– SimHQ Motorsports’ newest entrant to the Virtual Endurance Championship managed a very respectable 8th position in its first outing, but the team had to focus hard in order to get there.
Preparation for the race was less than ideal, with relatively few practice laps turned and even question marks hanging over driver availability right up to the start of qualifying. Hence there was a fair amount of blind trust that the setup was in the right place and that things would be alright on the day.
Lead driver, Blazej Myszk, turned up to do qualifying (and start the race with a double stint) despite a long journey home from a college field trip that had got him back to his own bed only a few hours earlier.
Qualifying was tight in the mid-pack, and Blazej put the car 13th out of 18 cars in class. Meanwhile, the squad’s non-driver manager, Tim Collier, was lurking with spreadsheet and multiple browser tabs.
Then the season began. Many cars had bumps and bashes in the first minutes of the race, and on lap 10 – after a solid start – Blazej found himself with not enough room to safely jink away from a rival who had suddenly pulled across the track on the home straight. Although the #399 sustained damage from a high-speed scrape against the wall, on the very next lap Blazej calmly executed a drifting overtake around the hairpin.
Fighting with damage-oversteer for many laps, he eventually found that the rear tyres were wearing too quickly, and was forced into an early first pit stop. Repairs were partially successful and he also moved to softer rubber to try and regain some time.
Unfortunately in this second stint he was given an automatic penalty which possibly came from lack of practice at the track and taking too many liberties with track limits. Thus the second pit stop was taken early as well.
Almost immediately, though, a similar penalty was awarded, and it was decided to change drivers while serving the stop-and-hold. In an attempt to minimise the damage, the slightly-used tyres were left on the car and driver two, James Andrew, stepped in to relieve the frustrated and tired Myszk.
James completed a very quiet and consistent double-stint which both settled the team into a rhythm and began to move the car up the order via the cunning trick of making fewer mistakes than your rivals. On the pit wall, manager Tim was worried about the weather and some events he’d seen on a live stream of the race, but was liking the team’s progress.
When Blazej got back in for another go, he continued to move the car up the timing screen and suddenly the race felt like it wouldn’t be a wasted opportunity. For a brief moment he toyed with the idea of triple-stinting the tyres to gain more advantage, but the drivers decided that there was a known risk and that it was not worth taking in the circumstances.
Soon enough James got back in and his consistency took him past one opponent and within range of another, but in the final stages of the stint he was suddenly hit by a prototype which spun the BMW and took longer than necessary to recover from. The chasing car was suddenly within three seconds!
As Blazej raced to connect to the server and take over at the damage-repair pit-stop, James called him off, stating that although the car was indicating damage, it was actually performing fine. Indeed, James not only saw out his stint, he pulled away from his pursuer and calmed everything down.
What remained of the race was a short fuel stint which Tim and Blazej had planned during the preceding laps. Confident that 9th or – at worst – 10th position was secure, it was to be a qualifying run to see what could be achieved. James’ spin had meant he’d fallen to nearly 40 seconds behind the car he’d been hunting.
With soft tyres and low fuel, Blazej went to work. In remarkable fashion. A conversation between Tim and James was interrupted with an exclamation at the laptime just posted. Then Blazej did it again. Then he posted the fastest lap of the race for good measure. He was taking three to four seconds per lap from the other car!
The catch was inevitable, but with just two laps remaining, the target headed for a splash of extra fuel and the breathtaking chase was complete, earning 8th place and four championship points on the car’s debut!