LunatiK Took on the NARL 24 Hours of Watkins GlenPosted by Special Events May 16, 2022 in
This past weekend LunatiK along with LiveWire took on the North American Racing League (NARL) 24 hours of Watkins Glen. A special event put on by NARL featuring some of the best talent that iRacing has to offer. The race was broken into three different classes featuring Pro Drivers, Pro-AM, and Amateur categories running GT3 race cars around one of North America’s favorite tracks in Watkins Glen. LunatiK entered into the Pro-Am category with drivers from LunatiK and partner teams LiveWire as wlell as Indy Autosports. David Bush III and Collin McKenzie from LunatiK were joined by LiveWire Drivers Steve Lane and Ryan Patrick. Drew Becker from Indy was present along with friend of the program Michael Janney who currently races for Apex Racing Academy to round off the 6 driver roster for the event.
What turned out to be a hot day in western upstate New York fielded some big names in the iRacing community with pro drivers and streamers alike combined to create a 46 car field. Michael Janney was in the car for a 10 minute qualifying and was able to put the LunatiK BMW into p15 which was good enough for 3rd place in the Pro-Am class. What turned out to be the BMW cup with the prodiminant car in the field being the BMW M4 GT3 the cars lined up on the grid to begin the pace lap for the 1pm EST start. Janney remained in the car to begin the race and as the front of the field came around the last corner the leader pulled a questionable move of starting then slowing down before the line which bunched up a lot cars behind. This led to a 5 car wide situation heading into turn 1 causing a lot of collisions towards the front of the pack which unforunately due to not having anywhere to go to try and avoid contact the LunatiK BMW suffered some front damage. Luckily NARL was gracious enough to give each team 3 fast repairs to be used throughout the 24 hours. Janney pulled into the pits after the first lap to take one and get the car back on pace to continue his first stint in the car. With track temps in the 120°F the tires were going to take a beating and the plan to try and conserve them went out the door with having to take the first fast repair. Janney did not let that stop him and put on an absolute clinic on charging through the field to gain as much time back as possible through the first two hours he was in the car. LunatiK went from a position in the 30s to the top 10 after Janney got out of the car. Up next in the car was Ryan Patrick who took over and continued to put down a respectable pace as the plan for the team was to put consistent quality laps down and take care of the car and incident limit which was set at only 80 incidents before a penalty would come into play. A solid uneventful stint saw Patrick return the car to the pits to swap drivers with David Bush III who took over in the mid afternoon early evening as the track temp was still in the 100s. LunatiK was in 12th position and sitting in 4th in class which was an amazing feet considering the team had to pit after the first lap to take care of the damage sustained. Bush continued to execute the teams plan of running clean consistent laps and staying out of trouble. Bush was able to put in the fastest lap for the team sitting at a 1:41.9 which was an impressive feet considering the pro class times were just right around the same. Bush came into the pits after his two fuel stints to swith with Steve Lane who took over in the early evening as the sun started to set on the track just a little bit. Lane continued to put down constitent lap times as the remainder of the field started to get into some trouble with incidents and contact with other cars. At this point int he race the leaders in the pro class were on a different level and started to lap a lot of the field which started causing some lap traffic issues. Lane was able to bring the car back into the pits to swap with Indy driver Drew Becker after running another impressibly clean stint. LunatiK still had two of their three fast repairs left at this point in the race which fit right into their strategy. Becker got in the car as night started to set on the track which featured absolutely zero lights creating another challenge for the drivers as it was pitch black.
With night fully in swing on the track the temps started to drop drastically as pit strategies began to change to making sure to double stint tires instead of changing every pit stop. Becker was the first driver to run both stints on the same tires which was evident when he came into the pits for the driver change with his front left tire screaming for help. Collin McKenzie was up next in the car and looked to follow what his fellow teammates were able to do. McKenzie started to settle in and run solid laps and also double stinted his tires. First lap coming out of the pits for fuel he ended up losing traction on the second to last turn and went head first into the tire barrier before the last turn which caused some concern. Unknowing to the team was that the BMW M4 GT3 was built like a tank and only suffered a small amount of aero damage on the front right of the car but McKenzie was able to continue the remainder of his stint barely off pace. Ryan Patrick was up in the car next and was able to continue to put lap times in even with the small amount of damage to the front end saving the fast repair for later in the race. At this point the team was about halfway done the race and were holding in the top 15 and p4 in class with a podium possibly on the horizon if the stars lined up for the remainder of the race. Patrick continued to run in the pitch black putting in great lap times until it was his turn to pull into the pits and switch with Michael Janney. With Janney being the strongest driver for the team it was decided to take one of the fast repairs to give him the best possible chance to make up more positions with the pace he was setting. Janney was able to put in a great two stints keeping it clean with a pace that only rivaled the top pro teams. He took fastest lap away setting a 1:41.2. McKenzie was back up again as the sun started to rise over the track with LunatiK still sitting in the top 15 and p4 in class. McKenzie continued his groove from earlier just setting consistent lap times as the track started to lighten up but suffered some front left damage which put the team in a position to either take their last fast repair or continue saving it for later in the race. The decision was to save it as the car was not off pace compared to the rest of the pro-am field. Bush got back in the car as the track was fully illuminated again by the sun which marked only a quarter of the race left. Bush continued the trend of double stinting the tires which led to LunatiK still being in p4 in class. Lane was up next and got the unforunate end of the stick as the track temps started to rise drastically again which the sun moving higher and higher. When Lane came into the pits for his first fuel stop the front left tire was too far gone to double stint the tires and the team lost a position in the pits. Lane finished his stint with LunatiK still in contention for a podium but were p5 in class. Becker took the last fast repair for the team as there was only 3 hours to go and the pace needed to make up the ground warranted taking the last repair. Track temps were high again but Becker continued to put in solid laps that were faster than the majority of the pro-am class. LunatiK was in p13 when Michael Janney got in the car for the last fuel sints till the checkered flag. With a clean car and fresh tires Janney once again set lap times that were only comparable to the top pro teams quickly making up ground to the teams infront. The white flag came out and the team just ran out of time to fully make up ground and finished in p13 overall in 5th in class. A mega effort by all six drivers just to be able to complete the race as just under half the field did not finish the full 24 hours.
The team should be super proud of the effort they showed over the full 24 hours as they were one of the weakest teams in terms of average iRating in the pro-am class. 13th overall for the squad full of pro drivers was nothing to be angry at but all drivers knew they had a chance to podium and just missed it. LunatiK would like to thank our partners Martin Sports, Moonlight Speed Concepts, LiveWire Sim Sports, and Indy Autosport for the continued support. LunatiK would also like to thank North Americal Racing League and Pitstop TV for setting up the event and broadcasting the event! Stay tuned for more endurance special events from NARL for the LunatiK team to compete in!