Scuderia Leone
Scuderia Leone invited to rFactor 2 Sebring 12H
February 21 2019

Last Saturday saw 40 GT3 teams take on the Sebring Prelude race, a 3 hour race in preparation for the 12 hours later next month. A strong showing by our drivers has yielded a direct invitation to the rFactor 2 Sebring 12 Hours that will be hosted by Studio 397 on the 23rd of March.

Ruben Correa Alves and Kevin Heijnen were taking on driving duties last Saturday when the 3 Hours of Sebring was run. In a way the race was a qualifying event, with the top 3 getting invites for the 12 hour race. However both Kevin and Ruben hadn't run GT3's in almost a year, with no experience on the current tires. With that in mind this event was a way to gain back the experience and maybe get some good action on track and execute a clean race. With that in mind and the strong field around us our target was an optimistic top 10 finish.

Ruben Correa Alves would be taking on qualifying and about two hours of driving in the race, with Kevin closing with the final push to the finish. While all other cars raced to the track at the start of qualifying we took a more laid back approach, opting for a calm and focused start to the session. We had 20 minutes to try and get as close as possible to our top ten goal. With all cars finishing up their first runs Ruben started his first flying lap. In a shock run, with the help of an empty track in front, Ruben put the quickest time on the board with a 1:58.5! We went out for a second run but caught some traffic, which forced us to abandon that run. In the meantime a couple of cars went faster, relegating us to 5th. With a little over two minutes to go Ruben went out for a last push. At this point the benchmark was a 1:58.1. Ruben put down a near perfect sector one and two, the Delta showed an improvement of 0.3 over our laptime. Then we were caught out by the off-camber turn 13, causing some oversteer which scrubbed away the delta we had. This meant the end of the session for us with P5 in the bag! That last lap could have given us a couple of places, but looking at the competition and the initial goal, P5 was a big win!

Drivers got 10 minutes to warm-up (or cool down) for the race. We were still somewhat cautious, knowing that the competition around us was strong. The race got underway and right at the start we were able to gain one spot on the inside of turn one. Then we got in a battle for P4, which was about 25 minutes of pushing, cooling the tires, pushing again and finally, again into turn one, Ruben was able to put the car on the inside and take over 3rd in the race! A few laps later the car in second position went hard into the wall but the race continued. Just before the first pitstops we lost a place then the tires started to wear off a bit. We still decided to double stint the tires as we believed running on worn tires was quicker than waiting for new rubber to be put on the car. A clean pitstop saw us win a few seconds. Then a strong and clean second stint meant that we were able to follow the #3 Team Vires car in second.

The end of the second stint came in sight so Kevin Heijnen prepared for hist stint. With perfect timing we went into the pits during a code80, which meant that everybody was on the limiter while we were swapping drivers and installing new tires on the car. As soon as all other cars did their stops we were running in P3 again. Kevin Heijnen began his pursuit for second and with a quick and swift move into turn 10 Kevin was able to take over that second spot. Near the end of the race we needed a quick splash of fuel, which unfortunately dropped us back to 5th. We knew it was coming as we had calculated the splash before the race began. We believed we wouldn't be able to run for a top spot so opted to just go all out and see how the tires would hold up when pushing the entire race. In the final results we got put back up to 4th because of a penalty for one of the competitors in front of us. It was a big surprise to be able to fight with some of the big names around us after being away from international GT racing for so long.

As a cherry on the cake our performance was strong enough to be granted an invite to the 12 Hours of Sebring next month! Next to the GT3 class we'll also see GTE and LMP2 cars run that event to make it the multi class race that a 12 Hours of Sebring should be! All the action from the Sebring Prelude race, with coverage from both qualifying and the race can be replayed below: