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It's a cold, crisp morning in mid-January - It's time for the 2022 ROAR Before The 24!

Usually a session would go live half an hour before the race session - but given the mass popularity of special events, iRacing puts the session live 1 hour before the race-start.

After a last little bit of practice, the session opened and Open Practice for the ROAR Before the 24 began.

As per always, I wasn't troubling the top 10 - even in the Official Practice session before qualifying (30 minutes) I was down in 19th.

And then qualifying came.

On my first flying lap, I did a 1:55.613, which immediately put me on the first row in 2nd position. After the first lap, the top 5 looked as follows:

1st - Kyle S. Merkle - 01:54.992

2nd - Robin Truswell - 01:55.613

3rd - Michael Bridges - 01:55.799

4th - Henry Miller - 01:55.869

5th - Christopher Courtney 01:55.806

Kyle would retain his pole position, however I'd be shuffled down to 5th place.

Michael Bridges would then steal pole from Kyle with a 1:54.951 Kyle's fastest remained a 1:54.992

From 5th place, Christopher Courtney powered in a 1:55:099

Rob Hamp would appear out of nowhere with a 1:55.139

And I'd still get a VERY decent P5 in qualifying.

In fact, the P5 sits in my Top 10 best (Official) Qualifying results, and as I've only done

So far the list looks like 1st - Pole - F3 @ Monza

1st - Pole - F3 @ Interlagos

2nd - 2nd - Skippies @ Spa

3rd - 3rd - GT3 Chall' @ Red Bull Ring (Finished 3rd)

3rd - 3rd - Skippies Circuit Gilles Villnerve

4th - 4th - Ferrari GT3 Challenge @ Bathurst

5th - 5th - ROAR Before The 24 2022

(Currently I've started 5th 6 times in my career!)

(Left out endurance races because I didn't qualify)

Anyway, onto the race!

Off the line, I was on the 3rd row, on the inside, which is the ideal place to be - as you get a bit of tow on the two guys ahead, and you have no-one on your inside that you have to worry about getting shafted by.

With the to of the two BMW's ahead, I quite easily slot into 4th place, before getting third as the McLaren on the outside has to wait for a gap in the traffic before slotting in behind me.

Truswell hopped into the Top 3 pretty quickly

Devastatingly, the Pole-man then briefly forgets that his tyres are cold and runs deep before spinning out - this puts me into P2.

All the while, the McLaren in 3rd is sucking up all my slipstream - and before long, after the chicane, powers past me to take back 2nd place. (where he qualified).

4th place joins in on this battle - and so, a legendary 3-way battle commences.

On lap 8, I'd run a little deep into turn one - the previous time I did this (on lap 6) I lost 2nd place and couldn't regain it. Lap 8 saw exactly the same happen with 3rd.

Only two laps later, on Lap 11 - I make another mistake, running deep at yet another corner in the infield section - P5 passes me and I stay here for the next 12 Laps, lapping my first car on Lap 17.

On Lap 21, the leader would pit - with over an hour still to go in the race, it was likely he'd have to splash and dash to the end. (The time being 1:30pm - the race starting at 12:48 and ending at 3:12pm)

Whilst the leader pitted, I kept on going and kept it clean - my only incident point up to the my pit-stop being an off-track on Lap 2.

Emerging from the pits - I kept doing as I did - keeping it clean, consistent and the gap to P5 consistent. P2 boxed on the same lap as I did.

With the pit-stop cycle complete, I emerged in 5th place - The top 5 were:

1st - Christopher Courtney (Boxed Lap 22)

2nd - Kyle Merkle (1/3 I was fighting very early on) - Boxed on same lap as me

3rd - Rob Hamp (2/3 I was fighting very early on)

4th - Pole man, making recovery after spin.

5th - Myself

After my pitstop on Lap 32, I continued for a further 7 laps without incident or drama...that was until I ran wide at the chicane...

At the time, I thought that all I gained from it was an off-track...but listening closely, I could hear a scraping noise - Tom being on voice-chat, I didn't know if this was his microphone quality or something happening in the back-ground or another interference...It was indeed an "other" interference.

Usually I'd manage to get into Gear 6 by the time the banking slowly begins to straighten out - but on Lap 40, just after my off-track excursion - I was only shifting up pretty much as the circuit levelled on onto the straight - on top of this, the two McLaren's behind me - a lapped car and P6 made very easy work of passing me.

Lap 43 and P7 and P8 also came past me - I knew something was seriously up - all Tom could guess was a broken splitter.

I dragged the cone around for 5 laps...

As I pulled into the pits on lap 44, 9th place too overtook me - it was going to be a long stint - and with just 56 minutes remaining, I pulled into the pits in the hope that the splitter (or in this case, cone) could be removed and I could gain my straight-line speed back.

Unknowingly, what I had done, was remove the need for a last-minute splash and dash.

In my first stint, I completed 32 laps before needing fuel - had I done a full stint (and not pitted) I would have been boxing on lap 65 - (33+32) - given that the leader finished the race in 73 laps, this would have been very near the end and quite some pondering about fuel would have had to be done - this way, I grabbed fuel and tyres and was going to make it to the end without any saving of fuel or tyres needed - the rest of the pack had to stop, I'd already completed mine.

I rounded the turn one pit-exit (without a cone stuck to me) and was immediately thrown into a massive battle - around my outside, then-P19 (Car #18) gained two places - the first off an unknown driver, (as he crossed the line) the second off me. (as he exited turn one) He was P17, I was P18 - but that was all about to change.

Those involved in said battle (at the time), were myself and two very competitive BMW's (and later a backmarker McLaren who ended up being very useful)

Leaving the pit-lane, #18 overtook me - behind him was P3 who was a lap ahead.

Coincidentally, P3 was only able to make a move down the inside at turn one (on the following lap) - after he slithered down the inside at turn one, I stuck with him, and when #18 (car on the right) went deep to let him past, I seized my opportunity and gained a position.

In the background is (now) P19 (Car #1) - having the slipstream of #18 and myself - some well-earnt battling was due.

Passing #18 using the advantage I had gained from P3.

Now with some clear air in front of me, I could put my foot down a bit - behind me #18 leading #1 - but #1 was gaining!

At the end of Lap 48, P3 pit, destroying his 1-Lap advantage over me.

Starting Lap 49, #1 overtook the #18, the #18 spinning not two corners later and being overtaken by four cars - the McLaren (we'll soon meet), another fiesty BMW (#22), P19 (Car #8 - doesn't get involved in Battle) and a lapped Cayman.

After everything and all the fighting, Car #8 lost 3 positions - firstly off me, then off Car #1 (Lap 49) and then the Cayman who got a free position from #1's spin.

At the start of Lap 51, #1 started to "bother" me (by trying moves).

With him (#1) and I in a wheel-to-wheel battle, the cars behind (namely the McLaren and the #22 BMW) both got the chance to catch up and eventually get involved in said Battle.

On Lap 53, car #1 misjudged his braking point, slammed on the anchors and trundled around the Apex - Car #22, having taken a normal line quickly overtook and was the next to try and overtake me.

With #1 getting slightly on the grass down the straight, the lapped McLaren too passed the #1.

Starting Lap 54 - the standings were:

13th - Robin Truswell (#17 McLaren)

14th - Colin Gorton (#22 BMW)

(30th - Andrew Reeve (#34 McLaren) - Lapped, Lap 51)

15th - Sam Thompson (#1 BMW)

16th - Tony Kivett (#8 BMW)

On Lap 55, I had a lapped BMW in front of me - which meant the McLaren and BMW who were a few seconds down the road had caught right up onto the tail of me and the BMW I was battling previously

A lapped BMW leads myself, the #22, the lapped #34 and the #1 around turn one...busy place to be!

The lapped BMW quickly gets out of the way at the following corner and releases the train of cars.

The #22 eventually gets around the outside of me at a corner which doesn't end well 90% of the time.

As I'm on the left, I take a bit of a wider entry to cut back in (to get a better run through the corner - almost like a cut-back) but I'm faced with a I turn in, the McLaren (sorry, the LAPPED McLaren has passed me - I try to get him back on the next straight...but he's fighting it - he's fighting his track position...interesting.

With me fighting the McLaren ahead, the #1 who's been sitting back and watching suddenly finds himself with an oppertunity - I've braked early to not crash into the McLaren at the chicane, and he's later on the brakes, so swoops around my outside to take 12th place - this lap, I've gone from 11th to the back of the battle in 13th. Ouch.

Despite this, I do get the slipstream on the Beemer ahead and manage to pass him heading into turn one - I even managed to give the backmarker a little nudge!

He eventually sees we are in the same car and proceeds to go up the inside of the BMW, only just managing to get it stopped and hold him wide... I try to get a better run on the BMW on the exit, but to no avail. This doesn't matter however as at the very next corner, he blocks the Beemer (#22) again and this time the Beemer goes off, and McLaren continues on his terrorising way....

TL: The McLaren dives down the inside of the #22

TM: After braking too late, he parks it in the centre of the track TR: The McLaren gets under the nose of the Beemer again

BL: for a tight corner that isn't a wise move

BM: #22 goes from 11th to 14th in one foul move.

With all this fighting, the 14th-placed car (#14) who was previously minding his business, was now on the back of this multi-car battle.

Much to the relief to our train, the McLaren pitted at the end of that lap (Lap 57) - this was also the lap that I re-entered the Top 10 after my race-long recovery mission. The following lap (starting Lap 59), #22 attempted to get down the inside of #14 (to make up ground after his backmarker experience) but scared #14 into going wide at turn one, and - in one way or another gained the position

Lap 57 and it was me VS #1

With another BMW emerging from the pits behind me - I now had 6 BMW's all in a row - not on the same lap, but still the No McLaren Party was growing!

With the slipstream of myself and the #1, the #22 car who started Lap 57 in 11th was now back in the game in 10th. His next target was me in 9th.

The #22 BMW Was Relentless after his small off....

The #22's first attempt at passing me came on Lap 60 - around the outside at turn one was a brave and ballsy move, but since I had the inside, I had the option to brake much later and got 9th back.

He was second-time-lucky as he passed me where he went off previously.

Unfortunately for him, this was only temporary as I was able to suck up all his slipstream and pass him in the braking zone of the back-straight chicane.

He then did the exact same thing to me around the final corners.

This move WOULD have worked...if there wasn't a Cayman sat stranded in the middle of the circuit just after turn one...

The Cayman escaped unscathed from this situation...

With the Cayman inching forward, and the BMW giving the Cayman a lot of room - a perfect, McLaren-sized hole appeared just in front of me.

If this isn't opportunistic, I don't know what is!

Later that same lap (Lap 62), the #1 Car, the car that started this whole MASSIVE fight came into the pits, which left just me and #22 to fight it out - with quite a considerable gap behind us.

Starting the next lap (Lap 63) the #22 car went for the outside again, but once again, his plan failed and he went shooting off wide. I overtook him on the inside at the very next corner.

He took kindly to this and did the same back to me - but once again, as proven before, I had the slipstream...

Whilst slipstream alone wasn't enough to pass/catch him, he went deep into the second part of the chicane and lost all speed and momentum - I made quick work of passing, and he pitted the very same lap, giving me a 6-second gap to the driver behind - since leaving the pits, I would have been lucky to have a ONE second gap to the car behind...

That lap, I didn't just have a weight off my shoulders - I was rewarded for my hard work with a 5th place!

Approaching the line, we were in for the shock of our lives - To mine and Tom's total surprise, the 5 dropped to a 4 - WE WERE 4TH! FROM 17TH! WITHLESS THAN 20 MINUTES TO GO!

There was a little confusion if one of the top 3 had pitted or not - but whilst Tom figured that out, I had a very important job on my hands: To Finish.

With 12 minutes to go, P3 was about 15-16 seconds ahead, and P5 was about 6 seconds behind, so whilst I wasn't going to catch P3, I had a safe and healthy margin behind me.

The last 12 minutes turned into hours, lap after lap, the race wouldn't finish and P3 only extended his gap. I was BEYOND chuffed with P4 and after Cone-gate, I didn't expect to be sat back in forth as the checkered flag fell.

But in races like these - there is always the curiosity of "if xyz didn't happen (in this example, had I not run over a cone) what would have happened - or even earlier still - had I not run wide on those few occasions, would I have still kept up with them?" - did my alternative strategy help me to get so high up? But that's racing - everyone makes mistakes and that's how you overtake and race people - if my competitors aren't making mistakes - then I am!

But it's always interesting to wonder if I could have got a podium or finished closer to the leaders had things played out differently - but I'll take 4th any day of the week!

At the same time, it's sad - I was in a bit of an iRacing trough, and results like these, the podium at Red Bull Ring, the P5 at Philly all do so much to my iRating and have massively helped me get out of the trough - but events like these, the better I get and the higher iRating I become will become all the more rare as my competitors improve and I'm put in higher and more competitive splits - but as I said before - this is racing and anything can happen - and I think if I am up against a more competitive split that podium will feel all the more special.

To summarise: It's not likely I'll have another ROAR Before The 24 Like this again because I was in a trough - lower than it should have been, and I think iRacing might have put me in an easier split not because of my skill level, but because of my iRating - but I'll 100% take this race and boast it to the world - because races like these are rare - and will only become more rare! ~

Out of it, I got a WHOPPING +73 iRating, putting me at a pretty darn decent 1060 IR - returning to the 1K Club after a little trough.

A huge thanks must go out to Thomas Wallace for spotting for me and guiding me through that 2 hours and 25 minutes of utter carnage - I couldn't have done it with out you and I appreciate it!


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