DOMINANT DE WILDE CLAIMS OPENING SPOILS AT ASSEN IN VIRTUAL FUN CUP EUROPE OPENER
Ugo de Wilde made sure that no one could get a look in for victory in the opening round of the Virtual Fun Cup Euro Series, as he drove superbly to win at the Assen Circuit in the Netherlands.
Pole position had been taken by Wilde with a sensational lap in qualifying to put him six tenths clear ahead of fellow front-row man Riley Phillips, but come the race start it would be Phillips that would get away from the line quicker than de Wilde and reached the first corner with his nose in front. De Wilde’s attempted switchback was successful at the next corner opened the door for both Mathieu Detry and Max Lienard to both slip past and push Phillips down to 4th momentarily before reclaiming 3rd place from Lienard a couple of corners later. Both drivers would move past Detry to move him down to 4th, before Lienard made a move into the last chicane on Phillips to repass for 2nd as the pair began to circulate together, pursuing leader de Wilde while dropping Steve Claeys behind him, as Detry sadly retired.
A mistake from Claeys dropped him from 4th to 6th, moments before Jay Shepherd did the same at the first turn at Haarbocht which saw him fall down to 9th place. Back with the leaders, Phillips dived down the outside of Lienard at the Geert Timmer Esses before the pit straight to retake 2nd place and didn’t waste time in putting his foot down in an attempt to pull away in pursuit of the lead. Even so, Lienard made sure he kept in Phillips’ wheel tracks but neither of them appeared to be able to eat into de Wilde’s lead, which at this point had already stretched out to a substantial five seconds by the time the race had reached a quarter distance.
The race continued on towards half distance with little to no drama, as de Wilde’s lead had increased by a further three seconds and Lienard had remained on Phillips’ tail during this time to ensure he stayed around half a second away from 2nd place. Behind them, a near miss for 5th placed man Mathieu Martins saw him narrowly avoid contact with a backmarker while lapping them, giving a chance to the recovering Claeys to steal the place. An exciting duel followed with the pair running side by side for a number corners, with Claeys moving his Vaillante liveried car briefly through at the final chicane before Martins fought back just a couple of corners later. The pair continued to scrap over the place with contact made at several points on the circuit in an epic tussle, but eventually, it appeared that Martins had it covered and held on. More notably, both drivers had been able to catch Vincent Ducluzeau in 4th place, but shortly after an attempted move by Martins, Claeys was forced into the pits with a problem.
At this stage, the battles for 2nd and 4th were both hotting up, as Phillips continued his strong defence against Lienard, while Martins out-braked Ducluzeau into the chicane. While this was going on, Lienard had finally squeezed back past Phillips but yet again the Brit threw caution to the wind and continued to hound and pressure his rival. The pair carried on circulating together going back and forth several times on a number of laps in what seemed like a never-ending struggle.
Out in front, Ugo de Wilde was utterly dominant and totally uncatchable, as he reeled off the final laps with ease to claim a lights-to-flag win at a canter with a winning margin of over 30 seconds. But it would be that incredible 2nd place battle that would write just as many headlines, as on the final lap, Lienard made a daring last corner dive into the chicane to claim 2nd place once and for all from Phillips who had to be content with 3rd. Mathieu Martins picked up a strong 4th place, while a quiet race for Piers Stockton ensured he finished in the top 5.