Round 4 of the Sim-Racing.org GT3 Series came into the USA for the only time in the season. Luckily enough they were just up the street at the always incredible Daytona International Speedway. The trip home was great for 2 reasons, everybody got to sleep in their own beds, and we were able to roll out a pair of brand new R8 GT3 Ultras we had acquired just prior to the 24h race in Germany. The new cars and home circuit proved to really close the gap between where we’d been all season compared to the leaders. Qualifying around the 3.56 mile circuit proved the true nature of the GT3 field. Matt Strand in car #108 was just 1.4 seconds off of pole. Sadly this was only good for 22nd on the grid! The entire field was insanely close and every tenth lost was devastating. Car #164 slotted in just another second back in 26th position.
With both cars waxed, prepped, and ready for 24 grueling hours in Florida summer heat we knew we had 2 seriously fast machines ready to race. At the drop of the green flag however, car #164 with Sean Yoder at the wheel came to a sputtering stop in the tri-oval. The car was towed back to the garages quickly and turned around after finding the plugs had fowled on the pace lap. It wasn’t a huge issue but enough to cost the car 4 laps right from the word go. With 23 hours and 50 minutes remaining however it was more just an annoyance then any real pressing issue. Plenty of time to make it all back up. Problem was the motor died on Sean again coming into the tri-oval this time. The plugs were quickly swapped out again with the Audi engineers frantically trying to figure out what was going on but now in the first hour of the race the 164 car was already 8 laps down. Was a hugely deep hole to crawl out of but Yoder, Nichols, Walker, and Edwards all kept pressing with escalating engine issues all race long and did improve their position from 26th to 22nd come the end of the 24. The fact that the car finished at all with all of its struggling just to run was amazing in itself.
Fortunately for the #108 car, all of the bad luck in the team was sent to the 164. Matt Strand had climbed up as high as 12th from their 22nd starting position in the opening 3 hours. Mike Smulcheski continued the climb and got up to 9th before a small problem around the 5th hour. The car shut off on him similar to the problem the 164 had been experiencing all race long once but that would prove to be the only problem for the 108. It was however enough to set the car 4 laps back of the leaders and drop them back to 14th.
At that point it was all about full fuel qualifying runs. All 3 drivers in the 108 pushed as if going for pole in each of their stints. Similar to hockey the driver changes were frequent so they could stay fresh in doing so. Coming into the final couple of hours, Strand had been warned and protested for blue flag infractions by another team. The other team turned out to be the Phenix R8 Ultra that we were chasing down for 7th at the time. The same car that had been intentionally blocking Strand as well all due to who had newer tires with 2 different pit strategies. After a lot of radio discussions back and forth with the stewards and the other team and Strand continuing to push, he had gotten the gap down to just 3 seconds behind the other Audi for 7th when the checkard flag flew.
Some of the other teams and event organizers were surprised by the strong result and speed we showed all race long. Even with all of the problems the 164 car had, Mike Edwards put in the teams fastest lap at some point in the middle of the night which was strong enough for 3rd fastest in the entire race. In the end had it not been for that 1 glitch during Smulcheski’s stint the 108 team would have been on the same lap as 2nd place. While we’re happy to finally get a result we know we’re capable of we know there’s still alot to improve on still as evident but the mechanical struggle of the 164 car. Looking back on how the season had gone to this point and the result in this race though you can see 110% improvement all across the boards.
This was the final round for Satellite in the GT3 series as we would not be making the trip back to Germany to rerun the 24 hours of Nordschliefe. Evidently there was a massive scoring glitch during the race which could not be resolved and warranted a rerun. The GT3 cars are worn and beaten up badly so we’re parking them for the rest of the season until next. We have a couple of new projects for us rolling out soon which will be announced in the not to distant future. See you back here then!