ETRC Digital Racing Challenge - Round 1: Hungaroring
27. January 2021Last year saw the introduction of simulated races using avatars of the ETRC trucks. The Digital Racing Challenge (DRC) was conceived primarily to bridge the long gap till the interminably delayed start of the 2020 season. At the time, nobody could have imagined that only two rounds of the championship would eventually be held.
This year, the organisers have decided to kick off early with the second edition of the DRC, involving not just competition truck racers but also interested sim enthusiasts who qualify. This one’s no longer a fill-in for real-life racing but is being marketed as a standalone series with its own Grand Finale.
Last Sunday was the opening round at the (virtual) Hungaroring; coming up are the Nürburgring, Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans, and Circuito del Jarama (the finale) at fortnightly intervals.
The obvious favourite is last year’s winner Norbert Kiss, an undisputed ace both on the track and on the sim. It was no surprise that the Hungarian MAN pilot plonked himself on pole at his home layout in qualifying for the first race. What nobody reckoned with was that Spanish Mercedes pilot Manuel Alvarez, an absolute rookie, would line up alongside.
Kiss settled into the lead right from the start, shifting the focus to the fight for the two remaining podium places – a youth affair involving Alvarez and Iveco pilot Lukas Hahn. The junior Hahn snapped up second place from his only barely younger Spanish rival early on, but the Mercedes manling refused to be beaten, setting the German under unrelenting pressure. In the closing laps Hahn locked up momentarily and slid wide, but Alvarez wasn’t quick enough to get past.
The result read Kiss, Hahn, Alvarez; MAN pilot Sascha Lenz, a close fourth throughout, finished in that thankless position.
As in the real thing, Race 2 saw the top eight finishers start in reverse order. On pole was thrice champion Antonio Albacete (MAN), but the Spaniard wasn’t able to hold onto that advantage on a tumultuous first lap. Instead, it was another compatriot from the rising generation who took the lead, Josy Vila in his MAN. In no time the young Spaniard had raced away from his closest pursuer Jonathan André. Not long after, Alvarez and Lenz also found their way past the FrenchMAN and set off to hunt Vila down.
Kiss, meanwhile, had scythed his way up to fourth from P8, and just a couple of laps later was right up on Lenz’s rear. The top four crossed the line within a second on the start of the final lap, but try as he might, Kiss wasn’t making the podium this time round - that honour was Vila’s, Alvarez’s, and Lenz’s alone.