Shaun Arnold was victorious on Friday night (7th October 2022) in Round two of the 2022 season, but what would now be considered the first official race of the 2022 Le Mans Virtual Cup.
After an enthralling opening round of Le Mans Virtual affairs at Bahrain and Sebring a couple of weeks ago, the Le Mans Virtual Cup opened once again for the second round of the Le Mans Virtual Series. Both events for the weekend would take place at the famed Monza Circuit in Italy.
This would be the first officially counted round as the results from the twists of Sebring International Raceway would be nullified and the race rescheduled for later in the season.
After a journey across the virtual Atlantic ocean to the cavalcade’s next destination in Monza, Italy, this race would be deemed the opening round of the Cup.
It was a valiant effort for Vojta Polesny in the original Sebring round. Polesny cleaved his way through the mayhem, following a poor qualifying performance, to carve out the victory ahead of Leonardo Pupo and Leandro Werle.
With Polesny not in the field for this week’s Italian virtual racing events, there was potential hoped to be unlocked around the ‘Temple of Speed’.
Shaun Arnold claimed pole position for the Italian festivities. His closest rival at launch would be Pupo, someone who certainly knew how to complete tasks at the business end after his podium in the nixed Sebring event.
Martin Murguly had been running in the points early on but failed to convert by the chequered flag. A third-placed start promised better fortunes. Mikael Le Roux completed the second row, fourth also being his finishing position in the United States.
With such a tight opening couple of corners to the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, it has largely become the expectation that someone will be a little too brave into the braking zone.
That person this time around was Gabor Hevessey who took to the grass in order to try and gain position. Contact was inevitable as the field scrunched up and stumbled over each other.
Murguly was the pilot to weave his way through cleanly whilst Arnold, whom Hevessey had made said contact with, survived to hold second place behind.
Lucas Werle had suffered early damage in the melee of a first lap, necessitating a pitstop. As it transpired, just minutes on from that likely race-wrecking action, he would be put out of commission by his own brother no less.
Leandro, running ninth at the time, completely missed his stopping point into the Rettifilo chicane and obliterated the rear of his sibling’s prototype.
As the clock ticked over to thirty-three minutes remaining, Arnold made his move on Murguly. Lining up the pass as far back as Parabolica, the Welshman rounded the Hungarian with a beautifully executed move through the first turn.
From this moment, Arnold checked out pulling a gap of three seconds over the following ten minutes leaving the rest of the podium fight in his wake.
Várkonyi Zoltán had been patiently biding his time all the while, cruising up to third after lying in a distant fourth early race. A lockup into Ascari put Pupo under increased scrutiny; so much so that the Hungarian chose this moment to make his own luck.
Sweeping around the outside of Parabolica, the two clashed with the Brazilian coming off much worse. Dropping a few places before rejoining the circuit, Pupo chose wisely to make his mandatory pitstop immediately.
Arnold was the next front runner to follow suit. His timing was curiously early, but perhaps not entirely unexpected. The likelihood of this stop was down to more fuel burned away thanks to his searing pace.
All things considered, the time could not have been much better for him; a lot of midfield runners also chose this moment to make their way onto pitroad.
Effectively, what had just transpired, was an undercut from the leading car on the rest of the field. Everyone else of note made their stop the following lap and through, completely untroubled, went Arnold; extending his leading gap even more than what it had been two rotations prior.
Other success stories throughout the field included Mia Rose who, after a tough start to the evening, lived up to her surname and rose multiple spots from thirteenth to eighth on the road.
The Australian’s overall delta of one single position paled in comparison, however, to that of Tomasz Wach who had stormed up a mighty twelve places in total.
With the race entering its final stages, attention turned to the inter-team battle between Sido Weijer and Zsolt Szucs, the pole sitter from the first round whose day had gotten progressively worse.
Although the Hungarian’s decline this time around had been a little less aggressive, his time around Monza came to a ferocious halt. Losing it on the exit of Ascari, a monumental crash into the wall sent him to an early bath.
Narrowly escaping disaster with Pupo, Várkonyi had one more target in his sights. With mere minutes to run, he tore down Murguly’s defence with a strong pass out of Parabolica and a solid defensive run through the Rettifilo.
Yet, all of this failed to land a note of interest in the rear view mirrors of Shaun Arnold. After a rocky start, he had made the lead his and never looked back.
MONZA TOP 10 RESULTS
- Shaun Arnold – 26 Laps
- Várkonyi Zoltán
- Martin Murguly
- Mikael Le Roux
- Paul August Laane
- Roland Szucs
- Leonardo Pupo
- Mia Rose
- Tomasz Wach
- Juha Maki-Jouppi
LE MANS VIRTUAL CUP CALENDAR 2022
- Race 1 – Sebring – 16th September – TO BE RESCHEDULED
Race 2 – Monza – 7th October
- Race 3 – Spa-Francorchamps – 4th November
- Race 4 – Bahrain – 2nd December
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