On July 18 and 19 team Simracing For Holland take part in the 24Hour of Le Mans, hosted by Sim-racing.org. This will be the sixth time that we are taking this on – five times in the GT category and one time in the prototypes class – and we have only succeeded in winning the race once.
This year the competition is strong. Teams like Alpharacers and 3Wide Motorsport have shown very fast laptimes, and there’s a lot of teams with both good speed and lots of endurance experience. We can’t even count the number of times we have raced against teams like Witchwood, RARE, Satellite racing, VRL and more of the usual suspects in the ten years of our existence.
Dennis Douna qualified our Corvette C7R in second place and we hope to be able to fight for the lead until the end of this episode.
Race: Saturday 18 July 15.00 – Sunday 19 July 15.00
Over the years we’ve learned that you don’t need to be the fastest team on track. A lot of factors come into play. You need to be fast but you need to be safe, damage is to be avoided at all cost. Even more importantly you have to be able to run consistent laptimes. Driving in the GT class you need to be able to let prototypes pass without losing too much time and without running the risk of a collision.
15.00 – 2nd
Having qualified the C7R Dennis Douna will be driving the first stints. Wish us luck!
Dennis starts in P2 but early in the race Lluis Dalmau in the Alpharacers C7R moves up from P3 to P2. After a strong start the leading 3wide Motorsport C7R starts to make little mistakes. In the course of a few laps Marius Bert drops back to P4 behind Riccardo Corazzari in the RFDT Endurance Project Aston Martin. That car seems quicker than the SFH C7R and takes P2.
16.00 – 4th
Meanwhile the team Witchwood C7R in the hands of Nicola D’Agostino passes Marius Bert and closes the gap to Dennis but can’t really make the pass. When Witchwood go in for their first pitstop SFH drive on for another lap, as do Alpharacers and RFDT in front. We don’t seem to have a fuel usage advantage compared to the front runners.
At the pitstops the SFH Corvette is lined up on the jacks side by side with another car and we can’t make a swift clean exit.
After the stops the Porsches of RSA Project and Allstar Racing Team move up quite a few spots in the standings. Are they double-stinting the hard tires?
17.00 – 3rd
Alpharacers and RFDT are fighting for the GT lead. We’re running eight seconds behind the front runners. Laptimes have been comparable for the last thirty minutes.
In his penultimate stint lap Dennis has a hairy moment when one of the prototypes spins right in front of him going into Indianapolis. No damage. Again, team Witchwood can’t run as many laps as the first three GT’s and make their second stop. Two laps later RFDT, Alpharacers and SFH follow.
RFDT makes a driver change: Riccardo Corazzari out, Alessandro Fiori in. Dalmau and Douna continue for Alpharacers and SFH.
18.00 – 2nd
SFH back up to second place! Fiori isn’t as fast as Corazzari which gives Alpharacers the opportunity to close the gap and engage for the lead. When Fiori defends Dalmau has a troublesome exit through Tertre Rouge. The SFH Corvette moves up a spot. Now it’s Dennis’ turn to attack.
SPIN IN INDIANAPOLIS!
For the third time in two laps Fiori slams the door shut on the SFH Corvette, but this time we were side by side. There’s contact, a full 360 spin but no damage. No such luck though for the RFDT Aston Martin that limps back to the pits for repairs.
The spin has given us a flat spot on one of the tires. There’s a whole lot of shaking going on.
When Alpharacers and SFH come in for the third pitstop Dennis is still running close behind Dalmau. Fabio Cangioli for team Witchwood is running 40 seconds behind in P3 but they have already made their third stop so the gap is effectively around 20 seconds. Wilfred van den Brink takes over for the next couple of stints. Raul Pons takes over for Alpharacers.
18.19 – Raul Pons seems to have a problem. The Alpharacers Corvette is back in the pitbox, from somewhere halfway the track. Fabio Cangioli and Alessandro Fiori for Witchwood and RFDT move into 2nd and 3rd place.
19.00 – 1st
Witchwood still running one lap short stints. Four laps ago they swapped drivers: Cangioli out, Campini in. Wilfred van den Brink makes his first stop. Wilfred is still leading with 23 seconds advantage. We’re not building our lead, but we’re not losing either.
20.00 – 1st
Concentration is key now. Another crash just happened right in front of us. Rigt after one of the LMP’s passed Wilfred into the braking point at Mulsanne corner it turns onto the grass and crashes! No damage, another small disaster averted.
A lot of drivers are now disconnecting and rejoining. Heavy internet weather? Will the server hold on till the end?
We’re still running 1st in class, 14th overall. Witchwood is still following in 2nd place. Michele Campini is running tight laps, but the gap has grown from 23 to 32 seconds. And they’re still running one lap shorter stints. Witchwood is now running very much out of sync. RFDT is running in third place but Andrea Cannata is running laps that are around 3 seconds slower than the leading two GT’s.
The light is really strange in some parts of the track. This is no normal sunset. This is… The wind is Southwest, there is a lot of rain towards the west but will it blow over or will it miss the track?
Time for another pitstop. We’re not changing to intermediate tires but we are changing drivers: Johan Nieuwenhof takes over.
21.00 – 1st
During the last stint we’ve stretched the lead to more than a minute. That seems quite a lot judging by the difference in laptimes. Witchwood must have had some sort of problem that we haven’t noticed.
A minor setback means that we lose a bit of time because of a drivethrough penalty. So much even that team Witchwood has come as close as 17 seconds. But it probably will not take long before they will have to make their next pitstop.
22.00 – 1st
More trouble going into turn one. Johan almost lost control of the car and had to cut the first chicane to avoid spinning. Still 15 seconds in the lead.
23.00 – 1st
The sun is setting and we’re still running. Even better, we’re running in P1. But there is still a long way to go and many have failed before. Will we make it to the end?
Johan’s second pitstop is a flawless one. Witchwood’s speed has dropped a little since Johnny Piccolo took over. That, and the fact that we’ve now almost saved one full pitstop compared to them has lead to a 1m37s advantage. Our lead is growing again, but there’s sixteen more hours to go.
A serious shower falls down on Le Mans. Most of the teams come in for a tire change, but some wait for one more lap. The laptime differences are huge now. Some drivers must really feel uncomfortable in the rain, or maybe some have opted for intermediates and others for wets. It’s impossible to tell.
Johan is one of the drivers that stayed out for one extra lap, but after his stop he’s running quite a bit faster than team Witchwood in second place. So much that we have now lapped them. We’re one lap ahead of the complete GT field!
Osvaldo Cocozza is bringing team RFDT back into the game. Now running in third place he’s making up a lot of time. The fight for P2 is not far away.
00.00 – 1st
It’s midnight and it’s still raining. This has been more than a shower and the laptime differences are really shaking up the order. The SFH C7R is being passed left and right by the faster LMP’s, but the track is effectively twice as narrow as usual, beause the dry line is not suitable for driving, especially for the low downforce GT’s.
Miroslav Davidovic has steered the 3wide Motorsport Corvette to third place, passing Michele Campini who has taken over the Witchwood C7R. But the best handling car in the rain is the RFDT Aston Martin which has shown superior grip.
The Feeder Sport Poland Ferrari goes onto the grass in the exit of the Porsche Curves and spins back onto the path of the SFH Corvette. The cars clip and the C7R continues with a serious flatspot problem. We may have sustained more damage.
Johan has been running on intermediates since it started raining. The dry line is now 2% wet, next to that the track is still 87% wet. The race leader is running on dry tires, spinning every two laps because he puts a wheel off the ideal line. We’re running 1 to 2 seconds slower than the RFDT GT in second place.
01.00 – 1st
In the rain, Johan lengthens his stint. Being more familiar with track grip level peculiarities it is deemed wiser that he stays onboard until the track runs dry. But in the dark the track doesn’t dry op quickly. When Robin Verdegaal takes over a dry line has developed, but next to that the track is still very wet: 85%.
Laptimes are starting to drop down to the low 4.0x’s while some cars still run 4:10. Johan doesn’t think his intermediates would go any faster than 4:08 so Robin joins the server on slicks.
02.00 – 2nd
We lose P1 and after repairs go back on track on intermediates. Another five or six laps later Robin is hit sideways by an impatient LMP going through the Porsche curves, which sends him into the tirewalls.
03:00 – 3rd
Another pitstop for repairs, we come back on track in P3.
A difficult stint follows. Laptimes drift around 4:03 but that seems to be the maximum in these conditions. But it’s not. Riccardo Corazzari pilots the RFDT Corvette around Le Mans in 3:57s.
04:00 – 4th
In the Ford chicanes the Corvette becomes unstable and the rear of the C7R is launched over the curbs and into the tire wall.
After another repair stop the race continues. We’ve lost P3. When another Corvette comes up to pass Robin he notices that the C7R’s top speed has dropped from 300+ to 292.
We’ve been running 4:03 laptimes when we could have done better. Because much of the rest of the field ran similar laptimes and we weren’t close to other GT’s on track we just didn’t know that damage was part of the problem. How stupid of us that we didn’t notice this sooner. A driver change would have fixed it.
05:00 – 4th
Four hours ago we were ahead of the field by a full lap, now we’re running in 4th place with a wounded car. Marcel Offermans takes over. Top speed is back up to 300+ km/h. Eleven hours to go. Are we back on track?
06:00 – 4th
The race has settled down again. Marcel is doing low 4.0xs, like most of the front runners at this point.
Witchwood is in the lead, followed by RFDT and RARE. Suddenly a lot of drivers are ‘pending an open session’. Heavy internet weather again?
07:00 – 3rd
Johan takes over from Marcel. Halfway the stint a slipup in the Ford chicanes makes the Corvette clip the tirewalls. No serious damage is shown but the topspeed is down to 288 km/h. RFDT drops down the order so we’re back up to third place in GT.
08:00 – 3rd
Dennis takes over from Johan. We’re back up to speed and are making up serious time on the RARE Ferrari. We’ll win back second place based on track speed.
09:00 – 2nd
We’re back in second! But we’re almost two laps behind the GT leaders. Team Witchwood is not as fast as we are, but it’s only six hours to the finish.
10:00 – 2nd
Wilfred van den Brink takes over from Dennis.
11:00 – 2nd
The SFH Corvette has been the fastest car on track in the last couple of hours.
12:00 – 2nd
Dennis Douna takes over from Wilfred. We are consistently gaining around two seconds per lap. Three hours to go.
13:00 – 2nd
Team Witchwood responds by putting in their fastest driver. We’re not gaining any time now and we’re still more than a lap behind.
14:00 – 2nd
Marcel Offermans takes over from Dennis. We’re still one and a half lap behind the leaders.
15:00 – 2nd
Finish in P2! Exactly where we were 24 hours ago. We’ve seen every position from 4th to 1st, but having run in first place with a full lap ahead, this feels like we lost a race.
Congratulations to team Witchwood who kept their head down when they were following, and kept putting in consistent laps to win the race in true endurance style.
#51 SFH Corvette C7R - 2nd