Saturday June 4th 2011 was the day of the final event in Race Department’s Le Mans Series endurance league. Prior to the event, we were leading the P1 and GT2 categories in the standings, with the GT1 car being second in class. Actually because we could only enter two teams, the GT2 effort was driving under the name SimRacing.NL, a restriction I hope will be lifted next season so we will see the familiar black and white livery on the Porsche again. Unfortunately, the P1 car could not enter because 2 out of its 3 drivers were on extended R&R.
The 12 hour event took place on the beautiful Le Mans circuit, where we were going to race into the night, starting at noon and finishing at midnight. During the event, we witnessed a beautiful sunset and a clear, starry night, but that did not distract us from our mission!
SFH Porsche 997
SFH Chevrolet Corvette C6R
SFH Epsilon Euskadi
The qualifying session went especially well for the GT2 Porsche, with Robin taking the pole position by driving three consistent laps within one tenth of his personal track record: 4:00.7. During pre-qualify Martijn Bont in the ID3 Ferrari had set an even quicker lap but luckily for us, he could not repeat that time when it mattered most. In the mean time, Johan qualified the GT1 Corvette in third place, demonstrating a solid pace in a car that was handling very well. But the race still had to start..
The event started with the Corvette loosing a couple of places on the first lap, but Johan countered in the laps thereafter and managed to take over the lead. Not sure what the competition was doing, because it kind of surprised us to lead in GT1! Anyway, a couple of laps after his second pit-stop he was driving in the Porsche Curves when his rFactor smacked him to Desktop. Hitting the brakes couldn’t avoid a crash. Luckily, the car could continue, but with a flat tire. We went straight to the pits again for repairs and lost the lead with that. For the championship we did not need to win this race, because our direct opponents left the race. At that point we were still wondering what happened with Mickeal Taloc, because GT Omega Racing had the lead in the GT1 championship and scored no points.
In the meantime, the Porsche started with boost 3 to get away from the pack. Martijn followed, and within two laps both cars were 5 seconds clear of the rest of the field. Back to boost 1. The main Porsche advantage is straight line speed. It’s no match for the Ferrari in both sector 1 and 3. With Martijn in our slipstream on the straights, but unable to pass in sector 1 and 3 an intricate race developed. ID3 passes once, but we could regain P1, and after that it seems that Martijn grew more and more impatient, starting to attack in atypical spots on track. Tense moments!
Battle on the clock
It turned out that our Porsche is a lap short on the Ferrari range and the pitstops start to run out of sequence. Being further away from each other on track it turns out that the straight line speed is almost enough to level the laptimes. We were unlucky in traffic and lost lots of time, Martijn had a spin and some other little problems, now losing so much time on the straights that they must have damaged their car. After three stints ID3 and Simracing.NL were still very much in touch, but way ahead of the rest of the GT2 class. We’re actually ahead of most of the GT1 class as well, with only Simracing Spain and the SFH Corvette in front.
Wilfred takes over and increases our lead. After another 3 long hours it’s Robin’s turn again and in pitch black darkness he loses a lot of time.
Battle against the darkness
Without a way to change brightness on his monitor, driving with in-car view, with people in the room who need the light on, Robin was practically blind on track. Especially the braking point for the second chicane, but even more so the brake and turn-in point for Indianapolis was really just guessing. It’s unbelievable that he kept the car on track, not planting it somewhere on top of a guardrail. Mad stuff!
Ben Crooks drives away half a minute of our lead. But running steady laptimes, making no mistakes, we’re still two minutes ahead when Wilfred takes over for the last part of the race. Wilfred makes no mistakes and wins this race and the GT2 championship, finishing 4th overall!
Meanwhile, in the Corvette Marcel took over after a little over 3 hours. With cars dropping out all around us, we kept second place in class and were slowly moving into the top 10 overall. Three tanks of fuel were burned, producing some of the most intense and beautiful sounds ever from a “small block” engine and giving the spectators goose bumps on every passage, and finally Johan took over again a little after the half way mark.
His last stints of 4 tanks went uneventful, apart from the fact that we passed the 75% mark. In fact, we did not want to do a driver swap before going over that mark, which was important because it meant not only a points finish but also sealed our first place in the championship! No time to celebrate yet as we really wanted to take the car home. Marcel took over for the last two tanks of fuel, still in second place.
Trouble for the competition
Before we saw the checkered flag, the first placed GT1 car stopped and dropped out of the event, meaning we finished first in class and second overall!
LMP1 - SFH Epsilon Euskadi - DNS
GT1 - SFH Chevrolet Corvette - 1st
GT2 - SFH Porsche 997 - 1st
The whole P2 field had actually failed to reach the finish and only one P1 car made it to the end. This has one additional complication as now our P1 car finished joint first in the championship with equal points and number of wins, and no definition in the rules to deal with this situation. The tie braker that the organization came up with is that the last race at Le Mans decides, so unfortunately we did not take the P1 championship.
Race win and season title
That means we won the championship in two out of three classes, and finish the season in equal points in the third class.
A big thanks to everybody at RaceDepartment for making this happen. See you on track, next time we’ll be driving a chequered car again! And on to rFactor 2!