Ex-Formula 1 drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Anthony Davidson claimed wins in the opening Pro Cup round of the The Race’s All-Star Series powered by ROKiT Phones.
Gutierrez and Davidson, both representing Mercedes-Benz AMG Petronas Esports, shared the spoils at a virtual Sepang in rFactor 2 races run using Formula V8 machinery.
Bentley driver Alex Buncombe had taken pole position for the opening race, with WTCR’s Esteban Guerrieri, Gutierrez, Aston Martin’s Charlie Eastwood and BTCC racer Tom Ingram making up a top five split by just 0.299s.
Both Guerrieri and Gutierrez challenged Buncombe into the first corner of the race, but the latter nudged the former slightly wide instead, unsettling Guerrieri just enough to usurp his second place.
But as Gutierrez and Guerrieri continued to scrap hard for the spot over the opening lap, their battle ending only once Guerrieri had been forced into a trip through the gravel, Buncombe pulled over two seconds clear.
Yet the Mercedes F1 reserve would reel Buncombe in over the rest of the race, and as Buncombe spun approaching the penultimate corner on the seventh and final lap, Gutierrez was forced to cut to avoid him and nipped ahead.
Buncombe tried to retake the spot on the back straight but Gutierrez held firm to win the race.
Guerrieri completed the podium, while Buncombe’s Bentley squadmate Seb Morris, running fourth on the final lap, had an unseen incident to drop behind Eastwood, Nicki Thiim and Michael Benyahia.
Ingram and Harrison Newey were two other drivers to run in the top five early on before ultimately spinning out.
James Pull was on pole position in the reverse-grid race but dropped out of contention with a slow start and a pair of spins on the opening lap.
Instead, Davidson and Gabby Chaves ran side by side through Turns 1-4, with the former eventually grabbing the inside line into the right-hander.
He kept Chaves at a distance from there on, and as Chaves seemingly made an error, Davidson was left to coast to an imperious win by over eight seconds.
Chaves then dropped behind BMW’s Bruno Spengler on the final lap as the pair completed the podium.
Buncombe had started at the back of the 40-strong grid, but was seventh after a spectacularly chaotic opening lap, and would pass Devlin Defrancesco on the final tour to secure a superb fourth.
His fellow opening-race podium finishers Guerrieri and Gutierrez starred too, with the former seventh and the latter ninth despite a big shunt on the start-finish straight early on.
— The Race (@wearetherace) May 2, 2020