Round 5 of the AOR GTE League was set to visit the streets of Belle Isle in Detroit for 80 minutes of paint scratching and wall rubbing. A circuit that neither Ben Warren or myself have ever raced before (in fact, I only bought the track 3 days before the race!) so it safe to say that neither of us were particularly looking forward to the event.
Half an hour of practice and the quali session later, I was feeling pretty sure with which way the track went….but I was by no means fast. 23rd of 29 entries in Q for me, starting just behind my main AM cup contender Jake Towns, with Ben coming out a bit better but buried deep in the mid pack in 15th. Both of us would be happy to survive and hopefully pick off a few freebies from the other drivers.
Since it’s a new track to iRacing, Belle Isle doesn’t have the full lap procession lap before the green flag… in fact, green drops really quickly… luckily, I got a decent start quickly passing a couple of cars and then managing to squeeze past Jake on the brakes in to T3. With all the cars now in single file, it was a case of trying to avoid the walls and stay ahead of Jake while picking up as many freebies as possible. Sadly, L8 I made a small mistake and let Jake past. The next 20 laps or so I managed to stay within .5 to 1 second of the yellow Ferrari 488 in front of me. Sadly, there was really no-where I was able to get past… and then I made a small error, clipped a wall and lost my head a bit. Trying too hard to catch back up, I made another mistake and decided to pit early. Again though, trying to hard I ended up missing my breaking marker at the end of the back straight and buried myself in the tyres. With damage requiring a 12 minute repair, I decided to quit with about 25 minutes remaining. My first DNF of the season, and first time out of the top 2.
Ben on the other hand was having a more successful race. Picking up a 4x on the very first turn, but managing to stay on track Ben was driving safe and consistent, staying out of trouble and picking up the positions. By the pit cycle he had climbed to 9th before finally climbing to P8 at the expense of Phillipe Gaillard.
Ben had this to say about his race:
“Started 15th after not getting a clean lap in. Survived a 4x at T1 after i got turned in to but car felt fine. Dodged a few early spinners and just cruised home to 8th. Was fairly close with Phillipe Gaillard and Sam Blackwood for most of the race but wouldn’t say it was a proper battle at any time. I was just happy to make it to the end after crap quali!”
Whilst 8th for Ben was a great position, a DNF for myself didn’t really help our chances in the Team champs, we actually dropped a place to 7th overall. Ben has gained a spot up to 8th in the Pro/Am table while Im still leading the Am cup, albeit with a reduced lead of 18 points since Jake ended up with the 3rd step on the podium.
So we say goodbye to the concrete walls of Detroit and head on to….. the concrete walls of Montreal and the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve. Personally, Im not real keen on this one I have to say, and the Porsche RSR isn’t particularly well suited to the high kerbs that you need to smash in order to maintain momentum on this high speed circuit. But we’ll see, at least it’s a track we’ve both driven before!
Official results are here
The view from Jake Towns on Twitch is here (race starts at 35mins)
..and the officially unofficial coverage of the race is here on Knut Martinsons Youtube Channel.