ETRC Digital Racing Challenge - Round 3: Le Mans
27. February 2021The virtual ETRC has only just begun – and we’re already just days away from the finale. Of course, all we have is four rounds, the third of which took place at Circuit Bugatti, Le Mans, on the last Sunday in February.
Having slacked somewhat at the Nürburgring edition, losing out on a podium for the first time, sim-race ace and all-conquering Hungarian Norbert Kiss was back with a vengeance. At the end of the day the MAN pilot had not only qualified on pole, going on to win Race 1 unchallenged; he also rolled up the field in the second race, subduing all seven competitors who’d started ahead of him to emerge a worthy victor.
But we get ahead of ourselves.
Kiss had no difficulty taking the lead from pole position, a lead he held on to till the flag. But there was drama alright among his pursuers. German MAN pilot Sascha Lenz and his compatriot Lukas Hahn (Iveco) had both overtaken Spaniard Manuel Alvarez before the Dunlop chicane, but the Iveco got a mighty whack in the rear from the Mercedes, spinning it around and dropping Hahn to the end of the field. The other Spaniard Josy Vila (MAN) took advantage of the situation to slot into P3, with Alvarez hot on his heels. The group approached the finish line with the two Spaniards locked in combat for the last step on the podium. In the event Alvarez did overcome Vila, but a five-seconds penalty because of that hit on Hahn dropped him back into P4 in the classification. Hahn on the other hand had fought his way back up, with the reward of a start position on the front row for Race 2. The son of the six-times real-world champion duly capitalised to take the lead and pull away from the rest. Kiss too made an exceptionally good start, and was up to P3 at the start of Lap 2 – right behind Vila. But the young Spaniard wasn’t giving an inch, and deftly parried the Hungarian’s every thrust. Hahn wasted no time stretching his lead over his immediate pursuers, because he knew it wasn’t long before Kiss would pass Vila and close in.
By the time Kiss had broken the Spaniard’s resistance, Hahn appeared to have a respectable advantage, but would that suffice? Lap after lap Kiss bore down, till he was right up on the Iveco’s crash guard. Hahn was now driving at the very edge of the limit, like Vila had done earlier. The Hungarian, for all his efforts, could find no way past. On the approach to the final corner, just when it appeared that Hahn had it in the bag – he drifted wide just metres from the line. Kiss made his move and cut the timing beam a microfraction of a second ahead. Vila came in third.