VLMS-ERL 8 hours of Monza

Satellite Racing comes home from round 1 of the VLMS-ERL series with a podium finish in their maiden voyage in the LMP1 class. Drivers Matt Strand and Mike Smulcheski had a steep uphill battle ahead of them entering round 1 of the season. Strand started the car in 7th and quickly moved up a spot with the madness in turn 1. As the opening stint developed, the LMP1 class found 2nd through 6th all running nose to tail weaving their way through traffic. As the opening fuel run went on Strand managed to pick off a couple more cars moving up to 5th. He soon was able to nip past the 05 Motorsports Audi R10 driven by Kamran Choudhry. The 2 went on to run nose to tail for the better part of 20 minutes and managed to run down 3rd place Ryan von Steinen in the process. The 3 ran together until the opening round of pit stops seperated the cars on track by a couple seconds. As the race progressed these 3 cars found themselves fighting for 2nd.

Strand chasing down Nexus 6 driver Ryan von Steinen with 05 Motorsports Kamran Choudhry in tow

With each car being on their own fuel and tire strategy the cars made most of their passes through pit rotation. The Satellite Acura had a bad middle sector with Smulcheski being caught out by lap traffic on a number of occasions. Mike was able to keep the car clean and in 1 piece. Prototypes are very fragile to damage and can lose the better part of 5 seconds a lap if they incure any. The team soon found themselves nearly a full lap down to the Nexus 6 and 05 Motorsports entry and already a full lap down to the leading Deuces Motorsports Club Acura ARX-02A. Strand jumped back into the car just passed the 4 hour mark and was on a mission to stop the bleeding of time the team was losing in traffic. Strand went on track agressive and was picking off the lap cars continually all the while cutting into the gap of the next 2 cars ahead. At the end of his 6th stint of the day Strand handed the car back over to Smulcheski who continued the agressive push. With the Deuces MC entry so far ahead in 1st, the attention shifted to the “best of the rest” with its contenders Nexus 6, 05 Motorsports, and Satellite.

Smulcheski working passed LMP2 and GT traffic late in Saturdays race

The Satellite team did a phenominal job with the fuel and tire strategy, saving a full stop over its’ closest competitors for 2nd. Mike continued the agressive effort making sure to minimize time lost stuck behind lap traffic. Mike managed to whittle the gap down to the delta time the team had target for them to leap the 2 cars ahead for 2nd place. He continued to drive the wheels off the Simcraft Acura through out his whole stint. Smulcheski came over the radio with about 30 minutes remaining “how do my times look to theirs? Not that it matters I’m pushing as hard as I can.” “I was impressed” said owner/driver Strand. “Mike struggled with traffic early on but his 2nd stint in the car was phenominal to watch. Couldn’t ask anymore of him” With every passing lap Smulcheski continued to eat into the lead of the 2 cars ahead. He came in for his final fuel stop just as the window opened to make it to the end only to find another prototype sitting in his pit stall! Mike had to sit and wait 21 seconds for the P2 car to clear out so he could get the desperatley needed fuel to make it to the end. Once back on track Mike was faced with the daunting task of having to push the car to make up time on the other cars, knowing they had to pit again for a splash and go, but also needing to save fuel as they were scheduled to be very tight. The crew came over the radio at 1 point and said “Mike you need to push but remember to save fuel in doing so.” Only silence answered back.

Strand lapping the Oracle Ford GT around the 6 hour mark

Smulcheski continued his push and managed to knock about 20 seconds off of the 2 cars ahead. Tristan Bayliss pitted the Nexus 6 Pescarolo with about 20 minutes to go handing Satellite 3rd. Their goal was to now eat into the gap of the 05M Audi now driven by Kevin Brents. Mike continued to trash the car and make up time when Brents finally pitted with under 5 minutes to go. Kevin was able to get back on track just 13 seconds ahead of Mike. Keeping with the teams Never Give In mentality he continued to push but to no avail. Deuces Motorsports came home with a win by a long ways with 05 Motorsports in 2nd and Mike brought the Satellite Acura home in 3rd while running on fumes having just 1 Litre remaining as he took the checkard flag. “I’m always happy to be on the podium” said Strand. “Was frustrating to not be fighting for the win but our battle with Nexus and 05 was just as intense. The team did a phenominal job all around with drivers keeping the car clean and the crew calculating out how to save a stop. We were sweating wether we’d even make it but figured the risk was worth it. almost got it!” The next outing for the Satellites virtual endurance team will be at Road Atlanta September 24th.