Three weeks ago, Team Oppo brought its virtual 2016 Miata Cup Car to the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway for the traditional race before the virtual 24 Hours of Daytona which was to take place there a week later. It is the pregame to the start of the 2019 racing year.
The iRacing Roar Before the 24 is a 2.4 hour (144 minute) endurance race that takes place a week before the 24 Hours of Daytona. The Roar before the 24 is a multi-class racing event that enables drivers to get the feel of multi-class racing without the strain of having to do it for 24 straight hours. However, unlike the 24 which features high powered sports cars and physics breaking prototypes, the Roar features the lower powered cars separated into 3 classes...
Class 1 (Fastest) - Kia Optima: Yes, you read that right, the Kia Optima is the fastest car in this race. This FWD touring car appears to be the antithesis of what you would expect to be the fastest car. It is big and bulky. Modeled after the GTS class racer in the Pirelli World Challenge and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, the Kia Optima proved to be the quickest around the high speed track.
Class 2 - Ford Mustang FR500S: Well this is embarrassing for America, the Kia is faster than the Mustang. Yes, that is; however, this is not the GT4 or Continental Challenge series car. The FR500S is a production based model created for the Mustang challenge. It is merely a production Mustang with added Ford Performance parts and racing equipment unlike the purpose built Kia. So don’t feel too bad.
Class 3 - 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup: Much like the Mustang, the Miata is a production car turned sports racer. Much of the components are stock and little is changed mechanically from its road going counter part. This is the class I competed in.
Full Disclosure: I am not a good race car driver, and even worse when right turns are involved.
Race day came and after hours of practice preceding the event, I felt that I was going to do marginally okay. Most races I am in I do not set lofty goals for myself. Usually if I finish in the top half of my class I am happy.
After I found out what race I was in, I was surprised to learn that there would be no classes. All of the competitors in my race were in Mazda Miatas. This happened because the Miata is included with the base subscription to iRacing and as such, most people choose to race with it compared to the other cars. It sort of stunk because I was looking forward to the equalizer of multi-class traffic, but this does eliminate any situations of getting run over by a faster class car.
The start of the race was exhilarating. 45 Miatas clamoring for track space around the corners of Daytona. Usually the infield is a no passing zone for the faster sports cars of the 24, but with the slow and narrow Miatas, it was 2 wide everywhere at minimum. Part of this excitement was caused by my poor qualifying effort. I knew my race pace was better than a majority of the people around me. However, the excitement of passing cars and the desire to get to the front of the field is usually the cause of ones demise...
Unfortunately, this exhilaration of slicing and dicing through a field of cars was short lived. Only the 5th lap of the race, and incident between 2 cars in front of me bottled up the field and the competitor behind me hit the rear and spun the car around. A further impact into the left side broke some of the steering mechanisms in the car (for some reason).
This damage ended up crippling our race. Though I could have came in and let the Team Oppo crew fix the damage, the car was only running about 1-2 seconds off pace. During the race pit stop, I learned that the car had about 8 minutes (480 seconds) of damage (which equates to about 4-5 laps). It was a better call to ride around with the damage a second or so off and pass everyone else that crashed versus taking the time hit and trying to claw back multiple laps in a relatively short race.
At the end of the 2.4 hours, We crossed the line in 17th place. At first I was not that impressed, a mediocre run caused by an incident that I really should not have been around in the first place. Then I saw the damage to the car...
Because I never got out of the car (iRacing is locked into a first person perspective), I did not see how bad the damage was. Upon review, I saw that the entire front axle was caved in. That explains why the steering was a bit hairy at times. (It also leaves a lot to question about the damage and collision models - but that’s another thing.)
So even though the results will show nothing better than mediocrity, I feel that wielding a 3.5 wheeled car around the high speeds of Daytona for nearly 2 hours and bringing it home to a mid-pack finish is quite an accomplishment. Maybe I should have listened to myself...