It's been a while since i've blogged about endurance racing, even longer when it comes to an iRacing event such as this one. The Daytona 24 is the first of many special events being held at iRacing this year, certainly, it gives endurance fans a kick start to the year, as this is probably one of the most prestigious titles any sim racer can achieve.
Of course this title and prestige owes itself to the real life road series known as the IMSA. Although we dont have the opportunity to torch the tarmac of Daytona in super fast cadillacs or mazdas, there is still a great challenge for those who enter this event.
There will always be those who say that what we do is just a video game, a worthless investment of time and effort to satisfy our petrol head ways but in a pixelated universe. But for those who truly have a passion for motorsport. There is no way to describe the feeling one gets when they cross the line after 24 hours of racing.
It's also one of the hardest things to do, whether on a PC or Real tarmac, if a single thing goes wrong, then you have to wait an entire 12 months before you get another shot at taking the win! Hows that for a challenging sport football fans!?
For those who have never experienced a full on endurance race, i'll do my best to describe it to you. The warm up session closes, the announcement goes out to line the cars up on the grid, and your the first of 4 drivers in this untouched, clean, spotless GT3 car to get behind the wheel. The tension is so thick that its toxic, despite drivers being continents apart, they feel the pressure from one another. The safety car rolls forward to begin the warm up lap and your lifeless engine bursts into life as it makes its way to into the first corner with 60 or so other cars.
Your team-mates watch from the commentary box, all each as nervous as you are. A trusted friend tells you "you got this" and "just take it easy on those cold tyres". The words of comfort work to a degree, making you realise that its not all about nailing the start as that is all your mind is focusing on right now.
3, 2, 1. The safety car pulls into the pitlane and the surrouding air becomes alive with the noise of burning fossil fuels. Everyone is scared of turn 1, no one wants to make a mistake so most the time, plenty of room is given between cars so they can setlle down for a long stint. There is always 1-2 small bangs or a spin around, but nothing usually race threatning.
It will take me about 5 laps to relax, my hands will be shaking the entire time before then where adrenaline is pumping through my veins. My eyes are wide open, capturing every twitch from the car ahead, as well as the rear view mirrors. There are lights everywhere that it's impossible to tell one car from the next, you just have to guess whats coming up behind you and trust in your team-mate to look out for trouble.
Then, the traffic begins to come around, Im used to be in the slower class (GT3). Nothing can prepare you for the treatment and abuse you will receive simply for taking a slower car. I don't blame the faster classes, they have their own race to win, but sometimes it feels like they don't recognise your existence or as though your a mobile road block. This in itself will put you on edge for the remainder of your stint. Just keep going...
You poddle around the circuit until you get the call to enter the pits, your team-mate sounds as nervous as you did at the start of the race. You get out of the car and hand it over, telling them how the car feels and updating them on any damage you suffered during your time out on track, people to look out for, track conditions and...well, you get the idea.
You would of thought that you would relax after this point, i've completed 2/6 hours for the team and i'm no longer behind the wheel, however that's when you get that strange feeling in your stomach. You help your team-mates from start to finish in these events, you're all in it together no matter what happens. You show sympathy for them as you know what it feels like and what they are going through as they continue the fight in you're own GT3 car. The pressure and sense of responsibility is immense! if you screw up its not just yourself you have to answer to, people are relying on you to get the car from A to B in one piece and you feel that throughout the entire event.
Its a surreal experience in itself, it makes you realise that no matter where you live in the world, there are people with the same level of passion as you, all willing to put everything on the line to win the next 24 hours of time. Time they will never get back, time they will never be able to justify to their wifes or loved ones, but for those taking part, they know exactly, why we do it.
That for me is what makes endurance racing. The combined effort of a few close friends challenging their limits to achieve the ultimate title for just 12 months, it's means absolutely nothing...it means everything!
Have a great 24h of daytona
Go TEAM CFEG!