RLR Abruzzi eSports achieved a momentous victory in the 2021 iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona (22-24 January) with the #4 Dallara P217 LMP2 of Ryan Littlemore, Markus Dec, Jake Browning and Daniel Bucher.
The fifth running of the twice-around-the-clock enduro attracted a huge, top-quality entry consisting of more than 8000 drivers from 2400 sim racing teams, yet RLR Abruzzi eSports showed its class by qualifying in the third highest split among the fastest 50 cars with both the #4 and #73 Dallara P217s.
After a whole month of testing and strategising, Littlemore, Dec, Browning and Bucher all contributed measured and supremely consistent race runs, each hitting their target lap times with a keen focus on fuel management.
Consequently, RLR Abruzzi eSports extended each stint by up to four laps, minimising its time in the pits and eliminating the need for a full fuel-fill in the closing stages.
The team took the initiative from chief rivals Punto cL Racing Red and VRS Satellite Racing less than two hours from the chequered flag, securing the overall victory after 892 gruelling laps of Daytona International Speedway.
The #73 RLR Abruzzi eSports entry, meanwhile, qualified 15th and finished fifth overall in Split 3, which featured IndyCar Series Champion and Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, and ex Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean in the GTE and GT3 classes respectively.
Lennart Rahrt, Luca Becker, Eathan Haywood, Bence Nemethi and Rick Jonk, were a match for their race-winning teammates in the sister #4 car, but a server issue took them out of the running, with a five-lap deficit to the LMP2 leaders.
In GTE, RLR eSports qualified fifth and ran competitively until an early unforced error resulted in race-ending damage to the #17 Porsche 911 RSR, while the team’s GT3 effort started last and battled back from one lap down to fourth in Split 4.
Ryan Littlemore (#4 RLR Abruzzi eSports Dallara PS17 LMP2): “I’ve been on iRacing for nine years now, and while I’ve come close to winning Special Events before, I’m delighted to have notched up my first ever road course win at Daytona. The number of entries has boomed in the last few years and our split reignited long-standing rivalries with some familiar teams and drivers from other leagues. We knew winning wasn’t going to be easy, but we were confident we would be competitive with all four of us able to run at the same pace.
“Much of our success came down to strategy, which we developed over the course of a month. Having considered every possible outcome and calculated how far we could take our fuel and tyres, we felt very well prepared. We were third with four hours of the race to go, but others had issues and we decided to change tact by simply mimicking our rivals and keeping it clean on-track. We won by a relatively comfortable margin. For me, it’s a big achievement that’s dedicated to my Nan, who passed away a few weeks ago, but it’s also a statement of intent by RLR Abruzzi eSports. The target is to achieve more wins in major endurance events, with a special focus on qualifying for the 2022 Sports Car Open (SCO).”
Markus Dec (#4 RLR Abruzzi eSports Dallara P217 LMP2): “It’s a really good feeling to have won the iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona with RLR Abruzzi eSports. In 2020, I won the race in the GTE class and this victory is just as special. We started working on setups and strategies a month ago, and while we weren’t the fastest, we were the most consistent. It was exhausting but rewarding, and it’s great to have won the top class with a new team and great teammates – we had a lot of fun. Daytona is the first Special Event of the year, so this win gives us a good base. If we keep racing at this level, we can look forward to achieving more big results.”
Jake Browning (#4 RLR Abruzzi eSports Dallara P217 LMP2): “I’m very happy with the result, and it’s a little unexpected because we were in third place for the longest time. Most of the race was about fuel management and we saved ourselves two pit stops as a result. Towards the end, I did some calculations and we decided to let Markus (Dec) off the leash to keep our advantage. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved because we got there on merit, and we’re on an upward trajectory that should take us to the top two splits in future Special Events and other high-level leagues.”
Daniel Bucher (#4 RLR Abruzzi eSports Dallara P217 LMP2): “Winning the iRacing 24 Hours of Daytona feels really amazing. I wasn’t sure how we would do because, even though we did a lot of preparation, the competition wasn’t sleeping either. I was speechless and in a state of disbelief that we had actually won the race, and it’s very satisfying now it has sunk in. I’m pleased with how each of my teammates performed, as we all consistently hit our fuel and lap time targets and there were no major mistakes. We showed we can be very competitive and are capable of shooting for results in the biggest endurance leagues, which is exciting.”