iRacing WCGPS 2016: a team recap

Julien Dill On November 4, 2016
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    As the team manager, I was very proud to see how our drivers approached the challenges this season. New car, new team members, and a huge task ahead: to perform well in the most competitive online racing championship ever created. For the drivers to represent the team well, and for the team to put on a good show for our partners and for the thousands of viewers from all around the world.  

    Needless to say the guys worked great together, quickly adressing the various issues we encountered, and always finding ways to improve. From this perspective, it was a great season, as we continued building over the experience from the previous years. The new additions Marin and Riley showed great speed over the season, Marin being the more consistent over the whole season, finishing with two 6th places and making a good statement. As for Riley, after a solid season start he had to face extremely challenging situations, being taken out multiple times, affecting his motivation. The man's a champion though, and with the support of the team we're looking forward to him bouncing back and show his true colors, that you guys could see in the Pro Series last year. He finishes the season P26, with 3 DNS and countless DNFs, so he's at least guaranteed a place for next year (top 30 goes in).

Riley, looking to be moving forward in 2017

    Ilkka managed his most consistent season in a long time; more top 10's than you could shake a stick at, a couple top 5's, and 0 DNF. And this is a "coulda shoulda been" season for him as you'll read in more details. Pretty good!
    As for Dion, it was nice to see him go back to his more traditional assertive style, as he talks about it below. A solid season for the Dutchman in terms of racing and results, but also as always a strong help for the whole team in the preparation phase.
    Davy on his side had his fair share of incidents as well as a busy year offline, so it's nice to see him still put on some good performances. See below what he has to say about it!
    As for João, he quickly had to hangup the wheel after the season start. We'll see him in the Pro Series though, as he's getting ready to make a come back.

2016 iRacing WCGPS grid at Spa

To conclude, before you jump to our driver's views on the season (I think you'll find some interesting things in there), I would like to give a big shoutout to our main sponsor HPP Simulation. Mark (Hargett, HPP founder) has been a pleasure to exchange with despite a very challenging year, and we're looking forward to making HPP Simulation standout even more in 2017!  If you haven't had the chance yet, check them out! Not only they're a great partner, but they have such an outstanding product, that it'd be a shame not to mention it. You can see Barry Rowland review the latest PRX SE set here
Thanks to Joel Real Timing as well for the opportunity and providing with such a cool app. We still have to dig into it some more to extract all its potential!
Finally, thanks to Jimm's for supporting our Finn as well!

Now, I leave the keyboard to our drivers.

Ilkka Haapala | Final season standing: 6th

    It was a very interesting season in many ways. We didn't start it out very strong. In the first race at Interlagos it became apparent very quickly we weren't utilizing the new Energy Recovery System as well as some other teams were. Fortunately it wasn't too difficult to figure out and by Phillip Island race we got it nailed down pretty well. On the other hand, we weren't overly happy with our setups either at that point and we seemed to lack some pace, especially in qualifying trim. So we had some work to do.

    That being said, we didn't actually concentrate on qualifying trim much in our testing. We just set to find some overall speed and balance and figured qualifying would sort itself out. Key to this car, to me, is comfort. You need to be comfortable so you can push it without stepping over the limit. The current tires don't like punishing much, so you have to constantly be aware of the limits. Be that in braking phase or corner entry phase, smoothness is key. If there was one thing we've learned about the McLaren MP4-30 during the season, it's that there is no silver bullet. In fact, after few rounds when we got a nice baseline, we didn't end up changing much from track to track. That might sound weird, given that I've heard many others saying the exact opposite, but that's what we found.

    There were few exceptions though, especially the low downforce tracks like Monza. And speaking of low downforce, I think few teams were caught by a surprise that low downforce trim worked so well at Indianapolis. I was hesitant with it at first, given that low downforce usually means higher tire degradation, but that actually didn't end up happening. I have to confess that I'm a bit lazy when it comes to long run testing, but thankfully great teammates help with that a lot!

    As we found that comfort zone, I was surprised how much my qualifying positions improved. I've always struggled with qualifying, especially with the 2 lap format. I didn't suddenly get better at it I think, car just clicked for me as I got more comfortable with it. I actually even reduced the testing time I spend in qualifying trim. With the random weather we have, there just isn't a point to get every single hundreth of a second out of the car in testing environment.

    Speaking of testing, as we had races every two weeks we usually ended up starting testing for the next race towards the end of the off week. Again, as we had that baseline, it was pretty simple to adopt the setup for each track. We're all pretty experienced in this, so quite often I ended up making some guesstimate tweaks to the setup very early on and then struggle to find anything else to tweak that would improve it. There is some stuff you know even before doing a single lap, just by the track profile and level of grip. Like for example you know Suzuka has a lot of high speed corners so you need a car that is more "on the nose" than at Motegi for instance, which is all about traction zones. Like always, quality over quantity when it comes to testing. As a side note, I don't think I ever changed anything in the "Damper" page in the garage.

Thoughts about personal performance:  

    There were quite a few races where I felt I could have done a better job, but always seemed to do something wrong. Whether it was losing a couple of spots on first lap or pitting at the wrong time, the little things just didn't seem to want to go right. With this car, overtaking is of course a bit easier than it was with Williams, but it's still quite tricky and track position often ends up being king. And as the field is just so incredibly competitive, if you lose just a few seconds in the early part of the race, it is very difficult to ever get that back. There were few races where weather was very hot and tire management was important. In those we seemed to do pretty well. With iRacing's Season 4 update, the dynamic track feature got updated and as a result track temperatures were reduced, which kind of made tire life a non-issue. It was a bit of a shame to be honest and I hope we get some updates for next year where tire degradation is a bit increased, and maybe some new tire compounds to go with it.

Hopefully we can continue to improve next year and get closer to podium spots. Competition is for sure going to be more fierce than ever, and we're ready for that!

Dion Vergers | Final season standing: 16th

    2016, definetly a fun season for me.

    I went into the season looking to do my best and have as much fun as possible in the progress. Also, where I have been struggling for top 25 in the last few seasons and ended up driving very safe because of it, this season I wanted to be less reserved for a change and just see what would happen. And turned out that worked ok for me with my best championship position in quite a while. Also, it raised the fun level quite a bit and that kept me better motivated throughout the season. So it's a win win in my opinion.

    The season itself started pretty well. I could adjust to the new car pretty well and looked like I had something going for me in the form of tyrelife, which is a nice weapon. Managed to score some decent points there which is allways a good feeling at the start of the season. Especially Sebring where we cud do 1 stop where others had to do 2 was very interesting. And I felt like I've been able to keep on that level pretty much all season. Had a bad luck shunt at Watkins later in the season which gave a DNF, but that's racin'. And maybe my motivation for qualifying went down a bit with the smaller fields later on which might have cost me some points as well. But all in all I'm definetly pleased with my own performance and results like this also motivate to try and push harder next year.

    Big thanx to everyone at Orion for all their support and a big thx to HPP simulation and Joel's Real Timing app as well for their support.

Looking forward to 2017 already...

Davy Decorps | Final season standing: 22th

    First season with Honda F1, first season on the new HPP Simulation PRX SE pedal set.... That sounded pretty exciting!!

    After getting used to those new pedals, which went pretty quickly, I was really wondering if I could handle better
that crucial braking phase in iRacing, where it seems the less you brake, the more it brakes! And in fact it was really way easier for me to brake while keeping that tyre grip needed for the next corner to come.

    But on the first race we suffered from a poor ERS handling strategy, resulting in a pretty difficult race... That was quickly solved and it was a pleasure to see the whole team progress race after race. We again had a lot of incidents and unlucky moment, but the pace was definitly coming, and I could even score some top 10 qualifying, which was close to impossible before with the limited training time I usually can put into each race.

    A lot of work was done on the setup side, and I must congratulate my teamates for this as my help was often pretty poor. It usually takes me so much time to get used to a new track that I can usually start to help on the setup side when everything has already been done.... Looking at objectives for next year to come, that's one of the point I definitly want to improve. My learning curve has to be sped up! No point in being fast in the second stint of the race, I need to be fast in qualifications and for the whole race! I guess I need to figure out a new way to train more efficiently. And I will!
    Another point is that I had a lot of troubles to see what was going on around me, and that cost me a lot of places in some races... Good news: I'll be triple screening for the first time on next season, and that sounds pretty cool smile

So, main idea for next year: let's get back in business! A bit more training... but way more efficient. And get closer to that top 10, and stay there!

Thanks to the Orion team for the great great job that was done on that last season. And huge thanks to our HPP Simulation sponsor... Yes those pedals makes a big difference! THanks to Joel as well for his timing app!

Marin ńĆolak | Final season standing: 11th

    My first proper WCS season (note: Marin could participate a bit last year with his Pro license) went better than I expected. After doing well in the Pro series I was happy to be invited in Orion where I could work with really great and fast guys.
    Preparations went great where I have learned alot from the team before first race on Interlagos. First couple of races was all about getting used to new car and getting a feel for it.
    Race after race I have seen my progres and could feel that I was getting more confident driving the car. Reward came already in week 5 at Monza, where I had a really strong pace and could fight for the podium. That gave me more motivation to push more and work harder. For me Monza was my highlight of the season, together with the last race at COTA.
    My original season goal was to try to keep the license and not to crash but in the end it has turned up totaly different. After I saw that I was gonna keep my license without any problem, I have tried to be at least in the top 15 which I did in the end. Actually I have missed 1 race, had internet connection issue in another, as well as one DNF. That definitely hurt my run in the championship race.
    To sum it up, this season was great and I hope we will be even stronger in the next season. I want to thank João Vaz who first got in touch with me about getting in Orion. I want to thank all the drivers in the team together with our team boss JD as well as Ilkka who helped me so much with the setup stuff, as well as Zoran Jonjic for being a great help with translating back and forth when it was needed. And finally, thanks to our sponsors!
Can't wait for the next season to start!

That's all for now! Be sure to check our Facebook page where we post frequent updates, as well as our twitter feed!


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