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THE PERFECT PROLOGUE!


"Purr Before The Meow" - 3rd January 2024


The majority of race-fans know about the famous "ROAR Before The 24" event which prefaces the Daytona 24 Hours - but one must also prepare for the ROAR Before The 24 - which is where this triangle comes in.


Starting at the very bottom of the triangle is the "Purr" - the shortest, quietest and smallest event of the four events spanning January.


I had practiced for all three events for months - years even (two years! ;) ) and earlier this afternoon, it was time to put all the solo and AI practice to use.


~


Upon leading into the session, I checked my car number. #32.

In a 34 strong field, there were only two with a lower iRating than me. These were both GT4's, and one would end up non-starting.


Before I knew it, it was time for qualifying - this was a very steep learning curve for me, in all of my months and years of practice, I never practiced a low-fuel/qualifying run - so I attempted to qualify with 3 laps of fuel - forgetting I'd need fuel for an out-lap.


I'd eventually only get one qualifying lap in after I ran out of fuel on my second. Certainly a learning point as I move up the ladder in the Meow and ROAR - leave a little extra in.


That being said, despite choking across the line, I still managed a lap-time within a second of my first (0.14 separated both laps) - so the consistency was there.


I eventually qualified 12th in class. Whilst not great, I had still out-qualified 7 cars - meaning 7 less cars I'd need to worry about.



The Race


With qualifying done and dusted - it was finally time for the main event.

Just before 6pm (in-sim), the green flag fell, and 30 minutes (16 laps) of non-stop drama got underway - a total of 33 cars thundering towards turn one.


Not four corners into the race, four cars had already been taken out in a clumsy start-shunt - unfortunate for them, plenty of freebies for me.


Trouble up ahead meant good news for me.

I say "freebies" - due to the right lane being out of sync with the left (and lower) lane during the rolling start, I ended up starting the race in 14th (which became 15th before I had even crossed the start/finish line) - meaning I had a lot of work to do - very lucky to be starting as far back as I was!


As the Aston on the grass (right) re-joined, more chaos broke out (literally).


Following this corner is a flat-out left-hander.


Out of vision, the Aston re-joins and those behind slam on the brakes - I'm expecting everyone to take this corner flat, so am caught out (like the drivers behind) when the drivers ahead slam on the anchors through a flat-out corner.


Despite the code-brown, I was able to capitalise a position out of it, so all's well that ends well.


With the race well and truly started, tight battles commenced on lap 2 - some I backed out of - and some I fought with everything I had.

I could see into the future - and the future didn't look good!

In this particular instance, P9 (BMW, Right) attempted to go around the outside of P8 (Merc ahead) - #18 also getting a better run through turn 1 - I backed out of this move immidately and let the two BMW's fight it out.


Whilst the Aston behind me (out of shot) did catch and temporarily pass me - aero damage from an earlier incident massively hampered him, and I was eventually able to re-take the place - although backing out of a BMW sandwich left me in 11th place.


Lap 3 was...wild - despite losing two positions to the Aston (behind) and the Merc behind him (I went off-line at T1 to give the Aston room, allowing the Merc behind through) - I regained three positions as P7 pulled off the track and P9 (unsighted) ploughed into the back of him - before gaining a further position on then-P5 who spun on exiting the final chicane.


Another two bite the dust.

All the time - myself letting the Mercedes by (not the one pictured!) kick-started a monumental 4-way battle for 10th - which became 7th with the three cars and two separate incidents.


It was almost as if the Racing Gods were throwing a die to determine the outcome of every lap! Starting Lap 4, the battle got even more heated as two of our battle-members wiped eachother out.


simultaneously, the leader also got wiped out (rear-ended) by the driver behind. By the end of the lap I'm in 7th.


Aside from losing 7th to a much faster Porsche, Lap 6 was surprisingly calm - Lap 7 following suit in the same manner.


Saying this, the recently passed Porsche, fellow Aston and Mercedes up ahead were all stuck in a ferocious battle - it was a win-win-win - fun for them (to be a part of), fun for me to watch and also allowed me to catch back up to the group and indeed the Aston ahead.


Lap 8 marked the halfway point in the race and almost as if the universe aligned - Lap 8 was the exact moment our four-way battle AND the LMP3 leaders both dived into turn one - and let me just say...it was NOT a pretty sight!




Heading onto Lap 8, the Mercedes lead, followed by two Astons with a Porsche in tow.


By the end of it all - somehow the two LMP3's (behind Porsche) managed to escape unscathed, followed by the Aston...followed by me and the then-leader Simpson, who was making a recovery drive.


Both the Porsche and Merc perished - the Porsche by himself, the Merc with a little help from me - admittedly - although the following lap he intentionally wrecked someone, so I suppose I don't have all too much guilt.


From there, the race just got weird - despite things calming down, they weren't silent...or well, they were. On Lap 10, Grabner, the Aston I had been fighting all race long dissapeared into thin air.


In his last moments, his steering straightened and (dead straight, no adjustments) and speed increased before Grabner applied the brakes, shifted down to 5th and disappeared. He wouldn't finish the race.


Looking back at the replay, I very much had tunnel vision - focussing on the back of his car - so when he glided to the left (not on the racing line) - I followed and took a very peculiar line through the chicane.


Over the next few laps, the former leader caught up and passed me - him only being weak through the final chicane - this being my strong point.


With two laps to go, I knew the finish was going to be close...


Until lap 15 (penultimate lap), I'd only pass the Mercedes after the final chicane - but on Lap 15, I'd manage to clear him at the start of the banking - athen being able to utilise the chicane to increase the gap.


Sadly the Mercedes wouldn't manage to finish 7th behind me, as on the final lap, he'd lose the back end at the final chicane (quite possibly to try and keep up) before being collected by the 4th place LMP3 - whom would finish the race down in 11th just a corner away from finishing 4th.



On the final lap, I almost had a heart-attack.

Due to there being an LMP3 behind us, all that was shown was the blue flag - and with only two laps of fuel left - the absence of any mention that it was the final lap worried me - deeply, especially after such a wild race (and potential for good result) - despite going wide on the exit of Turn 1, eventually the white flag appeared and all was saved.


I can't believe that was just a regular official race - it felt like so much more (maybe because I gave it so much more?) but it was absolutely invaluable practice for this weekend's Meow Before The ROAR

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