This was a very special event for team SFH. Next to the usual #51 entry we also drove a #50 Corvette C7R with red Autovisie sponsoring. This car was driven by a couple of our drivers together with one of the editors of the magazine and Robin Frijns, in order to make an insight story about endurance simracing from the perspective of real life racing drivers.
Both Robin Frijns and editor Dries van den Elzen hold a racing license but lack the amount of experience that the rest of the field has. We were very curious to see how the guest drivers would fare in an online event where G-forces aren’t available for car behaviour feedback.
How did they do?
Somewhat to our surprise both drivers turned out to be rather quick after a relatively short period of testing. While Dries had some gaming experience, Robin had simulation test experience. Although every digital racing simulation has its own characteristics the step to rFactor 2 was not as big as we expected.
But even though their fastest laps were on par with those of the simracers, their average laps were not. Driving on the edge in a racing simulation requires full concentration on visuals and audio alone. While Frijns was quick, a lot of the racing action and multi-class traffic took away precious attention to the correct racing lines and the tire squeals, the signs that can tell you if you are fast or just solid.
Very illustrative is this part of the videostream, where the #51 car driven by Robin Verdegaal comes up to lap the #50 car. Before the pass the speed difference is obvious. It only takes a couple of sectors to close a gap of a couple of seconds. But as soon as Robin Frijns makes way for the #51 to pass the whole body language of the #50 car changes. It clings to the tail of the sister car and it won’t let go, suddenly just as fast as the simracers car.
#51 versus #50 | skip to 3h 4m 33s
After a lot of preparation the team anticipated a tough battle. We were not quite there on laptimes, but the Spa race had shown that our strategy and average speed more than matched many of the other cars in GT-Pro. It was going to be a tough one, but we did not expect it to be as tough as it turned out to be.
Live report of the twelve hours of Sebring at the Virtual Endurance Championship.
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Both the #50 and the #51 car have had a safe start. Dennis Douna in the #51 holds fourth position while the #50 Autovisie/Frijns car is tenth in class on a mission to finish this race, because to finish first, you first have to finish!
A spinning LMP car causes heavy damage to up to five cars on the start finish line. Both SFH Corvettes are okay. Code 80 is lifted and we’re underway once again.
Report of slight damage to the #50 car after contact with one of the other GT cars. That’s a bit early with more than eleven hours to go. We’ll keep an eye on how much this affects our laptimes.
The first round of pitstops shows that we have been running more economically than some of the competition. The #51 car is still running in 5th place, the #50 car is one place down to 11th.
The race seems to have settled down after a rather hectic opening hour. Laptimes are coming down slowly on the #50 car, in which Robin Frijns just went into the 1:58s. The amount of traffic does not allow for many of those laps though.
Unhappy noises from the #50 radio channel. Laptimes still in the low 1.59s though. There are pretty large gaps between many of the positions in the GT Pro field, even after only one round of pitstops. Does this have something to do with the heavy multiclass traffic?
Some GT Pro teams are running rather out of sync. Yet all teams drive on the hard tires. It does not have anything to do with the Code 80s we have seen. Our longer stints have brought us up to 5th place and we’re slowly driving away from P6.
Continuing our strategy we’ve now climbed up to 4th place. We’re not quite on the pace of the top three, but we’re not losing much time either. The difference in strategy is going to be a factor as well.
Deep into hour four, when one of the backmarker GT Ams, Velthove, lets the leader in class, Tortella, through and the #51 SFH Corvette follows. Velthove then doesn’t follow Tortella on the outside line but crosses the track to the inside where the #51 SFH Corvette is. Both cars touch and spin in the hairpin. Left front damage makes the car pull to the left.
The LM-P2 driven by Zupanic seems to tuck in behind approaching Tower corner, but changes its mind at the last moment and while the #51 turns in both cars collide, sending the Corvette into a spin onto the grass. Now both front sides are damaged. Luckily that makes the car handle much better and the laptimes drop below two minutes again.
We may have made a mistake opting for a repair of the #51 car. It takes a lot of time and the car isn’t any faster coming out of the pits.
Lining up for turn two, a passing LMP squeezes the #51 to the outside onto the grass. Big damage is the result of the inevitable crash into the tirewalls. Another big shunt from behind, while limping to the pits on the outer left side of the track completes the disaster.
At the same time the #50 car runs into big trouble as well. Both cars now in the pits for extensive repairs. Tea, anyone?
This effectively killed our chances on a podium finish. Seven hours to go.
The Autovisie/Frijns #50 car is running ninth, seven laps behind the GT Pro leader. The #51 is one and a half lap further back in tenth, but determined to catch the sister car.
Dennis has taken over the #51 C7R but is nowhere near his practice laptimes. Running in the 2.00 regions he is just as quick as Dries is in the #50 car. So far, the #50 car is looking to win the team battle.
Reports of damage on the #50 car may just turn the tables. And it was doing so good climbing up to P7 – due to other cars’ troubles, but still. A pitstop to repair newly acquired damage throws the #50 back down the standings. #51 now in P8, #50 in P9. Five hours to go.
Going into the last part of the race, the #51 seems to have picked up some speed. Running on a new set of tires – even with damage – laptimes of 1:58 appear to be possible again. After repairs, the #50 is running 2:01 laptimes. The sistercar battle is now firmly in the #51 corner. But there’s still four hours to go.
Both the #50 (P9) and the #51 (P8) have made their pitstops during a code 80. We’ve gained quite a bit of time on the #011 SRVN car, but we’re also looking at a splash ‘n dash in the final hour. We might be able to close the gap, but can we push at the same time?
New drama for the #50 car, heavy traffic causes another off-track excursion, leading to four minutes of damage repair in the extra pitstop.
It’s sad to see the #50 car falling behind even further, only due to extra time spent in the pits. The #51 car made up some ground on the #011 SRVN car, but now their ace driver is behind the wheel again. The difference that came down to 17 seconds has now grown back to 20, while we are in the second part of our tires doublestint.
Going into the last hour the SRVN Ferrari made a very long pitstop. The #51 Corvette not only passed him, but now leads by a minute. Suddenly P7 seems possible. And there is more: an incident involving three GT’s leads to a host of cars going into the pits for repairs. What’s next?
Twelve hours later, both cars reached the finish, however both of them in rather used shape after a more than average number of serious incidents. Do not underestimate the achievement of the two first-time drivers Robin Frijns and Dries van den Elzen. To keep the car on track for twelve hours, while being passed by two faster classes in the field, and navigating by the slower GT-Am cars while night falls over a track that you haven’t driven before is a serious challenge.
#51 - SFH Corvette C7R - 6th
#50 - SFH Corvette C7R - 9th
Amateur simracers vs. professional racing drivers
So, what’s the verdict?
We have seen laptimes that were very close together, but we’ve also seen consistency being the simracers advantage – not so strange seeing the difference in experience. But it’s a testament to RFactor2 realism that both Robin Frijns and Autovisie’s Dries van den Elzen were up to speed as quickly as they were.