High Calibre Autosports #831 went to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the final special event of the year which follows the real life IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.
We only had enough drivers to field one car this year with people's availability throughout the course of the day being the most influential factor. But we lined up in the Ferrari 488 GTE with the following team drivers:
We decided to split the registration between Milo and Nick which put us into race lobby number eleven. It was a GTE only split so traffic would be manageable.
We had fifteen minutes to qualify and Milo opted to do one flying lap, return to the pits on lap two for fresh tires and then push hard on the final lap in a last ditch attempt to get us further up the field.
We managed a time of 1:16:739 which put us in P19. We were 0.663 behind the leaders so it was pretty tight across the whole field. The temperatures on track were just below forty degrees Celsius so it was tough to get three good lap times in without the tires dropping off too quickly hence why Milo decided to use that tyre strategy.
We scraped a few positions on lap one with the usual iRacing carnage and a car being on its side on the exit of T7. We had to push on the cars ahead to avoid being overtaken from behind and this continued for about twenty minutes or so into the race. By the end of the first stint we got up to P7 and were the last ones to pit within the top running teams and as we saved about eight laps of fuel early on in the race. This was a huge advantage for us and put us in good stead early on.
By the end of Milo's triple stint we got up to P4 and by that point it was time for Nick to get in for his double. Despite Nick having one of the lowest iRating in the lobby he was able to gain one position whilst dealing with heavy waves of traffic. The incident points were still very low and the car was in pristine condition by the end of his two hour spell, so kudos to him!
Just after hitting the half way mark and with the sun setting, Simon jumped in with the gap to the leaders only 0:40s. It was time to push on! Simon maintained the gap to the leaders and we started to think about switching up the strategy and double stinting the tires to get the jump on the guys ahead. However after the first stint the tires were a bit worse for wear and we decided not to take the risk. Above all, finishing the race would be an achievement in itself hence why we were playing safe. In addition to this the two cars we were chasing took tires anyway so we did not lose or gain anything in terms of strategy.
Towards to end of Simon's run we got caught in lapped traffic and that's when we got our first bit of car contact which left us with a tiny bit of damage at the front. It wasn't looking good at this point. However, Simon done well to keep focused and finished off his stint without losing a whole load of time.
Calum was in next and had come to overcome a obstacle in terms of strategy and how we were going to combat fixing the 0:30s of damage. We had two options:
Fix the damage and don't take tires or;
Take tires and not the damage (not ideal).
The third option was to change tires and fix the damage but that would of put us well over a lap down on the leaders so that was out of the question. So Calum decided to take the damage and use Simon's old tires.
The lap times were good but then the tires all of a sudden dropped off and he was losing a lot of time. P1 and P2 lapped us and were +1 lap and 0:15s ahead but we just had to hang on until we got fresh tires which should in theory take us to the end of the race.
We took fresh tires and were still +1 lap but minus the 0:15s and were putting in much quicker times to be able to un-lap ourselves despite them making it tricky for us. At this point Calum was annihilating the off tracks and pushing as hard as possible to close the gap ahead. The last hour was going to be intense...
In the final pit stop and about forty minutes remaining on the clock we double stinted the tires whereas leaders did not, therefore we were only about 0.20s off of P2. The only issue was they had fresh rubber and should in theory be at least half a second quicker each lap. Calum kept pushing hard and abusing track limits to close the gap but it wasn't enough and could only maintain the gap throughout the final stint.
We waved past the checkered flag in an impressive P3, which is by far the best result this team has endeavoured in a special event.
Huge congratulations on the drivers for this amazing feat! And thanks for putting in the time and effort in the weeks leading up to the race.
All in all, preparation is crucial for having a successful race and we done just that.