Last Sunday (4/23/17), Team Oppo hosted the Team Oppo Miata Challenge. Our goal was to get 60 cars on the Lime Rock Park Circuit. Four times as many cars as normally seen on the Lime Rock Park circuit during iRacing official Rookie Miata races. This race was also three times longer than the Rookie races. With fuel limited to force pit stops, strategy was also a unknown for many of the participants. The 90 minute race and 30 minute fuel stints meant that planning and fuel saving were crucial factors in race success. So how did the challengers do?

Before the race even began there was a significant wrench thrown in the bucket. In the pre-race post, the weather was forecasted to be cloudy. Waking up at the track on race morning yielded a beautiful sunny day and not a cloud in the sky. Those darn meteorologists…

So the track was a lot slicker than normal. Thankfully, race organizers gave an extra half hour of practice time to adjust to these new conditions.

55 cars came to practice and 23 of them decided to step up to the 90 minute challenge. SlabiJ, in car #007, took the pole with a blistering time in the high 57.451, edging out JK-man in car #4 by 0.04 seconds. Six seconds split the pole and last position qualifying times. The Top 10 were split by only 1 second.

The start of the race was very exciting with 12 rows of Miatas thundering to Turn 1. The field quickly stretched itself out, with only a couple fenders getting bent.

The racing was good, battles all over the track in 3 distinct groups.

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However some of the Miatas did not have a good race...

After a multi-car incident, the first full course yellow was thrown, this let everyone experimenting with the pit road, which is something rarely seen on Lime Rock Park.

Many different pit strategies began playing out. Some taking tires, and others taking just gas. The field came back together for a restart and a second chance to gain positions.

Turn 5 (or The Hill for those familiar with Lime Rock) proved to be the trouble spot of the race. This portion of the racetrack is where the car gets very light and cars sometimes lose control. The second full course yellow was a product of this turn as cars rumbled down the hill to turn 7 transversely to the track.

After a half hour of racing the stronger competitors of the field began to show themselves. Several groups of similar skilled racers posed challenges for each competitor on track. The racing was very close, especially for a road course. The race drew on and competitors began falling out of the race. 5 cars battled for the lead, then 4, then 3….

In the later stages of the race, it became apparent that the win was going to be between the #51, I_want_my_COOKIE, and #007 of SlabiJ. These two cars were up front all race constantly mixing it with the other cars top cars in the race. Over the next hour, strategy proved to be more of a factor than raw speed to determine the finish. Strategy was played until the very end.

Even with the full course yellows, green flag fuel strategy ended up being the make or break for the race. I_want_my_COOKIE, came in with 39 minutes left in the race. This was not going to give him enough gas to finish the race. bwp240, in the Team Oppo #00, had made his way up to third stretched the gas to the 30 minute remaining mark. This gave him a chance to make it the full distance. SlabiJ conserved enough to come in one lap later, at ~28 mins left. It looked as though it was his race to lose.

Even though they were spread by nearly 10 seconds, the battle was red hot between the 2 leaders. bwp240 was a distant third. After having to contend with 2 other cars to capture that last podium position, his only chance at the title would be if the front two ran out. That is the fun part of endurance racing, battles between competitors are red hot even if there are a half-mile apart. Do you push hard and use more fuel, or let off and save some gas? That was the question of the leaders as they battled only just being able to see their rival enter the turn in front of them.

Try as he might I_want_my_COOKIE couldn’t save enough fuel and at 9 minutes to go, he pulled it in for a splash. As I was driving along, I noticed that I too was going to be short. My decision to pit was made for me by smacking it into the Turn 5 wall, this knocked the axles out of alignment. Thankfully, I could drive it back to the pits and get the car reset before losing my position.

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It looked like it was SlabiJ’s race to lose, but then, with 5 minutes to go, he dives into the pits having decided that there was not enough left in the tank. A splash of fuel and a prayer slow the 51 was all SlabiJ could do to maintain position. The drive down pit road now feeling longer than ever. The one gallon of gas feeling like it was taking eons to put into the car. The hopes for the #007’s victory were dashed as I_want_my_COOKIE drove by. SlabiJ put up a valiant effort to get back in the race. Try as he might, SlabiJ could not narrow the gap to the #51. As time expired, I_want_my_COOKIE came across the line victorious.

Below are your podium finishers

1. I_want_my_COOKIE

2. SlabiJ

3. bwp240

The event went fairly well. It would not be a true Oppo event without a few hiccups, but we have learned some things for future events. I want to thank everyone that came out and raced in the event with us. The drivers were very good and provided some excellent competition. I also want to thank our booth admin who had to contend with watching 23 cars all at the same time, which is a tall order, but without his help, we could not have run the event as we did.

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Now to Team Oppo’s next event, the Indy 500.