Having the speed and consistency aren't everything in the world of Sim Racing, as the team find out in their first formal competitive outing in the SMRC eSport Championship.
After much anticipation, and unprecedented popularity, the Scottish Motor Racing Club's eSports Championship got underway this week, providing competitors and fans alike a chance to escape from the shackles of the COVID-19 'lockdown' and enjoy some much-needed live motorsport.
Such was the sheer volume of interest and entries into the series, the SMRC had to organise qualification heats for each platform (PS4, Xbox & PC). With five heats taking place for each discipline, only the top two drivers from each race would go through to Sunday's final - the points-scoring Round 1 proper.
The team were drawn in the final heat of the week - qualification race 5 for the PC platform, and it proved to be quite the crescendo!
Qualifying was a tense affair, with some of the fastest times of the week being posted early-on in the 5-min session. With the sim mirroring real-life in that tyres and brakes had to be warmed to give their ultimate performance, the dying moments were where the fastest times would come - if the drivers could keep a cool head and avoid the ever-stringent 'track limits' penalties employed by the sim.
On his last lap of the session, Jordan set a searing pace - posting a 53.885 second lap to claim pole position! Not only was his the best effort of his heat, but also the fastest qualifying time by any driver, across all platforms during the week!
"I think I surprised myself with that time.' Said Jordan. 'I'd never quite been able to break out of the 54's in my qualifying simulations as I struggled to get enough temperature in the tyres [by contrast, tyres in race sessions are always at the optimum temperature]. When I crossed the line and saw a high 53, I was pretty happy! The race is what counts though and we know from the previous heats that it can all go wrong in the blink of an eye - just like in real life!"
Following the conclusion of qualifying, drivers were lined-up on the starting grid ready for the final heat of the week to begin.
At the lights, Jordan made an average start and was beaten into Duffus by David Taylor-Piggot. There was slight contact as Piggot moved ahead, nudging Jordan wide, across the grass and then sliding sideways through McIntyres - but still holding 2nd. On the run to Clarks, Jordan moved back into the lead as Piggot picked-up a 'slowdown' penalty for track limits, but then was forced himself to slow on the back straight as he was handed his own slowdown for running wide at the first corner. That allowed the chasing pack to engulf him.
After a lap of battling, it was clear that Jordan's pace had mysteriously evaporated and he duly spun exiting McIntyres, having to reverse back onto the track to rejoin. By that stage he was completely out of contention for a top-two place.
Never one to give up however, Jordan's remaining race was an exercise in proving a point as he lapped with devastating consistency and speed to close back in on the pack and ultimately come home 5th (dropping to 6th due to a 1-second slowdown penalty). On the way, Jordan also set the fastest lap of the race with a 53.789 - which was also the second-fastest race lap posted across the whole week!
"...I spent the next few laps with the wheel turned to the right on the straights!"
"Well, that didn't go to-plan!' said Jordan afterwards. 'Ultimately, I struggled early on due to some hardware limitations. My start was poor as I don't have a clutch pedal on our sim rig, so I just have to dump the clutch digitally with a button - so I was pretty sure I was going to struggle into turn one anyway. Then after the incident at Duffus, I came in too hot to McIntyres and had to correct the car very suddenly. The steering wheel on our rig is over 12 years old and if you turn it too quickly, it looses the calibration of the centre-point. That's what happened at McIntyres, and I spent the next few laps with the wheel turned to the right on the straights! That also meant that I barely had enough remaining steering lock to make it around the tight corners so it was really hopeless from there. The only way to fix that is to stop the car and turn the wheel to full-lock in either direction, so I did that on lap 3 when the inevitable spin happened. After that the car was back to normal and I was able to show our pace. I was particularly delighted with my consistency in the middle of the race and if things had been different I'm sure we could have fought for the win."
"Overall, to learn that our qualy lap was the fastest qualifying time from anyone is pretty mind-blowing. And then to be so fast and consistent in the race as well is something we're very proud of. Obviously we're just taking part in this championship as a bit of fun while we wait for the real season to start, so to be competitive against some full-time professional sim racers with our relativity archaic hardware is quite something! The competitor in me is desperate to upgrade our rig. But the cost of these things is quite scary - and then of course we have to remember that we have a real racing car as well - and that obviously takes priority!"
"...the most important thing is that we had a great time training for and taking part in this event."
"We may not have qualified for the final on Sunday, but the most important thing is that we had a great time training for and taking part in this event. Hopefully everyone enjoined following our journey this week and the good news is that now it begins all over again for round two at Oulton Park in the Renault Clio Cup cars next week!"
You can follow the team's progress as Jordan prepares for Oulton Park via their social media pages, and then tune-in to watch the qualification heat live on the SMRC Facebook page next Thursday.