The iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona had to step up after the calamities of 2017 where the race was deemed impossible to broadcast and as such had to fall into the murky abyss, never to be discussed until the iRacing hate train hurtles into the station once again. This race would prove whether there would be a year of rebuilding, a year of regret and the tipping scale of whether iRacing would be able to manage a move onto the mainstream stage. Never had I seen more hype for a race than this one and for the outcomes, nobody quite knows how to view everything moving forward.
The ingredients were all there as successful teams both from past and present lined up to make the challenge and with three challenges on the line, every race had its own reasons to watch. GT3’s were a weird race after the Corvette’s decided to get involved however the chase and breakaway just before the halfway stage for Vendaval Simracing Yellow was enough to put themselves laps away to win comfortably come the end.
The GTE machines fell foul early to the concurrent disconnection issues which left the Pure Racing Team GTE vehicle out by nearly two laps, however little by little, the gap would erode to Logikal Vortex Simracing which left the nearly team in simracing completely out of the win just after the final stop, with Pure having to thank Maximilian Wenig for the insane pace that he demonstrated over a long time.
Then came the major talking point of the Daytona Prototypes as Team Redline ended up out of contention incredibly early however the ongoing battle between Vendaval Simracing and Radicals Online became a twisted back and forward of blame shifting as the race drew to the inevitable grandstand finish. It would deliver in a way so eerily similar to the finish of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 2017 as Carl E Jansson of Radicals Online would make the dive on Robin Esterson, taking the race away to continue the streak of stolen Vendaval Victories
By hook or by crook?
Many people have been quick to push Radicals Online as the villains of the race with the chaotic last lap pass into turn one however which way I seem to look at it, I see nothing but a racing incident. A few laps prior to the incident, Jansson had attempted the same move down the inside however pulled out of it when the door was shut so in earnest, that should have been a warning shot for Esterson as he looked to defend for his life.
On the final lap, everyone knew that Jansson was going to push for the move and to be fair to Jansson, there was a car’s width he could attack on the inside into turn one and Esterson should have seen that with the line on the outside Jansson was taking, there should have been a clear idea to go and park the bus through turn one knowing what had happened before. Especially knowing that it was not decisive that Jansson could make the move on the line, I thought Jansson would have done what any driver would have done if they had any doubt later in the lap.
But from Esterson’s perspective, surely it would have been more logical to wait for the oval to go on the offensive in Jansson’s opinion and that he didn’t need to be as defensive into one because normal racing logic would have come into play. On the last lap though, battling for the victory, the first priority, ESPECIALLY without any live stewarding has to be keeping the vehicle in the battle. I would have suspected that by the time Esterson had fully committed to the corner, the spotter would not have been in a position to have called “car inside.”
If Esterson had time to move right and allow the space, would it have been a bad decision? The car would not have been put in a dangerous situation, there was no chance of losing second position with IneX a lap behind, Esterson AT WORST could have lost the position and then would have had the banking to go back on the offensive to recapture the lead which they had already managed to do in the final stint. Being on the outside would have meant they could have defended the move into the International Horseshoe which would have leaned towards living for a shot at the win.
To top it off, the contact was not front to rear which would have been immediate blame and almost impossible to defend, the contact was rim to rim, which suggested Carl had a definitive presence down the inside. All four wheels were on the surface at the time and when the door began closing, there would have been nowhere for Jansson to go due to the retaining wall on the inside. It won’t be a popular opinion but that is the way I saw it go down.
LAN Parties and Endurance
Vendaval caused their own controversy surrounding their race and one with their permission from iRacing to race on one account from Crimson Simulations in the united states with two of their drivers being Robin Esterson and the current iRankings World Number One, Juan E Lopez.
With six switches not including an account share, normally there wouldn’t be an issue in that respect however the difference in the prototype between them a driver change and no driver change is anywhere between 5 and 6 seconds. Saving that amount of time in the pit road put them as little as half a minute down the road and I will say that if they were not in any battle at all, this would be no news at all however with the challenge for the win, Vendaval come under immense scrutiny.
— Vendaval Simracing (@Vendaval_team) January 22, 2018
Vendaval released an official statement on social media to address the situation, claiming that the decision was an honest mistake and had they have been more aware, they would have held their drivers for five or six more seconds intentionally to put more integrity into the race. The fact that the machine at the top was not their number one vehicle, they thought it wouldn’t be an issue at all.
Knowing the Vendaval group well, they are a bunch of good people and I believe the integrity shown from this statement from the team. I think that come Sebring when the prototypes come back to the schedule, I can almost guarantee a lot more teams will push to try to have a LAN Party in the Prototype.
I don’t have a problem with people doing it however I do have an issue with using it for intentional gain and that is why Tyler Hudson will have to be very cautious now about agreeing the decision.
iRacing Server Issues Continue
The big talking point though had to be about the servers up and down the various splits that descended for the third time in five 24 hour events into anarchy. Major issues on the gridding process had already affected a lot of areas of iRacing even before the 24 hour event was in play. Round 5 of the Road to Pro series at COTA came under scrutiny as it will most likely seem with a round to go that Michael Partington will miss out on a WCS licence due to being kicked out of the server just before the race, meaning he couldn’t take to the start. An emergency patch for Daytona was put into effect just a day before the 24 hour event which is never a good sign but one that in the end proved fruitless.
Not only were there major disconnects at the start but they would persist up and down the field in all splits which ultimately will affect the integrity of the event for a lot of people. Major profile members such as Racespot TV Commentator Connery Maddick and FA Racing G2 driver Cem Bolukbasi voiced their opinions on twitter about the issues and it is an issue that needs to be fixed and incredibly soon.
This is the make or break year for iRacing and while the disconnects were “an improvement” on 2017, they are still inexcusable. It would be one thing if the disconnects come in the opening hour due to the major demands of traffic in and out of the simulator however to have these issues on the grid doesn’t scream out world class. I am not sure how iRacing should tackle the issue but if they need to do anything, they have to go back to John W. Henry and request more funding so that they can fix the issues moving forward at the very latest in time for Le Mans and that may even have to require throwing all current projects in the air to make it happen.
From this event though, if it had to tip the scale one way or another, the scale would have stayed dead center. No movement at all. The jury are still out on the make or break year and as things stand, we need to wait until at least Bathurst to make a better judgment because nothing here at Daytona was decisive. What will be remembered though will be the brilliant action that will make this race a classic for years to come.