The Project Cars New Zealand Championship is currently in full swing with the top 8 virtual drivers in the country battling it out for the title. With 8 weeks of racing broadcast live on Sky Sport this series is serious business and that’s before even mentioning the $10,000 prize pool. The championship is of course taking place on Project Cars 2, a game which accurately recreates all aspects of motor racing from the cars to the tracks but also right down to tyre wear and weather conditions which can have a big impact on race results. Hosted by Lets Play Live you can catch the action yourself with 2 races every Tuesday starting at 7:30pm on Sky Sport or check out the highlights on the Lets Play Live social media accounts.
With the championship reaching the half way point I (MonkeyMan) took the opportunity to dive in for a closer look at this the pinnacle of NZ virtual motorsport.
Four weeks of action are behind us and the championship leader board is starting to shake out (shown above). Pene has asserted his dominance during the early season wrapping up the most wins and putting himself in a comfortable position. Ritchie and McQueen have also shown great pace but based on how close the racing has been to date and with 4 different winners already this season you can be sure the championship will go down to the wire.
There has been some amazing close racing so far and each week has had a different story to watch. Week 4 saw the craziest last lap of the season to date with four different leaders within the last few corners. Week 4 also featured crazy weather conditions with snow and fog but, no doubt to the relief of the driver’s, week 5 returns to a calmer climate but the racing stayed hot as ever.
Race 1 was a 12 lap sprint around the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya. With the series leader Jordan Pene qualifying 1st it looked to be more of the same but when the lights go out all bets are off. Off the line both Pene and Robert Northway got great starts from the front row. Side by side into turn 1 Northway hung it out wide and managed to make the move on the outside to take the lead. Pene applied maximum pressure right behind him but ultimately Northway fended him off and managed his tyres better to claim the first win of the night. The front two managed a good gap on the rest of the field but the battle for 3rd was waged for the entire 12 laps providing plenty of close racing to entertain the crowds. In the end Scott McQueen came home 3rd with Micheal Robinson in 4th.
Tempers flared in the post-race interview with Josh Ritchie expressing his dissatisfaction with Scott McQueens attempted move into turn 1. Ritchie was clearly more than a little upset at the contact which saw him spinning off track, re-joining down in 8th, and he wasn’t afraid to let everyone know. (Watch a snippet from the interview and race highlights here)
Race two saw the drivers head to the Le Mans circuit, Circuit de la Sarthe, for a 5 lap race. Qualifying saw Robert Northway up the top but the real story was Ritchie and McQueen a little off the pace down on the grid compared to what they have become familiar with. Northway got the start he needed to head off into a comfortable lead while Ritchie, perhaps still emotional, struggled and dropped down the order. With slip stream in full effect the racing was close down the long straights with as many as 3 overtakes taking place within only a few hundred metres time and time again and racing 3 wide being a common occurrence. Early on Pene also struggled, making a mistake that saw him off into the gravel, and joined Ritchie in dropping to the back of the pack potentially having big championship implications. With some drivers out of position the racing was all action as they tried to make their way back through. There was plenty of close race, overtakes, bumps and mistakes throughout the field which made for a thrilling race. It was exactly what F1 wants to be, entertaining racing. After some the best racing seen all season going on in the battle for 3rd it was Pene who pulled off an amazing comeback to get on the third step on the podium with McQueen finishing in second and Northway making it two from two for the night taking a comfortable win after leading the entire race.
The racing was thrilling, the off-track drama was entertaining and the skill on show by these top 8 drivers was nothing short of remarkable. Fair to say I’ll be tuning in again for each of the remaining rounds to see how it all unfolds in the Project Cars New Zealand Championship and who ends up walking away with the $10,000 in prizes.
Updated standings after week 5