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Road to Virtual Le Mans: The journey begins…

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Chase Herholdt (pictured above) had the idea first: how about a team of Saffers doing an LMP1 programme on iRacing? And tackling, not only the virtual World Endurance Championship (WEC) but also the forthcoming Le Mans 24 hours – pixelated version – in June.

The thinking was to get the South Africa contingent of the simRACE247 team the semi-hybrid Porsche 919 for Chase, Troy Dolinschek, John Henri Vaughan and Kewyn Snyman and the Barcelona track for testing. We set up a server for two hours and blasted around the MotoGP/GT  virtual version of the venue.

I, a gentleman sim driver – a polite way of saying slow – decided to have a shot too and see how I compare to the younger lads. It was my first drive in the mighty Porsche 919 and, must say, was intimidated by the complexity of the sim version of this incredible car.

It’s no surprise they did not make these cars for customers and gentlemen drivers!

Personally, it took time to get all the gizmos working and eventually the times did come down gradually but if you are not in the mid-twenties around Barcelona, with the LMP1, you are nowhere.

As for the team, young Troy was on it with an impressive 1:26 during our private test and a day later had found another two seconds to post a very respectable 1.24. In a nutshell, there is still work to do for everyone as they learn more about the car and then it over to the talent our lads have.

In closing, the secret to being fast in this car is to understand all the gizmos that make you quick and then deploying these optimally. More astronaut than race driver if you know what I mean.

This is no casual “I will go for a fling type of car” and is definitely at a different level to most of the content available in simming, thus the primary focus is on the hotshot Saffer drivers in our team who will be the backbone of this LMP1 campaign:

  • Chase a real race driver and iRacing member, an ardent fan of dirt racing as well as tarmac, whose real-life racing exploits, like everyone in the world, are on hold for now.
  • Kewyn Snyman is a real-life superbike rider who took to virtual racing to keep sharp and on top of his competitive instinct, to find he is very good at it too! He was unable to attend the first test.
  • John Henri Vaughan is a teenager whose real-life car racing exploits are quite remarkable for his age and has also found sim racing a lifeline to keep racing during this period.
  • Troy Dolinschek is a real-life karter, a Rotax Grand Finals driver with Team South Africa last year in Italy with a family with a pedigree in South Africa motor racing, now plunging into the virtual world.

And indeed it was Troy who banged out the fastest lap, and clearly got the hang of the 919 and its gizmos faster than most. His time of 1:26 on a green track, with little rubber on the racing line, was solid around Circuit de Catalunya under the conditions. Notably, a day later he found another two seconds in the car.

This is what Troy had to say, “It was my first time out in the LMP1 car and I would say it went really well on my first proper test. The LMP car is in my opinion exactly where I belong.

“I was about 2-3 seconds off the top split drivers after around an hour or two of practice. I feel there is still lots I have to learn, but I’m up for the challenge. The LMP1 car has lots of different deployment modes and to get those right can be a real task.

“If I could find myself within a second of the top split drivers ill be very happy. I did some testing today and found another 1.5 seconds, so the more you drive the car, the more time that will be found.

“The Saffers have a very strong team in my opinion in John-Henri Vaughan, Chase Herholdt, Kewyn Snyman and Myself. There’s a lot to be done in a rather short amount of time, but I’m excited to get my LMP1 iRacing career started. Nothing, in my opinion, feels better than a new beginning like with this LMP1 class,” added Troy.

Chase was equally enthused by the next step in his virtual racing career and summed up: “WOW!! when I got the opportunity to race this car I felt like a kid in a candy store. But I must say the car is not what I expected in the sense of get in and go fast.

When I took it out for the first time, at Barcelona, I spun before Turn 5. It kept happening for me until I realised the car was dipping the nose as the boost was kicking in way too early. So after one hour of messing around with the car I resorted to social media and videos. Damn, I do wish I had started there!

“I spent the whole day doing research in what direction one should drive the car and what electronics I should assign to my wheel. After all that, I managed to go a full three seconds faster (1.28.8) which put me in a much better mindset. Now, all I want to do now is just keep driving and pushing for consistency and speed.

“This car is nowhere close to any car I have driven on iRacing. It has its own mind and its never the same for every corner. The F3 is maybe roughly a close example of point and shoot, which is how I fell the car should be driven. Example like breaking all the way into the apex and then back on the power to get a lighting quick exit.

“From what I have understood from the car and from reading some information the car is very dependent on the hybrid boost. If we could master that along with a brilliant setup. So what will make me fast is seat time, LOTS of seat time.

“The focus points I would prioritise for a car like this: 1)Setup, 2)Experience, 3)Micromanaging boost, 4) Pure pace/consistency,” concluded Chase.

Another simRACE247 team test will take place Friday evening which will be covered on this site as the simRACe247-ZA LMP1 project takes flight. Watch this space!

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Paul Velasco

Paul Velasco