• This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Round 3 of the OSR - VRS / CPR V8 Development Series saw Trent Thomas returning to the V8 after a successful hit out last week.  Sebring International Raceway is a favourite track for the Fusion SimRacing driver and he was looking forward to the 18 lap race in his Amazon Web Services Ford Falcon FG V8.

Thomas managed another front row start, but this time around missed out on pole by 2 tenths of a second.  Once again an absolutely appalling start off the line, although better than last week, saw Thomas quickly slip back to 4th briefly before turn 1.  Holding tough around the outside of turn 1 and then again through turns 2 and 3 would see Thomas in 3rd place. A mistake from the driver ahead into the turn 7 hairpin allowed Thomas to sneak up the inside as both drivers raced side by side to turn the right hander of turn 10.  Thomas had a huge moment at Tower corner (turn 13) but managed to correct the slide and continue with time loss only.

Thomas quickly caught the leader and was within 1 second at the end of the first lap.  The famous phrase, “Catching is one thing, but passing is another.” never rang more true for Thomas as he battled to pass the car ahead.  A huge moment on lap 3 into the turn 7 hairpin had Thomas touching cloth when his car flicked sideways late in the braking phase. A huge save and the racing room given from the driver he was attempting to pass meant little time was lost and the battle continued.  After 6 solid laps and a small mistake from the car ahead, Thomas managed to pull along side down Ullman straight at the back of the circuit and held side by side through the final turn of Sunset Bend and up the front straight. The pass finally done Thomas tried to concentrate on keeping a smooth and consistent pace.  

Thomas pitted at the end of lap 8 to cover off the undercut from the car behind who pitted the lap before, and a quality inlap and outlap saw Thomas gain a 3 second advantage during the pitstop phase.  By Lap 12 the pitstops had cycled Thomas back to the lead and the gap had now grown to almost 7 seconds to the car behind.

Thomas eased off a little in the last 2 laps not wanting to push to hard and make a mistake which would cost a result.  The win eventually came and Thomas crossed the line 12 seconds ahead of 2nd place. The next round will be held at Snetterton Circuit, a challenging and skinny circuit in the UK where qualifying may prove key as passing will be difficult.

A special mention must be given to FSR team mate Warren Pickering, who was unable to attend this round, as he was competing in the AllStar Shootout 5.  Pickering took on a field of 20 top drivers from the Aus/NZ region and came home with victory in the final.

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.

FSR Driver Warren Pickering crowned champion In the 5th running of the Australian AllStar Shootout. 

FSR Drivers Blake Neck and Warren Pickering represented Fusion SimRacing in the AllStar invitational event which pitted 20 drivers from 10 of the best Australian sim racing teams against one another in an elimination style showdown format of hosted races in the iRacing service. 

The 5th ever running of this milestone event saw the return to the Zandvoort Club circuit in the Netherlands where drivers from across Australia. simply equipped with the Riley Daytona Prototype machine in the fixed default setup, would compete on a level playing field for two highly coveted titles, Teams Champions and Drivers Champion. 

The no-frills, door to door racing style event has become a hallmark of the Australian sim racing landscape. With a simple, rubbings-racing (but don’t wreck anyone) set of rules, and a play-to-the-ref mandate the night of racing was close, exciting and unforgiving. 

It was a tough start to the night for Pickering who drew tough components and rear of grid placements early and only had one point to show for his efforts after the first two rounds. Neck on the other hand had amassed 6 after two second places, slightly unlucky to have used his secret, one-off double points selection in his first heat where finishing second netted him two bonus points out of a possible four. Two more second places and a race win saw the hard charging Neck progress to the semi finals. Pickering also made it through to the semis with three on-track wins, although he was relegated to second on points following contact in the final round of heats. Pickering fortunate to capitalise his double points during his win in round 3. 

The end of the heats saw the FSR boys finish third behind teams champions Synergy Sim Racing and runners-up Phoenix Sim Sports. FSR unlucky that Pickering’s points penalty from the final heat, the difference between FSR winning the teams AND drivers points titles.        

Pickering and Neck found themselves alongside each other, on the much-less preferred second row in the elimination semi final. Never ideal to have teammates lineup alongside, the drivers agreed that it would be no-lift hard racing as usual between the pair, despite the likelihood that contact would draw the ire of team bosses. The drivers looked set to come home 3rd and 4th, and eliminated from the event when at the second last corner the pair battling for the lead made contact and slowed up enough to let Pickering squeeze through for the dramatic race win in what was the Bradbury moment of the night. The semi final was the last event for Neck who despite finishing strongly well inside the top eight, was left wondering what might have been had he drawn a more favourable starting gate. 

After almost 4 hours of racing, it all came down to the final where bragging rights would be earnt in just 3 short laps. With four of the stars of Australian sim racing side by side - Pickering, Fawzan El Nabi, Scott Newton and Emily Jones, the final was never going to be dull.  Starting alongside the formidable El Nabi, Pickering had the best start of his night and held the lead into the first turn. The pack of three hard chargers behind were separated by inches when they all simultaneously took to the joker loop at the first opportunity, much to the relief of Pickering. The next two laps saw enough jostling for the prime spot between the three to allow Pickering to pull a gap out front in clear air. On completion of his joker loop on the final lap, Pickering had built enough of a buffer to comfortably rejoin and remain in the lead and would come home first and take out the AllStar Shootout 5!  An incredible end to an exciting night of racing, and one Pickering, Neck and the FSR team will not forget for many years to come.




© 2018 Fusion SimRacing. All Rights Reserved.