”For the fifth race in a row, we had the pace to win. This time we finally did it!” said a relieved Victor Nicolae, once the monkey was off his back. Lap one contact at the Nurburgring, connection issues while leading at Bathurst, an incident with a backmarker at Laguna Seca and a debatable skirmish at Kyalami - everything that could go wrong really did in the previous rounds for Aqirys Racing. Such a string of misfortune might have eroded the confidence of less experienced sim racers, but both Victor and Alex Cascatău knew all too well that life in the sport has its cycles. You can only keep trying and the day will come.
It did come in Southern France, on a track that most people are not very fond of. But that's part of the game - some are quitters or too annoyed to tackle the discomfort, while others see it as a challenge - both mentally and from a technical perspective. Together with Filep Race Engineering, the solutions weren't that obvious in the quest for the compromise between braking efficiency and preserving the right tyre operating window. You don't set that blistering pace just by chance, by "having a good day".
What pace are we talking about? Almost half a second advantage in qualy trim, where Victor could have claimed the top spot even with his third best lap. Then, a string of blindingly fast laps: from lap 2 to lap 15, Victor rounded Paul Ricard fourteen times. 13 of those times were in the top 20 at the end of the race.
By mid race, he had built an 11-second gap which proved essential as Alex Cascatău took over and felt a little uneasy to push. "It wasn't my best effort, certainly compared to the past three rounds. But we had more than enough to keep everyone else at bay", said Alex after his 30-minute emotional run towards the first triumph under the Aqirys Racing banner.
This results silences the critics that were rushing to write them off the championship fight. Tracks that bring good memories for Alex are up ahead, like Zandvoort or Spa-Francorchamps where he raced for victories in real life, or Barcelona, where he had the chance to test an LMP3 car last year.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all big smiles in the West Competition Racing stable, as the Textar eSports car of Mihai Rusu and Cezar Toader was wiped off the road by another competitor, putting an end to their string of points finishes at every previous round. They can only regret not qualifying a little higher than 9th in order to avoid being caught in the aggressive mid-pack with other cars that have a lot less to lose in combat.
Seeing Victor and Alex on top was overdue and by no means a surprise. Their joy also had one additional reason, as they coached the WCR Junior Team en route to a big surprise in France. First, Sebastian Apostol was blindingly fast in qualifying (P5) and kept the championship contenders honest, then he passed the car to Maria Turai who didn't panic at her second appearance in RLR BMW GT Challenge. Calmly, she crossed the line in 10th, becoming the first female presence to score points in the modern iteration of the league.
1.Willi Motorsport 89p, 2. Motul eSports 76p, 3. Aqirys Racing 75p, 4. Walk Racing 51p, 5. Textar eSports 49p... 22. WCR Junior Team 0.5p
You can go through our emotions once more by rewatcing the stream.