SimSport Racing International’s 24h of Spa-Francorchamps in aid of Against Cancer

On the 24th/25th of November, Positive Perception’s Team drivers competed in their first ever 24h sim-race around Spa-Fancorchamps on Assetto Corsa Competizione. The event was hosted by SimSport Racing International (SSRI) as part of their endurance series and was in aid of Against Cancer, a dutch charity supporting the families of children diagnosed with Cancer. Against Cancer was first formed in 2004 when they hosted a track-day for sick children and their families and they have been growing since; this was the first sim-race they have been involved in and a whopping €12,840 was raised by the event. If you want to see more of what Against Cancer have done you can see everything on their website: 

For PosPer, this was a brave new step into the intricacies of true endurance racing and a lot of preparation was going to be needed! Mark’s first step was going to be establishing two teams of four drivers, split into Team A and Team B. Team A featured PosPer’s resident Aliens: Jack Young, Simon Wilks, Rob Jackson and Ash Coupland. Team B was made up of Ant Brown, Jamie Buchanan, Alex Magee and of course, Mark Raddenbury. Once the teams were set, it was time to start the preparation. Team A decided to enter the ever-popular Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT3; known for its predictability, forgiveness and stability in changing conditions, the Vantage is a go-to for many endurance teams in ACC.

Team B decided to drive the Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo as most of the drivers favoured the stability and responsiveness of mid-engined cars.

Over the next two months, both teams worked closely together to produce a setup that suited each driver in their car. Logging data, speculating changes required for differing weather conditions, tweaking damper settings and discussing strategy options, all while grinding down their lap times. However if the event wasn’t already enough of a challenge, it was about to be turned upon its head. On the Wednesday morning before the race weekend, the first day of qualification, Kunos released a new update that revolutionised their in-game physics and tyre model. All of the work in setup had suddenly been undone and the teams had to rush to find all new setups and adjust their driving style to match the sim’s new nuances.

For qualification, each team presented two drivers to try and put their best times in on the Wednesday and Thursday nights before the race weekend. Si Wilks and Jack Young jumped in for Team A and Ant Brown and Alex Magee were representing Team B. Of the 90 drivers who set lap times, Jack Young’s 2:17.730 was second-fastest with nobody able to get close to Rocket Simsport’s Robbie Stapleford’s 2:17.250. Si put in a solid 2:18.550 and these times put Team A into a brilliant P6 on a grid of 45 cars. Alex Magee managed a 2:19.520 while Ant Brown’s 2:18.765 bumped their Ferrari up to P25 on the grid.

RACE DAY! All the setups had been done, all the spreadsheets had been filled out, all the snacks and energy drinks had been bought and all the drivers had gone dizzy from lapping Spa day after day for two months but the day of reckoning had arrived. Jack was going to start out for Team A while Ant was Team B’s first man in the seat. The gargantuan grid of 45 fully-decked-out GT3 supercars set out on their formation lap, weaving and braking to get that all-important heat into the tyres while their drivers nervously sweated about the dreaded start-run up Eau Rouge. The grid slowly rolled out of La Source and descended the hill towards the start line. The drivers’ all stared at the lights, waiting for them to go green.... GO, GO, GO! Team A’s beefy Aston Martin got a steady run into the chicane and Jack kept it wide up the hill to avoid any incidents. As he crested Raidillon, he had the run on the adjacent Lexus and managed to secure P5 up the Kemmel Straight.

Back in the melée, Ant also managed to keep his nose clean through the chicane as cars came together only two places back. This led to a huge pile-up in Ant’s mirror but his relief was short-lived.

He rounds the exit of Les Combes to find four cars in the middle of their own incident; his rear quarter is clipped and he gets turned around. Now facing the oncoming traffic in the middle of the racing line, Ant can only hope he doesn’t get caught in any major crashes but luck was not on the team’s side; another Aston rounds the corner and goes headlong into Ant, severely damaging the front end of the Ferrari. Ant is left with no choice but to limp the car round to the pits and stop for repairs, he comes out of the pits in P45; dead last and a lap behind.

Over the next two hours, Ant puts in an excellent drive and hands the car over to Alex in P28; Team B now realises that a number of drivers are already struggling with consistency; returning to the pits for repairs or getting drive-throughs of Spa’s protracted pit-lane. All the team has to do is keep their driving steady and without incident and the places will come to them. Team A continues to hold out in a stable position and a successful changeover now sees Ash Coupland in the car, still in P5.

As the afternoon progresses, Team A continue to slowly climb up the order while a retirement of Team Rocket from P2 sees Team A move up into P4. Mark gets on the radio and tells the guys in the Team A garage that their target has just changed from a top-5 to a podium finish while Team B are set the target of top-20.

As the drivers approach the end of their stints, they work closely with their spotter to set the pitstop strategy for the incoming driver; adjust tyre pressures for changing conditions and ensuring the car is repaired after any ‘bumps’. As Alex pulls into the pit for the second time in his stint, the car is ready for Mark to jump in and Mark is in his sim-rig, ready to go and race for two hours. The car drops down from the lift and Mark goes to start the engine but… nothing! The car slowly rolls down the hill in the pit as Alex realises he forgot to set Mark as the next driver and is still in the car! He quickly fires the Ferrari back up and heads out of the pit; he will now have to stay in the car and triple-stint while Mark can chill out for another hour.

Unfortunately, Team A start to face their own challenges at pitstop as Jack has a control failure as he tries to take over from Rob, dropping them from P5 to P19. Jack then has a spin at the bus stop chicane and drops to P21.

As the race progresses, teams’ pitstop strategies start to diverge and cars start to move up and down the grid as their opponents pit. After a stop, Team A comes out behind Team B in P25 and Mark is quick to remind everyone that he gave ‘no team orders’, so he won’t just be letting Jack through when he catches up. A short battle ensues and Mark goes deep (he claims it was intentional) into the bus stop chicane, allowing Jack to get past without incident.

As night-time approaches, teams are starting to struggle with fatigue and drive-throughs and incidents start to come thick and fast but the PosPer boys continue to keep their noses clean and climb the grid until disaster strikes Team A. Jack has another control failure at La Source and the car ploughs into the barrier as his brakes disconnect. The team drop to the bottom of the grid as they try to resolve the issue and are inevitably forced to retire the car; a really frustrating end to their race after such a positive start.

Everyone’s hopes are now pinned on Team B and their steady climb back into the race. Throughout the night, Jamie and Mark put in solid drives through the graveyard shifts and gain a few more places, despite a couple bumps with other cars and trips through the gravel.

As they emerge into the daylight relatively unscathed and in a promising position, Ant jumps in for his final stint in P20. He puts in another stellar drive and puts pressure on the two cars ahead pulling into the pits in P18 to hand over to Alex with only 3 hours to go. Due to pitstop strategies, the team was fluctuating between P18 and P22 during stops and it was hard to tell where they were going to end up but Mark and Jamie had planned ahead throughout the night and lined the stops up with the race finish. The team had managed to make up enough time to save a stop and as Mark jumped in for the final hour of the race, the two cars ahead were both due a stop and the team were looking good for P18. With only 50 minutes to go, car #69 had a major crash up Raidillon and was forced to limp back to the pits for repairs; PosPer B moved up to P17 and with no-one behind on the same lap, Mark only had to keep it steady and bring home the race. He crossed the line in P17, far higher than the team thought they could achieve, especially after crashing out and finishing the first lap in last!