In Other, Race Reports

So far 2020 has been very different for most racing drivers around the world. There has been precious little exhaust fumes and tyre smoke and even less champagne. What started out as Ben Tucks most ambitious season yet fractured into uncertainty as Covid-19 took hold across the globe. Ben entered the year set to continue his successful partnership with winning GT Team Walkenhorst Motorsport, with 2 parallel campaigns in the pipeline.

A second year in the newly renamed Nurburgring Langstrecken Serie (NLS), formerly known as VLN, will serve as the basis of his season, this time with Ben pairing up with a regular crew in the dependable BMW M4 GT4, the car in which he saw so much success in the second half of 2019, racing in 4 and 6 hour endurance races on the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife.

But the second arm to his season will see Ben lead Walkenhorst’s debut into the high profile DTM Trophy, a GT4 support series to the world famous Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) Championship. Racing across Europe, this newly formed championship returns Ben to the sprint race format.

Spanning both the strategy and the unrelenting pace of endurance racing and the fierce cut and thrust of sprint racing, the two championships could hardly provide a more challenging test against which a driver can prove his all-round talent.

Which is precisely why Ben has chosen to take on this feat.

However, Coronavirus had other ideas and in March the whole plan hung in the balance. Whilst the organisers and the team pulled out all the stops to regroup and reorganise, Ben turned for the very first time to esports – racing in the virtual world. With timely support from long time sponsor Saturn Systems, Ben quickly equipped himself with a simulator rig and set about climbing the digital ladder as a complete novice.

In a satisfying mirror to his real-world exploits, results were not long in coming when he claimed a second place in his first ever outing in the PRS esports challenge. Thereafter he was invited to join the official DTM esports Championship at its second round, racing the legendary DTM drivers with whom he would soon be sharing the paddock in the real world.

Ben immediately established himself a front runner, battling for pole position and the lead in each race and missing pole position by an agonising 9000ths of a second at the following round.  At the next race he qualified second row and took a double podium, battling with the sport’s highest profile drivers ending in a thrilling race to the line, missing his maiden win by mere inches.

Interlaced between DTM duties, Ben was also invited to drive ‘virtual’ Formula 3 cars with the official BRDC esports Championship as one of the BRDC Rising Stars. Again, Ben did not disappoint, racing in the battle for the lead with the UK’s best racing drivers taking 5th position in his debut and earning a return invitation to the season finale.

As real life racing plans began to take shape, it was fitting that Bens last ‘virtual’ race before taking the wheel of some ‘real metal’ was in the official digital NLS Championship driving the GT3 entry of his own team Walkenhorst Motorsport with fellow pro driver David Pittard.

It’s undoubtedly true that Ben has taken the opportunity that the last few months has offered to show that he is as quick to learn and just as fast and consistent in a simulated race car as he is in a real one.

But for now, his attention is fully on his return to the challenges of the real Nordschelife where this weekend, perhaps inevitably, the weather forecast is thunderstorms…..

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