Podium finish for PaddlUp Esports at Virgina International Raceway
PaddlUp Esports hit the track once more for some GT3 action, this time in the USA.
Round three of the VSR GT3 series was held at the fast and flowing Virginia International Raceway, and with PaddlUp Esports sitting second in the overall standings, the anticipation was palpable ahead of qualifying.
At the wheel of the Mercedes SLS GT3 was Riley Phillips – PaddlUp's resident simulator specialist – who lined up second on the grid.
Without the assistance of tyre blankets in the VSR GT3 series, judging where to brake for the first corner is often a challenge and this round was no exception. With the outside line, Phillips ran deep into the braking zone and the chasing pack regrettably followed the same trajectory. As a result, he was tapped from behind and ended up on the grass on the outside of Turn 1.
Tumbling down the order to end up P11 on the opening lap, Riley had his work cut out for him but set about fighting his way back up the order. The PaddlUp Esports SLS masterfully scythed its way back up to seventh position after just five minutes of running and, having cleared some slightly slower cars, found itself in clear air.
With approximately 55 minutes remaining on the clock, Phillips had picked off a handful of the front-running cars to sit P4. Shortly thereafter, one of the leading Audis had an off-track excursion rejoining just behind Riley.
The performance between the Mercedes and the Audi was weighted heavily towards cornering for the Audi, and straight-line speed for the Mercedes, enabling the PaddlUp Esports car to keep them at arm's length – around a one-second gap for almost 30 minutes. During that time, the pair made their way past the second-place car to sit P2 and P3. Meanwhile, the front-running Audi got tangled up with a back marker to put the lead within touching distance of the dueling pair.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, Phillips was unable to keep the Audi at bay any longer and conceded second place. After a further five minutes, the pair caught and passed the leader, promoting the PaddlUp car to second place once more, where it would stay until the chequered flag. With tyre life varying between the competitors, an eight-tenth gap was all that separated Riley from the lead of the race in the closing stages.
Following a fifth place at the opening round of the season at Imola, P3 last time out at Spa-Francorchamps and a well-earned P2 at Virginia International Raceway, Phillips and the PaddlUp SLS currently sit second in the overall standings heading to the Nordschleife for Round 4 on 2 May.
Riley Phillips, Esports Driver, PaddlUp said: "We were a lot closer than I expected to be with the way the Mercedes handles relative to this track and the balance of performance between the cars. It was a lot more intense than a normal race in this series because so far we've seen the Audis disappear at the front and we're unable to do anything about their lead when their tyres go off at the end.
"I think the track suited our car a bit better in the end. Virginia International Raceway is quite fast and flowing so it was only in the first section that we were a little bit slower. I was probably two tenths off in the first hairpin and two tenths off on the hairpin that leads onto the straight but other than that it was pretty good.
"P2 is an improvement on our results in the first two races so I'm really looking forward to the next couple of races. The next round is at the Nordschleife, I think that should be with the GP circuit as well. We might be slower than the Audis there as it's quite technical but let's wait and see."