A Grand Day Out At Road America

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

Kabort returned from the Christmas break in high spirits, some new drivers, a new year (and decade) and most importantly new opportunities. After deciding that 5 drivers was too many for an endurance race, the "LITCANUS" Ferrari Team ((Lithuania, Canada United States - the nationalities of the Drivers) split into two individual teams after a lengthy discussion. These teams would be the Canadian rookie from the rockies Robert Land and the one Lithuanian in the team Justinas Ribelis.

The other car would consist of the other Canadian, Carter Hutcherson, alongside the seasoned American Cheng Zhong. Other than Cheng Zhong, none had ever done and endurance race before, so supporting and helping each other throughout was a must. The Porsche of John, Aitor and Marcelo were going to race, however due to John being in serious pain after a serious incident with a forklift truck, and the race happening at Midnight for Marcelo (who had work the following day), this car had to pull out. With other instances - including the Spa 24 Hours last year of 3 cars becoming two, as well as in the Barcelona 6 hours....this has almost become a running joke in Kabort - "The Three Car Curse" - When Will Kabort Next Grid Three Cars? Let Alone Three GTE Cars? The Race

R&R (Robert Land And Justinas Rebelis)

Despite not managing to get a clean lap in, all hope was not lost...there was still a 6 hour race ahead of the duo...and they weren't about to let a bad qualifying ruin their race. From the 49th place on the grid, Robert Land had no idea what lay ahead...but he was ready, waiting, and pumped for a battle. The lights went to green and Robert went super-sonic - launching up to 37th in the first 7 laps - that's more than one position per lap! Despite the field spreading out over the following laps, Robert was still on a massive charge - leaping up positions every three laps or so... It was then the turn of Justinas, the Lithuanian - could he keep up with Rob's incredible pace? Or would the pressure get to him? From the 7 places lost during the pit stop (damage repair) Justinas amazingly gained back 5 of these, and was at a consistent pace too....But then disaster struck.... Justinas got dive-bombed by a Porsche...small contact followed, but one of our rear wheels got damaged, and the rear suspension wobbled - making the car almost un-driveable......after limping it back to the pits, it'd be 11 minutes of repairs.....but the engine was left on, over-heated and thus exploded - adding an hour to the repairs. We wheeled the car back into the garage and got on with the replacement.

The Kabort car emerged from the garage many, laps later - but this didn't deter the drivers a single bit - this only spurred them on. The others may be laps and laps ahead, but mistakes and retirements were being made. Just by driving, we picked up 7 places through retirements, and then caught up with last place - passing him in the process. More retired and we went higher and higher in the standings. A P31 finish for a team that spent an hour in the pits was an incredible feat - especially considering how low we had originally been. The highest place Rob ever achieved during that race was a P26 - and considering we finished P31, had the engine not blown (or had it been turned off ;) ) we would have definitely had finished in the 20's C&C - Cheng And Carter

Much likr how the other team started in a bad position and flourished, Cheng and Carter's race started well and then went downhill. Cheng (having experience) started in 14th Place, a very good qualifying session left them with high hopes, but Cheng was nervous on the opening lap and made a detrimental mistake....

Coming into turn three, a downhill braking corner, Cheng brakes a little bit too late, only just tags a fellow Ferrari, before swerving left in avoidance, becoming a passenger whilst sliding on the grass into the field of cars that were turning. Two Porsche's were taken out, one almost flipping onto his roof. It would be a long day for these drivers. And obviously, in the typical "heat of the moment" fashion - they'd send some nasty messages to Cheng.

After falling to 25th over the following laps - due to tires falling off the cliff, the team needed a mircale. And that's what they got.

On Lap 11, Cheng got into his groove and stayed in the 20's....Until disaster struck. A long pit-stop which lost the team 13 positions occurred - weather this was due to repairs or an other cause is unknown.

This then inspired an absolutely incredible comeback. From 37th they crawled their way up - slowly, position by position, lap by lap. There was no one driver better than the other - they did what Kabort set out to do - work as a team to bring home results, at one point taking a sneak peek in the Top 20, but in the end preserved the car, and let the position go.

They finished this gruelling recovery race in 21st - a grand day out I say! And much, much better than retiring the car.

Am I mad or annoyed or disappointed in Cheng's mistake? No. Not One Bit. That's racing and these things happen. Let's just remember that this is Cheng's second race - and Rob, Carter and Justinas' first. To have two cars finishing in the 20's after both suffered massive adversity - I think we've got a very good formulae here...this is just the start. What happened during the race was amazing, it was really awesome to see the team finishing so high up...but it's what happened after - that really bought a tear to my eye...

In Seasons 3 & 4, after a race - there would be a little bit of discussion about the race - but then the server would go a little bit quiet for a while...but following this race...something incredibly happened...

After a race review from Rob, he said that his team mate, Justinas, drove awesome and that he "had a blast doing the race" and "look(s) forward to Le Mans!" Carter then replied by congratulating both drivers - which I haven't seen too often so a single, solitary tear left my eye, as I read the race report from Carter, which bought more tears of happiness - as he explained that he learnt. He said that Cheng was very helpful for teaching him how all the endurance racing things worked, and said that Jack drove "phenomenally" - more tears as more complements, a few things that Carter said will be improved on are: - Taking More caution on the first lap - Having Good Night's sleep on the night before - Paying closer attention where iRacing recalulates fuel (not full tank filled) and then the last line got me

"It sounds like we've got a great group here, and I look forward to getting to know the rest of you gentlemen. Awesome job everyone"

Rob and Cheng then kept the tears flowing by saying

" I had such a fun race with Carter it was mostly my fault for the first lap incident, woke up from four hours of sleep lol, we learnt a lot and I think we are a really good match for teammates" - Cheng Zhong

and Rob's

" Our race was one of the most fun I have ever done. I'm very glad I found the team, and took my first step into endurance racing."

To have someone - especially a driver - let alone more than one, compliment you on something you've created from pretty much scratch, spent so much time on and that you love so much...that truly did touch my heart - and gave me quite a lot of hope that Kabort does indeed have a bright future...

I'm just so pumped for Le Mans and Daytona - because with these bunch of guys, racing all weekend - bonds are only going to get closer - and even if we have a 1 hour repair in the first stint - it's a 24 hour race, and anything is possible...especially at Daytona.

Endurance Le Mans Series, Road America, Week 2, Season 1, 2020

ET: KBM C&C: 49 | KBM R&R: 49


Q: KBM C&C: 20th - Cheng Zhong | KBM R&R: DNQ

R: KBM C&C: 21st | KBM R&R: 29th In Class, 31st Total

F: C&C: 36 | R&R: 31 Total (Including End-Race DNF)

S: 49

SOF: R&R: 2345 | C&C: 1769 Eleven9 Motorsport (Same Split as R&R)

Q: 26th (30th Total) -

R: 7th (9th In Total) This was an incredibly successful day for Eleven9 Motorsport, not only managing a Top 10 Finish, but also managing to get two drivers within the top three of the division 3 Endurance Le Mans Championship. With the two drop weeks now completed (Top 2 race results are dropped), every race from here on out counts! A mention must also go to Neo By Awesome Motorsport Group (in same split as Cheng And Carter) - run by the one and only Florian Hundertmark, one of Kabort's old drivers. Unfortunately, this race wasn't to be for them, and they would finish 11 places down on their start position, but alas, a great, fun race from them all the same.