First Ever 24 Hour Endurance Race A Massive Success

What a rollercoaster of a weekend for The Bastards! Their first ever 24 hour endurance race was a massive success. Highlights, lowlights and lots of lessons learned. A great combination of driving skills and etiquette, pit lane support from the guys at SPY Motorsport and of course the mechanical fitness of #MissFire.

Considerations And Variables

The Bastards line up for a cheeky selfie at the end of the race.
The first consideration was a rather poor qualification performance, attaining P28 of a 36 car grid. A full tank of fuel from late scruitineering and low light didn’t attain the desired times. The second consideration was a light hearted conversation with one of the C1 Club’s representatives while waiting to sign out of the Drivers Briefing about tyres. That went against SPY’s logics. The third consideration was fuel consumption and driver changes.
With all three considerations in play, they continued to perplex Bastard discussion about driver strategy. But the decision was made. Lowe would start the race, followed by Cox, Bucknell, Patterson and Lewis picking up the graveyard shift. With a 17.00pm race start and a 2h15m agreed stint duration, the first diver change would be 19.15pm Lowe/Cox, 21.30pm Cox/Bucknell, 23.45am Bucknell/Patterson and 02.00am Patterson/Lewis. Lowe originally promised Lewis that Lewis would start the race, but the aforementioned considerations scuttled that promise, especially as Lowe had previously demonstrated great race starts. With this driver rota, Lewis would finish the race rather than start it.

Race Start

There was concern from drivers and organisers about the chicane at Turn 1 and that to get 36 cars through from a rolling start would be problematic. It was agreed that the green and first lap would use the banking while lap two and onwards, would use the chicane.
Lowe on in the Assembly Area within the pit lane prior to race start.
It really didn’t go to plan. Patterson and Lewis were at T1 to record the race start and did see Lowe pass on lap one, around the banking, only to turn to Deene as other spectators commented that there was a yellow flag already. Little did we know at the time, but included in the debacle was Lowe. Patterson and Lewis did not see Lowe pass on the second lap, only to see him emerge from the pits a short while later! Scurrying back to the garage, they learned that Lowe was hit from behind by a car “with a yellow colour” (we assume car #366), leaving the rear bumper hanging off and scraping behind him. Lowe had to return to the pits for an unexpected fix, placing the team in P36. Not only last in the race, but one lap behind the main grid.

Race Progress

Lowe was quite quick to recover from the initial catastrophe and managed to claw back to position P33 at one hour into the race and to P26 at two hours. However, they remained a whole lap behind with other stragglers.

While Cox and Lewis hung around to support Lowe, Patterson and Bucknell returned to the hotel to sleep. Once Cox had replaced Lowe, Lowe went to his hotel too and Lewis hunkered down on circuit with his alarm set for 01.00am.

Throughout the night, steady increments were being made. At 3 hours, P26. At 4 hours, P23. At 5 hours, P21. By the time Lowe was back in the car around 10 hours into the race, The Bastards had romped up to P19.

Photo credit Harry Oldman. #MissFire with her fluorescent blue captured by the photographer's lights.
The Bastards were putting in consistent laps, not the fastest and not the slowest. Simply consistent. Letting the faster cars through mandated lap times were not jeopardised. Jostling for position with a faster car is illogical. Not only will it slow down consistent times for both cars, but there is the possibility of car damage as the faster car tries a unwieldy overtake manoeuvre. Car damage is not only costly in respect of money, but time in the pits and if serious, retirement from the race completely and jeopardy to future races.
What did transpire overnight was the shorter than planned stints. Lewis was called up an hour earlier than planned as driver changes, tyre change and fuel refills were done within safety car deployment. In simple terms, the drivers were not running their agreed 2h15m stints. On one hand it is good to take advantage of safety car deployment for pit stops, but it was becoming apparent that the team were making too many pit stops. With each stop, additional fuel was added to top up, mandating the drivers were peddling around unnecessarily fuel weight.

"Post race statistics show that The Bastards spent 1h05m30s in the pits compared to the fastest at 42m07s. That's a differential of 23m27s and with a guestimated average lap time of 2m23s (say 2m30s for simple maths), that's just nearly 10 laps of standing still!"

The drivers continued to change through the dawn hours and it could be seen that the race tempo had changed. Not only were lap times decreasing, but there were some over zealous and frankly quite idiotic overtake manoeuvres. Cox was sent into a spin on his dawn stint through the chicane for no fault to himself. But by 5.00am and halfway through the race, #MissFire was still mechanically sound and The Bastards were now at position P16.

"I thought we were racing, not bowling at Kettering's New York Thunderbowl. We were thrown around like skittles."

Paul Bancroft was one of the drivers of the blue #334 car which was also sent sideward with Cox. Within the C1 Facebook page on Tuesday, Mr Bancroft sardonically wrote:

"Surprised we didn't get a stop go for track limits there."

As Bucknell took his second stint, Lowe had sent a WhatsApp message to the team, warning them that the nearside wheels were taking a battering at the nearside curb on the T1 chicane. If we continued at that rate, there was the possibility that the team would run out of replacement wheels, especially as Bucknell and Cox had pitted twice for deflated tyres.

The Race Unfolded

Driver changes, planned tyre changes and fuel fills continued to be made under safety car deployment, of which there were numerous. While Patterson was out on circuit, he returned to the pit unexpectedly an hour early during his stint, due to another deflated tyre. Patterson was expecting Lewis to be ready, but as Patterson was early, Lewis was not available. The wheel was replaced, the car brimmed with fuel again and Patterson was sent on his way.

The time now was around 11.15am and it was noticed that the team had a problem. Not only will Lewis not finish the race as promised, the premature pitting under safety car had introduced an issue that could see an additional driver change. It was agreed therefore that when Lewis changed from Patterson, Lewis would have to complete a 2h30m stint from 12.00noon and a new nominated driver would take the car from 14.30pm to the race finish at 17.00pm.

Here lays the problem. Patterson would need to stay out on his stint until 12.00noon. This was possible as he had replacement wheels and a fuel top up, but this was not communicated to him. In addition, at no point through the race had a driver completed a 2h30m stint without a pit stop, which meant that fuel consumption and fuel tank depletion was a huge variable. Also, the team only had one set of wheels and would the tyres last the five hours needed for the final two 2h30m stints?
Lowe sent a WhatsApp message to the team saying that drivers needed to keep off the curbs as the wheels were damaging.

Alas, there was no option than for Patterson to pit at 12.00noon and Lewis to drive until 2.30pm, followed by a nominated driver from Lowe, Cox or Bucknell to drive the last stint and finish the race.

Whether there was a safety car deployment or not, it was this new strategy or a possible loss of time with a third driver change within the last five hours?

Lewis’s stint was saw another driving standard infringement with car to car contact and it was plain to see that the amount of penalties to other cars were increasing in consistency. Some drivers were indeed too aggressive and employed bullying tactics. Indeed, the C1 Club penalties are quite harsh. Fair, but harsh. It is a credit and testament to The Bastards conservative driving approach that position gains were not only consistent lap times, but zero time penalties, car damage or mechanical failure.

Not for one driver, but luck was on the side of The Bastards. The safety car was deployed at 14.25pm due to an incident at the chicane exit and tyre wall. Lewis was originally told to return to the pit at 14.35 and not before, even if a safety car was deployed. Unless that is, because he was running out of fuel. But as he came to the pit entry, his initial thought was to end his stint. Not doing so, he passed the pit wall to see the #332 “IN” sign. Perfect timing!

Finish Line

As Lewis handed over to Bucknell, The Bastards were P15. Absolutely amazing to come from P36 on lap one to P15 with just 2h30m remaining! With just one our remaining, The Bastards pirouetted to P13 due to faster car mechanical issues and an ever increasing amount of time penalties. Fellow race team #370 were one lap ahead at P12 and competitor #351 were four laps behind at P14.
Bucknell is welcomed back to Parc Ferme after the race.

All Bucknell had to do was keep consistent lap times and keep out of trouble while the rest of the team pray he does not suffer a puncture or run out of fuel.

With just 12 minutes of the race remaining, car #452 ‘The Oldmans’ were issued a one minute Stop/Go penalty. Bucknell had been consistently reducing the gap between #452 and #MissFire and with the served penalty completed, the time difference was some 6 seconds and some four laps remaining.

Excitedly the pit board was shown to Bucknell with just three laps remaining and a 4 second differential. Then it all went pear shaped. Bucknell remembers:

"I saw the fuel 'near empty' light come on. We had agreed a near empty light could mean as little as two laps remaining of fuel and if this happened mid race, the driver should immediately return to pit. But I had just two or three laps left and less than five minutes race duration. A pit return was not an option. I recall the recommendation that if this surreal event should happen, I'd need to coast part of the laps. This is exactly what I did. I was not therefore able to catch the car in front, but amazingly, I passed the finish line flying in fumes!"

Race Conclusion And Strategy

The team has only competed in 3, 4 and 5 hours races within the C1 Challenge this year to date. All drivers are new to C1 racing. They believe a different pitting strategy needs to be considered for the much longer 24 hour races. This 2018 year is seen as a steep learning curve. They also believe that variable fuel weight is a significant factor, including body weight differential between the drivers. Some of this learning will be implemented for the Spa-Francorchamps race in October. In the interim, The Bastards will make an appearance at Croft a little later this month.

Gallery Snapshots

Driving Standards

When there are concise rules that motorsport is a non contact sport, reinforced at the driver briefing by the Clerk of the Course and the C1 Club representatives, then The Bastards will comply. When there are discussions within the C1 Club Driver and Fan Forum complaining of driver standards, then The Bastards will be gentlemanly. However, The Bastards car was hit three times by now fault of their own. Once by car #366 with Lowe, another with Cox and car #318 with Lewis. Once such irritation was brought to the attention of a C1 Club representative who was somewhat uninterested, belittling the driver.

This is the first year of the Inglorious Bastards racing in the C1 Challenge and they will be back in 2019. As Spa will be a faster and more flowing circuit, they hope driving standards will be improved. They are thoroughly enjoying the C1 Challenge this year and hope driving standards will improve and penalties be car to car contact be enforced.

Ashley Davies was another recipient of punishment. Now his car is written off and cannot attend Spa, Ashley commented on Facebook:

Photo credit Ashley Davies. His car is now a write off and will not attend Spa.

"About 4.00am, two cars going into the final hairpin exit side by side. The outside car pushes inside car into pit lane entrance and across the grass. The inside car then physically pushes the outside car up the track towards the wall. So I go past both of them. I move into the racing line before start finish gantry and then I get hit by the inside car going into the chicane. The outside car is squeezed by the car that hit me, tagging me and spinning me into wall about 80/85 MPH. I spend 40 minutes in medical centre and have a written off car! I don’t think I can make Spa now! I’m a one man band who race with mates. I don’t make profit and have some help from mates that help with their time."