– Sebring Raceway was built on the runways and connecting roads of a former US Army air base. It’s now a permanent facility used year-round for testing and club racing.
Virtual Endurance Championship makes a regular stop at Sebring, but this season SRC is using a new ‘laser scanned’ version of the track. The track surface is now much harsher, making the 12 hour race and even greater challenge.
Located in Central Florida, expecting warm and humid conditions. No rain is in the forecast, but you never really know in this region. The race will start in daylight conditions (11 am), and finish at night (11 pm).
Qualifying was run as a private session of 45 minutes, thus giving the teams more time. We used this additional time to try slight variations of qualifying setup. In any case, Cosimo obtained the 8th time with 1:46.3, close to his personal best time of 1:46.0. Once again, the LMP2 class proves to be quite competitive with most teams within about one second of each other.
Cosimo would start the race from 8th on the grid. In the first few laps of the race, Cosimo would serve three DT penalties that were carried over from Estoril. This would put the SHQM#220 to the back of the LMP2 class, and nearly a full lap off the leader.
But a 12 hours race is very long, and a lot of things can happen. Our strategy was to get comfortable and put in consistent laps… stay safe and keep the car moving.
Cosimo would do just that, and he would hand the car over to Tobias late in the third hour of the race. Tobias would exit pits in 6th position, less than a minute from P5, but 1.5 laps down from class leaders #211 PTSims.
The early jump from P9 to P6 was due to unfortunate DQ of three of our fellow competitors (#207 OneMove HSR, #217 Naja Racing Italia, and #225 Gaming Events). There was a known bug regarding the use of headlights, and these teams missed the notification during the drivers briefing at the start of the race to turn ON headlights to avoid being disqualified. Two of the teams were able to rejoin racing after a long 40 minutes delay waiting for the race director to become available.
Tobias would continue for the next couple of hours. One close call on lap 139 (almost 4.5 hrs into the race), when LMP2#217 and GT#262 made contact at T14, a high-speed section. The GT would lose control and hit the wall. Luckily, the GT did not roll back across the track, so Tobias was able to make it through unharmed.
During his stint, Tobias would gain a position when LMP2#213 Sim Racing Peru suffered a disconnect shortly after a driver swap. They would lose almost 7 minutes and drop from P4 to P6.
While on his final lap before handing over to Don, Tobias was caught by two LMP2s, and they would pass on the inside at T17. This blocked Tobias’ entry to pits. Tobias slowed to let both LMP2 pass safely, but in doing so, he took an irregular path into the pit lane.
Don would take over in P5, trailing #203 Flag-to-Flag by 45 seconds, and nearly three laps from leaders (#211 PTSims). Don would only drive a brief hour and a half (2x), saving his longer run (4x) for the finish.
Late in the seventh hour of the race, Don would hand over to Cosimo for his final stint. It would be a short stint (2x), but he would get the best view of the spectacular setting sun at Sebring.
Still running in P5, Cosimo joined race just over a minute behind #203 Flag-to-Flag.
In the eight hour, LMP2#222 Exclusive would collide with a lagging GT#271. The collision caused significant damage and long repair time in pits. Cosimo advanced into P4.
Tobias would take over next for his short stint (2x), and would maintain P4 position before handing over to Don in ninth hour of the race. But not before experiencing more pit entry drama… when class-leading LMP3#227 drifted wide at T17 and glanced off the wall right in front of Tobias as he passed just inside. We were lucky again: the damaged car did not come back onto the racing line.
Don would take over in the ninth hour and take SHQM#220 to the finish. But he too would experience a ‘moment’. Shortly before the 11-hour mark, Don was running in P4, but closely following LMP2#203 Flag-to-Flag who was one lap ahead in P3. At braking zone for T10, Don was braking late and caught by surprise when #203 slowed earlier than he expected. In a panic to avoid a collision, Don locked brakes and turned inside. Luckily, the driver of #203 was watching his mirrors and patiently let the #220 skid past before turning in and continuing. Close call.
Don would complete the final hour, and #220 would finish in P4, one lap behind #203 and four laps behind class winners #211 PTSims.
The race chart from the event.
SHQM#220 is back to 4th position in Division 3 LMP2 standings.
Next up is Silverstone, the penultimate race of the season.