The 5th of March marked the date for the opening race of the 2023 iRacing Team endurance championship (iRTES). With a fantastic grid of 38 cars taking the green flag, the field set off for three hours of intense action around the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Starting at the head of the action was the LMDh class driving the brand new BMW v8 Hybrids. This new class replaces the outgoing Daytona Prototype class, completing the lap just a few seconds faster than its predecessor.
The No 66 Penguin R/C Simulation took pole in LMDh with a time of 1:31.03, a tenth of a second ahead of second place Obsidian Racing in their No 13 BMW. The rest of the top eight were separated by a tiny margin of just three tenths of a second. With margins this small, it was sure to be a fantastic race in between all members of the class.
The Grid is Full with excitement to start iRTES 2023 at Daytona (above)
In the P2 class, Tempus Simsport took pole in the No 92 with a time of 1:34.549, a massive seven tenths ahead of closest rivals SimHQ in their No 15 Dallara P217. With the rest of the LMP2 field split by two seconds, Tempus was certainly the favorites heading into race day on Sunday.
In GT3, Steve Melo took pole for RD Simsport in his No 258 BMW M4 GT3 machine. The No 101 Tempus Simsport followed closely in second place by a tenth of a second. The rest of the field was separated by 2.3 seconds which, given the slipstream effect at Daytona, will yield some close racing up and down the class.
Once the race began, all was calm for the first few laps. The first sign of trouble was noted at just under the 10 minute mark, when RD Simsport II in the No 26 BMW LMDh machine spun out of turn 6. Peter Sikdar looked to the inside of the No 69 We Too Fast Motorsports car, who then spun his tyres, collecting and spinning Sikdar. Thomas Fisher, driver for Champion Motorsports Pro, was overtaking a GT3 at the time and was stuck on the outside, unable to avoid the stricken Sikdar, he aimed for a gap between the car and wall, but hit both, breaking his left front suspension. One more car made contact with the No 26 but successfully returned to the pits. Thomas Fisher successfully nursed his broken car back to the pits and took their one and only fast repair, emerging 1:24s behind the leaders. Immediately after this incident, another incident put Darren Mowbray of SimHQ motorsports in the wall after making contact with the No 56 CanAm racing team Lamborghini heading into the bus stop.
On the 10th lap of the race, Nicholas Maynard in the No 171 HundredForce Dallara P217 prototype went head on into the barrier into turn 5, having out-braking himself passed a Porsche GT3. This resulted in him shattering his suspension and causing him to, once again, go head-on into the barrier at turn 6.
What followed is a relatively quiet period for the field, a few lead changes all around and a couple spins as drivers struggled to get to grips with Turn 6. Of note, Jack Crissey went spinning through a line of traffic, miraculously not hitting anyone before stopping just shy of the barrier.
Sunset overcomes Daytona on March 5th 2023 in iRTES season opener (above)
At the halfway mark in the race, RD Simsport were leading both the top class and the GT3 field, albeit neither car was very far ahead of their closest competition. In LMP2, Tempus Simsport lead by a massive 47 seconds over SimHQ Motorsports.
A few minutes past halfway, we say a few large impacts into the wall, both being at the hands of Leonard Burke in the No 42 Static Adrenaline car, going off once at turn one and hitting the barrier before doing the same thing at turn 5 just minutes later.
The broadcasters interviewed Thomas Fisher at around the two hour mark, with the CMS Pro car sitting 5th. Fisher described the hopes for their team as being able to fight for the championship and was confident that they could do it against a rather high profile field.
As Fisher mentioned this high profile field, an hour long battle would begin for the overall victory in the race, with RD Simsport and Obsidian Racing starting it off, the No 66 Penguin R/C Simulation car would soon join in followed by eventual winners in the No 67 BMW of Satellite Racing. The CMS Pro car would then get into a fight over fourth position in the race. This battle would involve a few crashes and spins, notably Obsidian Racing crashing out of the lead after colliding with a GT3 heading into the first horseshoe corner.
In the LMDh class, Satellite Racing took victory by a margin of 44 seconds to RD Simsport and Penguin R/C Simulation in second and third place respectively. Cameron Barker, driver in the No 79 Champion Motorsports Pro car took the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:31.410s.
In LMP2, nothing changed at the top for the last hour of the race, with Tempus going on to take victory at Daytona by well over a minute, with HundredForce finishing in second position, and Longhorn Racing finishing third, albeit a lap behind the winners. Fastest lap was claimed by runners up HundredForce, with their driver Nicholas Maynard clocking in a 1:35.325s lap time.
Intense action all race, and some great drives from the LMDh and LMP2 cars at Daytona (above)
In GT3, RD Simsport took victory in their No 258 machine, having lead most of the race and seeming completely in control. Second honors go to Tempus Simsport, with Tu Pai Racing Team finishing in third position. Tempus claimed the fastest lap thanks to Paulo Fonseca’s mighty effort of a 1:43.799s lap.
Many beautiful machines in the GT3 Category will fill the race track in iRTES 2023 (above)
Speaking with LMP2 Runners up, HundredForce, after the race, they were asked about their aspirations for the season; “We are brand new to the LMP2 car. We entered into iRTES with 1.5 weeks of prep. We bought the car specifically for this series so we are learning as we go. We just want to be clean, finish every race, and gain information for the future” said a team representative.
All the teams put on a mighty impressive performance at Daytona, showing their grit and determination. The series returns on the 30th of April for Round 2 of the iRTES series presented by CMSRacing.com and brought to you by Penguin R/C Simulation at Fuji. Tune in to the action live once again on Apex Racing TV.
GT3 Action in the famous Bus Stop Chicane (above)
Enjoy the Full Race replay from Apex Simracing TV here