Beast Racing drivers Jack Wells and Brock Hopkins made the team’s inaugural start in the renowned XtremeMotorsports iRacing league for Round 1 of their Ricmotech High Performance Sim Racing Equipment GT Challenge. Round 1 was home to the Ricmotech 75 at Spa Francorchamps, where the team was fresh off the heels of the Spa 24 that just wrapped up before Monday’s festivities. In what was an upsetting outing in this year’s 24, Jack and Brock were ready to write their wrongs. Note that Zak Rounds will be seen joining the team as a 3rd entry when they convene in Detroit, MI for Round 2 at Detroit Belle Isle. That race will be later in August.
“I used to race with the founders of XtremeMotorsports back when they were NoBullMotorsports…this would’ve been prior to 2015 so I am dating myself here. League founder Rick Donathan along with GT League Admin Kevin Ford run a tight ship, and me and Jack couldn’t have been more impressed with how the whole thing was orchestrated in TeamSpeak. I honestly didn’t expect anything less with how professionally they are seemingly ran through the look of their site, rulebook, and informative emails.” -Brock
With that said Jack and Brock were ready to tackle Spa, knowing they were both arguably over prepared for a short 75-minute race whereas they had been preparing for 24 hours. With the pre-race festivities taken care of in TeamSpeak, both drivers had good times in practice and we’re more than certain a good gridding spot would hold true with just 12 of the 17 GTD registrees showing up for Round 1. All 3 Beast entries are seen competing in the Mercedes GT3 for their first season in the league as part of the GTD class.
“I qualified in the top 25% of drivers for the Spa 24 with a little over 1000 making an attempt…so I had a hunch I might just be able to grab a pole in a field of 12. Jack found us a good set for the Spa 24 courtesy of Tanner McCullough and there wasn’t really much adapting that would need to be done for the 75 minutes. We both had 2 stints under our belts from the 24, and we’re just ready for the green flag to present itself.” – Brock
“I knew I wasn’t quite on Brock’s pace heading into the race as I was only able to match his full fuel times on quali runs. On the other hand we did have a great setup and looked strong and consistent in comparison to our nearest rivals during free practice” – Jack
So the green flag would ultimately present itself, but much to the demise of Brock, who set the quick time of 2’15.141…3 tenths quicker than 2nd place Ian Gagnon-Renaud and 4 tenths ahead of Brendan Mizler. Jack qualified 8th with a 2’17.2. Unfortunately, the hefty rule book would crack down on Brock quite early as he accidentally jumped the start, with Renaud following in his wake and being served the same punishment, Jack would be the beneficiary picking up from 8th to 6th.
“It was an eventful start to say the least, an unfortunate penalty for Brock and Gagnon-Renaud meant I inherited 2 positions off the bat, and all I had to do was keep the pace of the remaining lead pack, which I knew I was more than capable of doing even after my sub-par qualifying attempt. As the beginning phase of the race passed, I found my rhythm and also who was running on my pace” – Jack
“I really hated for my guys as Chase Elliot would say…and for Renaud as well…he didn’t do anything wrong himself, was just following the leader and got caught up in the penalty (which I honestly do question whether it was justified to penalize him). For me, I was just so in the moment…and when the race steward announced that the GTLM class had made it through Eau Rouge safely and we rounded turn 1…I thought that was essentially my key to hit the loud pedal, totally forgetting the rule where the Steward has to pronounce the words ‘Green Flag GTD’….” (cont.)
“As I looked in my mirror and saw the big gap me and Renaud developed going into Eau Rouge, and then heard ‘Green Flag GTD’…I was semi worried…but figured hey, maybe I’ll get the benefit of the doubt in my first race ever with the league.’ But, for the sake of enforcing the rules, which league racers will always be appreciative of, the grueling message came over the in-game text chat that we must both serve a drive-through. Those would be the fatal words that would ultimately snag either me or Renaud’s chances at a race win, barring a full course caution that would serve to stack the cars back up….” (cont.)
“Judging from practice times throughout the classes, I knew the field had a magnitude of skill levels dispersed throughout and that gaps would be aplenty a few laps in. Since Spa is so large and has many run-off areas, anything warranting a full-course caution was about as good as hitting the lottery. So, me and Renaud would come out of the pits, and I would swap positions with him as he seemingly had a bit more pace than me from what I gathered through the opener. I figured let’s just ride it out, see if we can pick off one at a time, and go from there. Maybe I’ll even save some fuel. But who was I kidding, there would be no saving trying to make up a 30+ second gap to 1st with a little over an hour to race.” – Brock
Both drivers were struggling with the hot track temps as the race wore on…and knowing that their pit stop wouldn’t consist of a tire change (which would’ve added a hefty 45-60 sec. to their pit times) added another wrinkle as the car would become even harder to keep under both drivers. Brock and Renaud by this point had cracked the top 8 and Jack had a podium finish all about sitting in his lap.
“About midway through the race I found myself in the final podium spot following a mistake from one of the leaders, I was relatively comfortable in matching pace with Whitworth behind and knew I just had to keep my head down and run a clean race. What I didn’t expect was the sudden tyre drop off in the final 25 minutes of the race, at this point we had ran further than any practice stint we had done in preparation for the 24 Hour, the tyres were a mystery at this point to me and seemed to suddenly lose all predictable characteristics. I began to lose significant time as everyone started to concertina up behind me.” – Jack
His teammate cleared the chasing Whitworth with relative ease and a couple laps later Jack allowed Brock past as he realized there was no advantage to be gained from defending the position to his teammate, who was also the fastest GTD on the track at the time. Gagnon-Renaud made his way past Whitworth too and with 2 laps remaining the pair caught the back of Jack’s Mercedes. Coming down the Kemmel Straight Jack went defensive and held the inside of Les Combes, as it switched back into the left hander Gagnon-Renaud banged doors with Jack and forced him to get off the throttle to save the car. This put both himself and Whitworth into 4th and 5th respectively with Jack having little left in the car and tyres to fight back with. They rounded out the race in those positions.
“It was a rollercoaster of a race for myself and Brock for our first outing in this fantastic league. We both had issues in different areas throughout the race, but we can certainly build on what we have achieved and learned at Spa” -Jack
Regarding the battle at the end of the race with Ian Gagnon-Renaud – “It was a hardy move and I was unhappy at the time of course as I lost 2 positions due to it. However, it was a good battle between us, and contact Is always expected in GT racing so I don’t hold any ill-will towards Ian for the move and hopefully we can continue to have such entertaining battles throughout the season” – Jack
“It was a great way to start the season all-in-all. Had I not gotten a podium finish…I probably would’ve been more disappointed with the result having started from pole and showing the way pace-wise throughout the race. The penalty was a tough reminder of some of the variables league racing throws your way, as I was getting so used to running IMSA and the other Official series that allow the leader to fire off at their will. I am glad Jack was able to fill out in 6th place and that should give him a good buffer against the remaining 5 drivers who didn’t show their faces in round 1…which includes our 3rd teammate in this series in Zak Rounds who unfortunately missed due to faulty equipment. It will be valuable having him for the next camp as we prepare for Detroit Belle Isle, a track I have yet to visit on the iRacing service outside of private testing.” – Brock
Finding victory Lane was Brendan Mizler of LMG Racing followed by MEH Motorsport’s Tyler Shifflett. The team has a lofty break until they hit the lone street circuit on the iRacing service for the Ricmotech 75 at Detroit Belle Isle. Every race this season can be caught on the third Monday of each month at 8pm Est on ApexRacingTV on YouTube and Twitch. Round 2 is Monday, August 19th.