The biggest special event of the year has been on all of our minds since last December when we competed in a 24 Hours of Le Mans league race. With only a few weeks in between Nürburgring 24 Hours and Le Mans we managed to get ourselves teamed-up and organised pretty early. Without any further ado this is how we lined up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2020:
Team #831 and Team #832 managed to get themselves into the same split. It's always nice to have that inner team rivalry on track. They managed to get into split 9/28.
Team #833 were in split 20/28.
We will begin with Team #833. Their race didn't exactly go according to plan. Last minute changes to the setup in qualifying didn't help either. Malachi Bakas qualified their Porsche 911 RSR in P16/55.
Malachi was also the pilot to kickstart the 24 hours of racing that was ahead of them. A few positions were gained through pure pace. Coming towards the end of his stint, hardware failure struck. This was odd as there were no previous hardware issues prior to this race and it couldn't have come at such a bad time.
His wheel wouldn't allow him to turn or change gears. Malachi persisted and force reset his wheelbase and got going again. Only a few positions were lost.
Nick and Rico were in next respectively and they both had solid stints with no real issues.
Malachi was back in the car for another double stint but hardware failure struck again. Not only once but several times. This was the final straw and at this point they were pretty much last place and almost two laps down. This was the point that the team decided to retire the car.
Could they have continued, maybe? But would there much point running around the back of the grid for another 20 odd hours, maybe not. This was an unfortunate and short end to their adventure.
Team #831 & #832
Simon qualified the #832 Porsche in 8th place. Dennis was right behind in P9. This was the start we were looking for. Both teams were running slightly different setups but the pace was very similar.
With the race finally underway, Simon got a slow-down on the first lap which will set you back four or five seconds. This was not the start #832 were looking for but it wasn't the end of the world. Dennis pushed on past with some soaring pace in his opening stint and were sitting behind the leaders in P4. He was using the draft to save fuel. Second and third place cars were also doing the same. At this point we had saved enough fuel to be able to do a 14 lap stint which is a huge advantage, especially when you are not losing any time to the other guys whom are pushing their hardest. We did not expect to be fuel saving at all but we capitalised on it's advantages and kept on the same strategy as the leaders... for the time being.
A bit further back Simon was pushing hard to catch up but wasn't able to fuel save and kept to the original strategy of 13 lap stints. Both teams and the majority of the field were double stinting tires at this point and were expecting to be on this tire strategy for the entire race. Tyre wear wasn't as severe as we expected. The race being rescheduled to a September in-sim-time helped massively.
Christian and Tom had filled in for one hour each in Team #832 and kept it steady and consistent before Simon got back in for another double.
With nineteen hours remaining and the GTE field spread out and traffic coming into effect Team #831 got up to P2 and Team #832 were in P7. The other competitors that were on the same strategy as #831 didn't continue with the 14 lap stints meaning we eventually overtook them on strategy. The field was very competitive and if you couldn't win on pace then it had to of been strategy.
After Milo and Dennis' solid 6 hours of driving it was time for Calum to jump in as night fell. On his out-lap he misjudged the exit on turn 24 (Porsche Curves) and brushed the wall. This was a close call! From previous experience even the slightest of touches can write-off the car. Fortunately there was no damage. Luck was on his side this race.
Heading into the early hours of the morning High Calibre Autosports #831 were unofficially leading the race. The team we were competing with for the top spot were EvoSR #401. They had been doing 13 lap stints for a while now and this meant we were catching them. It was only during pit-stop rotations that we were P1. There was a 4-5 lap's difference in scheduled pit-stops between the two teams.
Lap times were fairly consistent and we were one of the quickest teams on track whilst fuel saving and double stinting tires. This was good for us as we wanted to create a big a gap as possible to EvoSR #401. We kept a close eye on what strategy other teams were on. EvoSr #401 attempted to triple stint their tires but it didn't go well for them. We capitalised on this and created a gap. We saw that this was not the strategy to be on and kept double stinting our tires. Not much happened in throughout Dennis' triple stint apart from a few divebomb scares from the other classes.
Team #832 were P3 at this point in the race thanks to a few cars having some collisions with LMP1's. Around this time we decided to triple stint the tires.
The lap times suffered because of this but we had to try something new in order to catch-up to the leaders.
Christian and Tobias held it steady in the early hours of Sunday morning, however, the lap times were significantly slow.
We were only 40-50 seconds off of second place but it was slowly slipping away.
Calum was about to get into his first triple stint. Once again on his out-lap he had a lot of traffic coming past in the lead up to the last chicanes. This caused distraction; blind apex from the LMP1 ahead, not enough brake pressure and all of a sudden the car snapped hard left into the tire barrier. Our hearts sunk. Here is a highlight of what happened.
After getting the car facing the right direction the car was fine. Straight line speed was still there and it handled perfectly. After coming into the pits for our scheduled stop, there were thirty seconds of optional repairs. We took this over a period of pit-stops as it didn't have much effect on the car. Lady of luck was on our side once again and we kept first place with a 1:30min gap to P2. Business as usual. Calum thankfully finished the remaining stints incident free.
Not much happened for either team for the next several hours apart from pilots completing triple stints and getting rest.
It wasn't until the last two hours that it got real interesting. EvoSR #401 pitted only seven laps into a stint! This totally ruined their chances of winning the race. They were over two minutes behind Team #831 (first position).
This created a massive opportunity for Team #832 to push-on and possibly secure a 1-2 at Le Mans.
The gap was getting shorter and shorter as time went on. Our quickest drivers, Tom and Simon had significantly reduced the gap to fifteen seconds to P2.
The clock was ticking and all pit stops had been completed. Simon Jacobsen versus James Salt. Our quickest driver against their slowest. Simon was pushing as hard as he could on old tires and the gap was only four seconds. There was fifteen minutes left of the 24 hours!
EvoSR #401 was feeling massive pressure to bring the car home in P2 but we had other ideas...
The pressure got to their driver, James, massively! Two slow-downs in one lap. Second place was gifted to us on a silver platter. Thanks for keeping our spot warm for us boys. We were now first and second place at the 24 Hours of Le Mans!
An impressive run from all of #832 to be able to get themselves into this position. No mistakes, no incidents, the car was immaculate. Second place was deserved. The only obstacle was to bring the car across the line. Not long to go now...
Dennis kept putting in solid lap times. He was drained but determined to cross the line.
At 14:54 High Calibre Autosports #831 crossed the finish line in first place. An outstanding achievement.
One lap behind, High Calibre Autosports #832 crossed the line in second place.
ONE-TWO at Le Mans!
High Calibre Autosports #831 - 1st Place
High Calibre Autosports #832 - 2nd Place
High Calibre Autosports #833 - DNF
An outstanding achievement and not something we will ever forget. It was quite emotional. There isn't anything that can top this, surely?
A massive thanks to everyone for their time and effort in the lead-up to the event and you should all be proud of your performances.
Dennis jokingly said a few weeks back that "we are going to win it mate". Indeed we did Dennis. And not only that, we went one better and got first and second place.
On the upside of things, it was a shame that High Calibre Autosports #833 couldn't really get their race going. It is unfortunate yet there is not anything anyone could have done to prevent these types of mishaps from happening. It is disappointing to put in so much effort to not finish the race.
Thanks everyone for being part of the adventure and we're looking forward to see what the future brings.