April 4th, 2021. My first VRS Endurance podium, second of the season - and the podium which made the S1, 2021 season the most successful of my career.
Still to this day I remember this incredible race - let's go back and remember how it all happened...
After qualifying 17th, we knew that the odds were not exactly in our favour. In addition to this, a glitch had happened where even though we tried to fill the car up to the brim (on fuel) it only took about half of it's full capacity.
From the beginning, the strategy was to go as long as possible before the fuel ran out.
This worked an absolute treat as everyone was at their heaviest, we had a half of - if not a quarter of the (fuel) weight they did.
This was helped by Lorenzo being an absolute man on a mission. After qualifying 17th, he started the second lap in 10th.
Over the course of the next two laps, he claimed 8th and 7th too - putting him in a comfortable 7th position - but he was still not done!
After the smoke, debris and cars had cleared on Lap 1 - we were chasing down Engels (CCTS ESPORTS Silver) - as we chased, the gap remained consistent, we had the same sort of pace, and had to do more to pass him.
Lorenzo did manage to momentarily pass him (in the early laps), but the slipstream was just too powerful and he nipped back past.
Whilst Engels remained ahead, Lorenzo did gain further positions from those drivers around us - eventually getting into 6th, before a backmarker helped us into 5th, which put us onto the tail of Engels again - another legendary battle commencing.
On the lap the battle turned into a three-way for 4th (Engels VS Malave VS Recarey) (someone spun out ahead of Engels and caused mayhem), we pitted - whilst many managed about 30 laps on a tank, we only managed 15.
Lorenzo emerged from the pits in 18th and knew just what to do: Pass who he could and wait for the rest to pit.
Despite a spin, Lorenzo would only lose a single position and get straight back out there!
On lap 24, we dropped into 15th - maybe someone had used a little too much fuel off the line? All we knew was the next few laps were critical.
After what seemed like an age, eventually we dropped from P14 (another early stopper) To P12 - the pit-stop window was open!
Although he had a half-spin, no positions were lost.
It was at this point that we thought a Top 10, or P10 was a possibility.
but as we crossed the line to start Lap 33 - we noticed something astonishing...we were in 5th. Nothing could prepare us for what was to come next though...we dropped into 3rd. With under an hour to go, the game was on.
Lap 30: 14th
Lap 31: 12th
Lap 32: 8th Lap 33: 5th
Lap 34: 3rd
We too had to take into consideration our fuel situation too - with about an hour left to go, I was due to get in the car momentarily.
On Lap 34, Lorenzo began catching P2 - the Mercedes only becoming larger as the laps went by (Picture of Merc & Lambo together)
On Lap 41, the unimaginable happened - the back-marker Audi that had been behind P2 since lap 33 (7 laps) out-braked himself (ever so slightly) at turn one and slid into the back of P2, spinning him around and gifting us 2nd position on a Golden Platter.
At the end of Lap 43, Lorenzo pitted to start the second of his double-stint (as his first stint had been halved)
He emerged in 11th place - not as bad as last time (17th).
As no-one had yet pitted, a Top 10 was certain (if I didn't crash/spin/mess anything up) - I just had to keep it clean and consistent and see how far up the grid I got.
After 4 laps in 11th, 10th eventually came.
Not long after, P9 pitted on Lap 48.
As with last time, the lower positions came here and there, and once you're in in the middle of the Top 10, they all come at once (during the pit-stop period). This is proven by us getting 8th on Lap 52, and then 7th on Lap 61.
Starting lap 62 in 6th, we re-entered the Top 5 on lap 63, the Top 3 the next lap.
What we weren't expecting was to be (once again) in the Top 2 - on Lap 66 gaining another (unexpected) position.
Even more unexpectedly was the fact that Lorenzo began lap 68 IN THE LEAD!!! I don't know where the other two went, but it was absolutely incredible.
Lorenzo led for 7 laps until he needed to pit for fuel, and switch with me. (Pic of Laps Led
Being in the lead also meant another thing - when emerging from the pits - it would be highly likely that I'd possibly be in the Top 10 - or lower than 17th.
I was. VERY MUCH was. Emerging out of the pits, P4 missed his braking point and over-corrected into a back-marker, sending both into a half-spin.
With my slip-stream, P4 managed to close the gap, and with meters to go before the line, re-take 3rd position. I'm still astonished at how we only lost 3 - 4 positions in that pit-stop and weird strategy.
iRacing works out positions by the order the cars cross the start/finish line in - and up until I exited the final chicane, I was in 1st, meaning the leader was only further up the banking from me - less than a 25-second gap ahead.
This was going to be a tight last hour.
After being passed on my out-lap, (L74), I held 4th for the next 10 laps, until the CCTS E-Sports car (we battled earlier), put a wheel wide on exit and spun into a competitor - with him immobilised, I gleefully took the bottom podium position and ensured that the car came home.
The CCTS car did return (to haunt me) on Lap 87, pulling along-side down the banking (and momentarily taking 3rd) before I was later (better) on the brakes into turn 1. Later the same lap (Lap 88) he did eventually pass me and keep the position.
But this wasn't the end. Just 4 laps from the end, the CCTS car pitted (fuel? Tyres?) gifting us the podium in the dying minutes.
Whilst we completed 99 Laps, they only completed 95 - not emerging from the pits thereafter - a potential podium being snatched away from them, and instead a devastating P13 finish.