What do you get if you cross a waffle, a baguette and some meat-balls? Well if you’re in TBR, you get Joris “Belgie” Thielen, Dan “So far South he’s French” Page and Andreas “Swedelandish” Forss running in the 2nd iRacing Special Event of the year, the Bathurst 12h. For this years event, and after literally minutes of practice – the boys had chosen the “bang up to date” BMW Z4 – a car which hasn’t run in any real life GT3 global schedule for maybe 5 years or so since it was retired by BMW and replaced by the M6, but is still competitive in the iRacing VRS series in which it runs. To be fair, once the choice was made of which car to use, the team did actually put a bunch of practice in (very un-TBR like I know) but with Dan and Andreas coming back from hiatus, it was probably just as well.
Signing up on Saturday at 1pm GMT along with 1200 other teams of hopefuls in either a GT3 car or the Porsche Cup car (only for the very brave) Joris was given the task of qualifying the car – normally an important job, but made even more-so around Mount Panorama, where track position is critical in the first hour or so as crashes tend to block the circuit on the mountain giving those ahead a huge advantage. Clearly the pressure was too much for our waffle eating friend as he virtually flipped the car on his outlap, resulting in just a single fast lap and the indignity of starting 44th out of 55 cars. I jest of course, Joris would be the first to admit that qualifying isn’t really his thing, and 2.01.227 isnt a bad lap at all – its just unfortunate that the first 26 cars were all within a second of each other in the 2.00’s and even one second quicker would have placed the TBR Pink Beemer 5th on the grid! Hey ho, you can only p**s with the c**k you’re given right? Joris didn’t seem fazed at all, Dan was all like “Merde, stoooopeeed Belgie…” and poor old Andreas was crapping himself wondering how he was going to manage in a race where the average SoF was nearly 2000ir higher than his own….
True to the IRL race which ran the weekend previous, the iRacing Bathurst 12hr commences in the early morning at 5am and even in upsidedownland, that means starting in the dark. Joris was behind the wheel for the first couple of stints and with his highly experienced old head, he knew that the start was going to be super important. Not just getting a decent start, but keeping the car clean – 12hr is a decent length for a race, and (as ever) and whilst it sounds obvious, it would be the team that had the least amount of damage and spent the least amount of time in the pits that would do well. Clearly many of the teams didn’t get the memo with Joris getting a 4x in the ass before he had even crossed the line. The good luck just kept on coming with another 4x up the butt in the chute between Quarry Bend and The Cutting where a traffic jam had blocked the road, Joris had slowed but obviously a yellow flag at T2 of a 12hr race means “NEVER LIFT” to some people….
Thankfully, while the back end of the Z4 looked like it had been attacked by a car eating shark, there was minimal damage and although top speed was effected by a couple of MPH, the handling was still spot on and with Joris driving like a man possessed and passing people like it was going out of fashion he pitted on lap 32 from P24….Choosing to double stint his tyres the wily old fox had gained a further 4 spots during the pit cycle before eventually handing the car to Andreas on L63.
Not long in to his iRacing career, Andreas has a ton of raw speed – racing karts at a high level for the last 20 years or so has ensured that, but by his own admission he lacks experience – particularly in endurance events and to say he was nervous would be almost as much of an understatement as saying “Trump is orange….” However – once he was strapped in to the virtual seat of the Z4 his nerves dissipated and he settled in to the race – quickly finding a rhythm on a track that was slowly beginning to warm up. After a couple of “brown pant moments” with spinning cars, Andreas had done himself proud and handed the car to Monsieur Page on L124 from P17.
In totally opposite fashion to Andreas – Dan has tons of experience and virtually no raw speed – only really getting to 4.4k IR due to farming IMSA GT3 races at 2 in the afternoon when everyone else is at work….. Again, Im joking of course – Dan is a highly reliable, super safe wheeler who can be relied on to know when to attack and when to play safe. Late (virtual) morning on a 45c track lined by walls and littered with slower cars isn’t the time to attack – so fuel saving and maintaining position were the order of the day for Dan’s 2 stints. That said, Dan managed to climb a further couple of spots and passed the car back to Andreas on L186 from P13. Now a little over half way through the race, the boys had climbed 31 places and save the 2 crunches in the first half lap of the race, had gained virtually no incidents. If the race was to finish now, I think they would have been super happy to take that result…. Unfortunately there was still almost 6hrs to go…
In the past when doing these write-ups, it is at roughly this point that I would say “and then he hit a wall/car/kangaroo” or whatever and the amazing start would be overshadowed by a split second brain fart and a crunched up car. Im happy to say that on this occasion, that wasn’t to be the case.
Buoyed by his stellar performance in his first 2 stints, Andreas set off from the pits with the familiar words in his ear “keep it clean, save fuel – pick them off where you can” To say he did a good job is an understatement – driving at a level well above where his IR would suggest and with a track now peaking at 50C, Andreas saved fuel at pretty much every opportunity and still managed to gain a spot for 12th, eventually handing the car to Joris on lap 249.
The final 2 stints for Joris were a lesson in measured speed. Driving well within himself while saving fuel and more importantly saving stress on the tyres – Joris was able to again double stint his tyres and between them, the boys had saved enough fuel to cut a fuel stop out completely, at the same time climbing to the top 10.
Dan had the last 34 laps or so to run and was well in the thick of it with cars around him all fighting for position. To say the last 30 minutes was tense is a massive understatement – however Dan drove an exemplary stint and when he crossed the line in 9th let out a huge cheer of relief mixed with joy mixed with “ah balls, I think I just woke my missus up”….
So whilst 9th in the 4th split of the BH12 may not seem like it’s necessarily the best result in the world to many big teams, for us at TBR it means a helluva lot. The guys really worked well as a team – they practised together, made setup changes together, agreed strategy, thought on their feet and pretty much epitomised the word “Team”. So from 44th to 9th in 12hrs, turning 341 laps with just 21 incidents between them – not a bad show at all.
VOD of the race from Joris’s Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/548870870
VOD of the race from Dan’ Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/548724498
Clip of Dans screams as he crossed the line: https://clips.twitch.tv/CaringBlightedEggMikeHogu
We would also like to apologise to Sian for waking you up – hope you didn’t kick Dan in the balls too hard?
Thanks to Joris for the images.