Welcome to part 2 of this well-documented descent into madness as I run the iRacing 12 Hours of Sebring, the first true endurance race I’ve ever virtually taken part in. If you missed part 1, I strongly recommend reading that first to understand what led up to this point. Four weeks of preparation with several hundred laps of practice had led up to one race which was almost ruined before it even truly started.
Getting Back on Track
Part 1 finished right as a technical issue and a punt to my team’s car put us a lap down in P41 after starting P17. Our sister car also sustained some damage from a wreck they couldn’t avoid. This all happened an hour into the race we had spent four weeks preparing for.
Team Yellow didn’t lose much time from their incident, but we sure did. Fortunately for us, the driver we had just put in the car, Bailey, is an active Navy pilot so he handled the pressure extremely well. The only strategy we had at that point was to just put in clean and consistent laps and avoid the attrition from further up the road. Bailey was just the guy we needed in that moment. He wasted no time in finding his groove and making up spots, all while maintaining his ability to sound cool over the radio – the mark of a true pilot. We had emerged back into the high P30 range by the time his first stint was done.
Jesse got back in the car on the next pit stop for part 1 of his redemption tour and gave us more of the same. He was putting in some of our fastest laps and took a couple of chances to get us back to the mid P30s by the end of his stint. In what felt like no time at all, it was my turn.
If there was a way to harvest energy from my pre-race jitters, I could have single handedly power a small city for a week. Despite all my practice which had gotten me so familiar with the track and the car, having the weight of the whole team on my shoulders was genuinely intimidating.
My First Stint
Jesse hit our pit stall and jumped out. I jumped in and started adjusting brake bias and TC settings to my liking. We had several seconds of optional damage repairs left to take, so I sat there watching the timer count down before I could go with as clean of a car as iRacing would give us. Meanwhile, I ensured the pit limiter was engaged about 9 times, just to be sure. Like the countdown for a space shuttle launch, the timer hit 0 and I burned out of the pits.
Despite all the practice and confidence I had in the car, I still felt the need to tip-toe around on my first lap until I could get into a groove. Once I was settled in, it was just a matter of hitting my marks and staying out of trouble. Despite an all-GTE field, there were still faster and slower cars to account for. My heart rate would spike with every pass, but there was never any trouble in sharing the track with competitors. The spirit of the endurance race was very much still alive in that field and that helped calm my nerves. I was so used to having to fight for my life when racing online, but I only had to avoid one potential wreck with a spun car.
“Congrats on not sucking”
My first iRacing endurance stint was exactly what I wanted it to be. Clean, consistent, and with a few spots gained. To top it all off, I only had a single off track incident point after missing an apex, which I’m still pissed off about. Otherwise, I had done my job and it was time to hand it off to someone else.
Feeling incredibly relieved, I brought the car back to the pits so Abe could start our double stint strategy. I wouldn’t be needed again for another 6 hours when it would be time to bring the car home, so I got comfy and watched anxiously to see how the rest of our race would turn out.
Surviving Through Attrition
It seemed like we were picking up spots every time I looked at the leader board. We had a great race pace and would often pass cars that were laps ahead. We were fighting as if we were still on the lead lap and it was fantastic to watch from the sidelines. Our combined efforts were really starting to pay off as we clawed our way up through the field to P20, which is about where we were when it all went wrong. Amazingly, Team Yellow was safely in P9 despite their involuntary face lift.
Meanwhile, I was completely glued to my computer. I was fully invested in this race and never took my eyes off it. In fact, my demeanor had changed greatly since the start of the race as well. Leading up to my first stint, I was so nervous and intimidated to be given control of the team’s car that I was almost dreading it. But afterwards, I was anxious to be the one driving it again.
SRL Team Green’s amazing recovery drive continued through the each stint as we entered the final hours of the race. But when night fell, we started pushing. We had tuned our car to be stable and safe during the day and wickedly fast in the dark, so our already quick pace got even quicker. Bailey had the first nighttime stint and he drove it perfectly despite having the single biggest scare of our race.
“I can taste the adrenaline”
A backmarker had spun off track at turn 5 and attempted to rejoin by reversing onto the track and parking himself on the racing line as he fumbled with gears. Bailey’s view of this spectacular display of race craft was blocked by the car he had just let by, which just so happened to be the race leader.
Both of them had to significantly adjust their lines to avoid a major wreck. Bailey, who had a split second to react, said he could taste the adrenaline. There was maybe half a car’s width between Bailey’s door and this dipshit’s tailpipe. It was so close that for a moment Bailey lost his cool pilot voice, but only for a few minutes.
End in Sight
Bailey had gotten us to P17 when he decided he would cut his scheduled 2 hour session a little short to give me more drive time. I generally had the best lap times of the group, so he knew that we could potentially gain more spots if I had more driving time. As I got my wheel set up, Toto Wolff came up with a bold new strategy for the rest of the race: “Greg, just haul lots and lots of ass”.
I was ready. Bringing the car home after the absolutely epic drive from the team was an honor and I was determined to finish the fight with everything I had.
“Box this lap, box this lap – full service plus driver change”, Toto said over the radio as I sat at my wheel, ready to jump in as fast as I could. Bailey hit his marks in the pit stall and I strapped in with a mouse click. I took tires for the rest of the race and a full tank of gas for the next hour, checked my force feedback for good measure, and then peeled off into the night.
My Final Stints
This time I was in the zone pretty much immediately. I had practiced enough at night to know the car would be fantastic in those conditions, and it was. My opening laps weren’t as meager as before either; I had set our team’s fastest lap with a full tank of fuel on just my third lap. I’d go on to lower it by another second as the car got lighter.
I was fortunate to have a pretty wide open track in front of me, so I just put in fast lap after fast lap. I’ve been sim racing for several years and I’ve never been so focused in a race before as I was in that stint. I picked out my reference points from the dark and hit my marks as they appeared in my headlights.
Racing games will always advertise the sense of immersion they offer, but I was truly and fully immersed in this race like I never have before. The virtual cockpit’s ambient lighting and flashing wheel slip/lock lights were the only light sources in my room and the occasional flickers of blue exhaust flame that appeared in my rear view monitor made it feel just a little more real. I was so in tune with the awesome flat six sounds being pumped through my headset that I could have shifted at just the right moment without a rev light on the wheel.
Bringing it Home
Before I knew it, we were in the last hour of the race. The initial plan was to run the car till it was empty and take a splash of fuel on a short pit stop, but I had caught a gaggle of slower cars that were fighting each other for position. They weren’t eager to obey the blue flags and I started to lose time. Fortunately, our pit window had just opened and I dove in for a full tank of fuel.
Thankfully, I drove back out to a wide open track again and got right back to work. As other cars cycled through the pits, I found myself in P16. P15 was a lap ahead and P17 was over a minute back and running slower lap times. It became clear that I didn’t need to push quite as hard anymore and engaged cruise control for the next hour… while still running the team’s fastest laps of the race.
After another hour of navigating through darkness and keeping the car intact, the end was finally in sight as I took the white flag. The rest of my teammates rejoined voice chat, and even though they kept quiet so I could focus, I could tell they were all thinking “don’t fuck up now”. Normally I’d be on pins and needles while trying extra hard to not screw up on the last lap, but I just kept doing what I had been doing since the start of the stint. With no drama, I was cruising through turn 17 again with the finish line in sight.
We Did It!
With the checkered flag in the air, I drove it home with a fist in the air and audible sighs of relief over the radio.
Four weeks of work and 12 hours of near flawless driving from everyone on the team had paid off. The feeling was similar to turning in a final exam in the last semester of college.
SRL Team Yellow finished P9 and we had finished P16 in SRL Team Green. Congratulations were exchanged as Jamen and I met up at turn 16 and burned the tires off our cars. I must’ve done a 30-second brake stand. That beautiful assortment of 1s and 0s that we called our Porsche 911 RSR with the stupid snake skin scales on it had served us flawlessly, so it only felt right to hoon it a little.
We “only” finished P16, but considering that we were as low as P41 very early in the race due to those hardware issues, it speaks volumes on how hard we fought to even get as high as we did. We all felt a genuine sense of accomplishment and I’ve never felt as proud in all my years of gaming.
All of my fears leading up to the race revolved around being the one who ruined the race for the team, but all of my practice and the team effort to give us the best car possible ensured that nobody ruined anything. My stints were less pivotal than others, but I had the fastest laps and the cleanest run overall. I ran 84 of the team’s 354 laps and only collected a single incident point. According to stats collected by Fusswah Racing, I was the 9th cleanest GTE driver in that race out of 1,810 which made me feel even better about my performance.
Of course as with any endurance race, it’s never about a single driver. I never want to share a car with anyone else but Team SRL. All eight of us had become friends by racing against each other in sims, but the experience of racing with each other was a refreshing experience that brought us even closer. It’s the first time any of us have raced as a team, and judging by the spirited conversation we all had afterwards, it won’t be our last.
We struggled together, fought together, and ultimately finished the iRacing 12 Hours of Sebring as a team. It doesn’t even matter if it was all fake.