Note: This post was created 4/10/2010 about a race which happened on 6/25/1999. IGPS was the first simracing league I ever joined and this was my second season. It should be noted that the video is created from the server replay and that my ping to the server was probably about 0.3 seconds at the time (I was located in England, the server was somewhere in the United States). This meant that the movements of the car were exaggerated and at times unrealistic to the view of the server and other drivers (some others also had a ping over 0.3s – meaning an in-race lag of 0.6s or more was common). The basic rules of the league (which changed for this second season) were that you could reset (get a fresh car) only if you did it in pitlane.
This race was supposed to be round eleven, but issues with the server meant it became round nine. I had missed round two at Zandvoort and seven at Spa.
This was the sixth race I ever did using manual gears, the only problem was that I was doing it wrong and had no idea. I was ‘flat shifting’ – which means I was not lifting off the throttle when I clicked the upshift button on my wheel. This led to a lot of engine failures and a lot of frustration until I discovered my error after this race at Zandvoort.
The switch to manual gears had really unlocked my speed. My first ever race with manual gears and I put the Honda on pole position at Silverstone, second-place at the Nurburgring, fourth at Monaco, second at Rouen and second at Watkins Glen. Here at Zandvoort however I failed to make a time during qualifying and would start fourteenth. Pole went to Paul Godfrey with a 1:26.47.
I got a good start from 14th and because I didn’t think I’d possibly get a good finish I didn’t have the first lap desperation I would usually race with.
On the first lap I gained from Mark Davidson spinning off, Bob Migacz letting me by, Piotr Tysowski spinning off and Bruce Boembeke pulling aside to cross the line in ninth-place for lap two. The next lap Bill Tillman let me by and Brent Arthurs pitted and I moved into sixth!
By lap five I had closed in on a pretty intense battle between Torsten Kuhnel and Markus Stiepel. I couldn’t see a way past until lap six when Torsten ran wide and I was able to get a run going. Markus stayed ahead until I outbraked him starting lap eight, moving me into fifth-place. By lap ten I had caught Alexander Marx, a fellow Honda driver from Germany. We battled nose to tail for a couple of laps but I got by on lap twelve after outbraking him into turn one, putting me into fourth-place!
On lap twelve I made my only mistake of the race, running wide and climbing one of the dunes at the trackside. I did no damage and was able to rejoin without losing fourth to Alex. So far I had been lapping pretty consistent when I had a clear track in the 1:27’s, but feeling good about my fourth place and seeing that third-place wasn’t far ahead I started to push hard and it paid off, I set fastest lap on lap 16, a 1:26.93, which put me right on John Simmons gearbox.
On lap 17 I passed John for third-place in the final turn, then on lap 18 I set another fastest lap – 1:26.78 – as I closed in on Steve Brunt who was running in second-place.
On lap 19, heartbreak. My engine blew and I immediately jumped off the track to avoid involving anyone else. This race was undoubtedly my best driven race ever at the time and remains in the top-20 (outside of iRacing), to have a race taken away… I was furious, frustrated and extremely disappointed.
It was in the post-race chat that I discovered (while reading others conversations) I had been shifting gears incorrectly (although I didn’t tell anyone my discovery at the time) and this race basically became the turning point for my time with Grand Prix Legends, my time with simracing and probably the catalyst which led me to my job and my wife.
It’s funny to think back, but I remember feeling so stupid that I had not figured this out sooner… But watching the replays, I am not sure I could have; if the engine didn’t fail, my concentration did and it just didn’t happen enough for me to see a pattern. Had this frustration not ended when it did, my time in simracing could have. I was just about done with GPL and it’s fragile engines… My life would have been totally different!
The race was won by Paul Godfrey in the Cooper, who led the entire event.