41 drivers took to the field for Round 1 of the inaugural Continental Endurance Sports Car Series (CESCS) at Daytona International Speedway – Road Course on February 11th (just prior to the much anticipated resurfacing of the circuit).  The mixed class online racing competition features the Ford Mustang FR500S in the GS Class and Mazda MX5 of the ST Class.

Practice and Qualifying

Trace McRae was quickest in the Mustang in final practice with a 2:04.190, .1s faster than Brian Strodtbeck. But it was Strodtbeck who managed to put his car on pole with a blistering qualifying time of 2:03.910. Coincidently, Brian currently holds a Top 10 spot in the list of all-time Mustang qualifiers at this track.

James Stevenson was quickest in the Mazda MX5 in both final practice and qualifying and managed a time of 2:14.491 to take pole in the ST class.

Drama prior to the race saw resident CESCS Marshall Mike Perry caught up in an off-track incident, leaving Wes Earick to take-up marshalling duties for the duration of the race.

Opening lap, Turn 1: Brian Strodtbeck followed by Trace McRae and the rest of the field.

Race Review

With final set-ups made, cars formed-up behind the pace car for a formation lap prior to the start of the race. As the green flag waved it was Strodtbeck leading the field down into a relatively incident-free Turn 1.  The first altercation occurred exiting Turn 3 when David Waters got alongside Jady Baumgardner for seventh place.  Baumgardner appeared to move over into Waters and the resulting contact sent both cars onto the infield grass and plummeting down the running order. The end of Lap 1 saw the first of the pit stops with the ST leader James Stevenson bringing-in the #11 MX5 for what he hoped would be a class-winning strategy, dropping him all the way to last in the field by the time he returned to the track, but also into some much-needed clear air.

Anthony Castro with nowhere to go as Ricky Dalton (#42) loses control in the bus stop.

Lap 5 saw Ayrton Ellis and Anthony Castro catching seventh place Ricky Dalton.  As Ellis went up the inside into the Bus Stop Dalton got sideways, leaving the trailing Castro with nowhere to go but heavily into the tyre wall.  Although Dalton and Ellis were able to continue, Castro could only limp his massively damaged car back to the pits for some major repairs, relegating him to the back of the pack.  In the ST class Eric Biggs (who had inherited the lead a few laps after Stevenson’s early pit stop), watched rivals come and go, until he also pitted on lap 11, enabling Stevenson to retake the class lead.

Lap 13 saw the front runners make their mandatory pit stops, and thanks to fast work by McRae’s pit crew, he found himself leaving the pits ahead of Strodtbeck to take the lead.

Lap 15 brought-out the pace car for the first time when Jarret Lawson lost control of his Mazda entering Turn 3 while running in an angry pack of MX5s and he subsequently ran into the side of Stian Johansen.  Exiting the turn, Johansen (now with damaged steering) and Giancarlo Lenzi touched lightly resulting in steering damage to Lenzi’s car.  With almost ¾ of the circuit still to negotiate with their damaged cars, there was no option but to bring out the pace car.  Under pace car conditions those drivers one lap down on the leaders were given “Wave Arounds” to bring them back onto the lead lap (one of the many rules especially implemented by the CESCS to enhance competition).

Opening laps back under green conditions saw McRae defending heavily from Strodtbeck, back to Russell Klaesson in third.  The end of Lap 21 saw the leaders go three wide across the start/finish line approaching the slower MX5 of Michael C. West, with Klaesson and Strodtbeck coming into contact into Turn 1, but holding it together. The battle continued down into Turn 3, where Klaesson tried to go inside McRae for the lead.   But McRae closed the door ever so slightly and they touched, sending Klaesson into the grassy infield on the way back to tenth place and promoting Baumgardner to third.

Stevenson was still well out in front for the ST class, with Eric Biggs, Ryan Worley and Jason Bryfogle having their own battle for second.  On Lap 30 a touch between the GS class cars of Alexis Molina and Bill Daily for (yet again) seventh spot (appearing to be the bogey race position), sent Molina into the Turn 1 tyre barrier.  Thus, the Pace Car appeared for the second time, giving fans a five lap shoot-out to the end of the race!

During the final caution period McRae decided to pit from the lead, along with three other GS drivers. Unfortunately, McRae’s pit crew was unable to repeat their early feat, and he actually lost a position in pit lane alone. Upon rejoining the track, McRae found himself down the field in tenth position, with all the work to do in the final laps, just to make it back on the podium (let alone the lead).

As those drivers one lap down got the “wave-by” once again, the positions at the front were Baumgardner, Strodtbeck and Klaesson in the GS class with Stevenson, Worley and Bryfogle at the top end of the ST class.  On the race restart Stevenson was baulked exiting Turn 1 by a couple of MX5s running a few laps down, enabling Worley to get the run on him down the inside into Turn 3 as they went three wide with the first of the lapped cars.  Worley exited the turn in front, but Stevenson was having nothing of it and seemed to get the better exit, and as they came up to the next lapped MX5s they went three-wide again into Turn 4.

Stevenson finally reclaimed his position in Turn 6, with Worley right behind. But just ahead of them the GS car of Bruce Lawson got loose in the Bus Stop.  Stevenson snuck by, but Worley got baulked this time, ending any chance of a class victory.  Back in third another ST class battle was brewing with Bryfogle, Antti Tuominen and Michael Morrison all vying for last podium spot.

Ryan Worley (#33) down the inside of James Stevenson (#11) in Turn 3.

Out in front the three leading Mustangs had managed to break away, and coming into the notorious Turn 3, Klaesson missed his breaking marker and went straight into Baumgardner, dropping Jady back to the “coveted” seventh position.

Last lap and Strodtbeck was still out in front with McRae (now in 3rd) right in behind Klaesson and ready to pounce. Exiting the Bus Stop with the slipstream helping him and Klaesson maintaining the inside line, Trace pulled to the outside to complete the move approaching the finish line only to miss-out by .07s. Meanwhile, in the MX5s, Stevenson (still in first) had yet again pulled a gap on second place man Tuuminen.  However, Worley had by now recovered enough to catch Tuuminen’s slipstream down the home straight and pulled-out as they crossed the line to take second place by .2s..

GS Class Podium

1. Brian Strodtbeck

2. Russell Klaesson

3. Trace McRae

ST Class Podium

1. James Stevenson

2. Ryan Worley

3. Antti Tuuminen

The Round 2 of the CESCS will be at Barber Motorsports Park on February 25th.

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The CESCS is an official iRacing league which mirrors the Grand-Am Continental Tires Series. It features the Mazda MX-5 Cup competing in Street Touring (ST) and the Ford Mustang FR500S competing in the Grand Sport (GS) class. It was established to provide a proper mixed-class racing experience for drivers of the MX5 and the Mustang beyond what is currently offered and especially to provide a true endurance series for drivers of both vehicles. The schedule aims to replicate the real-world series featuring timed endurance race distances run at the same tracks as the real series including Daytona, Mid-Ohio and, this season, Indianapolis!

The league will feature multi-driver race teams in anticipation of driver swaps as soon as iRacing implements the feature. Until then, everyone will drive a shortened full race distance on their own lasting 90 minutes in duration.

You can follow our races streaming live over the internet through GlacierTV or via our Live Timing & Scoring app. Both links are located on our Schedule page here: http://www.wix.com/contienduranceseries/cescs#!race-schedule

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