Round 9 of the VLMS-ERL series would prove to be 1 of the most memorable ones in Satellites relatively short history. Coming into the event we’d had an absolutely dismal beginning to 2012 with various reliability problems and a couple crashes. Straight away though both the Simcraft Acura and Pro Cup Karting Pescarolo were instantly on the pace of the leaders. Matt Strand stuck the Acura 3rd on the grid in qualifying on Wednesday and Nick Rowland came in 5th. We were quite happy with our positions and gaps to the leaders based on our race pace and strategies. Going in we felt we had the strongest line up for both cars to do well.
The beginning of the race did not get off to the strong start we were expecting. Nick Rowland lost control of his Pescarolo in the Porsche Curves just over an hour into the race. The front and left side of the car were completly destroyed and despite Nicks best efforts the Pescarolo was finished. At the same time Matt had a run in with a GT car which knocked the nose ascew and was bleeding time to the leaders badly down the long straights. When he finally pitted for fuel and tires Mike Smulcheski jumped in and the team did a rapid repair to get the car fixed and back up to speed.
After that we settled into a rythm with Mike and Matt switching off through the early evening hours. In Smulcheskis 2nd stint about 5 hours into the event however he looped the car at the kink before Indianapolis, 1 of the fastest corners on the track. The car took a big thump but Mike managed to limp it back to the pits where he’d hand off to Strand and after ANOTHER lengthy repair we were back under away again. The night seemed to drag on for ages and when the field was very spread out almost seemed lonely on track. After the big incident with Smulcheski everything settled back down for a brief time.
Around 3 a clock in the morning Brandon Warren jumped in for his 1st stint. The track was ice cold at this point as the ambient tempature had dropped to 13C. Brandon came into Tetre Rouge on his outlap and slid straight into the outside armco, tearing the front end apart. Somehow after all the abuse the 3 had already put into the car it still wouldn’t die and Brandon got it back to the pits for yet another lengthy repair. After some coaching to settle him down and the repairs done he was back underway. The car not perfect but fast enough to click laps off. It was shortly after this that the midnight gremlins finally woke up as the overall leading #15 Audi of Deuces Motorsport Club had a massive shunt with Satellite stand in driver Dave Jordan behind the wheel. This incident moved us back into the top 5 in LMP1 and 7th overall.
Dawn was beginning to peak through finally as Brandon was finishing up his 3rd stint. After having calmed his head back down considerably he was putting in lap times faster then anybody on the cold track. He came in and handed over to Matt for the final couple of hours and the big push to get what spots we could. By this point we were back up to 4th overall and 3rd in LMP1 chasing down the leading TINART P1, CanAm Enduro P1, and R4R P2 cars. Luck was clearly on our sides though as the R4R P2 ran out of fuel with 3 hours remaining. Just an hour later the leading TINART Pescarolo crashed with a GT car in the Porsche curves. We were on the same lap as the CanAm Acura and closing the gap quickly. With some quick calculations from pit wall we figured out when they would need to pit for a splash and dash and when we would. The CanAm car took his fuel and went back out the minute the window opened. Matt stayed out and continued to push setting our fastest lap times of the race. He was now leading but still had a splash and dash to do and was trying to gap the 2nd place P1 at the same time. With just 35 minutes remaining however the CanAm car was taken out by an errant LMP2 on the Mulsannes straight, ending both cars races. Strand was free to come in for his fuel stop and come out just 1 and a half minutes ahead of the now 2nd place DMC #17.
We crossed the line with their LMP2 winning #16 Porsche Spyder and could not believe what had just transpired. “Holy **** what a race!” said Strand. “I dont know how that all just happened. I’m still trying to digest it all right now. I feel like this is long overdue for us in this series. We’ve been leading a few times when we got bit by situations beyond our control and just never could seal the deal for the past 2 years. Even this season we had some serious low points with our struggles around mid season in both cars but eventually we managed to have everything fall our way and grabbed the biggest win on the calendar. WE WON LEMANS!”
We finished the VLMS-ERL season 4th place in LMP1 points. Our campaign in prototypes ends for now but starting next month we begin a new challenge in the form of GT3 racing at sim-racing.org. We will also be rolling our the real world cars again come August with the SCCA SunStroke National at Daytona International Speedway.