For the first time since it began, a new winner stood on the top step of the podium in the Virtual Fun Cup Europe, as both Antoine and Louis Lachieze took a win each as the pair locked out the top two positions all evening at the latest round at Ledenon in France.

One driver that wouldn’t be contending for victory was points leader Ugo de Wilde, whose preparation for his real-world racing season meant he was otherwise occupied for the evening’s events. This meant that a new winner in the series was guaranteed and the early candidates were the Lachieze siblings Louis and Antoine, with Louis taking pole and Antoine lining up 3rd for the one hour race, while Max Lienard was another driver who was certainly in contention as he would split the two siblings with 2nd place on the grid. British drivers would fill out the next few places with Piers Stockton starting 4th, Riley Phillips in 5th and Jay Shepherd lining up in 6th.

The only change in the order heading into the first corner of Race 1 was Phillips taking 5th from Stockton at the start, but positions started changing when Lienard took the lead from Louis Lachieze in the opening corners while Antoine had to get his elbows out to defend from both Phillips and Stockton at the Pont hairpin, and despite a little rubbing of doors and all three cars exiting the corner three abreast, the scrap was settled in Antoine’s favour, although Phillips stayed on his tail as the pair pushed on to keep up with the top two.

Louis, meanwhile, was on the attack as he tried to repass Lienard for the lead at the beginning of the second lap to no avail, but he did manage to successfully make it past at the same a spot a lap later, albeit at Lienard’s expense when the Belgian tried to take his line and turned into the side of Louis’ car, leaving him to run wide onto the gravel, glance off the barrier and track his way back onto the circuit albeit now down in 9th place. Back at the front, the Lachieze pair were now running nose to tail with Phillips in pursuit in 3rd but some 2.5 seconds behind them with Shepherd and Merwane Hadjouj round off the top 5 in the field. 

From here, the race remained somewhat static towards the front as Lienard made steady progress back into the top 10 and climbed as high as 7th place heading into the final 10 minutes. A battle for 5th place occurred between Hadjoudj and Stockton over 5th place which unfortunately ended in tears when the two cars came together at the final corner, allowing Lienard to reclimb back up to 4th and also allowing both Soyez and Donat through in the process. However, in the final couple of minutes, the two Lachieze siblings decided to go into combat for the win and incredibly the pair would end up side by side on the drive up the pit straight for the final time. The two cars crossed the line together and the timing screen gave the win to Louis just ahead of Antoine, making him the first driver other than Ugo de Wilde to win a race. Phillips completed the podium in a distant 3rd ahead of Lienard who completed his recovery to 4th and Soyez claimed a silent 5th place ahead of Stockton, Donat, Hadjoudj, Xavier Weil and Vincent Ducluzeau.

The top eight drivers were reversed with Hadjoudj and Donat locking out the front row, and both drivers maintained their places at the start with Phillips getting away quickly to jump into 3rd with Stockton and Soyez following suit. Phillips managed to grab 2nd from Donat at the Pont hairpin, before then stealing the lead before the end of the opening lap as he passed Hadjoudj into Cavalet. But Phillips wasn’t the only one moving quickly as the Lachieze pair were also cutting through to the front as they eventually began winding in between their teammates Donat and Hadjoudj to end the opening lap in 3rd and 4th. Hadjoudj retook the lead from Phillips at the start of Lap 2 into the first corner, but at Carrierrasse the Brit was back in front as he attempted to escape the quartet of No Fear Motorsport cars.

Initially, Phillips’ efforts began to work as he pulled away by a few tenths, but the two Lachiezes managed to make light work of teammate Hadjoudj, whose race took a negative turn when a battle with Lienard ended with Max tagging the rear or Merwane’s car and sending him spinning. Back at the front, Phillips was feeling the pressure from the Lachieze pair as Antoine mounted an attack with Louis providing the assist. An edgy moment occurred at the final corner on one lap when Phillips ended up making side to side contact with Antoine, causing him to lose the place to Louis who then decided to attack Phillips himself. Corner after corner, Antoine and Louis continued to harass and harry in their efforts to snatch the lead but Phillips held firm every time until eventually, Antoine took to the outside line into the Pont hairpin, stayed side by side and grabbed the inside line for the next corner, finally taking the lead.

Louis re-engaged in combat with Phillips as Antoine scampered up the road, and twice they came into contact with the latter getting sideways after a tap and then the former taking a trip across the gravel a few minutes later. Lachieze did then make a pass that appeared to stick at the Pont hairpin once again and was quickly able to create a gap of two seconds. Heading into the final ten minutes, the closest battle on-track became the fight for 4th place as Max Lienard made the move on Hadjoudj, but from here it was once again a somewhat subdued period in the race.

Antoine Lachieze calmly reeled off the remaining laps to ensure it was a win apiece between siblings on the night as Louis took the flag in 2nd. Phillips again rounded off the podium places with another 3rd ahead of Lienard and Hadjoudj, with Donat in 6th, Christoph Schinkel in 7th, and then Soyez, Chris Hart and Eric Steinlin completing the top 10.

Scott Woodwiss


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