CFEG told the sim racing world that once again we would be holding our annual Petit Le Mans. We promised an endurance race like no other as the narrow circuit of Road Atlanta played host to the event, boy did it delivery. Once more it displayed to us and to the drivers who took part what makes this race so special and unique. The sheer brutality and lack of sympathy shown by the racecourse added to the fire that already burned fiercely between the teams fighting for the top spots!
As always, an event like this requires a lot of preparation, 38 teams attended the spectacle, with records showing over 100 drivers taking part in the event. Hours of practice and setup work would all come down to one final test, the battlefield laid out before them in a test that would take 10 hours to complete. Many will fall in the coming hours as the track makes its mark, but for those who survive the ordeal, the greatest of feelings and one of the most iconic titles would be theirs to cherish for a whole 12 months. This article will highlight some of the best and worst moments of the day.
the #82 Black Hawk GTC goes out for qualifying
The qualifying session began in earnest, all three classes leaving the pit lane as soon as they could to get a clear bit of track space. The GTC's went first, their flat 6 engines roared into life, bring the Georgian circuit to life for the first time that day. It would be a spectacular fight between the top three teams and they exchanged positions. In the end, it would be the #60 HYDR Esports team who stole pole with a 1.21.352, with I.Fernandez alongside for Asombik Esports with a 1.21.581. The rest of the grid was still mostly in the 1.21's, with the first of the 1.22 lap times being posted all the way down in P8 in class. A good display to kick off the event on what was the GTC's first appearance in CFEG's PTLM.
After the GTC's completed their final laps the GTE field exploded into life. Corvettes, BMW's and screaming Porsches navigated their way around the circuit, looking for that extra tenth or two were possible. It was a great show for the Corvette teams as they locked out the front row, the #07 Rookie Monster machine showing the way with a 1.15.058. Exchanging the pole spot throughout the session was the #41 M.Technology car, they would settle in the end for second place after a hard-fought qualifying with a 1.15.199 on the board. Once more the rest of the field showed good pace, with the top 8 cars in class staying within a second of the leading time.
LMP2, the big boys went last with 20 minutes to push those machines to their limits. Straight out the box, Shawn jacobs secured pole position for Speedymite racing as the sister car lined up in second with just a tenth or two of a difference. Then the #06 from black Hawk racing entered the fray, claiming pole position with a staggeringly quick time of 1.06.864. The #48 Speedymite Oreca tried to respond, valiantly posting a time just 1 hundredth of a second off the pace with a 1.06.874. Most of the LMP2 teams posted 1.07's, well within 1 second of the pole-sitting teams for this year's race. The die was cast for a spectacular show in 2019.
The safety car begins the warm up lap, all 38 teams eagerly follow behind
The teams readied themselves, bitten nails, shaking hands and sweaty palms were the theme of the hour as all the drivers waited for the Safety car to begin its warm-up lap. 38 finely tuned machines prepared for the test ahead with one single goal in mind, to win the 2019 Petit Le Mans. As quickly as it had set off, the safety car pulled into pit lane, unleashing a wave of noise and colour as all the teams made their way down into the apex of turn 1. Black hawk racing came under attack from the #48 Speedymite straight out of the box, going two-wide into the corner. The black hawk car would use the outside line to defend, getting a better run up the hill and into the lead of the event.
The GTE field enters Sector 1, some cars choosing the grass as a quick escape
Further back was the first of many incidents to unfold and the #66 URC LMP2 would collide with the innocent party of the #80 Shattered Windscreen Racing car. The #80 would be forced into the pits for extensive repairs, sending them to the back of the order.In GTE it would be a strong start from the #07 Rookie Monster corvette, with M.Technology struggling to match the pace at the early stage of the race. Further back, the #01 Deuces Motorsport Porsche would be demoted from its 3rd place start by the BMW of F1 Bros racing, they claimed the last podium spot for the start of the race.
RSA Simracers make early ground at the start, moving up to 3rd
GTC was the calm amongst the storm though, as HYDR Esports drove into the distance, behind battles unfolded between the rest of the pack, the #29 RSA simracers making early gains by moving up to 3rd in class. Just ahead was the Asombik Esports Flat 6, their first showing in CFEG's PTLM and showing that they had strong pace early on. The race settled down for a short while, not for long though.
After just 3 laps of racing, the traffic arrived in the form of the leading LMP2's, slicing through the traffic it proved to be one of the most challenging most of the race as classes were all still tightly packed and vying for position. Many drivers in GTC commented on how uneasy it was to see so many LMP2's and GTE's trying to get through at the early stage without losing too much time.The casualties began to mount as the true nature of Petit Le Mans began to form.
#48 Speedymite lose control on the run down to turn 10a
The #82 black Hawk GTC entry lost control at the top of turn 5, collecting #48 Speedymite driven by S.Jacobs and sending the car into the wall. Suffering from heavy damage the #48 attempted to enter the pit lane but would lose control on the run down to Turn 10a, causing havoc on its way. several cars would be damaged as the car entered the pits, harsh penalties would follow under the grounds of excess speed while carrying damage. The sister #49 would also run into an issue, spinning several times and meeting the wall meant they had to repair the front wing of their LMP2. These unscheduled repairs opened the podium spots to the #21 ANBU team, closely followed by the #11 VRC.One car.
#41 M.Technology take the lead with a bold move
In GTE, M.Technology closed the gap down to the leading #07 corvette, staying attached to the rear bumper they saved fuel and aimed for the undercut. After the first round of pit stops both cars were poised for an epic confrontation, with the #41 making its move down into Turn 3 of all places. Both cars showed racing room as they fought over the narrowing tarmac, the #41 ran deep into the corner, using the kerbing available to just sneak ahead before the downhill part of sector 1. M.Beavis commented later in the race that they simply drove off into the distance after taking the lead, raising some concerns amongst the Rookie Monster garage.
#24 Alten Motorsport Crash out from 1st between pit stop phase
Disaster would strike the #24 Alten Motorsport GTC on Lap 42 of the race. Due to pit from 1st place in class at the time, the car span out at the last corner after the back left wheel clipped the grass, the car would drift through the final corner and finally came to a rest after colliding head-on with the concrete wall that guarded the pit lane. They would not be able to continue to the race without assistance, a process that must have felt like an age as the competition swopped by with ease.
As the sun began to set behind the hill, it was Chaos Engineer that entered with a bang, their three entries, one in LMP2 and x2 in GTE had so far had mixed success, the #13 Corvette and the #09 LMP2 being the most successful. The BMW entry in the form of #03 however, has been suffering from several issues, contact with other cars and resulting spins wore down the already battered chassis. The final blow was a coming together in sector 1, the valley of death of Road Atlanta it seems. Also involved was the #21 ANBU machine, who too had not had a good afternoon, after making gains earlier in the race, their second driver appeared to not replicate the performance of their earlier driver. After avoiding a coming together of x2 GTC's, the ANBU car didn't notice the race leading Black hawk LMP2 coming around the outside, making contact with the rear fender, the #21 was sent around, collecting the #03 in the process.
#03 Chaos Engineering BMW crashes at T4
Further issues would arise for the Chaos engineering garage, as the #13 Corvette also suffers from a spin at the top of the hill at Turn 5, the car slamming heavily into the wall and causing irreversible damage. Before the night was done, the LMP2 also retired after crashing at the last corner just as the race got to the halfway mark. A sad day for such a well-organised team meant their hopes had been shattered with a brutal reminder of just how harsh this circuit can be.
#06 LMP2 Leader under pressure from #11 VRC.One
Ahead and battling were the VRC.One and Black Hawk racing LMP2's, Exploiting the problems of the other teams the #11 had made good progress after some good fighting with the #86 F1 Bros Racing car. The #11 would get right underneath the #06 Black hawk racing team, trying to break through while diving through the dense traffic. Unable to get by and showing the stronger pace at this stage, the #11 decided to pit early and attempt an undercut, they would have to wait until the end of the event to see if their tactic would pay off though.
HYDR Esports extend their lead in GTC as the sun sets
In GTC the HYDR Esports team continued to extend their league, in a class of their own they pulled an impressive 2 lap lead over Asombik Esports who was still holding onto second place. The #24 Alten Motorsport car was also showing good pace, closing up to the competition ahead of an unlapping themselves in good time. It would not be long until they started making their way back up the order, fighting for some of the top 5 positions as the final glimpses of light disappeared.
In GTE the #41 M.Technology car suffered some front damage, limiting their top speed and allowing the #01 Deuces Motorsport team into 2nd place, with the #07 retaking the lead in class. Further battles came to pass in the mid-pack, with the Ballas Esports team fighting with several cars for 6th place.
Into the Night
#80 Chases down the #38 Madness Racing LMP2 in the dark
The final stages of the race were full of action as different tactics came to a head! In LMP2, sad news would strike the #11 as they are collected by the #21 ANBU machine, leading for further repairs and a 4 lap gap to first place. This would lead to the #21's disqualification after being involved in several incidents. further down the order, the #80 Shattered Windscreen P2 was fighting over P4 in class. The #38 Madness Racing entry was doing well to keep them at bay though, with the gap coming down to 3-5 seconds on several occasions. In the end it would be the #38 that would hold onto the position at the chequered flag, however, nothing can take away the admirable performance made by the #80 garage and their determination to carry on and achieve the top 5.
#24 Alten Motorsport Come back during the night in GTC
Another comeback came in the form of the #24 Alten Motorsport GTC. An incredible drive from both their drivers meant they were in a strong position to now fight for positions after their earlier mishap. After overtaking the #42 Seawolf Netrace Motorsport car (Who had been performing well themselves), they were struggling to catch up to the 3rd place car held by the Rookie Monster #97. In the closing stages, the #97 made a mistake in S1, causing damage to the front of the car and allowing the #24 car onto the last remaining podium position! An amazing story that they aren't soon to forget, proving that pushing through your problems is the best way to move forward.
#72 RSI Reclaim 5th place from #42 Seawolf Netrace GTC in the last 10 minutes
Another team that came away with a smile was the #72 RSI GTC. After hitting troubles early on and with one of their drivers being disconnected while holding one of the top 5 positions, they had all the work to do in the final stages of the event. Catching and overtaking the #29 RSA Simracing car for P6 in class, they continued on, with the next car being the #42 Seawolf Netrace entry. Both would come to a head in the final 10 minutes of the race. D.Vidimari showing us the experience of the RSI team and why they are tough to beat. A textbook move was made on the run down the back straight. The #42 unable to defend its position as they had a drag race towards the chicane. The #42 Stayed with the #72 for a few laps, but traffic would widen the gap and allowed the #72 to get away into the distance.
The best, however, took place in the GTE category. Three teams, each with different strategies lined themselves up for the final sprint to the finish. The #41 and the #07 had pitted near the end of the 9th hour, meaning they would require a splash and dash to get to the finish. The #41 came in later, so they would need less fuel and less time stationary. First, though they had to pass the #01 Deuces Motorsport car, who had just driven past the hour, waiting for their final pit stop to take place.
#41 M.Technology come out ahead of #07 Rookie Monster vette after the final pit stops
All three teams dived into the pit lane one after another, M.Technology taking the lead of the race as they emptied their remaining fuel load. Finally, they came in, waiting for the virtual engineers to do their work the entire grid, commentary box and viewers held their breath to see who had done their homework. The #07 came into the last corner at full speed, M.Beavis back behind the wheel and giving it everything he had. The #41 was already halfway down the pit lane, off the pit-limiter and up to racing speed as quickly as possible. As the #41 emerged, they had a lead of just 1 second.The #41 defends, waiting for their medium tyres to warm up in time to fight for victory, M.Beaving looked for every door available, pushing the #41 to make a mistake or run wide.
#07 Retakes the lead and pulls away on softer, newer tires
Both teams were in-separable at the closing stages but it was clear to everyone that the #07 was the car with the advantage in the closing stages. As the two cars entered the back-straight of Sector 2, the damaged carried by the #41 came back to haunt them. The #07 used the extra power to get alongside, clearing the M.technology car before reaching the chicane. It was a good performance from both teams, but sadly there can only be one winner here at PTLM.