Team Redline’s Enzo Bonito leads the field into Turn 1 at Circuit of the Americas.

Masters of Endurance held its penultimate round of the season back in the USA, as sim racers took to one of iRacing’s newest road circuits at Circuit of the Americas. The grade 1 track in Austin, Texas played host to the 6 hour race featuring GT3 cars, which was sponsored by grandprix247.com. After 24 hours spent on the classic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the previous round, teams would face a “sprint” race in comparison!

ineX Racing Red came into the race with a healthy 45 point margin in the championship, after their win in the 24 hours of Spa. They knew a pair of top 5 finishes in the final two races would clinch the title no matter the efforts of CORE Motorsports or Coanda Simsport.

Qualifying followed a familiar pattern, with Team Redline taking their fourth pole position of the season. (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_4srL4bv68) Enzo Bonito set the fastest time early on in his McLaren, and held on to take pole by just 0.010 seconds! Ibérica Racing Team’s Jesus Sicilia tried his hardest but could not interrupt Team Redline’s 100% qualifying record. CORE Motorsports would line up third in their RUF, with rivals ineX Racing Red the fastest BMW team down in seventh.

57 cars took the green flag, with only a couple of minor bumps into the very tight apex at the uphill Turn 1. Team Redline made their usual getaway at the start, leading by 10 seconds after a dozen laps from CORE Motorsports who had moved up to second.  They were chased by the fast-starting VergilRacing, who passed CORE midway through the opening stint and set about reducing Team Redline’s gap at the front. ineX Racing Red also made up places at the start, ensuring they kept in touch with the top three.

Before the end of the first hour it became apparent that different strategies were being played out by the frontrunning teams. VergilRacing made their first pit stop after just 52 minutes, indicating they would be making an extra pit stop in the race. Coanda Simsport also looked to be on an alternative strategy having started saving fuel early in the race and looking to gain an advantage by only stopping four times. Most of the other teams stopped after one hour, settling for the normal five pit stops.

CORE Motorsports’ race went downhill after this spin in the second hour .

A number of teams hit trouble early on in the race, forcing some into retirement. Ibérica Racing Team lost positions at the start, and fell back into the lower reaches of the top 10. They suffered race-ending damage after colliding with the armco barrier on the entry to the pit lane at their first pit stop.  ineX Racing’s Blue car which finished fourth in the last round, ended any chance of a good result when their car flipped in the Esses on Lap Two. The nose-to-tail battling for position gave no chance of avoid a spinning car, putting them well down the order.

CORE Motorsports was another fancied team which hit problems. A spin after their first pit stop cost them time, but their championship challenge was over after exiting from their second stop. They outbraked themselves at Turn 1 and collided with CRAKSRACING TEAM, forcing them to spend 10 minutes repairing the car. More damage after a collision in the twisty stadium section meant they eventually finished 8 laps down in 44th position.

With VergilRacing taking advantage of fresher tyres due to their shorter stints, they assumed the lead on Lap 35. Team Redline struggled with their McLaren’s race pace, losing the majority of their time to the leaders in the final 20 minutes of each stint. A couple of spins into the vast run off by Enzo Bonito did not help their cause, and they fell back during the second half of the race. Coanda Simsport’s fuel saving strategy didn’t allow them to push for most of their stints, costing them time in traffic and eventually leaving 90 seconds behind the leaders.

VergilRacing survived a late spin to hold-off ineX Racing by just 1.019s at the finish.

At the front, the pace of VergilRacing had cancelled out the extra pit stop as the race neared its final hour. Having held the lead at various points in the race, ineX Racing were passed on track ahead of their final stop, a few laps before VergilRacing also made their last trip down pit lane. They emerged just four seconds ahead, and used the RUF’s fresher tyres to keep a healthy margin. However the gap shrunk to just a second by the finish after a half-spin from VergilRacing’s Kimi Asumaniemi, but he held off ineX Racing Red to become the fourth different winner in four races!

Glacier Racing passed Vortex SimRacing for a season’s best finish of sixth.

Radicals Online 1 missed the previous round at Spa, but produced a great performance to finish as the first car one lap down. They led home a group of four teams covered by 16 seconds. Team Redline dropped back to fifth after they were passed by Radicals in the final hour, having also been delayed by a drive-through penalty for too many off-tracks. A few seconds behind was Glacier Racing, claiming their best finish of the season in sixth position. The Ford GT’s fuel economy extended their early stints, producing two short stints at the end of the race and propelled them past Vortex SimRacing seven laps from the chequered flag.

With their podium ineX Racing Red extended their championship lead to 56 points over Coanda Simsport. ineX now only require a 17th place finish in the final round at Bathurst to clinch the title. CORE Motorsports’ poor result means they are now locked in a battle for third with Team Chimera and Vortex SimRacing. VergilRacing’s win moves them up to eighth, just behind Ibérica Racing Team and Pure Racing Team, who are both tied on points for sixth.

The final round of Masters of Endurance takes place on 21st February 2015 at 16:00 UTC. The teams visit Australia and the challenging Mount Panorama circuit for the 6 Hours of Bathurst sponsored by iGPmanager.com. For full results and points standings, visit the mastersofendurance.net website. The broadcast can be viewed on  https://www.youtube.com/user/mastersofendurance/videos]the MoE youtube channel.

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