The iRacing.com Blancpain Endurance Series, which has often played second fiddle to its Sprint series counterpart, has suddenly been thrust into the sim-racing spotlight. With the recent announcement of the forthcoming iRacing.com Blancpain GT Series, sim-racing teams from all over the world are gearing up for something they’ve been wanting for quite some time: a pro GT3 series.
Although the GT series is on the horizon and slated to begin for Season 1 of 2016, teams obviously have quite a bit of time until then. Still, drivers and teams are wasting no time at all as they make their preparations for the season long battle which lies ahead. With that in mind, the top sim-racing teams in the world converged on Circuit Park Zandvoort for Round 1 of Season 3 for the first of many three-hour endurance races.
Round 1 Winner
Starting things off on the right foot were Finnish drivers Aleksi Elomaa and Joni Hagner of Glacier Racing. Although they initially began the online race (Strength of Field [SoF] 3597) in second position behind Coanda Simsport #88, they were able to turn things around in the latter portions and came home with the win for Round 1. Leading 31 of the 111 laps, the Ford GT GT3 of Glacier Racing finished just over 2.5s in front of the Coanda drivers in the 19:00 GMT online endurance race. Despite the fact that it’s still early days in Season 3, Glacier Racing currently holds the top step with 221 championship points.
Me, Myself and I
Whoever said that you need co-drivers for a three-hour Blancpain Endurance Series race obviously didn’t send that memo to Norbert Sulzer of the Austrian Racing Team. Participating in the 17:00 GMT race by himself, Sulzer started in second and, like Glacier Racing, went on to lead 31 laps in his BMW Z4 GT3 on his way to victory. Despite the fact that this online race had a slightly lower SoF than the above mentioned race (SoF 3588), Sulzer was still able to produce 219 championship points with the win which puts him comfortably in second. Sulzer’s win also goes to show that sometimes the best teammates are me, myself and I. The team Christmas party is probably very boring, though.
Strong starts need strong finishes
After initially starting off very strong in the 19:00 GMT online race, the trio of drivers known as Coanda Simsport #88 fell just over 2.5s short of their race-winning goal but still managed to salvage a Round 1 podium. The European team consisting of David Williams (England), Klaus Kivekäs (Finland) and Philip Stamm (Germany) led 79 laps from the pole and was certainly the team to beat. With Kivekäs in the driver’s seat for the first stint, he managed to get the Coanda Ford GT GT3 several seconds ahead while also setting the fastest lap of the race with a 1:35.879. After losing the lead around Lap 80, Coanda tried to track down the Glacier Racing Ford GT but wasn’t able to get it done by the end of the online event. Still, Coanda Simsport #88 was able to collect 210 championship points which puts them in third for the time being.
Manufacturer’s Championship (sort of)
Although there isn’t anything ‘official’ in regards to a manufacturer’s championship, let’s pretend that there is. For the duration of Season, I’ll be awarding points to the overall top-ten teams/drivers for their respective car manufacturer. For the purpose of simplicity, I’ll be using the Formula One championship points scale. Additionally, I’ll be posting the top-ten teams in the forums here so that you can keep track. After Round 1, here are the results so far:
Coming to (Road) America
With Round 1 of the iRacing.com Blancpain Endurance Series in the books, teams now shift their attention to Round 2 which takes place at the historic Road America. Located just outside the village of Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin, Road America has been a beacon of American motorsports since the track was first opened in 1955. Now in digital form as well, the iRacing.com Blancpain Endurance Series will be descending upon the hills and bends of Road America for three-hours of virtual racing action.
Although we can certainly expect to see the two juggernauts of Glacier and Coanda butting heads again, one can’t help but ask if we’ll see another team jump into the fray and rise to the occasion. However, as Norbert Sulzer just proved, don’t count out the solo drivers as they are certainly a force to be reckoned with.