The first leg of the VCO Grand Slam – the iRacing Daytona 24 – saw Williams Esports and Apex Racing Team win in their respective classes.
The first big iRacing event of the year took place over the weekend with the iRacing Daytona 24 presented by VCO starting up on Friday and concluding on Sunday (20th-22nd January). It was the first of four races scheduled for the 2023 VCO Grand Slam.
There were four timeslots to choose from, but the one that most iRacers chose to compete in was the 7:00 AM ET / 12:00 GMT splits. In total, there were 42 splits during the third timeslot, 20 having all three classes. Both the top and second split were broadcasted on the VCO Esports social channels.
It was the Top Split running for the Grand Slam prizes, however, and many heavy hitters showed up to play in the 24 hour endurance event.
When the clock came back around twice, 921 laps in the mirror, it was the #1 Williams Esports Chillblast BMW (Arthur Lehouck, Alxander Spetz, Matt J. Farrow) taking top honors in the GTP class for the new BMW M Hybrid V8.
In both the LMP2 class and the IMSA GTD class, the Apex Racing Team was able to close the deal twice, winning with their #199 LMP2 (Elvis Rankin, Michele Costantini, Owen Caryl, Stanley Deslandes) and #99 Audi GT3 (Salva Talens, Yohann Harth, Jamie Fluke, Michael Janney) entries in their respective classes.
24 HOURS OF RACING
The early stages of the race saw the Williams going head-to-head with the #6 Obsidian Racing entry (Pedro Sanchez Albert, Pablo Espes, Pablo Lazar, Aday Coba Lopez) and the #89 BMW M Team BS+COMPETITION entry (Valtteri Alander, Kay Kaschube, Nathan S Lewis) in the GTP class, while the Apex Racing Team carried the torches in both the LMP2 and GTD categories early on.
A bold move early from the #32 Arturo Melgar Setup Shop LMP2 (Przemyslaw Marek Lemanek, Tom Hooper, Niko Wierzbicki) saw them take the early LMP2 lead after passing both the #199 and #9 Apex Racing Academy (Gordie Mutch, Manel Cubo Torres, Brandon Traino, Will Redford – the team designated as the #198 but drove the #9 in the event) on the outside into the first corner.
Meanwhile in the GTD, it was the #98 Apex Racing Team entry (Kevin Ellis Jr, Alejandro Sanchez, Luke McKeown, Peter Berryman) out in front of the #99 on the start. Both cars would work together throughout the event. The #98 would lead a lot of the first half, but eventually the #99 took control with about 15 and a half hours to go.
WILLIAMS ESPORTS NEVER GIVES UP IN GTP
Just about 45 minutes in, the leading Williams Esports #1 GTP incurred some damage and began to lose a ton of time. The eventual winners opted to pit and fix the damages, which took them off strategy early in the going. This handed the lead over to the #6 Obsidian Racing team for a bit of the early action.
As the race went on, in that top LMP class, the #1, #6, #89 and the URANO eSports entries with the #190 (HEINEKINGMEDIA – Dominik Hofmann, Daniel Alves Lourenco, Yoep de Ligt) and #191 (DATAGROUP – Jonas Wallmeier, Vlad Khimichev, Dylan B Scrivens), all traded the lead at some point.
While the #6 Obsidian Racing entry ran the fastest lap of the entire event, they would find big trouble with just under seven hours remaining in the event, colliding with the #69 Chit Chat Racing LMP2 (Sean D Campbell, Oscar T Koper, Marius Valiokas) after clipping the grass while making a move on the outside in the kink. They would eventually retire from the event.
Eventually, the #1 team made their way back to the front of the competition as strategies and survival played out, winning by more than 33 seconds over the #191 and a lap over the #190. The #89 had issues as well, one time specifically with a Williams LMP2 through the night, and wound up sixth.
APEX DEFEATS WILLIAMS, CALCE THROUGH STRATEGY AND SURVIVAL IN LMP2
Through the evening and overnight, it looked as though four of the LMP2 entries had set themselves apart from the rest of the field.
After the early retirement of the #32, it was the #199, the #15 Williams Esports MAHLE (Atte Kauppinen, Moreno Sirica, Mike Partington) the #19 Calce Team (Ivan Machado Perez, Jose I. Soria, Marcos Nunes) and the #17 INET Motorsports BLUE (Harold Creton, Leo Roussel, Michal S Capizzi).
The #15 would lead early and often, switching back and forth with the #199 through it all. As the laps dwindled, however, the #15 would find themselves out of contention after multiple incidents.
Run ins with the #17 LMP2 and the #89 GTP would force them out with enough damage plus a penalty for having more than 100 incident points.
With the #15 out of the conversation, the #199 was able to take the title for the LMP2 class with the #19 and #17 rounding out the podium.
APEX WINS 24 HOURS OF BUMP DRAFTING IN GTD
It was a different type of race in the GTD field as top billed road specialists found a trick to going faster with two GTD entries.
Out of the gate, the #98 and #99 Apex Racing team Audis were connected at the front of the field, bump drafting on the Daytona oval to get faster times. It sounds like something most people would expect in a NASCAR oval race.
An detracting moment of this bumping came early when the notorious “netcode” that iRacing is can be known for reared its ugly head and caused two top teammates to crash out.
The #97 Apex Racing Academy Audi (Maxence Godiinho, Mads Johansen, Parker White) and the #20 Dörr Esports Audi (Anti Ahola, Michael Rachl, Jonas Wanner, Michael Neumeier) found the dynamite bump glitch, sending the #20 into a frenzied spin and back up into the #97, ruining both their chances at winning.
While not necessarily an exploit, it did divide the community in social media responses. Some responses were fine with the move but upset with the way the cars reacted.
Other responses were flipped, stating moves like that are not meant for road racing. Then there were people who said both the move and resulting contact were a bad look.
Either way, it was a winning strategy. The #99 Apex Racing Team was able to easily hold off the #7 Team BMW Bank GTD (Rainer Talvar, Ryan Barneveld, Phil Denes) after 24 hours thanks to the commitment both the #98 and #99 had to one another, even when the #98 fell out of the conversation.
GTP – iRACING DAYTONA 24 VCO TOP SPLIT – TOP 5
- #1 A. Lehouck / A. Spetz / M. Farrow – Williams Esports Chillblast – 921 Laps
- #191 J. Wallmeier / V. Khimichev / D. Scrivens – URANO eSports DATAGROUP +33.719 sec
- #190 D. Hofmann / D. Alves Lourenco / Y. de Ligt – URANO eSports HEINEKINGMEDIA +1 Lap
- #11 A. Talmon / J. Bennett / F. Kruger – Race Clutch White +1 Lap
- #16 D. Sivi-Szabo / M. Quero / A. Blocker / M. Emery – Puresims Esports $LMDH +5 Laps
LMP2 – iRACING DAYTONA 24 VCO TOP SPLIT – TOP 5
- #199 E. Rankin / M. Costantini / O. Caryl / S. Deslandes – Apex Racing Team #199 – 880 Laps
- #19 I. Machado Perez / J. Soria / M. Nunez – Calce Team +1 Lap
- #17 H. Creton / L. Roussel / M. Capizzi – INET Motorsport BLUE +1 Lap
- #9 G. Mutch / M. Cubo Torres / B. Traino / W. Redford – Apex Racing Academy #198 +2 Laps
- #33 Sc. Michaels / N. Beu / Sa. Michaels – SRC Mivano Corse #33 +3 Laps
IMSA GTD – iRACING DAYTONA 24 VCO TOP SPLIT – TOP 5
- #99 S. Talens / Y. Harth / J. Fluke / M. Janney – Apex Racing Team #99 – 818 Laps
- #7 R. Talvar / R. Barneveld / P. Denes – Team BMW Bank +1 Lap
- #55 D. Pasztor / L. Nahser / D. Lafuente – Mercedes-AMG Team Williams Esports +2 Laps
- #98 K. Ellis Jr / A. Sanchez / L. McKeown / P. Berryman – Apex Racing Team #98 +2 Laps
- #22 J. Maciejewski / M. Luczak – Sabelt Esports +4 Laps
MORE CONTROVERSIES INCLUDED
Unfortunately, the event was overshadowed by even more controversy than just the inane advantages of bump drafting GTDs.
Akin to the grass dipping issues of last year’s Spa 24, this year included another breach of the iRacing Sporting Code, as some top qualifiers – including the overall winning #1 Williams Esports Chillblast BMW – utilized a non-racing surface (the Apron) to get better lap times.
The apron area in question is off-limits per Greg West and the Sporting Code, and the iRacing team is investigating the situation.
WHAT’S NEXT IN THE VCO GRAND SLAM
Next up for the VCO Grand Slam calendar, the racing will stay in the state of Florida for another endurance event. The newly-revamped Sebring International Raceway will host the 12 Hours of Sebring on the 24th to the 26th of March and will once again feature GTP, LMP2 and GTD racing.
Only half the time that the Daytona 24 was, but still an endurance event nonetheless. Once again, the VCO Esports team will stream the event live on their social channels.
Be sure to check out the highlights from the broadcast below!
Images thanks to VCO Esports