– Race 7 of the Virtual Le Mans Series (VLMS) drags the cars west across the Atlantic Ocean, again, to the tropical state of Florida for the 4 Hours of Sebring. The historic Sebring circuit hosted its first race in 1950 and has hosted endurance races like the infamous 12 Hours of Sebring on its bumpy surface ever since.
Brian van Beusekom will take the lead in the #48 SHQM LMP2, as he has done in the odd-numbered sessions all season. Jordy Zwiers is the co-pilot for the 4 Hours.
The potential results of this race threaten to have 1Aco and 3Wide Motorsport run away from the pack. 1Aco leads the way with 86 points, 3Wide follows with 72, and SHQM has 60. 25 points go to the victor.
Team Manager: Greg Hall
Engineer (Pit Wall): Greg Hall & Jon Uyan
Drivers: Brian van Beusekon, Jordy Zwiers
Reserve Driver: Jon Uyan
Car #48 was sporting its new paint scheme for the first time at Sebring. Thanks to our partners P1 Media, Champion Motorsports, and The Crew Chief. And big thanks to SkullBo for the beautiful car skin.
Dry conditions were the order of the day in qualifying. 1Aco and 3Wide both set laps in the 44s early in the session, but Brian had something to say about this. With a 44.5 late in the session, Brian was able to secure P2 for the #48, just behind the pole-sitting 1Aco. 3Wide left the grid in 3rd.
The race start was a bit calamitous.
1Aco missed the starting point, and Brian followed suit, taking the lead from the “leading” car. This led to 3Wide leaping to the lead, and our #48 falling to 4th. Positions would stabilize until lap 18 when a wild off in T1 left Brian FLYING off the curbing, through the air, and gently touching the wall.
Ridiculously, Brian escaped from this mostly unscathed, with minor damage a trouble for the engineers. Brian would pit on lap 23, due to real-life obligations, handing the car over to Jordy in P10.
Now, we were to play the long game. Jordy would run long until Brian was back from his prior obligations. However, the race had its own ideas. Jordy advanced one spot before a Code 80 came out on lap 33, during which a splash of fuel was shoved into the car.
The worst was yet to come, as the rain came on lap 43 and rain tires were installed on lap 44. Fortunately, these oddly spaced events were exactly what we needed for strategic purposes, gaining us three spots in the process up to P6.
Jordy made quick work of the difficult conditions, moving up to P4. The SHQM #48 still had a minute to make up to the race leaders (1Aco, 3Wide, and TeamRGPL), however. The rain would disappear shortly, meaning a switch to slick tires would be due. TeamRGPL tried this strategic switch first, and the pace showed strong! This meant we would pit on lap 57, giving Jordy a full tank and fresh slick tires.
The radar did look ominous, and the rain came back.
Lap 66 brought Jordy into the pits again, his fourth pit in 43 laps! All the pit stops came under Code 80, a huge time saver. We were back on the chase, looking up at the podium. And with rain and wet conditions likely to stick until the end of the race, the tension was measurable.
By the time Jordy gave the car back to Brian on lap 76, we were 30 seconds in arrears of 1Aco in P3. Jordy gave a huge effort to claw back the time lost from our early tire stop.
Brian got to work immediately, the SHQM team also received some assistance in the form of Sebring taking its toll on other drivers. On lap 78, 3Wide spun and was hit by a trailing GT car, incurring minutes of repair and taking them out of contention. Move SHQM to P3.
In the following laps, Brian cut the gap to 1Aco down to 8 seconds. On lap 91, Roy de Munick was hit in the hairpin, incurring a 20-second delay and allowing Brian to pass. P2 was ours, in time for Brian’s last pit stop on lap 99. At this moment, Brian had 10 seconds on 1Aco and was trailing TeamRGPL by 35 seconds. Brian had cut down his gap to TeamRGPL greatly, and could perhaps catch them before the end of the race!
But the race was not over. TeamRGPL was collected in an accident in Sunset Bend, incurring 2 minutes of damage. With that incident, SHQM took the lead! Brian kept the gap to 1Aco steady until the end of the tricky, wet conditions. P1! The win is ours! And we remain the only team with a possibility to challenge 1Aco for the 2018 VLMS overall championship.
This is the first points-paying win for SimHQ Motorsports this season, the first wins for Brian and Jordy in rFactor 2, and the first win with our partners onboard, P1 Media, Champion Motorsports, and The Crew Chief. We hope it’s the first win of many to come.
Brian van Beusekom – “I’m very happy with what we managed to do this race. I managed to push out an incredible lap during qualifying getting us P2, but I messed up the start and dropped to 4th.
The rest of my first stint went pretty well until I overlooked a GT in turn 1. By the time I saw him I was too close already and the speed difference was so big I had to evade him going wide in turn 1, hitting the wall. Fortunately, I got very lucky and only had minor damage.
When I came in for the final two stints it was raining and I had no experience driving in the rain here. After some careful laps, I started to learn the conditions and started going faster. Eventually, I was gaining quite a lot of time to the cars in front, and thanks to some misfortune for the others and a good strategy call from us I managed to bring the car home in 1st!”
Jordy Zwiers – “Happy with how today went. Though not everything worked out as planned, we were there to capitalize on the misfortunes of others. Brian did a great job in qualifying, though a little confusion on the start undid some of his hard work he didn’t give up, literally flying over the kerbs. Nevertheless, we kept our heads down as we were still chasing our first win this season, we stayed out of big trouble and kept on pushing, with the win as a result. Really happy, want to thank Brian for his drive. Also Greg and Jon for their pitwall support.”
Standings after Sebring:
SimHQ Motorsports: 85
3Wide Motorsport: 72
Simtech Motorsport: 60