Sascha Lenz and Jamie Anderson take the honours at virtual Zolder
24. July 2020Last Sunday was the 6th round of the FIA Digital Racing Challenge, created to compensate longsuffering fans somewhat for races that have been dropped or postponed in this crazy corona year.
Hungarian MAN pilot Norbert Kiss, of whom it’s joked that he came into this world a sim racer, remains the overwhelming favourite. The twice-European-champ in real world truck racing has been a passionate participant since Round 1, but his red MAN was missing in qualifying. He hadn’t been able to make it back to his simulator in time owing to commitments connected with the Formula 1 race at the Hungaroring, so his German rival Sascha Lenz was the MAN on pole, with Spanish colleague Antonio Albacete lining up alongside on the grid.
Norbi raced back, however, and was at his cockpit just before the start of the formation lap, at the rear-end of the field in P10.
Polesitter Lenz took the lead straightway, Albacete dropped back by several places, and Kiss found himself in 4th in next to no time. Lenz was able to build out his advantage, and French teen Téo Calvet (Buggyra) ploughed up into P2, with Kiss right on his tail. While Lenz motored ahead unmolested, Kiss and Calvet battled it out with every legal – and sometimes illegal – means at hand. Following one manoeuvre by which he finally overtook the Buggyra, the Hungarian was forced to yield the position back following a telling-off by race control. Not much further down the road, Calvet strayed momentarily from the line and Kiss took his chance to move ahead.
Lenz was too far ahead at this point to challenge for the win.
Race 2 started according to the finishing order in the first, with the top eight positions reversed. That put two MAN pilots on the front row – Brit Jamie Anderson and Frenchman Jonathan André, team manager of Lion Truck Racing.
Going by prior experience, it was to be expected that this second race too would not go off without interruption, despite a rather depleted field. In the event, there was a pile-up a few hundred metres from the lights, in the first left-hander, that left half of the field scattered all over the place – only not on the track.
Red flags. Restart.
This time there were no collisions in the first corner, and Kiss was able to climb a few positions in the initial laps. But he was then caught out in a crash and dropped to the end of the field. Anderson capitalised on the tohubohu behind him to pull away before André, Calvet, and Lenz could take up the chase again. Kiss soon added himself to their company, and from then on it was a four-way fight to the finish. The number one beneficiary, of course, was Anderson, who steadily extended his lead.
On the penultimate lap Calvet, then in P3, and Lenz lightly touched, the Buggyra put two wheels off the track, and Lenz and Kiss were through. There was no taking the win from Anderson anymore, and even André’s P2 was fairly secure, but competition for the following position grew fiercer by the lap. Calvet did manage to claw P4 back from Kiss, but it was the best he could do, Lenz taking P3 to maintain his unique record of being the only pilot on the podium after every race.