Tolman eSports by HCR battled to seventh in the iRacing VRS Endurance Series 3 Hours of Mid-Ohio (28 June), but poor driving standards denied the McLaren Customer Racing team a much stronger result.
Each of Tolman eSports’ drivers lapped competitively throughout free practice and were so evenly matched they all broke into the top split for the three-hour endurance race with only hundredths separating them.
However, Balance of Performance (BoP) was less than favourable for the McLaren contingent and Tolman eSports was expecting an uphill battle as the only team in the top 36 to field MP4-12C GT3s.
Nevertheless, the top 30 were split by just two seconds at the end of the ultra-competitive qualifying session, Scott McCracken trying hard to overcome the McLaren’s performance deficit to ultimately place the #5 Tolman eSports by HCR entry in 13th, with Enar Mariinsky in #4 a short way back in 15th.
Both kept cool heads at the rolling start and as a handful of their competitors came to grief at Turns 1 and 2, McCracken breaching the top ten with Mariinsky in tow.
The gap to the leaders grew and McCracken headed a four-way fight until lap 11 when the rear of his McLaren stepped out, causing him to spin down to 16th.
Mariinsky picked up the baton as the lead Tolman eSports by HCR contender and benefited from others’ mistakes and misfortune to rise to eighth overall while soaking up unrelenting pressure from increasingly frustrated Ferraris.
Unfortunately, the ninth-placed TT Racing 488 GT3 made a mistake on the brakes for Turn 2, The Keyhole, and collided with Mariinsky, who lost track position but found an extra gear in clean air to make up for lost time on the approach to the first round of pit stops.
Both Tolman eSports McLarens were capable of going significantly further into the race than their rivals before boxing for fuel, tyres and a change of drivers, and it was on lap 51 that McCracken handed #5 to Adam State, who returned to the race directly ahead of Trium eSports and famous YouTuber Jimmy Broadbent in the Doug Henson Ferrari.
Mariinsky in #4 was last to stop; after 52 laps at the wheel, he passed the reins to teammate Chris Bell, who surged from 11th to third during a spectacular stint, once again going further on a tank of fuel than those around him to shorten Tolman eSports’ final service.
State gapped his pursuers while carefully managing fuel and tyre wear during the early phase of a solid double stint but had to relinquish seventh place to Bell, who consistently lit up the timing screens with a light fuel load and fresh tyres.
Maintaining qualifying pace, Bell continued charging forward and reeled in the sixth-placed Phil McDougall by up to 1.2s per lap.
The Happy Cat Racing driver latched onto the rear of the CXR Racing Ferrari with two laps remaining, and he pulled off a pass for P6 by taking the unconventional outside line at Turn 4 and forcing McDougall to overshoot the following chicane.
Frustratingly, an over-ambitious retaliatory lunge by a panicked McDougall resulted in contact and a trip into the tyre wall, although Bell was able to re-join and reach the chequered flag still in seventh.
Meanwhile, State had the Simracing Channel Audi R8 LMS of Markus Dec filling his rear-view mirrors in the latter stages, but appeared to have the measure of the German racer until rear-end contact on the 123rd run through Turn 11 sent him spearing into the barriers, dashing all hopes of a top ten result for the #5 crew.
Chris Bell (#4 Tolman eSports by HCR McLaren MP4-12C GT3): “I’m happy to have been able to run the car consistently across a double stint. The Tolman eSports by HCR McLaren was fast enough, despite the unfavourable BoP, and I was really able to push to close the 30-second gap to the CXR Ferrari. In spite of the contact, we scored another top ten result to strengthen our championship position. The support from the team has been fantastic and it’s great to repay this with strong results, even if we deserved more.”
Scott McCracken (#5 Tolman eSports by HCR McLaren MP4-12C GT3): “Some poor driving from our competitors ultimately cost us eighth, although I’m pleased to have dragged the car around the last five laps to an 11th place result. It’s a real shame because we had a good run. Once again, the McLaren MP4-12C was great and could keep pace throughout the stint, even though we struggled with a lack of top end speed and acceleration compared to the Ferraris.”