AOR GTE League, Season 5 – Round 1 – Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari

After a successful season 4 of the Apex Online Racing GTE league, myself and Ben “never races” Warren managed to persuade a couple of the faster TBR chaps to come join us for Season 5…. Eight more to be precise! So now instead of just us little ol’ Englanders, we have drivers from Germany (Dan “Suzuki” Sosulski), Belgium (Joris “Waffles” Thielen), Estonia (Eero “less brake” Nomm), Finland (Teemu “Hell Yeah” Toikka), Scotland (Fraser “Wee Deck” Williamson) and a trio from Sweden (Joachim “Hadoooookan” Ljunggren, Andreas “What a beard” Dahlström & Magnus “Finland” Vallström), all split in to pairs for the team championships.

With the season following a combination of the iRacing IMSA and ILMS calendars, the first round was set for 80 minutes round the amazing Imola circuit in Italy. Qualifying followed the tried and tested format of 20 minutes of open qualifying, and with the increase in field size to 42 cars, getting a quick lap in was going to be key.

I’ll not go through the whole list of who did what, suffice to say that Eero was in 2nd spot and TBR had 8 cars in the top 21 with just me floundering down in 33rd after goofing my only really good lap on the very last turn. Ben was sitting this one out due to “illness”….

At the start, everything went pretty well, so working our way down the pack:

Eero came under attack at T1 and lost a little bit of ground to Valtteri Alander, which to be honest, he wasn’t able to pull back for the whole race, finally ending up 2 seconds down, but almost 20 seconds ahead of P3.

Fraser lost a spot early on to last season champ, Chris Holstein – however he gained it back in to T1 on lap 4. Running in an excellent battle with half a dozen other cars for the next bunch of laps until a slowdown on lap 10 and then a big kerb strike at Villeneuve a lap later had Fraser smashing the Alt/F4

Winner of the test race at Spa, although now running the Porsche, Dan hadnt qualified as well as he had hoped. Starting 8th, he dropped a spot on lap one and took 11 laps or so to gain it back, but by lap 30, he was up to 5th. Come lap 45 and with his RSR performing superbly after the pitstops, Dan put a lovely move on Enar Marinsky in to T1 to slot in to his final position of 4th.

Magnus started just outside the top 10 in 11th and had a really good race. Gaining a spot on L1 he made steady progress throughout the race – pitting from P3 he came out in to traffic which ultimately slowed him down and held him back to a (still excellent) final position of P8.

Starting just behind Magnus in 12th, Joris stayed just behind Magnus for pretty much the whole race until he pitted on L35 from P2. Joris’s pit went well, probably due to all the fuel he had saved sat in Magnus’s draft and he jumped Magnus and ended up in 6th after the pit cycle, a spot he maintained until the end of the race.

Starting 17th, Teemu had a great first lap gaining a couple of spots before settling in to a battle with Alexandre Godefroy. Passing on lap 14 before gaining a couple more spots by lap 20 when he pitted from 11th. Exiting the pits and finding himself in a battle with Jukka Suominen and Ronnie Gibbons to the end of the race, coming out on top of them both in a final spot of P14.

Its here that the good results end. Andreas sadly didn’t take the start having been called in to work. Jocke did manage to make the start, but didn’t make it further than the hairpin on lap 1 having been caught up in a multi-car pile up and parking the car before completing even one lap.

Id had a great start, passing 3 cars before the hairpin, but then also getting slightly caught up in the same incident as Jocke – taking damage to my front end which it turns out caused me some aero damage making the car pretty slow, but it did elevate me by 10 spots in to 21st. Unfortunately, the damage meant I couldn’t battle and I decided to take an early pit to try and repair some of the optionals. Unlucky for me it brought me out in to the leaders, and I lost a lot of time giving way to faster cars.  However as the race went on, the car seemed to get better and I found myself in a battle with the AM contenders from last year, eventually coming out in 23rd, just behind Niclas Domino and Jake Towns.

So all in all, not a bad representation for TBR (albeit in various different coloured teams) with a podium spot, 4 cars in the top 10, and 5 in the top 15 (and 6 in the top 23…)

Next round is next year at the “Green Hell” of Nordschleife, a track I don’t even own – but apparently should.

Results are here

AOR’s really excellent race coverage is here.

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