Unlike many traditional motorsport teams, the origin of HJ Motorsport can be traced to the virtual world.
Launched in 2008, iRacing has established itself as the premier online motorsport simulation service. With over 50,000 active members, the player base is growing at a rapid pace.
Created in 2013, the Reddit iRacing League (RiL) has run for 17 seasons, attracting 270 different drivers from around the world. The stated aim of the league is to provide a welcoming environment to competitors of all abilities and backgrounds. It was here that our members first met.
Online Endurance Racing
Since 2015, iRacing has hosted special endurance events where teams compete against one another in races up to 24 hours in length. HJ Motorsport was established by members of the RiL to enter these events.
Results in this time have included wins and podium finishes in endurance events at Le Mans, Spa, Sebring, and Daytona. Through these trials the team has built a strong bond, and discussion often drifted towards how we would manage an endurance race effort in the real world.
Transition to the Real World
The team is based in Richmond, Virginia, with active team members in the US, Canada, and Australia. In 2016, idle banter became reality members started to consider a joint venture to bring the team off the virtual track and into real world motorsport.
These discussions culminated in the purchase of a 1992 Spec Mazda Miata. The winter of 2016 saw extensive work go into the car to comply with the technical regulations of endurance racing, with focus on the ChampCar World Series.
HJ Motorsport made their competition debut in March 2017, participating in the ChampCar 12 hours of VIR South; the culmination of a dream a year in the making. Four drivers and three crew members made the trip to Virginia to support the team.
Despite the relative inexperience of the team, we ran consistent laps and managed pit stops efficiently whilst battling with a diverse selection of cars and dealing with ever changing conditions. The final result saw us finish 4th in class A and 24th in an overall field of 60 cars. In the post-race discussions we were even dubbed the "Fast Miata" by the other teams.
First 24hr Race
Since our first experience of a 24hr online race, our goal for the first year of real world competition was to complete the annual ChampCar 24hrs of VIR.
In August 2017, members of the team converged on Virginia from all over the world to attempt to achieve this goal. Despite severe weather, complicated logistics, and a novice team, we remained in competition for the lead of our class. Our race ended in heartbreak when the differential failed in the 23rd hour, putting us out of first place in class with under 60 minutes of racing remaining.
Despite this disappointing conclusion, the team has resolved to learn from our first year of real-world competition and return to the series in 2018 determined to compete and win.