Its no secret that I've raced here a lot and enjoyed the majority of my time here. I've been involved in some really great moments on and off the track and I wouldn't trade them. But, I've also been involved in some unhappy moments, and they have become more and more frequent recently. Whether its poor sportsmanship or poor administration, and even though it is the minority that have caused it, I've had enough of it and can find better places to pursue my hobby without this garbage.
Anyway, just wanted to say thank you and goodbye to all the people who have made the last two years (and more if you go back to the TM.net days) really enjoyable. Hopefully I'll see you all again in the future.
Disclaimer: This is not an attempt at a pitty parade or the formation of a rebellion. I'm merely trying to say goodbye to those who are nice enough to call me a friend, and vice versa. If you are not one of those people, kindly stay off the "add comment" button and find something more worthwhile to do because I don't care about what you have to say.
During the week ending February 10th, drivers, teams and transporters hauled themselves from all over the world to congregate at the annual Daytona 12 Hours for GTP cars, hosted by OATAS. This year, 19 teams would take the start of this gueling test of endurance over 2 classes, and it proved to be one of the most exciting to date, and a perfect way to kick off the 2008 endurance season.
The Renown 4 Racing team set up early in the week having made the short journey from the team's American HQ in St. Cloud, Florida, just 3 hours South of Daytona by road. The team planned to enter one Lights class Mazda 787b (#105 Momo R4R) for team owner Scott Michaels and Pennsylvania's Brendan Kaczmarek, but a late deal with Brazilian Pedro Toledo made a two car effort possible, so the #104 Mazdaspeed R4R car was quickly transported North to join the team mid week. Joining Pedro in the #104 would be Ohio resident Joe Mudrak and 13 year old Brit Sam Michaels.
The JPS France team were another group to ship their cars over early. The French team, consisting of team owner Antoine de Mautor, Davy Decorps, Guillaume Siebert, Lucas Marino, Martin Audran, Phillipe Martinelli and Maxime Mironneu, made up the 3 car team. These three cars would be split between two GTP Saubers (#68 and #69) and one Lights Mazda (#168).
Vader Trophy Racing (VTR) are the favorite team going into any GTP race. Having gone through a perfect season in 2006, these guys are simply a well oiled machine when it comes to these endurance races. Four cars have been entered for the season but only two made the long haul from England to Florida, the #85 VTR2 GTP Jaguar, and the #187 Lights Mazda. Signed up for the #85 were Denmark's Jan Larsen and Norway's Esben Tipple, while the #187 lost lead driver and team owner Richard Dickson due to having a molar removed shortly before the race, leaving Neil Stratton to field the car on his own. Despite this setback, the #187 is expected to fight the two R4R cars for the Lights win.
The main team expected to fight VTR2 for the overall and GTP win is the host team OATAS, who brought two cars to the event, the #11 and #91 GTP Saubers. With quality drivers like team owner Brian Wegner and super-alien Damian Gosztyla, these guys are a force to be reckoned with.
Other GTP entries included brand new team WorldRacing.info, who entered two Saubers (#48 and #49), 36TeamRus who also entered two Saubers (#36 and #37), and combination Team AtlasF1/Ringrace who entered two Saubers (#01 and #22) and two Jaguars (#2 and #10). In the Lights class there was also ISRA's #005 entry and Alaster's #000 making up the 19 car field.
Heavy early week practice was conducted in public by JPS France, Renown 4 Racing, VTR and ISRA. The JPS guys showed that the GTP pace would be well under the 90 second mark, setting times of in the 1:29.5 region around the 3.6 mile road course. R4R and VTR set the Lights pace, with both teams completing hotlaps well below the 1:31 benchmark, while ISRA's mazda was in the 1:32s. Other teams were being cagey, but there where rumours of 1:28s in GTP private practice.
Saturday the 9th dawned and the atmosphere could be cut with a knife, with cars screaming around the track all morning as teams shaved hundreths off laptimes and pitstops, although most minds preyed on the challenge of completing 12 hours and staying at - or getting to - the top of the tree.
By 11:40am EST, the climax arrived, and qualifying was to begin.
OATAS proved they possesed the speed that had been feared, as the team locked out the front row, with Damian Gosztyla setting a blistering 1:29.068 in qualifying. JPS threw in the first suprise by outqualifying VTR2 with both their cars, and Jan Larsen lined up 5th behind the #68 and #69. These four cars were all very close in qualifying, setting laps in the low 1:30 range.
On pole in Lights and 6th overall was Scott Michaels in the #105 on a 1:30.7. The 4th row was occupied by the first 36TeamRus Sauber (1:30.9) and the Mazdaspeed R4R 787b (1:31.7). Rounding out the top 10 was the #01 Team AtlasF1/Ringrace Sauber, followed by the #187 VTR4 Mazda.
Then there was the 10 minute warmup session, and after final checks and pitstop practices it was time to go. Nobody was truely ready, but nobody wanted to wait, the start couldn't come soon enough....
As the green flag dropped the crowd roared as Jan Larsen in the Jaguar immediatley dived around the outside of Antoine de Matour's JPS France #69 Sauber in turn one to take over 4th position. Jan described his thoughts, "Someone said 'wtf are you doing?!' in the back of my head, but someone else said 'shut up and go for it!', so I did. Worked a charm!" This move would set the tone for the first hour, as positions 2nd through 5th battled door to door to sort out the early leaderboard, while watching Damian Gosztyla drive off into the sunset. "If someone ever has the strange idea to write a history of Simracing, he ought to take good notice of the first hour of this race, and especially the battle for second between four cars, all in one second for more than 20 laps, swapping position almost every lap." as de Mautor described it. Unfortunatley, as happens so often in these long races, two cars were left behind as the #22 and #2 AtlasF1/Ringrace cars were stranded in the pits before even taking the start. The #22 had problems with the officials as it seems the team were attempting to start with a chassis that didn't match the one that was entered, and this logistical problem saw them start well back from the field. The #2 suffered from an irritating mechanical lockup that the team struggled well into the race to get going, whle also co-ordinating their other cars and the paperwork issue for the #22.
Meanwhile, Lights class leader Scott Michaels started out with a consistend pace and was easily holding on to 6th. Further back, the 7th place starting 36TeamRus had a nervous early spin which caused Pedro Toledo in the #104 Mazdaspeed car to spin off in avoidance, losing them 2nd in class to Neil Stratton's VTR4. This battle would rage similar to the GTP class, with these two cars trying to gain the higher ground on eachother, while they could do nothing about the #105, Scott Michaels having a clean first stint to drive off into the lead. "The start probably couldn't have gone more perfectly" Scott recalls, "I got to watch Jan pull a pretty crazy move around the outside at T1, then saw the guys infront pull away, and the guys behind fall back. After 10 laps I was in the middle of a 30 second gap and all on my own! I had a perfect 3 hour stint, no spins, no contact, and by the end I was averaging low 1:30s with a fastest lap of 1:30.1, which I was pretty happy with."
By the three hour mark the order at the front of GTP was:
1. #11 OATAS
2. #85 VTR2
3. #68 JPS France
4. #91 OATAS
5. #69 JPS France
The #11 was already a few laps ahead of the other 4 who were all on the same lap, but way ahead of the rest of the GTP runners.
While in the Lights class:
1. #105 Momo R4R
2. #104 Mazdaspeed R4R
3. #187 VTR4
4. #005 ISRA
5. #168 JPS France
At this point Momo R4R had opened a 3 lap lead ahead of Mazdaspeed R4R, and 4 laps over VTR4, with ISRA, JPS France and Alaster dropping further and further away from the lead.
Conditions wouldn't stay so serene for the R4R boys though. After 3 hours, with only a few laps to go in his stint, Pedro Toledo lost 2nd and 3rd gears in the Mazdaspeed car. When Sam Michaels took over the car was a horrible drive and the team quickly lost 2nd place and dropped back from VTR4. Then, shortly after Michaels switched to Kaczmarek, the #105 car lost 2nd gear, and then was thrown into the barriers when JPS France 69 span right infront, and the car needed to be towed back to the pits for repairs. "Brendan was very fast in the infield, but I'd managed to overtake him on the oval, and then he was very close to me, and under pressure I made a mistake, began to spin exiting the horseshoe, and as we too close he hit me" De Matour explains, "what I'm sure about is that if he had kept a slightly longest distance within him and me, he would have avoid my spinning car." In all this the #105 lost the lead, and damage meant it was 2 to 3 seconds off the pace, so catching the VTR car was slow and difficult work.
Meanwhile in GTP, Jan Larsen in VTR2 managed to close up enough on the #11 to hand the car to Esben Tipple less than half a minute from the lead. But towards the end of his stint, Esben made a big mistake coming out of the chicane to end the lap and destroyed the Jaguar's right front suspension. The #91 and #68 had already retired, and the #69 had run into a few issues, so Esben had enough of a buffer behind to hold on to 2nd, but the win was slipping further and further out of reach as the mechanics toiled to change the supspension. All in all about 4 laps were lost.
As if VTR weren't having a bad enough time, shortly after the half way mark was passed the VTR4 car (still driven by Neil Stratton) ran into engine problems and was stuck out at the turn 5 horseshoe. The exhausted Stratton managed to get the car towed back to the pits, but there was nothing the mechanics could do, the engine was done, the car was out.
This misfortune had shortly followed a similar problem for the ISRA and Alaster cars, leaving only 3 cars in the Lights class, the two R4R cars way out ahead of the #168 JPS France car which was slowly dieing. So by the 7 hour mark the Lights class was all but over.
But things in GTP handn't quite settled down, and there was one more twist in the tail. At around 8 hours, the race leading #11 OATAS car suffered a major technical fault, causing it to spear off the track at high speed in the kink on the infield. The race marshals immediatley deemed the car too unsafe to drive and the car was instantly retired from a 4 lap lead. The OATAS crew were devistated but there was nothing that could be done, and the win was handed to VTR2 on a silver platter, as long as they could get to the finish.
The running order at the 9 hour mark read:
1. #85 VTR2
2. #69 JPS France
3. #105 Momo R4R
4. #01 AtlasF1/Ringrace
5. #10 AtlasF1/Ringrace
6. #104 Mazdaspeed R4R
7. #49 WorldRacing.info
8. #168 JPS France
In the final 3 hours little changed, apart from a complete disaster for the two AtlasF1/Ringrace cars. The #10 suffered a series of small gitches that dropped them from 5th to 6th overall, although they stayed 4th in GTP. The bigger problem was with the #01, which unfortunatley suffered a complete brake failure in the 215mph braking area for the 80mph Turn 1... needless to say, the car was destroyed and the team was forced to give up a hard earned 3rd position, leaving the bottom step of the podium open for the unlikely WorldRacing.info crew to gladly accept. The JPS France #168 also ended up retiring, but with nobody left in class to pass them, they were still classified in 3rd and got to stand on the bottom step of the podium.
The Momo R4R crew had an interesting final few hours too, as Brendan Kaczmarek showed up 2 hours late for his final stint, which resulted in a 5 hour stint for Scott! "I was all too happy to jump out and head off to bed!" Scott said in the morning.
So possibly the toughest Daytona 12 Hours rolls to a close, and all that's left to do is congratulate the victors and the finishers. For them and the rest, its time to move on to preparation for the next round, the 6 Hours of Mexico City, to take place on the 3rd of March.
He may be getting on a bit these days, but Jonathan Palmer still knows how to entertain 80 guests ;-)
On Saturday I had one of the best days of my life, at the Bedford Autodrome with the PalmerSport team. I was put at the wheel of 7 high performance cars (plus a kart and a Land Rover) and let loose on the track to see what I could get out of them. The cars were a Palmer Jaguar JP1 track car, a Formula Palmer Audi race car, a Renault Clio Cup Racer, a Porsche 911 JP3, two types of Caterham and a Jaguar XK-R GT3 race car.
We arrived in the morning and, while I was excited, I was also quite nervous. Not about having to drive these amazing cars, that was the exciting bit, but because there was a doubt over whether I would be allowed to drive the Formula Palmer Audi single-seater (some bollocks about my age causing insurance problems or something...). For me, this car would be the highlight of the day, so to not drive it would be a real bummer. I was told that my driving would be assessed early in the day to judge whether I was capable of driving the FPA. Obviously I had every confidence that my driving was fine, but what if my group got in the FPA first? As I said, I was slightly nervous.
After a full breakfast, we were introduced to the activities of the day (like I hadn't checked the website about 20 times and knew it like the back of my hand anyway :P), and finally we were all told which group would go in which cars first. Of the 4 groups, I was in Fangio, and we were last to be called out. Schumacher group was given the Caterhams (damn), Piquet group was given the Clio’s (uh-oh, this isn’t looking good...), but luckily Senna group got the FPA, and my group was given the JP1. A bit of a daunting start, but I was too relieved to notice that :P
Palmer Jaguar JP1
Top Gear's "Ultimate track car" was all mine for 10 minutes! 0-60 in 3.6 seconds, 180mph top speed, 370bhp/tonne, 6 speed sequential gearbox... all a little daunting considering that the fastest car I'd driven to this point was my 1 Litre Corsa!!! But I was too excited to be worried! The day didn’t start well when I lost a few minutes track time replacing a helmet with a dodgy intercom, but my instructor would give me an extra lap at the end to make up for it. As I pulled out of the garage and out of the pits, the first thing I noticed was the ferocity of the power, how it literally kicked me in the arse as I stroked the throttle. It reminded me very much of a kart, not so much raw horsepower, but what it had had so little to push that it jumped like... well... 150 horses to be honest! It was very much like driving a super charged 6 speed kart really, so I felt very much at home. The one thing I couldn’t get used to was the clutch on downshifts. The idea was to dip the clutch for as short a time as possible, hit the shifter, and release the clutch, all in the space of about half a second, and use the engine braking to slow you. But my little Corsa is... well... less than smooth, shall we say, when releasing the clutch having downshifted, so I was still trained to hold the clutch down for multiple gears and release it veeeerrrry sllllooooowwwly... which didn’t really work too well in the JP1! I couldn’t get my head around the necessity for engine braking, and that the car wouldn't just loop on me if I quickly released the clutch. Eventually, after a few overshoots and two spins, I got the hang of it and set a respectable lap at the end of the session, of 1:17.83. Apparently that was about 3-4 seconds off an ultimate hot lap, and held up to be the 5th fastest time of the day (not bad considering half the guys there had been there at least once before).
What struck me most about the car was the low speed grip (at high speeds it was a little tail happy), and the harshness of the engine braking. Everything else was as expected from my karting and sim racing experience (I'll go into more detail later!)
After the JP1, my quite impressed JP1 instructor (Luke Kidsley) basically told the admins that they were talking bollocks not letting me in the FPA, and they allowed me to drive the single-seater. Thanks Luke!!!
Formula Palmer Audi
The highlight of the day, the ~160hp Palmer Audi single-seater was mine and mine alone (no room for an instructor!) for these wonderful 10 minutes. We had an extra briefing on this car, including how to sweet talk the 4 speed H pattern gearbox into doing what you want! 0-60 in 3.4 seconds, 60-0 in 1.6, and a top speed of 165mph, this car was the fastest accelerator of the lot, and was pretty handy around the corners too!!! As I pulled out of the pits, it felt much like the JP1, but quicker and more balanced... from the very first corner I felt totally at home. I was the 3rd car to exit the pits, but after 2 corners I shot straight to the front of the queue and never looked back! (That had been pretty sweet because it also involved passing one of my uncles :P). Corner after corner I was braking later, improving my lines, getting on the throttle harder and harder, shifting the gears more fluidly, and I felt totally at home. The traction control stopped me fully testing the traction of the beast, but the braking and high speed grip of the car was seemingly endless. My only limiting factor was that the car had clearly been set up to understeer at high speed, so I struggled around a few of the sweepers ending the lap, but at least I had worked out what to do with the clutch!!! The feeling I got from the car was amazing, I must admit, it was very much like driving some of the more responsive cars from our own simulators, and I guess what I could compare it best to in terms of handling was the Champ Car mod! Obviously those cars have more grip and power, but it felt very much like a low speed version of that. Good job iDT!!!
These cars weren’t recorded with all the others, the instructors wanted to discourage us from driving beyond our limits for a laptime because we were on our own and could get in serious trouble (apparently one driver in the past tried to enter the 35mph turn one hairpin at 99mph! Needless to say his day ended right there!) But there was still a prize at the end of the day for the driver whose telemetry trace most closely resembled that of a former instructor... some guy called Justin Wilson. Anyway, guess who won that little prize? Yours truly of course! I was 7.5 seconds off Justin's time (I got a 1:16.85, the top speed was limiting it from going much faster than the JP1), but not bad considering my lack of experience :D
The trace also showed I got 113.8mph, which is a new top speed record for me! Although I think the JP1 probably went a little quicker...
In between the JP1 and the FPA we had been given karts to keep us interesting. Not much to say, other than I set the fastest time of the day in them. Yay for me!
Renault Clio Cup
We left the West circuit and headed over to the North circuit, where next up was the mighty Clio! Front wheel drive, 180bhp, 6 speed sequential, 0-60 in 4.1. Not your Sunday shopping run Clio by any stretch of the imagination! These things were amazing to drive, "drive it like you stole it" has never felt so true! I had a crazy Danish instructor called Benny for this one, and he really pushed me to the limit "trust me and brake when I tell you" seemed to be his catchphrase! This was definitely the most raw fun I've ever had behind the wheel, even if it wasn’t the sensational experience the JP1 and FPA were. On my in lap, we caught one of the Porsches who were on track at the same time, and there just happened to be my instructor's roommate in that car... so, of course, the Benny instructed me to drive down the inside, get totally sideways, and wave the bird at Porsche! Then he grabbed the wheel and blocked all the way down the straight! Hilarious stuff, but I didnt make good friends with that Porsche instructor... and guess who I saw in the passenger seat of the Porsche I stepped into? :P
Anyway, as well as having an absolute blast, I set the 2nd fastest time of the day in the Clio (58.74), about 2 seconds off a really good lap from an instructor. I must admit, these things were nothing like anything I've driven in a sim, the superb mechanical grip is badly under rated in current cup car mods...
Porsche 911 JP3
This is a PalmerSport tuned Porsche 911, which gets similar performance to a Porsche 911 Cup car. It has 320bhp, can do 0-60 in 4.5 seconds (actually slower than the Clio), and has a top speed of 177mph. I didn’t get along too well in this car, partly because my instructor wasn’t my biggest fan, but mostly because the confusing and unresponsive paddle shift screwed me up on almost every corner (it automatically upshifted, but there was no jerk when it did this, and I couldn’t see a gear indicator, so I was left wondering what gear I was in every time I hit the brakes). Still, I was amazed to find the basic driving characteristics were extremely similar to what I had learned in GTR2 in the G3 class Porsche Cup, so I got on with it despite the annoying gearbox and set a 58.15, the fastest time of the day! The car required a smooth and delicate touch, which contrasted heavily with the Clio that I had just got out of, but as I said, it felt familiar.
Next we headed off to the 4x4 track and cruised some Land Rovers over some obstacles. It was all rather dull in comparison to the other cars really. But next up was a head-to-head dual in a Caterham around a tight autocross style course…
Caterham 7 Superlight
Probably the most fun machine on the day, we drove the Caterham 7 twice, once on the autocross course, and once on the twisty East circuit. Now, I’ve never driven the RACE versions of the Caterham, but the rFactor Caterham mod got the physics spot on! The way the back breaks loose when you squirt the throttle, the controllable slides, the gear shifting, everything felt totally perfect between the two. I couldn’t imagine racing these things, spinning around a skid pan would be fun enough for me to kill a weekend!!! I loved sliding around in these so much that I think I’ll have to buy myself one when I get older… if I cant afford a JP1 that is! :P
Jaguar XK-R GT3
Comfortably the prettiest and most powerful car I drove, the XK-R packs a 420bhp punch, with a top speed of around 180mph. The longest straight at the South circuit only allowed me to reach a measly 125mph, but it is one seriously fast machine. But, like the Porsche, it had an unresponsive paddle shift gearbox, as well as far too obtrusive traction control, and limp power steering. I struggled to really get any feedback from the car, so ended up throwing it into corners at 90mph with blind faith in the car and my instructor that it would work. And apparently it did! I set the 2nd fastest time of the day in this car, but I couldn’t help feel a bit annoyed that the experience was so sanitised. If only the TC was turned off, the power steering was halved, and a sequential shifter was installed, this car would be amazing. The way I was chucking it around like it weighed half what it actually did weigh was awesome. This was one of the few cars that I felt really didn’t translate so well over to a simulation (the closest thing to it would be the Viper Competition Coupe in GTR2, but I found the Jag would take far more of a beating than the Viper).
At the end of the day, I was fastest in 3 vehicles (karts, Formula Palmer Audi, and Porsche 911), second fastest in two vehicles (Jaguar XKR and Renault Clio Cup), and came 3rd overall (only my 29th best time in the Caterham [I was too busy sliding around having fun!!!] spoiled me winning overall), and my group won the team prize. It was a heck of a day, and I must say that my sim racing experience certainly helped me out a lot more than I was expecting… I’m not so sure it would be necessary to go fast, but I have absolutely no doubt that it was what allowed me to get up to speed so quickly. So keep at it guys! All this practice will help you when you get the opportunity to hit the track!
04 August, 2007
OATAS 6 Hours of Karjala
The sun may be setting on the NR2003 GTP endurance racing era that has spanned the last 4 years for the Mazdaspeed branch of R4R, but the fire is still very much alive at the heart of this tight-knit team, and we arrived at Karjala after the disapointment of Le Mans with very clear intentions. Our streamlined effort - two cars and three drivers - wanted nothing but success, which we feel is long overdue for the team. With Karjala being a twisty circuit well suited to the Mazda, Vader Trophy Racing had entered a 3rd car under their banner using the Mazda chassis, and of course beating them and finishing as the best Mazda had to be the aim for the #04 Mazdaspeed R4R entry. As for the #104 Momo R4R entry, only victory in the lights class would do.
Throughout practice the team drivers - Brendan Kaczmarek, Joe Mudrak and myself - had sturggled to really get a handle on the tortuous Finish circuit, with its demanding switchbacks and extremely long set of right handers, including one oval style banked right hander, and its tyre killing nature. But in the final few days of unofficial practice, a few breakthroughs were made with the setup, and the track started coming to us drivers. Early in testing we were all lapping around the 1:35 to 1:37 bracket, but by race day Joe was in the mid 1:33s, Brendan the high 1:32s, and I was flirting with 1:31s. We had hoped that we would have a chance to be on par with the Saubers, but it was looking like our lack of serious preparation was going to leave us around one second off their ultimate pace (that is, the times of VTR1, VTR4, and OATAS #19). The #04 was looking good for a top 5 though, we were right on the pace of the JPS France team's Saubers, and that of the VTR3 Mazda, so we were prepared for a tough fight from 4th through 7th. The top Lights competitors, including the #104 Momo car, were a second and a half off our pace, but looked to be the next cars in line, so for the #04 it really was all about JPS France and VTR3. In qualifying, things turned out much as expected, with the VTR and OATAS Saubers taking positions 1st through 3rd, JPS France 68 taking 4th, VTR3 5th, myself in Mazdaspeed R4R 6th, while the JPS France 69 car underperformed in qualifying, scoring 8th.
For Momo R4R, the two front runners in the lights championship were looking strong as always, with RC Motorsports 1 scoring pole position in lights and 7th overall, Momo R4R 2nd in lights, and OATAS #219 3rd, with a couple of GTP Saubers thrown in the mix.
The race started as we always hope and endurance race will, all the cars setting off from the rolling start cleanly and letting the race get underway before battle comenced. RC Motorsports struck early problems though, with RCM2 being wiped out by an errant Team Ringrace Mazda. Throughout the first stint the #04 with myself at the wheel was running extremely well, keeping the VTR3 car well in sight, until VTR3 struck trouble in traffic, eventually retiring before the first pit stop. The JPS France 68 car too was wiped out in traffic, and the #69 car was also held up with a few traffic related incidents, which left me in an easy 4th after the first hour. Joe in the #104 had an equally fruitful time, picking up the lead in Lights from RC Motorsports 1 early on while they too had problems with traffic, and pulled a healthy margin by just keeping it smooth and steady, much like the sister car. By the time the #04 made its first driver change at 90 minutes, the R4R cars were running 4th and 5th, albeit a lap apart.
Brendan Kaczmarek took over the #04 car from 4th overall and on the lead lap for its second stint, and while not being as quick as Scott, he drove a consistent stint and kept the car in its strong 4th place. The car didn't go without a few scares during the next 2 hours though, including Brendan's arm cramping, and as he stretched it down the front straight he accidentally flicked the H-Shifter into reverse gear! Needless to say the ensuing 180mph spin and flight through the air was highly dramatic, but amazingly the car avoided hitting anything particularly hard and survived without noticable damage. Brendan also suffered a spin late in his stint that ended with being T-boned by race leaders VTR1, but again the car was lucky to survive with minimal damage. By the time I took the car back over at about 3 hours and 45 minutes, the car was barely two or three tenths off its ultimate speed, and was still handling perfectly, and still running a strong 4th (albeit a further two laps off the leaders).
Joe Mudrak stayed in the #104 and suprised everyone by making it to the 4 hour mark with absolutley no damage to his car, an incredible acheivement under extremely difficult circumstances. He left Brendan, fresh from his stint in the #04, with a clean car and the lead in the lights class, which (once all the confusion from the driver changes had sorted itself out), became a 30 second advantage over RCM1 going into the final hour, running 6th overall. But then, disaster struck. Brendan's internet died with no warning as he was coming out of the last corner on about lap 200 of 228, and the car disapeared from the server. Joe was on the ball and imediatley jumped in the car, but Brendan's unfortunate positioning at the time of the disconnection, plus the lap lost during a disconnection, and the time it took for Joe to get on the server, all in all lost the car nearly 3 laps. It only lost one position, but it was the important one, and there was no way of getting it back. It was heartbreak for the entire team who had lead for nearly 5 hours, only to have it yanked away in the final hour by a problem completely out of our control. Joe fought back valiently but in the end was only able to gain back about 45 seconds, not nearly enough.
While up at the sharp end VTR sailed to a one-two ahead of OATAS #19, the #04 cruised home to an easy 4th, three laps behind the OATAS car ahead, and three laps ahead of the JPS France 69 car behind. The #104 came home 7th overall but a very disapointing 2nd in Lights. A couple of good results, but an empty feeling in each of our stomachs. The #04 had been prepared for a season defining race against the VTR3 Mazda that never materialised, and the #104 lost a race they had all but won. In a strong 23 car field in second rate cars, most teams would take 4th and 7th in a 6 hour race as tough as this and feel a great sense of acheivement, but not this team, we felt we deserved more.
Still, a whole lot of promise was shown by the three core drivers at Karjala, and we move on to one of the major spiritual homes of GTP endurance racing in a month's time, with the final round of the OATAS season: The 10 Hours of Watkins Glen, a track we are all so familiar with, and a race we have never been more eager to succeed in!
15 July 2007
2nd Annual RACER rF3 International Sweepstakes - Brands Hatch
Broadcast available here
After a long time away from RACER, I felt it was time to make a return when I heard the 2nd Annual rF3 International Sweepstakes were being held, a race I competed in last year and finished 5th. I enjoy these cars and have always been pretty quick, and I have been wanting to have a race on the Brands Hatch 2005 circuit for a while now, so how could I refuse?
The entry was reletively small, but certainly full of talent. The 15 strong field was headlined by the likes of George Sandman, Laurent Vaisman, Theo Gort, and Jonas Steffans amoungst others, all extremely fast drivers who would take some beating, so going into the race my target was a top 5, a podium would be an excellent result.
Pre-qualifying was a nightmare. My car understeered like a boat while on low fuel and I had to make some adjustments to stop crashing. Eventually I got it nearly right and was at least able to beat my race setup PB, but couldnt quite muster up the 0.03 I needed to overhaul Theo Gort for 3rd. At the front it was George Sandman predictably on pole with a 1:16.7, then Jonas Steffans sitting outside the front row with a 1:15.5. Theo and myself both ran 1:15.7s, and Laurent Vaisman rounded out the top 5 with a 1:15.9. A tough qualifying race was ahead.
I arrived on the grid for the 12 lap qualifier and realised I hadn't practiced a start! I had to wing it, but I got away ok (I've always been good at starts) and nearly took 2nd in T1, but didnt want to risk the 3 wide move, so hung back behind George, Meanwhile Theo Gort jumped from 3rd to the lead. I was able to follow Sandmandow the inside at Druids to take 3rd, then watched Jonas spin in my mirrors, giving me a gap back to 4th. I pretty much just hit my marks and played it safe for the remainder of the race, watching Sandman close up and eventually take the lead. Laurent Vaisman and Tom Studans were able to close up on me while i was taking it easy in the early going, but both span and retired in the first half of the race. I put some pressure on Theo Gort in the last few laps, and was able to inherit 2nd on the last lap when Theo bobbled through Surtees. So the grid for the main event would be:
Off the start for the 50 lap main event I got a really good jump and so nearly drove around Sandman through Paddock and Druids, but eventually had to give way. Then he made a mistake in Graham Hill and I was through. Further back, a lone spinner in T3 caused a pile-up which ended up causing the retirement of 5 drivers on the first lap, which was a real shame and reduced the 15 car field to 10 immediatley. Two of the cars knocked out were Jonas Steffans and Tom Studans, who I expected to see near the front before the race was over, so it was a real shame to see them retire so early.
Vaisman had made a great start, climbing from 10th to 3rd on lap one, but spinning his way back to 5th a few laps later. While passing his teammate, he had another spin which sent him straight to the wall, and out of the race. So yet another strong competitior was out.
Back at the front, George was stuck right to my tail, but 3rd on back seemed to have no pace at all, so I assumed I was the only one on a two stopper (quite suprising because I calculated it was at least 10 seconds faster over the race distance than a one stopper). I just drove as fast as I comfortably could for the first 17 laps, and George never made an attempt to pass me. I was doing mid 18s for most of the stint I think. I pitted right when my fuel ran out, which was right at 1/3rd distance, and came out still in 2nd, a bit ahead of Theo Gort, which was extremely pleasing! George kept up the pace and I couldnt quite find a rythmn on the new tyres and kept setting mid 18s, which was frustrating, but at that point I had guessed that I was pretty much locked into 2nd. I kept pushing, George came in and out of the pits right behind me again, and he shadowed me until lap 34 when I pitted again. I rejoined 25 seconds behind him and 25 seconds ahead of Theo, eventually closing down to 21 behind George, and extending to 45 ahead of Theo (yes that was all I could think of to keep myself interested on an empty track!!!). A very fun race and a satisfying result... at least more so than 5th last year. I still cant beleive George's relentless, blistering pace, but I'm happy I finished on the same lap as him this time!
09-10 June, 2007
OATAS 24 Heures du Mans
Ok, the countdown is on, less than a week before the biggest race of the enduro season!
As of now, there are 30 cars entered over the GTP and Lights classes (the lights class is for Mazda and Toyota teams who are not capable of lapping faster than a specified 'breakout time' for each track). R4R has entered two cars, both Mazdas, one in the Lights class and one in the GTP class. The GTP class car (named Mazdaspeed R4R), with Brendan Kaczmarek and myself as drivers, is the only non-Sauber in the GTP field, so we are really up against it! We expect to be as much as 6-7 seconds off the pace, but we are aiming to finish the race without a single incident (excluding spins), and we think if we can make it to the 15 hour mark with no damage, we will be in good shape to make up some places and perhaps get a podium finish!
The Lights class car (named Momo R4R) is made up of Sam Michaels, Joe Mudrak, and Sandeep Banerjee. Unfortunatley, Nick Johnston was scheduled to drive but has had to pull out at the last minute, leaving us with a gap in our schedule. If anyone here at R2P would like to do this event, contact me and I'll see if I can fit you in!.
We expect Momo R4R to be challenging for the win in the Lights class, but it will be a tough fight, as you would expect for a 24 hour race, and a lot of luck will be involved.
For more info on the race and the series, visit OATAS.net
With only 2 more days until the race, the competition is really heating up, with teams dropping in and out of online unofficial practice all day. As expected, VTR and OATAS are looking like the hot favorites, both bosting alien drivers setting amazing 3:21s. A few weeks ago, a 3:23 would have been considered a fast lap, such is the pace of improvement as these two top teams push eachother harder than ever.
Other teams making regular appearances in practice are locals JPS France 68 & 69, who have been in the 3:27s, and CTR, in the 3:28s, as well as VTR3, who are in the 3:26 area. These are likely to be a couple of the teams R4R will be contending with, but with a topspeed almost 20mph above that of the Mazda, its going to be tough to keep the pace without getting held up in the corners, particularly in those opening hours. RC Motorsports and Team Ringrace are slightly off the pace, with most of their drivers back in the 3:34s and above. Even for a Lights team, they have work to do.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Nick Johnston has decided he can do some of the race, and he will be running two of his originally planned three stints, just enough for the #104 car to make it by! The Momo R4R drivers have been setting a pace of around the 3:33 mark, which is a solid pace and should put them in contention for the Lights win, should all go well. Mazdaspeed R4R is going from strength to strength, with drivers Michaels and Kaczmarek pushing eachother as hard as VTR vs OATAS!!! Kaczmarek was the first to break into the 3:28s, but Michaels today matched the fastest Mazda time ever seen at the La Sarthe circuit, with a 3:27.8. They may be 6 seconds off the ultimate GTP pace, but with only two drivers of equal ability and consistency, it only takes the top teams to have a few mishaps, and its all to play for.
Its going to be a heck of a race!
Well, Unfortunatley, after just 3 hours, Mazdaspeed R4R is out. I put in a good first stint that even landed our heavily underpowered Mazda into the lead for 2 laps. I handed over to Brendan, who did 20 good laps, before flipping in the Playstation chicane (a nasty bug with the GTP physics where sometimes the car has too much tyre grip and stupidly just flips over). That barrel rolled the car into the wall and retirement, a massive massive disapointment.
Momo R4R is still running strong, Joe Mudrak put together a great stint, and now Sam Michaels is at the wheel. The car is currently 4th overall and 1st in Lights as we head into the 6th hour. Hopefully they can make it to the end and win the Lights class to save R4R some of the glory I can't help feeling we deserved with the Mazdaspeed car.
I woke up this morning to find that the Momo R4R car had suffered a random engine failure shortly after I left last night, so both cars were out before 6 hours. A real shame, because when I look at the results, I see that if we had had a clean race, we could have both been in the top 5 overall, with a good shot of a 1-2, and Momo R4R would definatley have won the Lights class. A massive shame, but thats racing.
Until next time, I'll leave with some images of the action from this increadible race.
By Scott Michaels
By Esben Tipple:
By Joe Mudrak:
Do you ever find that you go through phases of liking certain things a certain way, then suddenly find them completely uninteresting?
I had a wierd experience in the GTX Estoril race today. I was going along just fine in my Lambo, climbing my way through the field, having some nice battles along the way. But I couldnt really get my head into it, I never got that rush of adrenaline you get when you are totally immersed in the game and just have to gain every tenth you possibly can... I just felt like some guy sitting in a desk chair logging laps on a computer game... ya know, been there, done that syndrome... and it was increadibly boring.
I remember back before R2P I was always a member of TM.net (precursor to R2P incase anyone didnt know), but I never really raced here that much becuase I was too busy practicing for my Super Endurance leagues (WOSEC & SSCA). I liked the comunity here a lot, and I enjoyed the racing, but I was never in love with the one dimesional races on offer here (get in car, race for an hour, everything sorts itself out at half way, drive carefully home). When R2P started I suddenly got the massive inspiration to do this type of racing again, because the comunity at this place was just so great I couldn't ignore it. And it was all really excellent, great races, etc etc. But all of a sudden, over the last week or so, I've just grown tired of it... maybe it's just a phase... or maybe the last few months where just a phase...
Whatever, all I know is that I just wasted about 3 hours of my life on Estoril which I gave up on, and the same on Oscherlaben GT-O yesterday...
Can anyone relate?
16 December 2006
SST Lightning 750 - Fasturd Enduro
After the dissapointment of Le Mans, I really needed a good result to cheer me up, so I immediatley set my sights on the SSCA special event coming up in mid December: The SST Lightning 750. This race was to be held on the fast flowing fantasy track of Fasturd Enduro Night, which proved to be a very unique and challenging circuit, as well as one of the most enjoyable that I have ever driven.
As I mentioned, its nature is very fast, which immediatley put my Mazda out of contention for the win, especially with the 34 car strong entry, including the uber alien team of Richard Dickson and Jan Larson in the VTR1 Sauber. Not only this, but I was the only Mazda signed up for the race! So I would have to fight tooth and nail for every position above 34th... perfect!
But the prospect wasn't so bad... did I mention this track is amazing?!? It was so much fun to drive that I was able to keep motivation through the 3 week run up to the event, and keep logging laps over and over again until I got somewhere near the pace. After probably a hundred or more laps of practice, I was down to the 1:47.3 range, while VTR1 was bueried well into the 1:44s. But not to worry, I was expecting a top 20 qualifying run, and maybe a shot at scraping into the top 10 by lap 96...
Qualifying went... pretty crap really! I got a half decent first lap in, but wrecked on the second lap so slowly slipped back to 23rd. But a server hiccup meant that qualifying had to be rerun, and I was pretty happy to get a second shot. A chance to redeem myself after that embarrasing first run...
But second qualifying went even worse!
I wrecked on the out lap, leaving me with a damaged car for my quick laps, and ended up with a 1:50. Oh well, 29th starting spot it is...
As the green flag dropped, I put my game face on and left that horrible qualifying run behind. I immediately worked my way through the field and was in 17th after 4 laps, and after 10 laps I was all the way up to 13th. So far so good.
Some of the driving was pretty erratic out there, with lots of incidents near the back, but I picked my way through and started setting 47s as soon as I was out of the bulk of the pack, and into clean air.
One close moment was when I finally worked my way into the top 10 at about lap 25. Esben Tipple in the VTR4 car was ahead of me in 9th, and we where lapping an RC Motorsports car which refused to accept that even though it was faster than me and Esben on the straights, it was infact slower than us overall, and needed to give way. When we finally got passed him, he decided to pass me on the next straight and challenge Esben into one of the toughest braking areas on the track. Predictably, he wiped Esben out. Real mature.
Anyway, most of the middle portion of my race was spent trying to find a draft... I would gain about a second a lap if I had someones slipstream, due to my 25mph deficite on the straights (bloody mazda...). At one point I latched onto the Racing Kids Sauber, but lost them in traffic. The best draft I got lasted a good 6 or 7 laps, when I came out of the pits and Esben, still in VTR4, was right infront of me! We ran together really nicely, and I've never been more glad that Esben is such a clean and consistent driver. Thanks buddy!
By lap 80 I was running 5th, but with my final pitstop and sole mandatory disconnect looming ahead. I made the mandatory disco on the pitstop, but, as is the nature with single person discos, I lost crap loads of time (about 45 seconds I think) due to having to restart the game myself. I came out of the pits in 9th, about 30 seconds behind Rich Dickson who had taken over the VTR4 car (he also started the race winning VTR1 car). I put my head down and ripped off 16 consecutive qualifying-style laps (some in the 46s, when I got a good draft). With about 5 laps to go, I figured out that I would have to catch Rich at just over 2 seconds a lap to pass him. At this point I was lapping 2.5 seconds faster (I later found out that he was dangerously close on fuel and had to conserve), so I was really excited about taking over 8th spot. But when I took a quick glance in my mirrors, who did I see flying passed me? None other than the VTR1 car, the race leader. This meant that I had one lap less to catch Rich, and it would prove to be too much. I came across the line at the end of the final lap just 2 seconds behind. What a shame to try so hard and for so long to and to finish so close behind another car! Oh well, I consider 9th place (which became 8th, as the BeykeJohnston Sauber was later disqualified from 2nd place due to illigally gaining a lap during their mandatory disconnection) to be a pretty good result in the Mazda, from 29th on the grid. So I'm pleased with the race, if not extatic.
I later found out that VTR1 had done the same thing as the BeykeJohnston team (completely by accident though, so they werent punished), meaning the race should have been one lap longer, and I should have been able to beat VTR4 for 7th place! DOH! Oh well, Ce la vie!
PS: The full broadcast of this race (including commentary) can be seen at the address below. I recommend watching it if you love your endurance racing, the coverage is excellent and the comentary is top notch, you will enjoy every second!
25 November 2006
WOSEC Le Mans 24 Hours
It seems there's no rest for the insane! After our glorious result at the Bullrun 1000, the R4R team had to skip the champagne celebrations (neither me or Sam drink anyway!), and turn our minds immediatley to Le Mans. While we sent our equipment over to north Italy for the Monza pre season Race2Play V8 Supercar event that was scheduled for a months time, the drivers caught the next flight to France, to meet up with our third driver Brendan Kaczmarek and begin another week of hard practice.
As expected, the Mazda 787b was miles off the pace. Brendan had barely managed to get within 7 seconds of the top of the time sheets (VTR1 where ripping up the competition with 3:26 lap times and 220mph top speeds, while the Mazdaspeed R4R 787b was barely topping 195mph on the straights, and looking at measly 1:33s at best), and it was looking like the event would be nothing better than a long test of perseverance, to see if we could pick up any pieces the Sauber and Jaguar drivers left for us in the final hours, assuming we could even make it that far...
Qualifying went well enough... I was once again scheduled for the first stint and therefore got the job of qualifying. I managed a 3:34.3 on a perhaps overly conservative lap. This was good enough for 16th of 34 (in the top half of the field), which was encouraging, if slightly depressing when compared to last weeks performance.
The race started off as you would expect a 24 hour race to. Most teams played it safe and held position. Chilean Racing (started 15th) decided not to do this, and managed to spin infront of me in the 4th corner (the fast chicane before Tertre Rouge) and I had nowhere to go... luckily no harm was done but it was certainly a scary moment early in the race.
I am very proud of my first stint, it went on for 3 hours and - other than one unscheduled disconnect - went perfectly. The car was perfectly intact and I had kept up some good laptimes. Due to the disco we wheren't in a particularly strong position, but we were moving up, so all was looking good.
Then Brendan took over. He had looked very strong through practice, but perhaps the pressure got to him when he took the wheel for the race. He lost a gear early in his stint, and rolled the car in the Porsche curves, along with a few other incidents. By the time Sam took over the car at about 6 hours in, it was in a bit of a mess! Oh well, we had to keep going and try to make it to the end...
But at 12 and a half hours, now with only 2 gears remaining, it all came to a sudden end. Brendan shifted up coming out of Tertre Rouge and the engine finally gave up. And that was that.
We finished 16th in the end (right where we started!), having completed 192 laps, 195 less than the winners.
Oh well, maybe next year! At least it was a somewhat fitting way to say goodbye to WOSEC.
Congrats to VTR1 on yet another win, rounding off a perfect season.
Now, back to looking for a new engine and gearbox for Fasturd...
16 November 2006
After emigrating the team back in the UK not more than a few weeks before, and having massive problems with getting internet from BT in the depths of Devon, Tripple Eight R4R rolled its box trailer up in the far corner of the Bullrun paddock, carefully extracted the EZ-up awning, and set up for the week under the glorious Colorado sun. Business as usual.
Early practice went well. Due to loosing plenty of testing time with internet troubles, the brand new Ford Falcon was let loose on the track with its factory default settings for the first few runs. Predictably, both me and Sam where woefully off the pace! But with some poorly judged trial-and-error, and plenty of hard work, the car became not only drivable, but lightning fast. By the end of the week, we where buried in the 1:40s, and after judging the competition which had been thundering around the track for a few days, we felt we had a great shot at a top 10 in the big race.
When qualifying finally came, we felt we where totally ready, and this was reflected in our performance as we qualified a magnificent 3rd on the grid, far exceeding our wildest expectations. Blair Disley and The Pits Performance Team managed to grab the pole with a magical lap of 1:39.1, with the Speedtek's David Greco filling out the front row, with a 1:39.5, ahead of my 1:39.6.
And then it was time for the 37 V8 engines to roar into life, and the field for the first ever rFactor Bullrun 1000 rolled off the grid to a giant roar from the capacity crowd. Heartbeats rose as we came off all or nothing corner and where presented with only the vacant front straight ahead, and finally, the chance to put my right foot down in anger!
I got a terrific start, timing Blair's attack perfectly and locking on to his rear bumper, following him straight passed David Greco and into second place. We drove nose to tail for the first 6 laps, gentley easing away from Greco, and bedding ourselves in for the long haul ahead.
Then, coming out of All or Nothing - the flat our 30 degree banked 160mph last corner before the start-finish straight - Blair got caught in traffic and I was able to make a move for the lead!
After that, the adrenaline really started pumping, and I got my head down and pulled away, forcing Blair to raise his game. This proved too much, as he hit the wall coming out of the fast chicane near the end of the lap and damaged his car. This gave me a golden opportunity to pull away, one I took and exploited as much as possible.
From then on until the end of my stint, all I had to do was keep focused. I managed that until lap 82, two laps before the end of my stint, when, with a 1 minute lead, I hit the wall hard in the esses. This wrecked the suspension, and I was sure my day was over. I limped back to the pits, and the team performed an utter miracle, completely fixing the car back to it's former state. Sam jumped in the car and was able to get right back on the pace. I put the noose away and went downstairs for a cold drink!!!
Sam drove brilliantly. He knew at this point that we had the win in the bag if only we could make it to the finish, and he completed a faultless 40 lap stint. He lost only 20 seconds to the chasing FSR Simgear car of Frosty St. Clair and David Sioris, handing the car back to me in considerably better shape than I had handed it to him!
I then drove cleanly and precisley to the finish, crossing the line on lap 170 with an ENORMOUS sigh of releif!
Finally, R4R can be called CHAMPIONS!