Report: Mercedes-Benz Virtual GP 2020, Round 8 @Monza

Race Review: First win for Přáda brothers at Silverstone! The second half of the Mercedes-Benz Virtual GP 2020 has kicked off with the first of the race of the doubleheader at Silverstone this past weekend and Monza this Saturday, with a unique team flavour unseen in virtual single-seater racing.

Both 60-minute races on the iRacing platform using the Mercedes powered Dallara IR18 required drivers to team-up and share the stints, with a driver required to do at least 25% of the race. The strategy would be key.

The exciting concept provided fans a riveting battle until the very last lap whereby Thrustmaster Next Level Racing FOR2A team of Přáda brothers Lukáš and David took top honours.

Afterwards, the brothers reported: “We were saving the car, waiting for Kužela to take the wheel at Logitech eSuba car. We also saved the P2P for that final stint, to try to get the most out of it. We already had that strategy plan in place before the race, so we didn’t react to the situation at all.”

Qualifying at the iconic Silverstone circuit was topped by championship leader Simon Kovačič (Logitech eSuba) whose pole-winning time was 0.4 seconds ahead of Daniel Pásztor (Lenovo Legion) followed by Erik Vizi (Benzina ORLEN) and David Přáda (Thrustmaster Next Level Racing FOR2A.)

But off the start line, Vizi and Kovačič were tardy off the line struggled while Pásztor made a great launch, the Lenovo Legion car took the early lead. Lukáš Matěja (TP-Link) was an early casualty when he spun in Turn 1.

Kovačič’s efforts with a new push-to-pass system were thwarted by Pásztor defending skills, while Vizi regained his composure and was able to climb up to fourth and make up for his compromised start.

The battle for the lead took a turn during the first pit stops when Kovačič did an overcut and stopped one lap later than Pásztor, the gamble paid off as the pair swapped positions followed by a fast-approaching Přáda behind them in third.

Credit to the drivers for avoiding early incidents, but inevitably the first one emerged when Martin Sirotek (ESET) and Martin Koštialik (TP-Link) collided.

At the halfway mark there was a flurry of driver changes with Pavel Reigl taking over the Lenovo Legion car, Martin Štefanko in the Benzina ORLEN and Lukáš Přáda taking over the Thrustmaster car from his brother.

Only Kovačič remained out longer in the Logitech car, trying to gain as much time as possible. He swapped with Petr Kužela with only 17 minutes remaining in the race.

Přáda put in an impressive display and soon had reeled in Kužela for the lead, with Štefanko also chasing the podium steps. At the same time the tough battle between Sirotek and Koštialik ended in a coming together that compromised them both.

At the front, it was down to the last lap as Přáda had stalked the leader relentlessly, and at Copse Corner he pounced to take the lead, power away and claim his and his twin brother’s first victory in the series, the also the maiden win for Thrustmaster Next Level Racing FOR2A team.

Kužela managed to hang on to second place for Logitech eSuba ahead of third-placed Štefanko for Benzina ORLEN.

Logitech reported from second place: “We had to change our strategy during the race, it did not go as planned and to make things even worse, we made a mistake during the pitstops and Simon took 20 liters more during the stop than he was supposed to.”

Despite the first loss of the season, Kovačič nevertheless increased his championship lead after finishing ahead of both Benzina ORLEN drivers, while Štefanko is now in the sights of Lukáš Přáda with only two points between the pair.

Benzina ORLEN said of their afternoon: “We were unlucky at the start, that cost us a chance to finish higher. However, our goal was to win, we had a perfect set up in that race.”

Driving School NOBE are closing in on MOGUL Racing Team at the top of the teams’ championship standings, but the contest is wide open and looks set to go to the final race.

Thus began the second half of the – iRacing Indycar Dallara IR18 based – 2020 Mercedes-Benz Virtual GP season with no rest for the drivers as they gather for the Round 8, on Saturday 27 June, at the Temple of Speed – Monza – Italy!