In November, a co-worker of mine talked about doing a 24 hour gaming event for the Extra-Life charity. They raised money for Children's Hospitals through 24 hour gaming marathons. I watched some videos and decided it was exactly the type of thing I wanted to get involved in. But what could I possibly do for 24hrs? and that's when It hit me, The 24 Hrs of Le Mans.
It was the perfect challenge. Could a terrible sim racer learn enough in a month to survive and maybe compete at the 24 hrs of Le Mans, all while raising money to help kids in need? That's what I hoped to answer in a months time. I signed up for the Extra Life charity and set my event date for December 15th . Exactly one month from the day. To hold myself accountable, I quickly sent it out to everyone I knew and promised to stream the whole thing live.
Preparing for Battle
Project cars 2 released just this past September, but with its dynamic weather, multi class racing, and incredible physics it was the perfect game for the race. I chose the Ford GT for its history. It won le mans in 1967 ,could I win with the 2017 version 50 years later?
Thing started out really rough. I crashed on every turn. Eventually I got it smooth but was running a 5 minute lap, almost a minute off the pace. Eventually after a few weeks things started to come together. I played with tuning, analyzed telemetry data using some 3rd party tools and eventually got my qualifying time in at 4:04 putting me on top of the GTE division.
Race Day - The Start
An issue with race setup meant that even though I qualified first in GTE I would be starting from dead last. While not ideal, it was going to be a long race. At 9am (3pm in France) I started the race. Weather was cloudy and hinted at the coming rain. Less than an hour later the rain started to fall, gradually moving from the Mulsanne Corner to the front straight. The rain quickly started to pool and it caused some tense hydroplaning at 178 mph.
Night - The Big Crash
The first major crash was with 18 hours left and ended up being of the game itself. I treated it like a red flag and reloaded the race with a rolling start. I started from last but the track was dry now and I layered on the pressure hard. By the time morning rolled around I was sitting on a 2 minute lead over the 2nd place GTE car. Unfortunately at 1 AM with 9 hours to go the game crashed again severing my lead.
Morning - They don't call it an Endurance race for Nothing
After the second "Red Flag" restart the rain came back and my stamina was drained. With 5 hours to go I was having a really hard time staying awake. My threshold of endurance was being tested. It wasn't a battle for a win anymore it was a battle to finish. I just needed to keep going. Hours slugged by in a sheepish crawl. Tire barriers became my friend on far to frequent occasion. I was depleted but determined to finish the race for the kids. with 3 hours left I had a cup of coffee which slowly started to work and soon I was given a shot at redemption...
The Hour and Half Sprint to the Finish
With an hour and a half left to go the game crashed again. I another rolling restart but on a dry track. It wasn't a lot of time but if I played my cards right I could make it work. I knew I had about an hour of fuel in a full tank so I'd need to pit once. I raced to a half tank then quickly pitted and filled up well ahead of the pack. My goal was to do one stop then race to the end on fumes. Luckily it was working, unlucky for me, exhaustion had messed up my math and I was about a lap short on fuel. with 20 minutes and a 20 second lead I popped in for a quick splash and go. I left the pits only a second behind the lead GTE car. It would soon turn out that he had the same problem but was a lap late. I was in first now, with a fairly sizable lead. I kept the cornering clean and eventually crossed the finish line as #1 GTE.
While the game crashes definitely were a drawback it was still an amazing experience. It puts WEC endurance racing in a whole new level of respect for me. Through the event I was able to raise $410 for my local Boston Children's Hospital. All the proceed go toward helping children with devastating illnesses and injuries. Thanks to everyone who donated, you're hero's in my book. You made a big impact this weekend.
If you'd like to donate and help there is still time. Just follow the link
It was great to see the turn out. Over 500 people popped on throughout the event. Even in the wee hours of the morning there were still a dozen people keeping me going. A special thanks to everyone who came out, donated, and shared the event.