"Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride" as Bette Davis didn’t quite say in the 1950 film “All About Eve”. But if she had said it, she may well have had Sebring in mind.
Located in the Highlands County, Florida, the old concrete of Sebring is often regarded as one of - if not the most bumpy tracks in top-class motorsport. Just like its real counterpart, the laser-scanned version in iRacing does a spectacular job of emulating these bumps - even giving the most experienced of drivers' a thorough back massage. Not only having to deal with an incredibly bumpy, dusty, slippery runway which can reach very high temperatures, those who dare face this challenge must also deal with multi-class (GT3, GTE & Prototype) traffic for 12 hours anticipating all sorts of weird and wonderful moves...
The Sebring 12 Hours would not only be the first endurance race of the season- but first special event of the season too. With a few new faces since Bathurst, it was going to be an interesting one.
Two of newest faces were Kiwi Lance Cropper, who joined the Mercedes Team on the Thursday prior to the race and Nolan Hodgson (USA) who joined the Porsche Team in the early hours of Saturday. Due to having no proof (other than previous stats and iRating/Safety rating) there was a little bit of concern on the competency of the two new drivers - it was a little bit like a repeat of the Bathurst 12 Hours when I threw Jongpil Jung in at the last minute, however these guys were introduced in the days leading up to the race instead. I stayed up all night preparing everything for the following day - launching the 01:00 GMT Porsche GTE Team piloted by Aussies Sam Thurtell and Tennyson Whitty in the process, only finally falling asleep at 6 - 8 in the morning, before waking up at 12 or so to get the second session underway for my first planned stint at 3pm.
01:00 GMT Session - Porsche 911 RSR GTE - Tennyson & Sam
Despite Tennyson qualifying a solid 14th, the race wouldn't go their way - getting rear ended after re-joining from a spin and having to take a 16 minute repair job wasn't a great start to the race....
A mechanic then dropped a 10-millimetre socket into the engine bay whilst finishing up the repair-job. This then prompted a full 40-minute rebuild to find, locate and remove the socket. The team and I were far from pleased and the mechanic in question, I am pleased to announce is no longer with our team.
Once back out on track, the drivers complained that the car was un-controllable and lacked grip, thus spinning out when power was applied due to the cold tyres and infamously hot track. They retired following this. Special Event: Sebring 12 Hours
Q: 14th (Tennyson Whitty)
13:00 - Porsche 911 RSR GTE - Andy & Berkley Written By: Andy Jones Edited By: Robin Truswell
Slap bang in the middle of the pack in the 25th split were Vice-Principal Andy Jones and long time Kabort returnee Berkley Cox in the Ferrari 488 GTE.
Qualifying was decent for once - or at least a decent time. Andy posted a 1:58.1, as fast any lap he’d done in practice but clearly conditions were good because pole was a blistering 1:56.8 and he rolled away behind the pace car in 21st.
Good, steady progress and after just a couple of laps KABORT reached P15. Sadly that was the high point for a few laps, a multi-car shunt in T2 (Turn 2) meant light damage to the front, light damage to the rear and a drop in lap time of 2 seconds. After an early stop for 3 minutes of repairs, the fight back started with Berkley at the wheel and "P39" on the pit-board. The fight took us to 26th but a deadly slide in the last turn, Sunset, a wall slap on the outside and there was yet more work for the mechanics. More than 11 mins this time. And time for another fightback - this time starting from all the way down in 37th and working back to a decent 29th... before KABOOM!! The earlier rear end damage may have affected the engine and it blew! The mechanics looked in dismay as the Chevrolet 5500 Roll-back trundled down the pit-lane with a Kabort car securely fastened to the rear. It'd be a 45 minute repair-job sliding the team down 41st - Last of the remaining runners. As soon as the car was back in the garage, the relentless pit-crew began to slave tirelessly in the engine of the 911 RSR GTE. This prompted a team talk. Pull down the garage door and call it quits? Or buckle up and go for a bumpy ride? "Bumpy ride" it is...so after a hot drink from all (on the house) and the Porsche looking better than new...it was time to get back in the car - and Berkley was at the helm.
As night fell, Berkley was just going faster and faster and the car was taking back laps from teams throughout the field. In the end, his fastest lap of the day (or night) was on lap 308 out of the 310 the car completed. Throughout the 12 hours, the team's pace and error rate were good, but luck was bad as small errors cost big time with more than an hour spent in the pits - Despite a tough result, both drivers were chuffed with 34th.
In a post race interview, Andy said
"You know, I don’t much like Sebring - it’s flat, a bit boring and yet tricky. But every year, the iRacing Sebring 12 is a really top event. It’s a great festival of racing with friends and competitors from all around the world and now it’s official. Sim-racing is a great sport and I've made some great friends that I am incredibly excited to race with again" Special Event: Sebring 12 Hours
Q: 21st (Andrew Jones)
SOF: 1407 13:00 - Mercedes AMG GT - William, Robin & Lance (Not Stroll) Written By Robin Truswell
Despite telling Will about the third driver in our team incredibly late (which prompted me to double check that the teams were set up for race day) the organisation of getting the teams up and running (1 at midnight, and 3 at midday) didn't go too badly. Our Split - (Split 18 of 27) was very much the "who's who" of Ex-Kabort Drivers - with the AMG (Awesome Motorsport Group) led by the legendary Florian Hundertmark along with two fellow Germans.
Also present, were AOD Racing, the first team I ever joined on iRacing, as well as rivals eleveN9 Motorsports - piloted by four ex-drivers (and two Johan's), PASSIONE RACING TEAM ESPORTS - consisting of none other than Park Chihyeong - one of the Koreans to tackle the Bathurst 1000KM last year and finally a part of short-timer Abdul Fattah's team (him not participating in our split) also making an appearance.
The Race After qualifying 13th in class (P41/54) we had our work cut out for us - but with William Burfield on the team (who was also present at the Bathurst 12 Hours) - we knew we had a very decent stab at some good results.
William's opening stint exceptional - with only a spin or two in 2 hours
- We had some close shaves
All was going incredibly well...
Until suddenly, out of the blue, William dissapeared. He had disconnected from the race. After the empty car was towed back to our garage - and thankfully with no damage other than minor bumper scuffs, I leapt into the drivers seat and took the wheel, William would appear at the back of the garage shortly after. He didn't know what happened either.
I would then embarrassingly spin out on my out-lap....holding up the War Turtle Racing Mercedes of Lyal Christensen in the process.
- I then put my brain into the right gear and pumped out a nice, clean double stint. Accompanied by William and his fiancée helping me further improve my lap-time, as well as improving my position whilst being lapped - the double stint was one hell of an adventure filled with all sorts of highlights. Including me getting lost...
Believe it or not - this had been both my first ever (or one of my first ever) double stints - and one of my cleanest stints - (in terms of incidents/spins) I had ever done.
In addition to this, I also lapped two to three cars as well - meaning that I was going FASTER than somebody - an incredibly rare occasion - I do feel incredibly sorry for them when they saw my name approaching on the the "relative" before being passed by a Kabort car. Before I knew it, my tank was empty, and I had to come in to hand over to Lance Cropper - the newbie. He could talk the talk - but could he walk the walk?
It was another lucky escape for Kabort, but measures would NEED to be put in place to ensure we don't end up with another Mete Taha Kose-like situation. (Nefarious Winter Nurburgring 24 Hours/#Metegate) We've just had a lucky streak of two amazing drivers (Jongpil Jung and Lance Cropper) but I don't want to risk it - so measures will be put place from ELMS Sebring onwards. Despite a fair few "moments" during his first stint, Lance eventually found his rhythm and groove and started pumping out clean, consistent laps from the end of his first stint - and really shone in the beginning of the second - which was a major improvement. As described by Will and and Le Mans 24 Hours commentator Paul Truswell, he was "fast but a little erratic" - this eventually evolved into just being fast.
Despite being other drivers "sending" (dive-bombing) it left, right and centre, Lance kept calm, and kept the incidents low.
This clean run unfortunately ended when Lance went a little bit hot into a corner, slightly lost the back end and was rammed by a oblivious BMW... This didn't effect Lance. He powered on through the laps, The Kabort Mercedes still as strong as it was on lap one.
William was next to step in, and was as ready as ever to get behind the wheel once more. With the internet issues long behind him and a hunger for success, Will was on it from when he left the pit-lane.
Will managed the entire double stint without a single incident in sight. With performances like this, it gives me great pride to call William a part of the team - and I'm incredibly excited for the special events to come!
The only mistakes on Will's 120 Minute+ stint was a two small spins, (same corner, carbon copy in the two stints) but with margins so fine in Motorsport - the only way to find the limit is to exceed it. The Mercedes doesn't have the clearest of windscreens - and when driving so close to the limit - and being unable to see the side of the track, mistakes do happen.
William's fuel-tank eventually ran dry, and he too came into the pits, ending his faultless run - but not before one of the most extravagant "sends" beforehand
And he even got time to get nice and close to the passers-by
At 6:05pm on the dot - William came in after another spectacular double-stint. Next up, it was turn of the Team Principal! Despite being a little slower, he was good at getting consistent and vital for letting the faster drivers re-charge their batteries.
Despite a few mistakes from Robin, including a spectacular spin, he was consistent and was caressing the car around the corners...
But not for long...barely 10 laps into his stint and the exact same thing that happened to Will earlier on in the race...happened to Robin. the cars around him dissapeared, and he disconnected from the session. Someone had to step in - and fast!
Lance was just the man for the job. Whilst I sorted out my internet and rejoined the session, Lance put in another very clean double-stint, which I was incredibly impressed with. Despite getting a small penalty for getting 50 incident points, we were still in the running - with a Top 10 looking almost certain.
Lance did as told him to - pile on the laps, and bring her home.
At the end of another impressive stint, it was time for Will to get back in for the final stint of the race. Only let by the airfield's cats-eyes and two incredibly bright set of LED's, it was all on Will.
Will managed to finish off what he didn't manage earlier - a clean consistent stint without any connection issues . Will's final stint was cat-like - strong laps even despite the rather dark conditions. The entire team could celebrate a great day (and night) out - after finishing 9th in class after a solid day out - The next Special Event will the Infamous Nurburgring 24 Hours...now THAT will be one HELL of adventure!
As for our competitors: Passione Racing Team Esports was the last of the runners with AOD Racing (Merc White) just ahead of them, with Ronin Simsport (Academy GT II) only two places behind ourselves. Eleven9 Motorsports was much closer than we expected, 4 positions and 5 laps ahead of us.
Taking the cake however was the AMG Team taking a very respectable 5th overall.
Special Event: Sebring 12 Hours
Q: 41st (13th in class) - William Burfield
R: 25th (9th in Class)