Updated: Oct 1, 2021
I hope you are all well! It's been a very crazy weekend, and with as little rambling possible, let's dive straight in!
The weekend of the 24th - 25th July was probably the most hectic and chaotic I've seen in quite a while - with the restrictions opening up just at the start of the week, many businesses and companies were eager to both make money (once again) and invite fans back to the track...and that's exactly what every track in Europe did!
Starting off in my home country, and the closest to me, Formula E hit the streets of London for the first time since 2016 - breaking my achievement of seeing every London E-Prix live - but I've seen over half the races held there - myself going as a wee little lad in both 2015 and 2016 - the 2020 race being cancelled due to the COVID Pandemic.
Whilst the last was held at Battersea Park (still incredible how they managed a motor-race around a PARK in LONDON!), this year's event was held in and around the ExCel Centre - The 2022 calendar appears to have London on it, so all is not lost, and I'm very excited to see it when it comes around.
The F3 Cup headed to Oulton Park, but with both the London Eprix and the iRacing Spa 24 Hours on, I sort of had other plans.
Previously, this weekend had been absolutely incredible for me - this marking the one year anniversary of my win at Watkins Glen (MOFO Spec Racer Ford, 23/07/2020) and then my first official win (Official Skippies, Donington Park, 24/07/2020).... this weekend however...luck was unfortunately not so much on my side...or well, Sunday's luck wasn't on my side.
Dirty Torque Racing League Race History
23/05/2021 - Oulton Park: Attended
30/05/2021 - Lime Rock: Didn't Attend (Beach)
06/06/2021 - Hell RX: Didn't Attend (Busy, Tyre Blow-Out)
13/06/2021 - Silverstone: Only realised that it was on wayyyy too late & day after Castle Combe
20/06/2021 - Laguna Seca: Didn't Attend (Busy @ Georgia's)
27/06/2021 - USA Speedway: " "
4/07/2021 - N/A (Postponed To Next Week, Independence Day)
11/07/2021 - Okayama Short - Final day @ Georgia's, Unavailable.
18/07/2021 - Detroit - Apex & NEC
25/07/2021 - Langley - Oval & Spa 24hrs Weekend
THE CHARITABLE GAMERS, SPA 24 HOURS
We start on Friday 22nd July at 23:46 when William informs the group that he's faster in the Ferrari, as opposed to the Mercedes (AMG GT GT3) previously tested.
There was just 41 hours, or a little over a day and a half before the race started, but we managed it, we all put laps in, and I think we all were happier in the Ferrari - this one named "Elmer" due to the rather bright lego scheme looking a little like Elmer the Elephant, both Felicia and Lacey looking incredibly concerned from the paddock.
We were not alone - the Kabort Green Ferrari (Felica) joined us in the split we were in - a very warm welcome to see the circle liveried car of Sam Thurtell (AUS), Lorenzo Malave (USA), Angel Villazon (MEX) and Tom Van De Pol (BEL).
The final hour of practice ticked away - Will absolutely baffling us with a Top-10 placing lap in the final practice session, qualifying immediately getting underway after this.
Will absolutely BOSSES it, putting the Lego-Liveried Ferrari in 6th - matching my 4th best endurance qualifying - and by far smashing the previous best Special Event Qualifying.
As the field headed down to Eau Rouge following the green flag, Will intimidated the fellow Ferrari alongside him - the competitor backing out and Will slipping into the top 5.
They (Ok, I) say that Radillion has caused the highest number of incident points and penalties on the entire track, and it's fair to say that they are right, Will picking up a slow-down penalty at the top of Radillion - those behind storming up Raddillion with so much speed that Will falls to 8th by the start of the next lap.
On Lap 5, it was P7's turn to get a slow down, Will picked up the position with glee.
Will wasn't hanging around though - and with the driver ahead (P6) pitting on Lap 11 Will had his eyes set in for a Top 5 - but had a sneaky way to do it.
The 11 driver squad (or should I say "community?") of TPQ ahead, was a little slower than us, Will decided to hang back and save fuel in his slipstream - only passing 9 laps later with enough fuel to last an extra lap over the competition.
The next 5 laps were spent hunting down P4, him eventually letting us (and the driver behind) have the postion/s - possibly to not make a mistake under pressure?
As quickly as it started, Will's first stint came to a close - an absolutely phenomenal, flawless drive without putting a single wheel wrong.
The best part however? The fact that P3 - a FUCKING PODIUM was just a whisker away...travelling down the same pit-lane as us...at the exact same speed.
It wasn't just P3 however, the leader and P2 were also sitting, getting their cars serviced for the second stint - only the leader going for a driver-swap, and only The Charitable Gamers not taking tyres.
TCG's gamble paid off at first, Will's 28-lap-old tyres feeling grippy come the first lap after his stop.
Will would manage to smash in the lap times, hitting a 2:21after 2:21.
About 12 laps into the stint, the tyres fell off the cliff. And quickly, Will understeering around every corner like the car had no wheels at all!
carefully, but quickly Will managed to guide the Ferrari back home for Matty (Powell) to jump in - the option of taking tyres or not now totally out of the question.
As Matty jumped in, I jumped out (of the session) to put in a few laps to get comfortable and be able to gun it from the out-lap.
From leaving the pits in 4th, Matty had done exactly as we asked - keeping the car in the right direction, incidents low and 3rd terrified...in fact, he did so well that TCG ended back up in the podium positions!
By the time I returned from my practice, Matty was in his second stint and had only just overtaken the stopping car of P3.
On lap 90, We'd unfortunately lose one position to a Mercedes who forcefully barged their way through the at the start of piff-paff, but no less, Matty continued on strongly.
Four laps later, (Lap 94) we'd have one of the only pieces of contact we had all race - a Mercedes taking the Bus Stop Chicane MUCH slower than expected, and us having a little inspection of his diffuser.
With just a couple of laps until our own fuel-tank ran dry, our race-long competitor, car number #6 pitted from 3rd place - gifting The Charitable Gamers 3rd place once again.
Lap 105 saw the third and final of the trio get in for their double stint - Robin, the most feared of the three and Truswell's past speaking quite some many words...
To add to this pressure, As I clamber into the Metallic Italian Pizza Box, Will has some wise words for me "“you’ll be getting TCG back on the podium” and with that I was off, screeching down the pit-lane
As he crossed the line to "officially" start his stint (pit-box after start/finish line), Truswell was just 7 Seconds behind 3rd place.
After a rather calm, but frighteningly quick 4 laps, Truswell eventually pulled this down to 6 seconds - but wasn't finished there - with P3 pitting on lap 110 - Truswell was keen to create a gap.
With the tyres warm and grippy, and track not too cool - I surprised Will with a few cheeky lap times - going from:
Lap 112: 1:22.225 (Lap 7 of stint)
Lap 113: 2:21.459
Lap 114: 2:20.885
The next 5 laps were consistently in the 1:21's before I pushed a little hard, got a slow-down and ruined my streak, as the tyres worn and the track temperature cooled - I became only more inconsistent - a potentially 1:20.03' being ruined by an off-track.
A tyre swap on lap 132 helped (after a stint of 27 laps), followed by my first of two spins in my entire Spa 24 Hour run.
Caused by a rapidly cooling track (9:48pm in-sim) and brand new, cold, tyres, as I leant on the tyres into the Les Coombes chicane, they squealed in agony and gave up, spinning me inwards, towards the outside wall - fortunately not hitting it nor losing any positions.
Miraculously, more luck came our way - the driver in P2 pitting. Because of my "average" computer, and the fact there were 40+ cars circulating the track, I didn't quite catch what exactly happened to them (as I was focussing on our own race) - however they had either a technical fault or driver error and ended up behind us - me in the car in P2 in the Spa 24 Hours...yes, that's about as crazy as it gets!
I just hope I get more "5-Minutes-Of-Fame". From lap 133, I stayed in P2 until the Bus Stop Chicane on lap 144 before our old friend #6 overtook us.
The next lap was lap 145, where I completed a 2:20.621 - the last of only four laps of mine in the 2:20's, and only about 0.4 seconds slower than Will's fastest - who, at the time, had the fastest time of the race and was (only just) quicker on the day.
It may only sound like me tooting my own horn, and it is a little bit but the main point is, my double stint, I firmly believe was one of my best endurance outings ever - yes, the P3 with the wild strategy with Lorenzo at Daytona is firmly up there, but the fun I had (helped being up front), the fact I only had two spins (first and last laps of my second stint) and the fact I was chasing Will for lap times has really shown me that I am capable of something and that I do have something in me.
All I need to do is reach deep and access it again.
Onward with the race, P2, which was car #6, pitted on Lap 150, (5 laps after my PB), before I spun and boxed just 8 laps later, (shortly after midnight - marking 17 hours to go) I got out the car, very chuffed with myself...albeit a late spin mildly annoying me.
And the award for the most embarrassing spin goes to:
Matty was the one to follow me after my stint and for the first 14 laps, all seemed well and perfect. The car was in 4th, running smoothly and Matty was putting in a great effort to keep the car running, racing and VERY competitive - even smashing the team's fastest lap of a 2:20:091 on lap 174, 14 laps into his stint!
Our fastest laps being:
M. Powell: 2:20:091
W. Burfield: 2:20.201 (-0.110)
R. Truswell: 2:20:621 (-0.420)
The minutes and laps passed...Lap 176. Matty caresses the through each turn, corner and bend. No Name, Pouhon, Piff-Paff, Stavelot, now onto the run to Blanchimont, under the DHL sign - 11:36 and 58 seconds PM. 11:37pm and one second. two. three....
Matthew turns into Blanchimont. A fraction too early. 11:37 and 4 seconds PM - the last second we are safe, the last second our dreams were still achievable. The Last Second In Forth.
Matty clips the grass on the inside of Blanchimont, the wheels spin hopelessly throwing the car to the left- like aquaplaning, but grass, the right wheels grip, the lefts don't.
Matty holds the slide/drift/powerslide on for dear life, but it's no use, the momentum is too much, the slide too great, the car is headed to the wall...the car is embedded in the wall... It's a 93mph frontal impact, not head on but still, the front of the car is done for.
Matty pulls to the inside of the circuit after the car is thrown back into the middle of the track - many pass, emotions run wild, sadness, anger, disappointment, guilt...it was a heavy, heavy moment for the whole team.
Those passing the stricken car fist pump in joy as it's a freebie, but what we've lost and how far we've come, that never crossed either one of our minds.
We pull back out onto the track behind P5 - who's just claimed P3 and limp back to the pits. It's going to be a long old wait.
Truswell falls asleep - yet the other two power on - Matty finishing his half-finished stint.
With tyres and fuel included, "Elmer" the TCG car emerges 18 minutes after she first originally stopped in the box. Come the start/finish straight at the start of Matty's first lap since the crash, the car is down in 18th - with a crumpled hood and hindered top speed, The Charitable Gamers powered on - claiming 17th on the 182nd lap (4th full lap after pit)
Though Matty may have pushed the Ferrari to the absolute limit - he was only able to squeeze out a 2:21.902 using the Ferrari's remaining horses.
In unbelievable spirit, Matty would push out another 18 laps before luck would have enough and punish us further - Matty collecting a Beemer doing the Cha Cha slide trying to collect a save at Pouhon, before they both spun out in their own ways.
Merely 7 laps from the end (two laps from the BMW Incident), I return from whatever I was doing and just as I do, Blanchimont strikes once again...this time Matty taking a perfect racing line through the corner and the corner still spitting him out, this time towards the outside barrier. Given the state of the tyres, car/areo, low fuel (making the car light) and low track temperature, added with the cold track, it was a recipe for disaster and full credit to Matty for keeping on going when everything was stacked up against him.
Matty once again returned to the pit-stall.
I was set - according to our trusty stint schedule - to drive somewhere in the graveyard shift, I offered Will to drive after Matty to catch us back some time...but how much time...nobody was certain.
It was at this point, I quit iRacing, ended my stream and essentially packed up and went home - other than offering my 3am services.
Whilst I slept (Thinking that by "anddd we're done", Will meant we were finished), Will started up the car once more...somehow - and in true grit and determination, drove the undamaged panels of the Ferrari for a stint, before pitting, completing ten laps, before finally too admitting that enough was enough - or with the knowledge I wouldn't be driving thought it be pointless to continue himself.
Elmer was fun whilst she lasted, but now with every brick of her existence scattered across the Belgian countryside and Deer, Elk, Moose, Foxes, hares and even Wolves coughing up their guts as they choke on little lego pieces, it was high time we left the track - we'd finish - or not finish - in 32nd - only three above us not finishing - with 234 laps completed - mostly by Will, we covered some distance - the highest retirement finishing with just under 450 laps under their belt.
Whilst I may have lost a race and 7 iRating, I gained so much more, I think I became closer to Will (good laps means good friendships) - and also Matty, I became a hell of a lot more confident and clean and I learnt a thing or two about myself.
On the other side of the fence, Kabort were having an absolute belter! With Kabort Green (in our split) taking our 4th place and an absolutely FUCKING PHENOMENAL double podium for the Kabort Orange and Pink taking 3rd and 2nd respectably - Niels Ykema bringing home Kabort's 3rd special event in a row - The Glen, The Le Mans 24 Hours and Spa 24 Hours all sitting in his beautiful trophy cabinet!
Right. It's 10 past midnight, and I'm shattered, thank you for reading the blog/s, and I will catch you all very, very soon!
This has given me the confidence that I have the skill, talent and ability to be on pace with Will and smash out some good laps and safety, we'll just see how Spa 2022 goes!