Back-to-Back at Le Mans

 

Beast Racing was heading into their third race at the legendary 24-hour event. For the second year in a row, the team only fielded one car. That did not slow the team whatsoever though. The race was scheduled for mid-August. Preparations began back in March.

The team spent some time doing some preliminary testing to see how last year’s data lined up against this year’s BOP (balance of performance). They then entered into the inaugural season of the iRacing Le Mans Series and ran at the 6 Hours of Le Mans during Season 2 of 2018. For the team, it was the perfect live fire exercise.

With a strong start, everything seemed to go according to plan. However, with the race being at a different weather scenario, a crack in the armor was found. The weather exploited a fault in the setup and sent the car around. With only minor damage done, the team was forced to finish the race off pace.

The team achieved a top 10 and while that was encouraging, they knew there was a lot more they could get out of the car.

“Man were we fast! Like really fast. Brock and I were able to lay down some really fast and consistent times. With five months till the race, I think we will be able to find the cause of our error and be able to contend for a podium at the 24.” -Drew

Five months later, the team was back. With more testing a minor change in the driver lineup, they felt really confident. Until warm up. While Drew was behind the wheel, he noticed the car starting to develop the same issues that it had back in March. He radioed to Tim and said I think we need to make this change. The team made the change and only had 2 laps to test it.

For the first time at this event, Drew would not be starting. Brock was chosen as the starter. Brock over the past 5 months had worked his way up the road racing ladder and became a major threat to Beast Racing’s competition. Though the one thing he lacked, major race starts. This would be Brock’s first time starting a crown jewel event.

The jets did their ceremonious fly over as the cars approached the start line. There was a miscommunication though on when it was time to drop the hammer and the car starting behind the team thought the race was green, then rear ended them. The situation happened so fast that the team didn’t know whether to dive down the pit lane or go for the start. They went for the start. Immediately losing positions and time, the team pulled the car and repaired it. They were lucky to be able to come out in front of the leader but debated whether to take tires and fuel.

Once Brock was sent back out, he was able to make up a position, but potentially lost out on the ability to be off cycle and stir some drama for the leaders. Over the course of his two stints he was able to get the team cycling for 9th and 10th. Then it was Drew’s turn. He turned an uneventful two stints, though making up 2 positions.

The team was now 7th in class when the car was turned over to Taylor and then Brock again. Now was the turn of the team’s newest driver in the lineup, Jeff. It was Jeff’s first time running at Le Mans. His driving however, did not show it. He was able to work the team into 6th place with 5th just in front of them when he stepped out of the car.

The team handed the car back to Drew, then to Taylor. Unfortunately, the team had worked its way to 5th and before the thought about a podium, Taylor lost control of the car briefly and the right side of the nose collided with a armco barrier coming out of the second chicane. A GT car had changed its trajectory on the exit and caused Taylor to avoid him which put him into the dust and marbles which got the car loose and swiveled into the barrier.

Fortunately, the car wasn’t badly damaged but the team had lost time in the pits and they re-entered the track in 8th place. When Taylor finished his second stint, an electrical problem struck the car on pit entry and the team lost more time resetting and recycling the car. The team had fallen to 11th. Taylor fortunately drove quick during the stint so the time lost was minimal.

Jeff was put back into the car and he managed to pick up some speed and set personal bests, including his fastest time of the race and get the team back to 10th in class. Then it was Brock’s turn. He managed to drive the team back to 9th, flirting with 8th on pit stop cycling. The team put Drew back in the car and told him that it was now time for the shark to come out and play. Not only did Drew run down 8th, he also ran down 7th…and 6th. After his two stints in the car, he had worked them all the way back to where they were still fighting for a podium.

Jeff got into the car on Lap 257 of the 385 laps the team would run. He kept pace with 5th and gave Taylor prime position to move the team into 5th and began the hunt for a podium. A few laps into Taylor’s stint however, the brake line seized up and the team essentially lost their brakes in the car. He was able to bring it back in, but that sent the team down to 8th and any chance at making the podium.

There were only 3 driver changes left and Brock began the first of those. Even though the track was beginning to slow down, it seemed nothing was going to stop Brock. He worked the team back into 7th before he passed the Baton off to Drew. Drew got in and began his final two stints. However, strategy began to play apart into the end of the race. Not only could the team achieve a top 5, they could mathematically get as high as 4th. The team knew they had to short pit but couldn’t have expected what was going to happen next.

Drew came over the radio and asked for Taylor. He asked him one simple question, “Do you still have on last fight in you?” Taylor responded, “Yes. I can get the job done.” Then two laps before he had to come in, Drew dove down the pit lane, alerting the crew that he was making a stop. The crew did the stop and they asked Drew why he came in early. He responded, “Taylor is going to be the one that will make this happen for us. Plus we needed to short pit, now we don’t need to worry about it.

Effectively now there was only one more pit stop and that allowed Taylor to run flat out. And flat out he ran. He drove almost a second a lap quicker than the whole race and even set his fastest time of the race. he was closing down on 5th, or what the team thought was 5th. The team in 4th misjudged their strategy and had to pit. This propelled the team into 5th and now the race for 4th was on.

Taylor has his sights set on 4th and the team had been gaining almost a two seconds a lap on them until the team made their final stop. They came out in front of Beast by about 10 seconds, but the driver of that car had turned out his fastest laps of the race, by a margin. He found an extra 2.5 seconds and began to extend the lead. That pace shocked the pit wall and with a handful of laps left, the team watched 4th place drive off. While the team in 4th wasn’t out of the gutter yet, there was nothing Beast Racing could do to catch 4th place on pace alone.

So the team decided to back down Taylor and save the car and fuel. They were expecting to run out when they crossed for the finish. They didn’t run out of fuel but would not have made it another lap. Beast Racing finished 5th in class and 17th overall. An excellent outing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Man this race had everything, highs, lows, moments where we danced, moments when we cringed to edge of our seats, and even made us almost of anxiety attacks. But that’s what you want from these races. You want the constant battle between competitors, the track, and yourselves. Unfortunately for Taylor, he absorbed all the bad luck of the race, which sucks, but what a redemption run there at the end huh? What a double stint he pulled off! Does it hurt that we had a shot at the podium, yes, of course. It feels even better though knowing that we did everything in our power to earn this position and fight for it till the bitter end. We earned it. That’s what’s important. We had a really fast car and felt like it was on rails at times. The team did a marvelous job preparing the car and coming up with great strategies. We cannot thank our sponsors enough. RaceSpot, Prestige Worldwide, and of course Destinations, you helped push this car here. Thanks for everyone’s support, now onto next year!” -Drew

“It was nice to get back to top 5 territory after what has been a shaky World Tour schedule for us since the Bathurst 12 Hour. Me and Drew go into this race knowing it’s our best chance at a 24-hr event category win, and this year we once again reached the cusp of that realization. A few hiccups, such as my first lap bruise caused by a massive brake check, would ultimately keep us from one of our sim-racing dreams. As I have said in previous World-Tour event recaps, as our driver lineup becomes more consistent I think we can contend for wins across a wide-variety of these highly competitive races. Although I have had a blast with World-Tour events over the past year, I am looking forward to finally racing in an endurance series that offers championship points in what will be an LMP1 entry into the DGFX racing league–and hope to write about an endurance victory before year’s end.” -Brock