.941. This time was 6 tenths off the pole time, but marvelous nonetheless as it was one of only two laps in the session unimpeded by traffic.
The pace lap around here is sooooooo long. Sitting on the 80kph pit limiter, this takes an actual 10 minutes and 20 seconds. I feared Jordy would fall asleep.
The race start was as we expected. Team Draco, which qualified P5, snuck around us early to swap positions. As we were on a longer strategy, we planned a slower run on the mediums to start. Soon after, both Draco and 3Wide pulled off to serve their penalties, pushing SHQM back into P3.
We pushed for 11 lap stints. This meant Jordy pitted on lap 11, 22, and 33. I (Greg) made the decision not to splash for fuel under the lap 13 Code 80. This set off a series of events that would come back to haunt us.
On lap 33, Jordy swapped to Brian, also switching tire compounds to the softer set. Brian, due to traffic and other factors, was not able to stretch 11 laps on fuel, so into the pits on lap 43 we came. We exited in P4, with RGPL having leaped us due to a prior pit stop.
Here’s where our bad luck begins.
Lap 44 brought a Code 80. I must stress how advantageous it is to pit under caution versus green flag conditions. Some cars took advantage of this, and Brian and I decided to grab a fresh set of tires as the time impact was minimal. This brought us to P5.
Lap 53 brought another Code 80. It was called quite late in the lap for us, and there was a delay for Jordy to load into the game, so the #48 sat in its pit stop for longer than anticipated as we tried to get a driver swap in. Consider that more time lost due to bad timing! However, we were good from here to the finish on fuel strategy, so that was a positive.
But Lady Luck wasn’t done with us yet. On lap 60, as Jordy was passing a GT on the Mulsanne Straight, that GT car had a lag event, sending it into Jordy’s car. 208 second of damage delivered. To the pits, the #48 went to get repaired. Thankfully, this repair was completed under Code 80 conditions, alleviating the time impact. Jordy exited the pits on lap 61, sitting in 8th place.
We were in despair. Any chance of nabbing the 2nd place in the standings at this point was surely gone. 3Wide was sitting in P2, 90 seconds behind the leader. If 3Wide finished there, we needed P5 to claim 2nd place. And we were a minute behind P5.
Jordy got to work. 11 laps of his best stuff. Brian got in the car on lap 72. 11 of his best stuff, to hit the pits on lap 83. We were still a minute behind P5, with 11 laps to go.
But the miracles arrived. P5, 6, and 7 all pitted before Brian. Meaning they had 12 laps or more to the finish. That was an impossibility. With 3 laps to go, the first car pitted, and Brian moved to P7. With 2 laps to go, the second car pitted, P6. And on the last lap, the final car pitted, placing us in P5! The miracle of a top 5 finish arrived!
However, with about 10 minutes to go, 3Wide had caught Reborn Racers and was able to make the pass for the lead. With their finish and our P5, that meant 3Wide claimed 2nd place in the championship.
With all the events that occurred above, P5 was a strong, almost unbelievable finish. P3 in the championship, albeit a bit disappointing knowing what was possible, is still amazing. We rolled two rookies out this year, and they showed what an impact they could bring!
Congratulations to 1Aco for their strong season, winning the championship, and the always fast 3Wide Motorsports for claiming P2 in the championship. Well done!
Final 2018 VLMS Standings:
3Wide Motorsport: 97
SimHQ Motorsports: 95
Simtech Motorsport: 60