There’s a Silva lining as ERC drivers #RACEATHOME by contesting Azores Virtual Rallye
*Pedro Silva wins ahead of former ERC Junior competitor Jon Armstrong *Online event replaces postponed European championship opener as fans stay safe at home *ERC champions past and present Lukyanuk and Ingram among 1110 entrants
There was a Silva lining when drivers from the FIA European Rally Championship contested the Azores Virtual Rallye – the online version of the spectacular ERC event – last weekend.
Pedro Silva, from Madeira, beat more than 1110 rivals to top honours in a virtual Ford Fiesta R5, with ERC drivers past and present featuring in the top 20.
They included Alexey Lukyanuk, who won the real Azores Rallye in 2018 on his way to claiming that season’s European title, and former ERC Junior Jon Armstrong. Eyvind Brynildsen and Chris Ingram, the reigning ERC champion, also took part but were not among the 350-plus finishers. Meanwhile, João Carreiro was the leading Azorean driver in seventh place.
Online contest encourages fans to stay safe at home
With the real-life Azores Rallye postponed until 17-19 September** due government restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak, organiser Grupo Desportivo Comercial launched the 12-stage Azores Virtual Rallye to give fans their rallying fix and encourage them to stay safe at home.
Taking place from 23-29 March, the Azores Virtual Rallye was based on the Dirt Rally 2.0 game, available on the STEAM, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One gaming platforms.
Because it was not possible to produce virtual versions of the spectacular stages that make the real Azores Rallye so appealing to fans and drivers, the Azores Virtual Rallye was based on special stages from New Zealand, due to their similarity with the layouts on offer on São Miguel island in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.
For example, the Waimara Point stage in New Zealand doubled as the Graminhais stage from the Azores Rallye, while the world-famous Sete Cidades volcano stage in the Azores used the Ocean Beach stage.
Following in Sousa’s wheel tracks
After Madeira-born Bernardo Sousa won the real ERC-counting Azores Rallye in 2014, Pedro Silva gave good reason for Madeiran celebrations in the virtual Azores after he beat Northern Irishman Jon Armstrong and Turkey’s Ali Türkkan, who lost 30s with a puncture on his AVCISport Mitsubishi Spacestar R5. “I’m very happy to be the second Maderia islander to win the Azores Rallye,” said Silva. “I would like to congratulate the organisation for the event and affirm that you can count with me on future editions of this race as well as others that might be held.”
World champion Armstrong in Azores return
Jon Armstrong, who won the virtual World Rally Championship crown in 2018 and finished runner-up last season, contested the Azores Rallye proper as part of his ERC Junior campaign in 2015. Having driven a Peugeot 208 R2 back then, Armstrong selected a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 for the Azores Virtual Rallye, which he tackled under the Official DiRT Rally Team banner.
Colin McRae Tribute squad wins Teams’ award
The Colin McRae Tribute outfit scored 964 points to head the Teams’ classification over MPM Motorsport Poland (924 points) and A-Sport 1 (906).
Grupo Desportivo Comercial’s SIM racing department is now working on a plan to celebrate the company’s 60th anniversary with a virtual rally featuring the rear-wheel-drive cars that competed on São Miguel in the 1970s and 1980s.