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Round three saw the Oceanic Endurance Championship travel Imola for another six hour teams enduro.  The #54 car was piloted by Tim and Colin Schwecke who put in a lot of time working on the setup and managed to make the Audi great on low fuel and fresh tires. Their setup really gave them confidence and allowed them to lean on the car. This resulted in the first pole position for the #54 in OEC.

Tim lead the field for the start, which ended up being quite a strange event to put it mildly. Entering the starting zone Tim had his plan set, however, for an unknown reason both the 2nd place and 4th place cars jumped the start and drove away. Tim confused then started the race however the 3rd place Porsche used the confusion to jump him with boost. So, from start line to 1st corner the #54 went from 1st to 4th. 

Early on in the race Tim quickly showed the pace that he had in the #54, rounding up the 3rd and 2nd place cars within the first 2 laps of the race. Quickly putting pressure on the other Fusion SimRacing LMP1 #45, Tim managed to return the #54 to the lead of the race by lap 4 and then set about establishing a lead. This was extended out to over 45 seconds before the first safety car came out for the race.

It wasn't too long into the race until we saw the first safety car period.  The #54 made an interesting strategy call during this first caution period given the pit-lane starting #17 was the fastest car on track. In order to keep the #17 a lap down the #54 sacrificed the optimal pit strategy of pitting under the safety car. The goal of this move was to place more pressure on the #17 and hopefully deliver us a result towards the end of the race.  After a few laps of green flag running the #54 was pitting for fuel resulting in the #54 falling over 40 seconds behind the #45. However, Tim and Colin had succeeded in their objective of keeping the #17 a lap down. Tim again put in great pace and started reeling in the leading cars.

A mistake from Tim just before the second safety car period resulted in the #17 getting back onto the lead lap and then getting free pass back into the race when the SC gathered the field up. Pitting under the SC had the entire LMP1 field normalised back onto the same strategy. Colin used this chance to do a driver change during the stop to jump into the car.

After the second safety car period Colin set about chasing down the LMP1 pack. Taking the lead off the #45 car around the 3 hour mark of the race. From there the #54 put in a fast pace and established a solid lead putting three stints on a single set of tires. During this time the #17 car made contact with traffic and the #45 car received car damage. As a result, Colin handed the car back to Tim with 1 hour 40 minutes to go with a 1 minute lead on the #17 in 2nd place and a 2 lap lead over the 3rd placed car.

Tim drove to the end of the race with a gap management mentality in mind. The #17 was pushing very hard to close down the gap, but our calculations had us confident of taking the win. This however was guaranteed when the #17 dropped from the server giving us a lap and a half lead. Cruising to the end however resulted in a scare as Tim clipped an anti-cut curb and damaged the engine with 10 minutes to go. Smoking back into pits the #54 used its fast repair and returned to track to take the win and back up from their round 2 win at Spa.

Round 10 of the V8Scops championship and the teams headed to Autodromo Nazionale Monza, in what saw an influx of FSR’s drivers hit the pre-qualifying nights and make it through to split two race. Spearheading the pre-qualifying results was Warren Pickering starting out of 8th, with Josh Burdon in 11th and Daryl Carter on debut with the team round out in 14th.

The guys had great pace, and were amongst the fastest cars on the grid. All drivers getting good clean starts, but within a few laps a couple of costly errors were made with Warren and Josh slipping down the order due to slowdowns. Daryl keeping nice and consistent making his way through the field within 6 laps was sitting position 6. With the help of strategy would see him in the lead by lap 9.

Unfortunately for Warren and Josh, their races were plagued with issue, Warren in a scrap and sent off track that brought his race to an end and Josh after falling back to 17th, making his way back up to 6th had technical issues and was dropped from the server.

With our regular driver Will Dodd out for the round with personal duties, it was down to new comer Daryl to bring home the bacon. Daryl drove the wheels off the AWS Falcon after his pit stop, gaining positions lap after lap, most of the time being the fastest driver on track. Putting down qualifying laps, he battled his way back towards the front, collecting the fastest lap of the race along the way and crossed the line in 3rd position. A fantastic result on debut for the team.

My name is Brock and I have used almost every excuse you can think of not to jump online and race in a sport I love. Recently I committed to racing in the Oceanic Endurance Series as a way to force myself to get back behind the wheel after a bit of a hiatus. This post isn't going to be your usual race report post as I intend to talk about the stress of getting back behind the wheel in a multi-class endurance race after an extended time off. I hope you enjoy a this different look at what happens behind the screen.

A few months ago I was fortunate to grow my family by one which meant getting behind the wheel became less of a priority for me. Whilst I was on the sidelines the LMP1 cars were released as was the new IndyCar with the week 13 Indy at Indy event being the last real time I had a race. I kept up to date by watching various broadcast races but I couldn't commit to actually entering a race. With the new Porsche 911 RSR being released in season 3 and the Oceanic Endurance Series adding the car to its competition, my desire to race went through the roof. A few of us here at FSR had a chat and decided to enter another car into OEC with the focus of having fun rather than finding that last tenth of a second in the setup. The idea of having fun was perfect for me and given that we were also in the amateur class, it wouldn't matter that I am a mid-field driver at best.

So with the decision to enter made I purchased the car and started testing it at the Nurburgring GP circuit. I instantly enjoyed driving the car and the sounds that came out of it plus being behind the wheel again felt amazing. My skills had dropped a little, but I was back in a pretend racecar once again. It was soon after this that I realised that I was practicing for the wrong round of the series and that I would need to start practicing at Imola. I like to think that it was due to my lack of sleep that helped make the mistake.

I started turning laps at Imola and to be honest, it isn't my best track. I don't hate it, it is just one of those circuits where every lap is slightly different with Variante Alta being a chicane that can [redacted].

A few test sessions went by and I was happy with how I was doing. Sure I was around ~1.2 seconds off the pro pace, but for the amateur class I was where I needed to be and it was looking like it could be a really challenging race given how close all the amateurs were.

Due to personal and work commitments Josh and Scott would be unable to join me in the car for this round so we had to go to the pool of drivers to find a suitable replacement. Thankfully the extremely talented Craig Edwards agreed to help pilot the 445 car for the 6 hour enduro.

Raceday came around and we jumped on early and did a few test runs. Given Craig is significantly faster than me, we decided that he would qualify and start the race. It was during the LMP1 qualification period that we re-familiarised ourselves with the rule book and Scott made a discovery that would impact our race right from the green flag. The following rule was found in the cars section of the regulations... "For GTE-AM cars only drivers under 2800 iRating are eligible to race in that car." Somehow we missed this rule as we were looking in the drivers section of the document to determine eligibility. So what do we do given Craig has an iRating of 7 million? We went through the options of competing in the amateur class and not scoring points, asking for leniency from race control or owning up to our mistake and seeing if we can switch to the Pro class and take a pit lane start penalty for an incorrect number on the car.

So after the pre-race drivers meeting we fessed up. We asked for agreement from all drivers to switch to the pro class, take the penalty but still be eligible to score points. And like a choir on Sunday everyone said no... and then laughed. We expected a little bit of banter due to our mistake, but shortly after our plea's were heard and we were now pros... well I was, Craig has always been a pro.

My biggest fear in team events has always been binning the car and it is a fear that I never have in solo races. I would hate to spend hours and hours working on a setup, watching the first stint go well, being handed the car and then destroying it. Compounding that fear now is that I am racing with a legitiamte pro in the pro class, in a multi-class race with LMP1's, in a new car I have never raced at a circuit with [redacted] chicanes and starting from the back. No pressure at all.

So even though we qualified at the pointy end of the GTE field, we started from pit lane. As the LMP1's came onto the front straight getting ready for the green flag, a couple went for it and then the green flag was waved. Mental note: A really good way to lead a race is to jump the start and within a few laps get hit with a penalty. We then watched the GTE class round the last corner and start the race. Sadly it wasn't the cleanest start we have seen. As the field flew past we were instructed to leave the pits and start our race.

Craig started catching the field with the skills of a Hollywood movie (Driven anyone?). After a few laps we caught the tail and he began making up positions. With a few laps left on Craig's stint I started my usual pre-drive routine. Shit myself, get a drink, go to the toilet 5 times and then go really quiet on Discord whilst my heart rate hits 180 bpm. This time round a new nervous tick also kicked into high gear. I couldn't stop yawning. Instantly I was tired and I was really struggling to stop it. A solution wasn't far away because I had a few cans of Iron Brew (aka Irn Bru) in the fridge. Smashing one can and having the second in my cockpit meant I was ready to go.

OK Craig is out, full fuel, 4 tires, no fast repair, Brock in the car, fuel complete, pit limiter on, 3 tires done, now the 4th, car dropped and go. At this point I would love to say that I entered a zen like calm but the reality is that for the first three laps I am saying constantly in my head "don't bin it, don't bin it, don't bin it, don't bin it, don't bin it". I am not one of those drivers who jumps in the car and on their first flying lap they are within a tenth or two of race pace. After a few laps I settled down and got into a rhythm and started hitting my marks. I was making up time and passing a few cars in the process which helped with confidence. My planned double stint turned into a triple with a number of safety cars. The second safety car closed the pit lane just before I reached it which would have been very advantageous had I made it in before the pace car came out. We had plenty of fuel on board but it was still a half missed opportunity. I was very happy with my triple stint with only a small number of mistakes throughout my drive.

The last 20 minutes of my triple stint was all about my bladder. Consuming a litre of water, a coffee and two cans of energy drink that morning meant that my bladder was a little full. For me it is one of those things that if you can't do anything about it, you can kind of make it seem not so bad, but once I entered pit lane and was slowly heading to my pit box, it was like my bladder knew that the opportunity to fix the problem was imminent. I hit my marks, jumped out of my sim rig and ran through the house like a crazy man.

Taking the opportunity out of the car I made some lunch and started working on the strategy for the last few stints. Here at FSR we have an "app" that helps work out stints, fuel burn and a bunch of other things for endurance racing. It works really well when you remember how to do it and you actually input numbers like current fuel rates. Thankfully we had access to our resident Data Scientist and Sim Racing Strategist Heath Brennan to crunch the numbers and work out what stints we needed to hit for me to stay under the maximum driver share number.

I would end up in the car and do one final stint before handing the car back to Craig to take it to the checkered flag.

The last stint of mine felt amazing. I was in the zone and going faster than I had all week but also consistently hitting the times within a tenth or two each lap after lap. At the end of my 32 lap stint I brought the car in for it's final stop. I had done what I needed to do, bring home a straight car in the same or better position to what I started. I was very happy to be handing the car over to Craig with our fast repair still available for use. At this point I would describe myself as tired and relieved.

Now this retrospective of the race is very focused on me and what I went through, but the reality is that none of this would have been possible without Craig doing laps at pro speeds. At many points in the race he was lapping faster than everyone in our class which is a very good place to be in. I also highly recommend you watch the following broadcast footage of the Craig's last stint as he chased down the ARM racing car in 6th.


If you are watching the last 20 minutes of the race from the above link... Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Simply put, Craig's chase down of ARM racing is best described as epic, edge of your seat racing. Sadly the final result was the 445 AWS Porsche RSR finishing less than a car length behind the car in front to come home in a very respectable 7th place.

A huge thanks goes out to Craig Edwards for filling in for Scott and Josh and to Heath Brennan for crunching the numbers to confirm / define our strategy.

Did we have fun? We sure did... and we look forward to the next round at the Nurburgring. I already have some test laps under my belt so it should be a lot of fun.

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