RLR eSports won the third split of the 2021 iRacing Petit Le Mans powered by VCO with its Porsche 911 GT3 pairing, Markus Dec and Lewis Woods (Sunday 3 October).
The team’s GT crew honed a near-perfect setup and looked a strong bet for pole until a minor error in qualifying put them out of position in sixth.
Nevertheless, confidence was high and Dec promptly breached the podium places during the opening stint of the ten-hour endurance race at Road Atlanta, before RLR eSports chose to reduce its pace in a successful bid to save fuel and stretch its stints.
Woods, while dissatisfied with his speed, was supremely consistent and ensured he and Dec remained in the lead fight, including during an unplanned triple stint on fresh tyres that enabled him to open the taps a little more and gain a lap on the opposition.
The gaps had stabilised during Dec’s triple, with RLR eSports’ maintaining a comfortable advantage, but contact with an LMP2 prototype a short way into Woods’ final stint resulted in a drive-through penalty that threatened to derail the team’s run to victory.
Technical issues added to the drama and forced Woods to relinquish the Porsche to Dec, but the chequered flag fell after ten hours of virtual racing with RLR eSports still at the top of the GT3 classification in Split 3.
“It’s incredible to add an iRacing Petit Le Mans victory to all of my other endurance racing successes at Daytona, Bathurst and Le Mans,” said Dec. “My goal is clear: I now want to complete the set by winning the Nurburgring 24 Hours, Spa 24 Hours and the Sebring 12-Hour. We were up against a super-competitive field and the top ten cars in GT3 qualified within just a few tenths of each other – I went sixth fastest but definitely had the pace for pole position. In the first stint, I moved up to second relatively quickly and built a gap over the chasing pack, before taking the lead. Our strategy was far more effective than we expected, as we easily got through double stints and were even able to push at the end, maintaining a one-lap lead. It was a big surprise and I think everyone involved with RLR eSports is delighted with the outcome.”
Woods said: “Leading up to the iRacing Petit Le Mans, I was fairly confident in our ability to get a decent result in either the second or third split. Without any incidents, I thought a top three would be possible, so I’m absolutely delighted to come away with a win. Markus (Dec) built a great car setup and, if we are able to carry this pace into next year’s endurance events, I’m sure we can look forward to yet more results like this.”
In Split 5, it was a case of “what could have been” for RLR eSports’ LMP2 pairing, Zeb Teunissen and Pascal Ebenar.
Teunissen qualified on the front row of the grid and held station in second position away from the start line, but the Dutchman squeezed through into the lead and proceeded to gap the rest of the field during a strong opening double stint.
The chasing pack recouped some ground by triple-stinting tyres, but RLR eSports kept to its original plan until mid-distance, when the decision was taken to extend Teunissen’s time in the cockpit.
However, during hour six, Ebenar was collected by an LMP2 opponent while spinning in avoidance of a wayward GT3 Porsche at Turn 3.
The repairs cost the team ten minutes, six laps and five positions, but Teunissen and Ebenar switched from fuel-saving to full attack mode, and the change of tact brought the RLR eSports pairing back within range of the fight for third as the race neared its conclusion.
Three seconds adrift following a late splash-and-dash,Teunissen clawed back two positions during a thrilling final five minutes to salvage an unexpected third-place result from a turbulent iRacing Petit Le Mans.
“To come back from six laps down to third place is something we can be really happy about,” said Teunissen. “Qualifying was sub-optimal because I messed up my second flyer, but my first lap was good enough for second place on the grid. The start was pretty good and, most importantly, clean, and I managed to overtake for first place on the opening lap.
“I concentrated on building a nice gap while negotiating lapped traffic and we were in good shape until mid-distance, when Pascal (Ebenar) had to avoid a re-joining Porsche GT3. It resulted in a silly spin, and he was really unlucky to get hit by another LMP2 car. Losing six laps in the pits forced us to throw our fuel-saving strategy out of the window, and we went on to finish third, just two laps down on the eventual winners. I think we can be very satisfied with that.”
Ebenar added: “It has been a while since I last sat in my sim rig, and a year has passed since my last ‘special event’, so I put in a lot of practice during the build-up to the iRacing Petit Le Mans race, perfecting car setups and completing a lot of laps together with Zeb (Teunissen) to get a good feel for the car. It was clear that I was no match for Zeb in terms of outright pace, but he helped me a lot with driving techniques. His expertise of the Road Atlanta circuit was also useful for me, and I scraped around 1.5s off my times between my first laps in testing and the race proper. It has been an amazing event for me personally and I’m delighted to have been rewarded with a podium on my return to sim competition.”