I think its fair to say that coming in to the final round of the 2018/19 Sports Car Open Series, it would have taken a gambling man to say that Team Buschfink Racing would walk away from the event as not only the race winners, but the winners of the whole series. But after 8 action packed hours, that is exactly what happened. Read on to find out how.
Don’t get me wrong TBR Blue, the LMP1 entry in SCO this year and piloted by Matt Farrow, Michael Loosen and Tom Michelmore, have shown flashes of brilliance throughout the 6 race series. Leading the race at Spa in round 1 only to drop back to third after a collision with a slower car, and then an excellent second position in round 2 at Monza. But a combination of bad luck and less than perfect results at the next 3 rounds saw TBR Blue throwing away maybe 20 points in the overall and whilst a highly creditable podium finish was still on the cards and when you look at the teams around them, teams that anyone with even the remotest interest in Sim racing will have heard of – Pure Racing Team, VRS Coanda, Radicals Online and Thrustmaster Mivano have some of the very best drivers in the world among their ranks, the overall win looked like it was out of reach.
For the PC and GTE teams also running SCO for TBR, the TBR Yellow entry piloted at various times by Fraser Williamson, Teemu Toikka, Tyler Hervais, James King and Corey Ott, 4th overall was realistically the best they could hope for, however with Team Heusinkveld snapping at their heals, the boys would have to be on top form if they wanted to prevent the drop to 5th. TBR Pink, driven by Joris Thielen, Lewis Goodway & Dan Sosulski had suffered some retched luck throughout the series and a top 15 was probably the best they could hope for.
Qualifying for P1 was undertaken by Tom with a time of 1.24.884 – the top 4 teams being covered by less than a tenth of a second – tellingly Radicals Online, the overall leaders coming in to this round, hadnt put in a great performance and were struggling back in 7th spot. Fraser stuck the Yellow HPD in 5th, a spot behind RiLey Simracing but 3 ahead of Heusinkveld back in 8th. The Porsche RSR of Pink driven by Joris was in 17th in the tightly packed GTE field with all 19 cars covered by just over a second.
So to the start of 8 intense hours around the Silverstone circuit. The LMP1’s all set off pretty clean with no major changes other than Radical climbing one spot at the start – a start which it was later judged to have been unfair resulting in them having to take a drive through on lap 4 dropping them right back to 13th. In the meantime, Tom had climbed to 3rd with a mistake from the 2nd Mivano car dropping them back down the field and then a drive through penalty for Coanda on lap 10 elevated Tom to 2nd just 2 seconds behind Mivano #21. Pitting from 2nd on lap 28 Tom continued to chase the Mivano car down before snagging the lead on lap 55 when Mivano pitted for the second time.
For Fraser, the HPD field had maintained position throughout the 1st stint before the young Scottsman managed to stick a move on the Inertia SimRacing entry and jump to 4th spot. Stretching the second stint by a couple of laps Fraser handed the car to Tyler Hervais from 2nd place in class on lap 45. Between Fraser, Tyler and Teemu, the Yellow car maintained its place around 4th and 5th as the pit stops came and went, eventually coming home in 4th place, in the process securing 4th place in the overall championship.
In the Pink car, Lewis Goodway had made a great start, climbing 4 places within 4 laps before a spin on lap 10 dropped them back to 18th in class. Lewis settled back in and continued his chase before handing the car to Joris on lap 74. The two would swap seats over next 6 hours before finally coming home in a highly creditable 13th place.
Back with the LMP1’s and as if Tom and Matt’s mountain wasn’t steep enough, the challenge was about to get even steeper. Pitting from a 10 second lead on lap 57 an iRacing “bug” caused the car to take 3 separate sets of tyres, adding 30 seconds to their pitstop! The net result was TBR Blue, still piloted by Tom dropped to 6th place. Amazingly, this didn’t seem to ruffle Tom’s feathers at all – if anything, he came out of the pits fired up, chasing the cars ahead of him down at a rate of knots, draggin the Porsche 919 back to 2nd place before handing the car to Matt Farrow on lap 86. After the pit-stop dust had settled, Matt found himself settled in to 3rd place behind PRT and Coanda. By half distance, Tom was back in the car with Matt having clawed his way back up to the bumper of the PRT car. By the 5hr mark, PRT had dropped back and Tom was now chasing the Coanda entry down.
The last 2 hours or so of the race were beginning to turn in to a massive battle between 4 of the 5 championship contenders – TBR Blue, PRT, Mivano and Conada switching places between them as the pit cycles came and went, with no one team seemingly having the advantage at this point. Lap 250 Coanda got involved in an incident with a HPD resulting in a forced pitstop – elevating TBR Blue to the lead, followed by Mivano and PRT. In to the last hour, and things were getting really chewy….with Radicals out of the picture, Coanda having issues and PRT not seemingly having the pace, the calculators were going crazy as Tom now chased the Mivano entry with Tommaso Carla at the wheel. Basically, whoever won out of these two, would win the overall. Tom was truly flying and closed to within striking distance of Tommaso by lap 300, briefly grabbing the lead before pitting on lap 303. Coming out of the pit 35 seconds behind the Mivano car, Tom drove like a Demon to close the gap to less than 30 seconds before Mivano pitted on lap 307. Once in the lead, there was no looking back for Tom as he put his head down and set about building a gap on P2.
Finally, after eight hours and 321 laps of the most exciting sim racing I have ever witnessed, Tom Michelmore brought the Porsche 919 of Team Buschfink Racing home for the win – and the overall SCO championship by 1 solitary point from Radicals Online JRT.
So a massive result for the boys – a truly brilliant drive from Tom and Matt in the final round when finally, the chips seemed to fall their way for once. Another great drive for Yellow to finish 4th in both the round and overall, possibly rueing the first couple of rounds where they gave points away and might have fought for third overall. Finally, Pink who had a really rough first couple of rounds and possibly lost a little bit of focus as the season went on.
Also, congratulations to the other class winners, CoRe SimRacing in PC and Williams Esports in GTE.
Results are here