DE WILDE COLLECTS A BRACE OF WINS IN VIRTUAL FUNCUP EUROPE AT MAGNY-COURS


Ugo de Wilde made sure that no-one would spoil his perfect win record thus far in the Virtual FunCup Europe, after he took two more victories at the latest rounds at Magny-Cours, the first race meeting to use a two-race format.

Proving just how capable he was behind the wheel, de Wilde rebounded from struggles to enter the server in qualifying to join the rest of the field with just a few minutes of the session left to run. Incredibly, he only needed to put in two flying laps to not only take pole position for Race 1, but to do so by almost half a second. The sibling pairing of Louis and Antoine Lachieze would line up behind him, ahead of Max Lienard in 4th place, while Piers Stockton would start as top British driver in 5th place with Jay Shepherd in 7th on the grid and Chris Hart next to him on the fourth row in 8th.

The top three drivers held their positions heading into the first corner, Grande Courbe, for the first time in Race 1 with Stockton moving up to 4th past Lienard. The pack charged down towards the Adelaide hairpin for the first time with Stockton attempting a move on Antoine Lachieze but braking too deep, allowing Antoine to reclaim the place straight away while a mighty four-car scrap began to kick off for 5th place between Lienard, Shepherd, Merwane Hadjoudj and Hart. Lienard’s part in the battle came to an abrupt hold at the end of the opening lap when skipping over the chicane unsettled his car and left him sideways in the middle of the track after spinning as a result.

As de Wilde extended a lead to over two seconds over the pair of Lachieze siblings and Hart moved up to 4th after a mistake for Stockton pushed him down the order, Shepherd was left to fend for himself in 5th place against Hadjoudj and Robin Donat. The latter began to fall away, but caught up again when Shepherd made the same mistake Lienard made earlier in the race by cutting the final chicane and spinning sideways, losing a place to Hadjoudj in the process. 

De Wilde, meanwhile, was able to hold his place at the head of the field for the entire race distance, although in the closing stages Antoine Lachieze did manage to bring the lead gap down to less than a second. Ugo would take the chequered flag to win the first race of the night, with Louis Lachieze four seconds behind sibling Antoine to round off the podium places. Chris Hart managed to score one of his best Virtual FunCup results to date by taking 4th place ahead of Max Lienard, with Hadjoudj, Shepherd and Stockton round off the top 8 places, which would be reversed for the second race with Stockton inheriting pole position as a result; Donat and Weil completed the top ten.

At the start of Race 2, the all-UK front row of Stockton and Shepherd led the field away into the first corner, Stockton maintaining the lead with Lienard and Hart following suit, the latter making a dive into the Adelaide hairpin for 3rd place.  Hart then caught and attempted to pass Shepherd to take 2nd, but overshooting the entrance to the Lycee complex left him struggling back onto the road from the gravel trap, but this only held up Shepherd enough to come under threat from Antoine Lachieze and Lienard, the former getting a nudge from Shepherd at Estoril when the pair went side by side. 

Incredibly, Ugo de Wilde had been able to quickly move his way up from 8th on the grid to 4th place, and ended up getting a front row seat for a clash between Shepherd and Antoine Lachieze when the pair made contact through the Golf kink, sending Shepherd spinning and giving de Wilde a free pass to move up to 2nd place thanks to Lachieze losing momentum. Antoine managed to stay with de Wilde and the pair were both able to catch up to leader Stockton and were soon applying pressure to take the lead away, despite at times being more interested in battling with each other!

De Wilde did manage to get onto Stockton’s tail eventually, but Antoine Lachieze was able to repass him into Chateau d’Eau to pick up 2nd and quickly go on the attack to take the lead. By this time, Lienard had caught up to the top 3 to create a quartet of cars battling over the podium places, but this went back down to a trio when Antoine Lachieze drew alongside Stockton and both cars ended up drifting into each other, sending Stockton into the barrier and down to 5th place. In turn, de Wilde sensed another opportunity and made a move for the lead, claiming it with just over 13 minutes to go. Lachieze continued his retaliation, swarming all over the rear end of de Wilde’s car and eventually drawing back alongside to repass and take the lead for the first time, but this squabbling put Lienard into the picture, with the two teammates side by side exiting the Lycee chicane onto the pit straight.

Heading into the final 10 minutes, de Wilde made a move to repass for the lead into Adelaide but immediately found Antoine Lachieze retaliating and taking the place back heading through the Nurburgring chicane, but now Antoine’s sibling Louis was involved in the fight creating a thrilling four-car battle for the lead. Eventually, Lienard made contact with the Lachieze pair and as all three cars scattered heading onto the pit straight, it gave de Wilde some much-needed breathing space to pull away in the lead. From here, the top four positions remained static as de Wilde completed the double and maintained a 100% win record in the championship, with Louis Lachieze beating Antoine on this occasion as both siblings took to the podium together. Lienard settled for best of the rest in 4th ahead of reverse grid pole man and early leader Stockton, who recovered well after his spin to finish in the top 5 ahead of Chris Hart. Donat would finish in 6th place, followed by Shepherd, Axel Soyez and Christoph Schinkel.

Scott Woodwiss