Band of Others took part in the iRacing Daytona 24, a 24-hour endurance event utilizing the Daytona International Speedway Road Course! The event featured two classes of cars; the faster “Prototype” class featuring the Coyote-made C7 Corvette Daytona Prototype, and the “German Grand Touring” class featuring the Mercedes AMG GT3, Audi R8 GT3, and BMW Z4 GT3 cars.
The event drew 1,101 drivers on nearly 300 teams in the Prototype class, and 1,682 drivers on over 450 teams in the German GT3 class. The end result was 10 full splits of half DP/half GT3 cars, and three more splits made up entirely of German GT3’s.
The crew at Band of Others fielded two Mercedes AMG GT3’s in the German GT3 category, piloted by 13 drivers, representing 4 international clubs (Benelux, Canada, Australia/NZ, and UK & I) and 6 U.S. clubs (Florida, Midwest, Michigan, New York, New England, California and Texas).
We were hoping to get both cars into the same split, but with so many registrations and only 28-29 GT3’s making each split, the window was too narrow. B2O Endurance made the 2nd split overall, while B2O Fusion just missed the cut and slipped into the 3rd split, which was still very impressive out of the 13 splits.
For B2O Endurance, the race started out smoothly with driver Noël Lüneburg starting the car from 6th place in class. He completed two conservative stints, which dropped us a few positions early, but put us ahead in our fuel strategy and, most importantly in endurance events, kept the car clean. At the end of Noël’s stints, he was supposed to hand the car over to Nejtun Cameron. Unfortunately, a client crash prevented Nejtun from being able to take over the car, so Marc Gammack jumped into the car to cover a stint and allow Nejtun to get back into the race. This shook up the schedule a bit, but Band of Others adapted well, and, after another clean stint, Nejtun was finally able to get back into the car with no issues. Nejtun would drive the car until nearly the five hour mark before the first signs of trouble began to appear on our server.
Just as Nejtun was completing his final two laps, cars around him began to blink, or disappear momentarily, making traffic incredibly hairy. The initial server ‘storm’ lasted about 5 minutes and 70 iRacing members were dropped from our server, but fortunately most of those members were just spotting and the issues had very little impact on the running order. At the tail end of the storm, Nejtun completed his two stints and handed the car over to Ken Lindberg. The server issues were beginning to clear as Ken pitted out, but they weren’t completely gone, and the server misread Ken’s location on pit exit and gave him a Stop and Go penalty for an “Unsafe Pit Exit”. Ken came back down pit road and served his penalty and eventually settled in to deliver the team two more clean stints, and crossing the 1/4 distance mark of the race.
232 laps into the race, Jes Colman took over the car. Unknowingly at the time, Jes would eventually become the hero of this team, completing the most laps of the team (164) and every time he was in the car, the B2O Endurance machine seemed to gain positions! On just his second lap in the car, lap 234, Jes was credited by iRacing for a ‘Clock Smash’. No idea what that means, but it sounds f****** awesome, so congrats to Jes on earning it! Most of the race we hung around just outside the top-5, falling as low as 9th and climbing as high as 4th without the help of a pit stop. (B2O Endurance carried 2nd on our position plate early in the race for one lap due to how pit stops fell.) After one stint in the car, Jes gave the car back to Noël on lap 265 and just nine laps later, Noël ran our fastest lap of the race (01:44.116).
Jes was back in the car for another stint, on lap 298. Our second scare of the race came towards the end of Jes’ stint on lap 322. While going through the bus stop, the Band of Others Mercedes caught a little too much curb and the car lost traction, sliding off the track into the grass. Jes kept the car off the wall, though, and we continued uninjured! On lap 331, Philip Wyatt climbed behind the wheel! This was Philip’s first major endurance event with the Band of Others, and aside from an early off in his stint which added slight bit of character to our hood, but had no overall effect on our performance. After a brief pause to ensure a safe rejoin, he was back underway and he completed the rest of his stint without issues.
Jes was once again back in the car from lap 364 to lap 397, when Patrick Marrow got his first seat time. We were now 12 hours, or halfway, into the event and Patrick did his part, putting down some of the fastest laps of the team. The highlights of Patrick’s first double stint included another Clock Smash award from iRacing on lap 420, as well as his personal best race lap (01:44.861)!
Patrick gave the car back to Jes on lap 461, who had to endure a second server storm! This time, more teams were dropped from the server, and even members of B2O fell out of the session, but not Jes. Jes survived and kept the car on track to complete his stint before Philip took over for his final two stints of the night.
Philip did a double stint, which totaled 66 laps and included his personal best lap of the race (01:46.747) on lap 531. On lap 560 Ken took over the wheel for his last stint, and what felt like the quickest stint of the evening. As the race ground into the final six hours, and the number of cars reached the race low, we faced little traffic. The light was starting to shine at the end of the tunnel, and the team started to look towards the finish and figure out where we sat on fuel to finish out the race.
The original race strategy had predicted twenty-five stints in total; twenty-two 32 lap stints and three 33 lap stints. However, now 18 stints into the race, we had managed eight 33 lap stints, four 34 lap stints, and only seven 32 lap stints. 14 laps ahead on fuel strategy, combined with a slower overall pace and lower projected number of race laps than the original 803, resulted in us being about 5 laps of fuel short of cutting an entire stint out of our strategy!
For most of the last 6 hours, B2O Endurance had found themselves on an island in 7th. One lap behind 6th, but quite a few laps of cushion over 8th. Marc and Patrick combined for four more stints, using two to fuel save and the other two to attempt to run down 6th. As Marc handed the car over to Jes one last time, the team had managed to un-lap themselves from 6th, and we hoped to be posed for an all out push to make up ground to 6th. Unfortunately, for the second straight year, our fuel came closer then what we had hoped, and we caught no breaks from the Daytona Prototype leaders, because even after 22 hours of racing, the top two found themselves separated by mere seconds and their pushing put our fuel strategy in jeopardy.
Even with Jes and Noël eking out full 34 lap fuel saving stints on the final two stints of the race, it looked like the team would be one lap short of the checkers. Tracking down 6th had been a lofty goal, and in the end, a goal that was just out of reach, but overall it was still a fantastic performance from all 7 of the B2O Endurance drivers!
Only two German GT3 teams in front of us finished with fewer team incidents than us (102 incidents), and they finished 1st (Team DFTBA, 73 incidents) and 2nd (Wave Driving Revolution GT, 78 incidents) in class, and only one DP team came even close to our incident count (15th – Portuguese Sailors, 108 incidents).
Massive congratulations and thanks to all of the community members that helped or participated in getting both B2O cars to the finish line. 24 hours of racing is no joke! It was fun racing with you, but it was even more fun in the two weeks of preparation leading up to this event, and everyone’s input from setup to scheduling, helped make this event truly a fantastic experience all around!
Band of Others hopes to be back in action for the next official iRacing Special Event, the Sebring 12 Hour, 01:00 pm GMT Saturday March 11th – 01:00 am GMT Sunday March 12th**, featuring the same classes; Corvette DP + German GT3 (Audi, Mercedes, BMW)
**iRacing claims there will be a second race time, but no details have been released yet.