LAST TIME OUT
January 23rd, 2022 - 11:40am
It's the Daytona 24 Hours.
I've just pulled into the pits after a pretty decent double stint, as I pull into the box, I realise that nobody's on the voice-call..I check my internet - and that too is fine.
I eventually type in the Discord chat - asking (rather politely, given the situation) where everyone was, and if anyone was going to be getting in the car.
Unbeknownst to me, this would be my last lap in 67 days (over two months).
Tell me that as I started that very last lap (before the pits) and I would have never wanted to leave!
March 19th, 2022
After going to Essex (personal reason), my friend told me that she'd like me to come down on the 1st April to help her with something incredibly important.
The 6th April marked the start of my Easter Holidays, so I planned (on the 19th) to bring my computer and monitor down when I came down to help her.
March 30th, 2022
My TV/Radio newsday finished A LOT earlier than I expected (me usually finishing at 5pm, on this day finishing at at about 1:30pm) - so I informed them that I'd be down that very evening.
April 1st, 2022
April 1st, or more commonly referred to as April Fools Day was the first time I could properly sit down and boot up my rig.
When in Essex, I am usually situated in one of two places. When I arrived in Essex, I put the monitor and computer in "The Second Location" - whilst the rig had been "in storage" at the first (my parents live on the Isle Of Wight, and having it in Essex was much more convenient for me to jump on).
We later re-united the rig, monitor and computer and plugged the many sockets in - at 2:43pm (that afternoon), I bought two cars.
"Why?" I hear you ask.
Ever since the 15th March when the new season kicked off, I've been struggling to decide which series to race in - for the first time (in a long time) I had genuinely been stumped.
Usually I would just continue on from last year (or race in the series higher - like F3 & Skippies) but with so much new and exciting content released, I could just waste it and do another season of the GT3 Challenge.
After enjoying an iRacing video including the Ford Mustang FR500S, I began to consider the Production Car Challenge too.
In the end, I had to choose between:
1) The Full-Length Formula One Grand Prix Series (NEW Mercedes W12 2021 F1 Car)
2) The Production Car Challenge (Ford Mustang)
3) IMSA Michelin Pilot Series (NEW Aston Martin Vantage)
4) GT4 Falken Challenge (NEW Aston Martin Vantage)
5) GT3 Challenge
6) Porsche 911 Cup??
Fortunately, I was able to filter out the F1 series after seeing:
1) Trading Paints was banned (Mercedes' ruling) meaning that there would be no realistic liveries - destroying the authenticity of the series
2) There was not a limit of 20 cars per split.
3) The amount of FIA Grade 1 circuits did not make racing in the series worth it.
TEST 1: The Production Car Challenge
Coincidentally, on the weekend of the 2nd - 3rd April, two of the series I was planning to race in were at Watkins Glen - this gave me an absolutely PERFECT opportunity to test the race-ability of the cars "side-by-side". (direct comparison)
To decide which to do first, I pretended that the Production Cup Series was a "support series" to the GT4 Falken Series happening later on in the day.
In the 30-minute open-practice session before the race, I noticed that the counter (counting number of drivers registered to the event) increased EVER so slowly - not even 60 drivers registering to the event.
In this session, I managed to complete the fastest lap in my class, and finish the session 2nd overall, a second behind the "winning" Mazda (the driver was 2500 iRating)
The Shambolic Race
I'm not going to drag this out - the race went worse than expected.
In the grand scheme of things, qualifying didn't go overly badly - qualifying 5th, behind all of the other Mustangs and 0.2 seconds behind one Mazda. As the series was multi-class, the two classes (Mustangs and MX5's) were separated.
On waiting to grid - I suddenly noticed that I had just made a grave mistake...
Through the pre-race chat, I realised that this was not a fixed-setup race - and even worse still - with there being so few Mustangs, it was guaranteed I was in the top split (against the best of the best) - quitting now would end with me losing 90+ iRating - I had only one choice. To Race.
I held on for about 0.01 seconds as the green flag fell - and the Mustangs scampered off into the distance - their skill-level (and fancy setups) boosting them off into the horizon.
Looking at the lap-chart I made it over half-way into the race before the Mazdas began to catch me - when they did so, I wanted NO involvement with them, so I let the top three past - I wasn't in a battle, competition or class with them and they were in a VERY close battle for the win - which I didn't want to have any part of.
Anyone can be a racing driver - be that on Mario Kart, Gran Turismo or on iRacing - some may have "alien" pace, some may have your "average-Joe" pace - but it takes a lot of courage to WILLINGLY let a slower class past and admit that you're not in a race with them.
We're all racing drivers, we've all subscribed to the service to race and compete and compete to the best of one's ability - but it takes a certain driver to know when to battle/defend/fight, and when to raise his (or her) hands and admit "defeat" - especially (as mentioned before) when it's with a slower class.
If I had "fought" with them - in the last 5 - 6 laps..what on EARTH could I have gained from it? The leaders were (probably) minutes up the road - other than for my own ego, there was no point in defending that position - and that's why I did so.
The Production Car Challenge didn't do me any favours in the end - here's a bullet point summary:
- Pitiful Mustang grid-size (3 Mustangs beside myself)
- Pitiful attendance meant/means I will be guaranteed top-split in probably 3/4 of my outings - being the lowest iRating driver there by about 500 iRating (the majority being above 1.5K), this series isn't going to bring much joy or "competitivity"
- As the series runs "open-setups" (no limit on what setup you run), I will have to find a setup for every single race I compete in - and with the knowledge there are MUCH more competitive series with fixed setups and big Grids, further competing in this series would be nonsensical.
Test 2: The Chosen Series
It only took two races for me to come to a decision about what series I'll be going forth with in Season 2, 2022 - and after a phenomenal GT4 Falken Tyre Challenge race, my mind was made up.
The race had everything - death(s) on the formation lap, a huge pile-up just a corner or two after the start, and battles which would tickle even the most serious of sim-racers.
The series is headed to Spa next week (Week starting 5th April) and from experience, whilst faster, Spa is much more forgiving when it comes to making mistakes.
It was one hell of a battle (that I had), I'm just a little bit bummed that I wasn't able to make any overtakes - I was more "able to show my nose, and make my presence known"
I think alongside the GT3 Challenge (maybe a day apart), these two could really lead to an awesome season
Admittedly, I was supposed to do more races that weekend - namely VRS E and CES.
VRS E (Virtual Endurance Series) is a 3-hour GT3 endurance series held on the weekend/s.
That weekend (of the 2nd - 3rd April), I asked my friend what the plan for the weekend was - and she said that "Saturday was completely 'my day' until 7pm, and Sunday is VERY busy"
Using this, I was able to plan out my races (and more importantly, my two "Test Races")
Unfortunately, not every race was so lucky - as mentioned (before) I had two endurance races which I never started.
The crucial difference between regular series and endurance series (ran on a weekend) is that the endurance series has A LOT fewer time-slots - mostly done to discourage people from being able to ruin others' races and then jump in the very next time-slot, yet at the same time accommodating global timezones.
VRS E has three time-slots: 07:00 GMT | 18:00 GMT and 14:00 GMT.
I wanted to do VRS E (on that weekend in particular) because it was at the Daytona Road Course - a year ago (to the very weekend) myself and my team-mate (the driver I was supposed to be driving with) scored an absolutely insane surprise podium by using a very unconventional podium - the difficulty (here) being that:
07:00 GMT - is 00:00 PST (his timezone, race ends 03:00am his time
18:00 GMT - Qualifying is usually 10 minutes/2 laps - if I did an hour stint (or two half-hour stints) there would be no time to prepare for the thing at 7pm.
14:00 GMT - My friend basically said Sunday was a no-go zone.
The CES (Creventic Endurance Series) suffered very much the same fate as the VRS Endurance Race - time-zone incompatibility.
After driving the Aston in the Falken GT4 series, I wanted to drive it all day and night...unfortunately, the CES...didn't quite allow this
The series' time-slots were: 01:00 | 13:00 GMT -
01:00 - At 01:00 on Saturday, I hadn't yet driven the Aston - if it drove or sounded awful and I entered the 01:00 GMT, I'd have to deal with that for a further 11 hours and 59 minutes.
13:00 - The 13:00 session WAS going to be alright - but as before - with the 7pm racing deadline, this would have left GUMI (Dominik, my team-mate) with 5 - 6 hours to drive all by himself...ouch.
MOAR & EES
The MOAR endurance series (play on words with the ROAR Before The 24) was in an off-week, as was the 6 hour series EES (European Endurance Series) - both are back this coming weekend (9th - 10th April) but with the Nurburgring 24 Hours dominating the weekend - participation in all series is expected to be pretty low for regular endurance races that weekend (Sunday might have higher participation due to the amount of deaths occuring in the Nurburgring 24 Hours).
As I've dissassembled my rig for it's journey to the Isle Of Wight on Wednesday/Thursday, I've not included any images in this blog, but will probably add them at a later date.