We headed to the United States; Daytona, Florida for the first special event of the year and this was a big one...
24 Hours of Daytona!
As the off-season quickly came to an end and the first special event fast approaching, it was pretty tight in terms of getting a team together. In the last few minutes of sign-up ending we managed to get two teams of four.
The Ferrari 488 GTE won the majority vote. Unfortunately for Tobias who was the only one to vote for something else, i.e. the Ford GTE, he was largely outnumbered.
We lined up two Ferrari 488 GTE's as follows:
With Simon and Milo less than fifty iRating between them, we were managed to get both cars in the same split (13/26).
Milo started in a solid 13th place and Simon was down in 21st position. Simon battled pretty hard from early on and even going three wide into turn one. It made the rest of us who were watching very nervous. It would have been devastating to be out of contention within the first few minutes. After all, we had spent a whole lot of time and effort in preparation for this event.
However, Simon managed to safely gain positions against other nervous competitors.
With both cars being in the same split, there was that inner team rivalry. The #832 car was quite a way back from the start but with Milo being caught with GTLM and GTD traffic, Simon was able to catch up to within a couple of seconds. It settled down and stayed pretty close for the first couple of stints.
After the first couple of hours with the sun setting, #831 was in P9 and the #832 car was sitting not far behind in 10th place. It was a pretty good start considering being matched with some very good teams.
The only major issue was the #832 car and their off-track count. Only 100 incident points were permitted to each team before a stop-and-go penalty was enforced. They were sitting with about 50x with well over 16 hours remaining.
About eight hours into the race, the #832 car lost a fair few places and was down to P14. A couple of spins didn't help the matter but the car was still in one piece which was the most important thing. We lost a bit of traction and not with pace in comparison to the start but there was still plenty of time left on the clock.
Blistering pace and consistency from Milo, Nick, Rico and Tobias put them one and a half laps ahead of the sister car! A lot of work was cut out from the night shift duo Simon and Calum.
High Calibre Autosports #831 had lots of issues with the GTD cars throughout the race. A lot of the incidents resulted in the #831 car being punted and spun out a couple of times. In between scheduled pit stops they managed to get rid of all the optional repairs and continued to battle away. Only losing a couple of kilometres an hour on the straights so all was not lost for us.
With the #832 car being a lap behind their main rivals a change in strategy was absolutely necessary in order to get something out of this. A lot of fuel and tire saving was the main objective but quadruple stinting the tires was equally important. With most teams, including the #831 car only able to do triples this meant we could catch up with the main pack by morning.
A trouble-free night for Calum allowed them to take a lap back from the #831 car and as the sun was rising Simon was able to push and get by Rico for position. The last seven hours got pretty intense. Three cars were all but 15s between each other which is pretty impressive after 600 odd laps. That was short lived though as the other competitor in that battle managed to take himself and a GTD out of the race.
Rico managed to hold onto the back of Simon for sometime but being punted not long before that wasn't helping. They got very frustrated and the car was down on top speed.
Not much happened for the next couple of hours apart from managing tires as the track temperature rose and keeping out of trouble, something the Full Send Racing #69 car didn't manage very well. High Calibre Autosports #832 was in 3rd place and the #831 car not far behind that in P4.
Coming into the last couple of hours the #831 car got itself into a bit of serious situation with another car. A full send up into the International Horseshoe caught an innocent GTD driver off guard and as a consequence we t-boned them leaving us with some hefty damage. The car was not in good shape and meant we had to sit in pit road for a couple of minutes. That was a real kick in the teeth!
Coming towards the end of the race with fatigue seriously affecting some of our drivers and other competitors there were definitely some close calls.
The checkered flag dropped at 13:56 GMT with both cars crossing the line hand-in-hand. High Calibre Autosports #831 - 7th Place
High Calibre Autosports #832 - 3rd Place
An exhausting race but it was quite the journey for both cars. They both had their ups and downs but all-in-all the finishing positions was very good. And for the #832 car to be in mint condition was also a good accolade to have. Completing 24 hours is an achievement in itself and all the drivers should be proud for what they achieved!
Finishing the race was one thing but the amount of effort put into practice by everyone leading up the race was exceptional and is a prime example of how hard work leads to good results. So a big thank you to all the drivers for that. Another thank you to everyone showing support whether it by via message or watching the live stream. Another thank you to the competitors for their clean racing and good code of conduct on and off track.
Up next is Bathurst 12 Hour. See you there!