GT3’s and spreading my wings..

Well the new Backfire SimSport league has begun in earnest. The Inaugural race was at Daytona on Sunday the 7th of September. This is a brand knew departure for me. No Mazda, no Skippy.. Thats right I was trying on a grown –up set of wheels with a serious bit of Oomph The GT3’s are in town.

These sleek beauties are among the most popular cars on iRacing, stunning to look at and stunning to drive.. Err as long as you are at the right track in the right car.. and the right set-up helps. I have driven all of them and unusually for an iRacer I like them all. I don’t have the experience and the knowledge to tell if one oversteers more or this one is quick through the chicane while that one flies down the straight. They are all fun to drive.

So the scene was set when I arrived at the track; people were already flying round seconds faster than me.. I was a bit nervous and seeing the pace of some of the other drivers didn’t help.. I was in for being lapped and thats never risk-free. Fortunately Daytona is well endowed with some nice wide areas of tarmac which should minimise the unforeseen and unwelcome consequences of being Blue Flagged and at the same time having a serious wobble..

I should explain something here about driving in a new league and driving in a league where everyone has become familiar with the other people on the grid. A certain amount of leeway is given to me by my friends.. In my case that’s not just my lovely teammates but nearly everyone else. They all know I’m slow and given to losing my way on the track.. I don’t brake in the ‘right place’ all the time and if I do it’s probably for too long or too short a period. This can lead to unintended consequences.. either I hit the car in front or am hit by the car behind. Of course my err idiosyncrasies are very familiar to my regular opponents and they bear up to them with good grace for the most part. People recognise my dedication and joyful enthusiasm and are generous, kind and even protective of ‘The Gentleman’..not so with all these new friends.

Clearly there is going to be a period of familiarisation while the guys sort out among themselves whose quick and likely to be at the front battling for honours and who’s a mid-field runner in the thick of things with the main bunch and those less endowed with skill and talent who occupy the higher numbered grid slots. (!)

For me and I’m sure other’s a 90 minute race is going to be different on a number of levels from familiar 15 minute sprint races. The dynamics are completely different leading to a far greater role for strategy and tactical acumen to play a part. There is 65% fuelling at the start to ensure that everyone has to make a pit-stop or possibly 2. To some this will mean working on refuelling strategies that mean not a thimbleful of extra fuel is put in the tank, saving time at the pitstop and weight on the car. Of course if you get it even slightly wrong you will have an embarrassing limp back to the pits while your rivals go zooming by. My tactic here is simple; ‘fill her up Jim’ a few seconds here or there are far less important to me than the peace of mind of knowing I will reach the finishing line.

Finishing is everything. If one can gain a few places all well and good but crossing the finishing line is the only way I can make a meaningful contribution to my teams points tally. Remember this is a Championship, it has a long way to go before prizes are awarded and every point will count by the time February rolls round. All the racers have been give a ‘Pro’ or ‘Am’ category based on their iRating. This effectively means there are 2 races happening on the track simultaneously which all adds to the entertainment and fun. Giving the slowcoaches, ahem!, a title that is winnable. and increasing the prize opportunities for teams.

I am delighted to say that after 90 very exiting minutes, with a couple of lucky escapes and some gritting of teeth as my bladder started to demand attention, I bought the car home in 35th overall and 19th in the amateur race. I couldn’t have been more content if I had won. The sense of achievement is profound and the sense of relief twofold as I crossed the line and made it to the loo with little time to spare.

The afterglow of euphoria in Results Discord was wonderful. It had been hard charging from the off and everyone in there was suffused with the pleasure of having made it to the end. These moments of coming together after a race are just a bit special and are to be cherished and stored up for the times when it’s been a pig’s ear and disappointment rules. Being part of a team and being able to join these metaphorical backslapping moments brings a lump to my throat every time..

Congratulations to the podium finishers and special congrats and thanks to Clyde, Pete, Bill, and Sam. Like everyone who is good at what they do they make 2 hours in the commentary box seem easy and it’s far from that.

Looking forward to the next race but also well aware that I will need to put in some serious practice time to be as quick as I can and as predictable as I can for the other drivers. I am in for the long run. A commitment it’s a pleasure to make.

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