Preparation for our VLMS campaign did not go as smoothly as we would have liked. The general trend is to try and get as much dry track preparation done so you can get to grips with the track, your setup and traffic around you. But Portugal enjoyed a huge amount of rain last week, and seeing as the race servers are directly connected to live weather servers it was rare finding the server in a rubbered-in condition conducive to fast laps…and the moment you got some rubber down after an hour slog on track the rain would come bucketing down…forcing a lot of competitors off the server.
We, on the other hand, decided to follow the weather for Estoril very closely. It became apparent that rain testing would be crucial as a rather large chunk of the 4 hour long race might be driven in the spray of the car in front of you and with minimal traction at your disposal.
What transpired was a setup on both the prototype and the GT car that was not only safe in the wet, but also extremely fast.
Our lack of qualifying setup knowledge hurt us badly. You can’t just drop fuel and lower the car slightly and expect to be quick in qualifying. Sometimes it needs as much work as a race setup to squeeze every tenth out of the track. An opportunity to learn thus presented itself.
We put the P2 car on the grid roughly in the middle of their class curtesy of a fine drive by Gabriel Rossouw, and Boyd only managed a 14th out of 17 GT cars on track. The fact that he drove his PB did not go unnoticed, but in a strong field of competitors we had to take what we got offered.
The race itself started well with both Gabriel and Boyd gaining several positions from the where they started. Unfortunately, both Gabriel and Boyd suffered from some reckless decision making from other drivers and spent time in the pits repairing heavy damage.
Boyd rejoined the track with our car last in class and some laps behind the car in front.
Gabriel had to hand over the car to Jason HJ, but a strange bug plagued the server on Saturday where the AI would take control of certain cars and kick the new driver out of the sim. This happened to no less than 7 cars on the day. Very unfortunate. Once that happened our P2 challenge effectively ended as the car got stored in the virtual garage and neither of our two drivers could get in and drive out on track. Gabriel got pulled into the commentary booth and explained to the world how that moment impacted on the team. We spilled a tear or two, but no tears could get our precious P2 back on track. Jason HJ was the biggest loser in all of it as his preparation came to nought – he did not get to drive the car on race day.
Around the two hour mark the skies turned dark…rain started bucketing down. And we performed one of the fastest driver swops imaginable. Wet tyres were put on the car and Boyd pinned his ears back. Matching the leaders’ laptimes and gaining handfuls of seconds on cars in front. Throughout the car was stable…while others went farming and turned other cars into driving garage sales. We had to time a handover to Gert just right…leave enough time to meet the 70% / 30% driving rule while pushing it deep enough that if the rain stopped we would have enough wet tyres left on the car to drive it to shreds on a dry track till the end. Our final driver swop was done with 50 min remaining in the race.
Gert not only matched the leaders times, he surpassed it. While others were doing 1:40’s and 1:41’s, he was doing 1:39’s and even ran a 1:38:4. Cars speared off everywhere, but our car remained on rails.
We gained time in chunks. Gert unlapped himself several times against the leaders and everyone in between. To the extent that a damaged car in front had to leave the pits, cut his repairs short…simply to get back out on track with a badly limping car to ensure we don’t take his position away before the race ended.
The GT car started 14th in class and 33rd overall. We finished 21st overall and 8th in class. After fighting back from last. It was a positive end to the GT race at least.
Fast forward a few days. Lance and Mark H’s 2nd Academy race creeps up on everyone. They are still looking for decent laptimes…
Then Lance discovers a few positive tweaks in the car and both drivers feel a little better. Then more time is found in the setup barely hours before the race…All of a sudden both drivers find themselves in top 10 contention.
Remember…the focus is to have a clean race for license purposes…yet Lance now had a shot at qualifying really high up the grid. With Mark barely 0.5 seconds back. This was not the time to remind these gents what their first priority should be. This was a time to shut up, take a backseat and watch two highly competitive individuals put together their lessons learnt from race 1, their preparation for Estoril and their newfound tweaks in the car.
Qualification ends with Mark H in 10th and Lance G in 5th.
Before the pit stop window came round Lance found himself leading the race…Mark was recovering from a few knocks he received early on and catching cars in front in quick succession. He had to fight back from 22nd and by midway found himself sitting pretty in 13th…and gaining all the time.
There was no live broadcast, so we sat glued to a very buggy live-timing screen like Tank in The Matrix. Watching little coloured dots representing cars go around the track…monitoring gaps and lap times. Then…bang…live timing gone…but not before we all noticed that Lance pitted and came out of the pits in 5th…
Right before live-timing packed it in for the night some cars pitted in front of him and he was sitting in 3rd with a gap of 35 seconds between himself and the leader…with both the leader and the guy in 2nd still to pit.
The next 40 minutes was psychological hell as there was no way to get any updates from the race.
We counted down the minutes…and when 10:30 pm came around, signifying the end of the race, all eyes were focused on the group chat. “Lance typing…”………..
Lance: 1st place BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!
Shortly after Mark dropped in…
Mark: 7th 😀
We could feel a palpable collective sigh of relief as the newest recruits just pulled off two stunning performances to further emphasise that RSA Protea SimSports is here…we arrived…and we are not going anywhere. We are going to be an outfit that will take beating, and coupled with our brand of determination we can be team slayers in our respective classes.
Onward and upwards we go!
PS: Both Mark and Lance will take part in the GPVWC World GT opening race on 30 March 2017. If we can find the live broadcast link in time we shall post it in the forum for those wishing to join us in support.