We’re Virtually There!

This pandemic has been difficult for so many of us in the motorsports business, but we're doing what we can to continue to entertain the fans.  I was invited to participate in the very first IMSA eRacing series.  Here's how it went:

I started out with practice for a few days.  It was actually pretty nice to be able to go out and drive as much as I wanted, picking up tenths here and there, and getting more comfortable with driving a virtual GTE car on a virtual Sebring.  At first, I was horrible.  I couldn't figure out braking with this monster.  The GTE cars are really fast, even in the virtual world, and braking is even more important than in the real world.

Finally, after practicing with some great names like Albuquerque, Vautier, and others, I felt my heart sink into my stomach as the qualifying time started.  Not due to the competition, rather the frozen computer sitting in front of me.  Everything froze, hard freeze, no blue screen, just frozen.  I had to scramble to do a hard reboot, sort of like a car that just won't start at the beginning of a session and the mechanics scramble around the car to get it going again.  The down side is I was the only mechanic!  You really don't want your driver tinkering around on your car.  Fortunately, I know a thing or two about computers.

I made the broadcast with a last minute rush to qualifying.  I think they saw me rejoin, scramble on my out lap, then finally get one full lap finished just before the end of the session.  I was making a flying run through my next lap, up to about T-5 when time ran out.  It would have been a much better lap than the one that counted, but at least I qualified.  I think I was somewhere about P28 with that awful showing.

It's not the first time I've qualified that far back due to qualifying issues, as some of you may remember the ST race at CotA with Irish Mike's Racing.  I got up to P5 in that race.

Once the race started I knew there was going to be a big mess at T1, so I decided to hang back a bit and work my way through the melee.  That was a good plan.  I actually fell back a few cars initially, but ultimately gained by the end of the first lap.  I decided to get into a groove and just work my way through the race.  As a long time endurance racer, I did exactly what you're supposed to do.  I was actually up to P17, making my way to a likely top 10 finish.

I was just in a good place, doing my job, making up ground, and then it was time for a little play.  Greg Liefooghe caught me on a silly mistake where I caught a little grass.  Now we're going head-to-head, but having a blast.  He was faster on the back stretch, but T1 was not his friend.  He was still catching me under braking at every brake zone.  I could keep him behind me, mostly due to being that much faster in T1, but by the time we hit the Hairpin, he'd be right on me.  I think I was a bit faster at Tower, but that got eaten up by the braking zone, that long arching area at the end of the straight through the apex of T17.  If it weren't for my performance through T1, I'd have been toast well before that.

Then came the fateful braking incident into the Hairpin.  I was just a touch too far to the left, trying to leave a little extra room as Greg was actually door-to-door with me.  BOOM!  I was in the grass, spinning across the track to the inside wall.  Greg escaped unscathed, and I was trying to limp back to the pits for repairs.

Ultimately, I had to tow the car back to the pits, about a minute and a half, then roughly 13 minutes for repairs.

I love the ability to repair a car that crashed into a wall, bent all sorts of suspension pieces so much that the car won't track straight, and get it back to about 95% of what it was able to do in under 15 minutes.  Real life doesn't work like that.

As I got back on track, I was dropped in right behind Greg.  I was able to catch and pass him!  Sadly, I was several laps behind, but it still felt good.  I got into a few battles with some extremely well known drivers, and fared quite well.

I don't remember my ultimate finishing position, but I do recall it was in the top 50%.  After a crash like that, I'm extremely pleased with my performance.

I've made a few tweaks to my iRacing system.  Now, I expect I'll be able to perform much better, and I can also offer a look through my eyes as I'm now using Twitch to stream my races!  Tune in and watch on http://www.twitch.tv/profifahrer.

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