Daytona ready, Tomas Enge got to know her first hand
After a dramatic opening round in Australia, the 2023 Mercedes-Benz Virtual GP will move to the American continent. On Tuesday 28 March at 7pm, they will square off at the Daytona International Speedway in Florida in a 55-minute night race under artificial lighting.
The traditional circuit from the late 1950s is an American classic. It is based on a trioval for NASCAR racing, within which several other variants can be wound. All of them use more or less the folded part of the trioval. For the needs of the prestigious Czech-Slovak virtual series, the version for sports car racing was logically chosen, which has 12 turns and measures 5,729 metres in length. The track record here is held by Spanish driver Álex Palou, who set the best lap of the WeatherTech IMSA Sports Car Championship last year with his Cadillac DPi-V.R prototype in 1 minute and 33.724 seconds.
The significant banking of the oval track will bring a new element to the race that is not usually seen on European circuits.
SIM Racing team principal Tomas Enge, who has competed in the legendary 24 Hours of Daytona four times, has extensive personal experience of the circuit. On his debut in 2007, he finished a fine 6th place as a member of the crew of the Pontiac Riley Mk.XI prototype, but bad luck followed him in subsequent years. Due to various technical problems, he did not finish in 2008, 2009 or 2011, while his crews were usually among the favoured ones and showed sufficient speed in qualifying. “I just wasn’t happy there, something always went wrong. Anyway, I liked Daytona and I liked coming back because the local 24 Hours has a unique atmosphere. The stumbling passage reminded me a lot of my years spent on American IndyCar ovals, you can’t experience such feelings anywhere else. The inner part of the circuit is challenging to drive because of the bumpy and slippery surface. In some places, it’s almost rally-like, which puts more and more dirt on the track. When you add the darkness to the mix, there is no shortage of driving mistakes,” recalled Tomáš Enge of his Daytona anabasis.
At the end of January 2011, Tomáš Enge took part in the 24 Hours of Daytona for the last time. He took turns behind the wheel of the Starworks Motorsport Riley Mk.XX Ford prototype with a Scotsman, a Canadian and two Americans, but an engine failure put an early stop to their efforts.
A full field of eighteen entrants will be on the grid to battle it out for further points. After the first race, Lukáš Přáda is in 2nd place and Adam Pilo in 4th. Tomáš Enge SIM Racing is 2nd in the team classification. A dramatic duel with Entropiq, which entered the season a bit more successfully, is expected again. Will anyone else join the action at the top? That’s what fans of top simracing can watch on Tuesday 28 March from 7pm – traditionally on all Virtual GP online platforms and, of course, on O2 TV Sport.