Last year I was typing about winning a championship in the real-world 24H Series, this year I'm typing about finishing forth with a last round podium in the Virtual 24H Series. Thanks a lot COVID-19 for making all of our lives this much more confusing!
Our season started in March with a virtual round of the 12H of Monza. Since the real event was postponed Creventic decided to host a virtual round for real-world teams to have some fun. The event was a huge success and they launched a three-round championship called the Virtual 24H Series with events at Spa, Barcelona, and Sebring.
After a tough and somewhat embarrassing sim racing debut (read that here) we kicked off the official championship at Spa. Unlike in Monza where we ran the BMW Z4 GT3, the BMW M4 GT4 was now available so we decided to stay as close to real life as possible and run that.
I know Spa well from sim racing and video games but we struggled to find a good setup. We weren't terribly slow and with the high speed nature of Spa it should have been faster, though the driver is the real factor here. The start went well, we actually were able to fight for third, but then the typical bad luck came. In Raidillon early on a GT3 collected me in their own mishap. Then later on the exit of Blanchimont, a GT3 Mercedes went off, came back on and speared me, sending me into the wall and then into a number of tumbles. If I had VR or an triple monitors I probably could have seen it unfold but with my small single monitor there was nothing I could do.
Oddly, I landed on my wheels and drove it back into pit lane. We had around an hour of repairs but I wanted to continue. We eventually got back out and finished the race. At the end of the day, despite crashing, no money was owed to anyone and we had fun racing.
The next round was in Barcelona, a circuit I raced at in real life in our 2019 championship so I was excited to see how it all compared. Back in the M4 we found a setup that worked very well but in official qualifying we couldn't match our practice times. Not that it really mattered but we were hoping to make a name for ourselves.
This race was cleaner, there was no flipping, but there were some accidents. The one that caused the most time was an overly excited GT3 punted us off into the barrier on the entry to turn twelve. It caused enough repair time to put us out of contention. We still finished forth though which wasn't terrible.
Last weekend's finale in Sebring gave me some hope as I am very familiar with the circuit. Once again I had the same driver lineup as we had all season minus Spa (just two of us that race). Like always, the week was spent practicing and working with car setup. We found a setup that worked well in race pace and was fairly easy to drive. One problem we were having was the BMW's power delivery and the bumps at Sebring weren't getting along. Luckily we were able to sort that out and with Sebring's long back straight, we had a nice high speed run where the BMW really shines.
I did the start as I had all season. Not because I am the "team owner" but because we are spread throughout the States! I am on the east coast, Chris is in Texas, and Thomas is in California. Given the series runs on GWT it's easier for me to get up at 3:30AM for the start of practice versus the other two. So our driver order usually just went along the time zones.
The start was good, we got lucky and made up one spot and my goal was to just keep a consistent pace and try to stay out of trouble but on the lead lap. The DUWO entry and the SIMMSA Esports GT4 entry were always up front and the strongest teams over the past races. We were able to chase the Muehlner Motorsport Simracing Pro entry though on pace. After early drama in the first half of the race, the SIMMSA car was retired. So the race was really on for second and stayed that way the entire race.
I did a double stint to start (3 hours) and pitted with the car in second place. I was very happy with the drive since I didn't put a wheel wrong and the car actually still looked good! In the past rounds we found trouble every opening stint it seemed. So either I'm learning the ropes of sim racing or I just got lucky.
Chris was behind the wheel next and turned a good stint. There were a few incidents on track including one with the Muehlner car that we felt bad about. Things settled down though and we had a continuous battle for second. Thomas got behind the wheel for a stint but unfortunately had PC issues that caused the car in the sim to sort of run off the road. After it happened twice I decided to pit him and get back in. That way we ensured our car wouldn't be damaged and that we wouldn't end someone's race. It's one of the unique things found in sim racing I guess.
We just couldn't catch the Muehlner car for second place and eventually had to settle for third. We kept the pace up in case they had an unscheduled stop or got into trouble but they ran a great race as did the winning DUWO car. In the end I was just extremely happy to see the virtual podium!
Overall it was a fun season. It's not the only sim races I did this year but the only championship I participated in so far. I am very thankful that the 24H Series put this on as it gave many of us the chance to still fulfill the need for competition when we have had a rough year due to the pandemic. I do know though that even when we're back racing full time in the real world, I'll still continue to participate in these on the side. It's real racing, real competition, great practice, and a lot of fun.
Want to join me? Save 5% off a new PC build from VRLA Tech using the code: Tibbett20
Looking for more info on racing a BMW in the virtual world? BMW Motorsport promotes and takes sim racing seriously. Check it out.
If you missed these races they were all streamed live in their entirety: