Two-time ADAC GT Masters champion Kelvin van der Linde won both races of the third round of Team Redline’s ‘Real Racers Never Quit’ online series, as Lando Norris took a pair of fourth-place finishes.
The South African prevailed in a pair of 12-lap heats, taking a straightforward initial win before prevailing in a nail-biter battle against simracer Frederik Rasmussen.
Both races were held at classic venue Watkins Glen, with the whole field equipped with the Holden Commodore ZBs that compete in the Australian Supercars series.
Van der Linde was on pole for the first one by a quarter of a second from nearest rival Shane van Gisbergen, after deposing early leader Norris in the two-lap qualifying.
McLaren Formula 1 driver Norris, who was shuffled down to fourth by the conclusion of qualifying, had tagged the outside barrier at the final corner during his second flyer, calling himself “such an idiot” and a “numpty” in the aftermath as he rewatched the incident.
As the race kicked off, van der Linde kept position in the rolling start, as Supercars frontrunner Shane van Gisbergen slipped behind Dani Juncadella – only to retake position before the first lap was out.
Norris in fourth came under pressure from Argentine touring car star Agustin Canapino, but kept hold of fourth place as the 2016 Super TC2000 champion went off, with Verstappen moving up to fifth.
Elsewhere, there was a customary pile-up further in the pack, and a hard crash for Super Formula champion Nick Cassidy, while later in the race Formula E championship leader Antonio Felix da Costa was punted by Porsche Supercup ace Larry ten Voorde.
With his car upside down, da Costa said he’d been taken out by “Larry whatever-his-name is” when speaking to the Redline commentators in the immediate aftermath of the accident, before jovially adding: “I’m upside down, come and get me, I’m hanging like a cow.”
Out front, van der Linde pulled over a second clear early on, and though van Gisbergen reduced the gap in the final laps, he was unable to prevent a comfortable win by the South African.
Juncadella completed the podium, ahead of Norris, Verstappen, Porsche GT racer Matt Campbell and DTM champion Rene Rast.
Three simracers – Rasmussen, Rudy van Buren and Fabian Menetrey – were added to the event’s roster, with the caveat that they were to start the opening race from the back of the grid. Formula 1 Esports star Rasmussen made the most progress through the pack of the three, finishing race one in 13th.
And with the esports pros allowed to take part in second qualifying, Rasmussen duly took pole – but van der Linde snatched the lead on the opening lap, overtaking Canapino at the first corner and then Rasmussen down the inside of the Turn 2 right-hander.
Rasmussen had the pace to keep van der Linde under constant pressure in the first half of the race, and repeatedly attacked the race leader around the outside of Outer Loop, but was not able to make a move.
Van der Linde’s spirited defence even briefly left Rasmussen vulnerable to third-placed Canapino, but he fought off the Argentine and was back on van der Linde’s tail in no time.
On the penultimate lap, he came closest to reclaiming top spot, and even drew alongside van der Linde exiting Chute, only to be forced off track as the status quo was maintained.
A desperate last-corner attempt left Rasmussen a second behind van der Linde in the end, with Canapino seeing off a final-lap challenge from Norris to complete the podium.
Norris had started fifth but picked off van Gisbergen during the race, with the Supercars regular subsequently having to fight off van Buren for fifth.
Da Costa, van der Linde’s brother Sheldon, Cassidy and Verstappen completed the top 10, the latter having seemingly had an unsighted collision with Rast.
Verstappen – who has won three of the six ‘Real Racers Never Quit’ races so far, with van der Linde winning the other three – described his second Supercars race as “bad” and “slow”, adding the Holden was “not my car”.
The series will resume on Monday with its fourth round, marking a return to Formula 3 machinery.