Masters of Endurance returned to the track after a two year break, opening with the traditional 12 hour race to start the 2014/15 season. Moving over to iRacing to take advantage of the new team sim racing feature, as well as acquiring sponsors such as Derek Speare Designs and iGP Manager, the series visits five iconic circuits and uses four GT3 class cars (BMW Z4, Ford GT, McLaren MP4-12C and RUF RT12) throughout the season’s 54 hours of racing. Round 1 brought the sim racers to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, home of the 6.5km /4mi Road America circuit.
The event began with 86 teams taking part in qualifying on Wednesday before the race, looking to make their way into Saturday’s 60-car, 12 hour endurance race. Team Redline’s Enzo Bonito in his McLaren took pole over a BMW and McLaren of Coanda Simsport.
The polesitter led the field through the opening laps, before Martin Krönke in the Coanda Simsport BMW made his move at Turn 5 to take the lead on Lap Four. Bonito tried to regain the lead on Lap 49 with a move at Turn 1 – but ran wide and handed the advantage back to Krönke.
The gap at the front stayed under 2 seconds for almost five hours, the lead going back to Team Redline at each pit stop cycle. A trend started to emerge towards the middle of the race – Coanda Simsport #18 BMW could extend their stints one lap further than the Team Redline McLaren.
As the hours ticked away Coanda Simsport continued stretching their driving stints, while Team Redline focused on outright pace. Coanda Simsport made their final pit stop with 23 laps remaining, before Team Redline did the same 9 laps later, returning to the track 27 seconds behind their rivals. Despite a valiant effort by Team Redline on fresher tyres, Coanda Simport held-on to claim the win by 9.431 seconds.
Behind the top two finishers, various podium contenders fell by the wayside throughout the 12 hour event. Coanda Simsport’s McLaren was within 15 seconds of their sister car’s pace when disaster struck. The daunting high speed Kink caught them out at the back of the circuit, sending them into the inside wall before the end of the fifth hour. The same fate also befell Vergil Racing, who led 16 laps in their RUF but, like many others, struggled with tyre wear near the end of the 60-65 minute stints.
ineX Racing’s Yellow liveried entry benefited from the incidents ahead, and coupled with some early passing moves, made their way up to third position. After seven hours, Radicals Online managed to close the gap to ineX Racing, forcing them into a mistake at Turn 8. The pair collided after ineX Racing Yellow lost control while rejoining the track, damaging both cars and leaving them well down the order.
This moved ineX Racing Red up to a podium position, having started 21st on the grid, and ultimately finishing one lap behind the leaders. The highest placed RUF was that of CORE Motorsport, who moved their way up the field into fourth position, securing it only eight laps from the end by passing Pure Racing Team 1.
A spin from Team Chimera on the first lap left them back in 51st, but they showed good pace to move through the field and finish sixth. Glacier Racing were the only Ford GT in the field, with a consistent run to 9th spot in the slowest of the GT3 cars.
The next round of Masters of Endurance takes place on December 6, as the teams tackle the 1000km of Suzuka, starting at 16:00 UTC.