The 2.4 Hours of Daytona is one of iRacing’s toughest races not because the track is overly difficult but because of the length of the race. At 144 minutes it is one of the longer races that is held annually on the service. As mentioned, the track is not overly difficult as it consists of part oval and part road course meaning drivers have time to prepare on the long banked curves for the tighter and flat corners making up the infield, however a mistake can often see cars ending up in the barriers due to the high speed layout of the track.
This year, iRacing had organised 4 time slots instead of the 2 slots they had in previous years, and they had replaced the McLaren MP4-12C GT3 with the RUF RT12 Track Version which over a lap was a couple of seconds faster than the McLaren. Unlike the real 24 Hours of Daytona only 2 car classes took part in the race, the GT Class consisting of the RUF, and the Daytona Prototype (DP) Class consisting of the Riley MKXX.
Many of Apex Racing UK’s took part in the event, and although the RUF’s outnumbered the Riley’s almost 3:1 the team’s drivers were spread out quite evenly across the 2 classes. The teams Daytona Prototype drivers consisted of Lee Thompson, LJ Garnett, Samuli Kumo, Ryan Littlemore, Liam Williams and Conrad Venter while the RUF’s consisted of Antoine Higelin, Dean Prescott, Clive Lawrence, Darren Kirk, Tim Mawson, Kevin Parrish and John Broadmeadow.
Here is a small summary on how the races went for the drivers.
Lee Thompson’s race:
“I was looking to make amends for myepic disappointment in the 2013 iRacing Daytona 2.4 when 2/3rds of the way through the race my engine blew, thanks partly to a bug released in the game just a couple of days earlier.
Fortunately this year, iRacing made the sensible decision of holding off on a new build until after the event! The turn out this year was great, between the 4 races run during the week 2024 iRacers participated in one or more races!!
I never really managed to get comfortable in the Riley Daytona Prototype car leading up to the Saturday 20:00 GMT race, but was satisfied enough to qualify 19th overall in class (467 qualifiers) just 6 hundredths of a second ahead of ARUK teammate LJ Garnett!
Due to the inconvenience of real life, practice on the day was limited to just half hour or so before the event. Perhaps as a result I struggled to feel consistent in the early laps after starting from 3rd on the grid in the second split. Fortunately a cautious start from everyone meant I was able to hold my starting position sitting back watching the leading pair squabble into turn 1 each lap.
Turn 1 of lap 6 and again the leaders were nose to tail, when Jonathan Salhani lost the rear of the car leaving Erik Teske and myself with no where to go, all 3 cars made contact and ended up facing in various directions. This allowed LJ to scamper by into 1st position and fortunately I was able to rejoin back in my 3rd place apparently with no damage.
6 seconds was lost to LJ and despite the 2.4 hour race length, I knew how close on pace we had been all week long. So I decided to start pushing to reel in the gap! This turned out to be a very poor choice as after closing to 4 seconds, on lap 15 I had my first excursion into the grass losing a further 13 seconds, followed by another 7 seconds on lap 21. Now 25 seconds behind there was really little hope to catch 1st position, with LJ lapping with almost metronomic consistency
At the final lap (lap 87) there was still 25 seconds between us, finishing in 1st and 2nd position for ARUK in the second split. With exactly 27 seconds lost through my 3 incidents, it was a missed opportunity for a great race long battle between the 2 of us!!!
At least my engine didn’t blow up…..”
LJ Garnett’s race:
“I came into this years 2.4 race unsure on what car to run in. Last year I run the race in the McLaren MP4-12C in the GT Class and this year was tempted to run the RUF in the GT Class, however after all the confusion on what spec RUF was going to take part I decided to run in the Daytona Prototype. Practice throughout the week was good as I managed to find a setup that felt good throughout a stint early on and only needed minimal changes in order to make it competitive, however I was not satisfied with the random engine blows that had been happening leading up to the race.
After qualifying just behind my team mate Lee Thompson, I decided to take the race at a steady pace, well aware that it was 144 minutes and the engines could blow under any amount of stress. At the start I immediately fell in behind Lee and as we were both taking it relatively easily as the two leaders kept trying to pass each other as if it was the final laps into turn 1. Eventually the inevitable happened and the two leaders made contact and unfortunately collected Lee along the way. This allowed me to jump into the lead but I was pleased to hear that Lee hadn’t suffered damage.
As the race continued I was able to hold a steady pace trying not to have any incidents or get held up too much by traffic. Lee was incredibly fast behind me and kept closing the gap, however he made a couple of mistakes which ultimately gave me a 25 second gap at the finish line. It was a shame he was caught up in the incident at the start otherwise it would have been a very close race between us, however an Apex Racing UK 1-2 in the second split of such an event against some of the top simulator racers, including some real life racers is quite an achievement. “
Samuli Kumo’s race:
“I found myself in the second split with only handful of other Daytona Prototype drives and a whole bunch of RUF drivers, as was to be expected for a newly released car. That pretty much set the tone for rest of the race as the race went green and all the DPs got away cleanly, I quickly discovered that opting to go for slightly taller 5th gear did not work out as planned because the car in front had much less downforce and could pull away on straights. Since the next driver behind me was significantly slower, it then became a race of survival rather than pure speed, trying to avoid getting tangled up in traffic and get to the finish.
Overall, while there was not much racing to be had in that particular race, it was still a good exercise in patience in trying to navigate through the slower traffic. There were multiple close calls and because of the newly implemented incident limit, all those off track moments started to rack up towards the end and just a single car contact would have tipped it over the edge and end up in disqualification. Fortunately, that did not happen and I finished 7th in a very competitive field. Despite not quite getting the results I wanted from Daytona, I am already looking forward to the next Road Warrior event in February.”
Conrad Venter manged to finish 4th in the 7th Split, however the teams remaining Riley drivers that were Liam Williams and Ryan Littlemore both suffered engine blows during their race which brought them to an abrupt end meaning they had to retire.
Moving on to the teams RUF drivers now, here is how their races went:
Antoine Higelin’s race:
“For both races I took the RUF because even though the handling of the car is significantly different from all the other cars in the service I had a very good feeling and after optimizing the setup for my driving style my laptimes were quite good. The laptimes at Daytona are very much determined by the draft in the oval section, but I wanted to qualify without draft and ended up in the 25th qualifying position.
For this high-SOF (Strength of Field) race (5491 SOF), I started 11th on the grid but I knew that in race trim I was faster than several drivers in front of me. In the first few laps I was able to overtake all the drivers of the second group with some aggressive late braking. I managed to get up to 5th position, closing in on the the first group when I was taken out on lap 11…
At 5084, the SOF of this race was lower and I started 9th position on the grid. Being closer to the front, my strategy was to follow the leaders without attacking them to save as much fuel as possible. But after only 10 laps I was already battling for the lead with Justin V Ruggier at more than 1 second from the 3rd. We were swapping position almost each lap until I made a mistake, got a slowdown penalty and found myself in 8th position as a result. Then I pushed very hard, drafting with Timmy Hill to close the gap to the leaders. At lap 27, I was battling again for the lead with Timmy and Justin. But all these battles had cost us a lot of time and during the first pitstop Paul Ilbrink closed in on Justin as he was saving fuel since the start of the race. At this point, I was battling with Timmy and Derek M Murray for 3rd position. Then Timmy and Justin both made mistakes: with Derek, I was then battling for 2nd position, joined by Teemu Iivonen on lap 62 for the final rush. With the kind of draft at Daytona, the last few laps were all about strategy more than raw speed. I finally finished 4th only few meters behind Derek and few centimeters behind Teemu.
Congratulations to Paul Ilbrink for winning the race with a very smart strategy.”
Tim Mawson’s race:
“In the the 12th split I started well with 6th place on the grid with the RUFs. However, my campaign for a possible win was destroyed as soon as the turn 3 Horseshoe, where I was confronted with a turned RT12R at the apex and had no room to avoid it. The collision caused wheel damage and a painful wait as the rest of the field passed the scene, followed by a lengthy pit stop for repairs. However I carried on to complete the full distance in 18th place, and setting the fastest RUF lap time of the race.”
Clive Lawrence’s race:
“This was going to be my first race running for Apex Racing UK and, after last year’s dire performance, I wanted to finish this year’s race in the best possible position I could.
Starting 6th in Split 8 I got a good start on the green light. Turn 1 claimed its usual victims with the 4th place guy losing the back end on braking and wiping out the 3rd place guy. This caused a slight pile up but I’d managed to avoid this as I had started on the outside and just drove around the carnage emerging on the other side in 3rd place.
With only a simple objective of finishing the race I wasn’t planning on getting into any dog fights so a couple of people I let through if they were clearly quicker than me. I lost 2 positions within the first 5-10 laps due to this method of thinking but my pace seemed quick enough to give me a fighting chance of a top 5 in my split.
Momentary lapse of concentration later on in the race saw me lose a couple of places as I span on the exit of turn 1. 0x contact with the pit wall saw me carry on undamaged.
My 2 pit stops were fairly normal with no hiccups. In-stopped-fueled up-changed tyres-go again. Simple.
Towards my 2nd pit stop I was in a race for 4th place. I entered the pitlane only 2 or 3 seconds behind 4th place but emerged around 9 seconds behind. This 9 seconds dwindled pretty quickly as I’d managed to find the pace I’d been setting in practice sessions all week. I caught 4th place and overtook within a few laps and pulled away quite significantly.
Rest of the race I spent pretty much alone but for the odd Riley lapping now and then. I crossed the line in 4th place and with only 3 incidents. My most successful Daytona 2.4 race to date and glad it was with a great team and livery.”
Darren Kirk’s race:
“I lined up 8th in split 17 in the RUF and made steady progress throughout the first hour of the race, with a controlled and steady drive avoiding the incidents unfolding on the track. Despite having some heavy rear contact into the chicane on lap 10, the car managed to escape unscathed and I battled for 5th place in class. A slight error at 1hr 40 minutes into the race I put the car sideways coming out of turn 2, the car behind was caught out and drove straight into the front right of my car, causing it to pitch badly and made it undrivable.After towing back to the pits and 2 minutes of repairs, I managed to get the car back out on track, however I was down in 18th place in class after losing three laps. Despite clawing this back to 10th place in class with about 20 minutes to go, the fuel situation was looking bad with it projected to run dry with two laps to the finish, so after a late splash and dash I emerged behind 11th place in class, and 20 seconds behind 10th. On the second from last lap, I took 10th place back and drove to the finish, finishing 15th overall.”Dean Prescott managed to finish 10th in Split 4 after starting in 12th, however for John Broadmeadow and Kevin Parrish their races didn’t go to plan as both ended up having to retire from the race.
The 2.4 Hours of Daytona was a reasonably successful event for the team with a variety of mixed results and achievements, but most of the drivers enjoyed their races even if they were short and look forward to the next round of the series.