The great final winner?
Michal Smidl, who else?
On the podium he had tears in his eyes and a check for 30,000 swiss francs in his hands.
Sunday is Raceday, it was said also this time in Cham in the lounge of "Racing Unleashed", which was filled with drivers, fans, VIP's. But this Sunday, January 19, 2020, was a very special one - because never before has there been so much prestige and prize money involved in races with the high-quality racing simulators "made in Maranello".
The cars were ready, the atmosphere couldn't have been more right, the pressure on the drivers' shoulders was enormous - and the crackling of excitement was audible. The old Zandvoort dune circuit, a highly demanding, very twisty, narrow track that challenged the drivers, certainly contributed to this.
Michal Smidl, the tall, beefy Czech was the big favourite for the 30,000 swiss francs prize money after his last consecutive Challenge victories. He in particular had a Herculean task ahead of him on the final day. After all, he could only lose - anything less than victory would have been a bitter defeat for him. "Every race has to be driven first before you know where you are and how you are going," said the strongest driver of the Varga Sim Racing Team, stacking low even before the elimination races (HotLaping).
But Smidl was able to live up to his absolute favourites: In the HotLapings, in the eighth, quarter and semi-finals and even more so in the final. As usual, Smidl had the race simulator, the track and the competitors under control - and once again he achieved a sovereign success.
At Smidl all the dams broke
It was only shortly after crossing the finish line that it became clear under what pressure to succeed and under what tension the Czech was under. Because hardly over the finish line all the dams broke for him. Still sitting in the cockpit, he screamed out his joy like Tarzan. As soon as he got out of the car he danced across the parquet with the chequered flag and hugged his team mates Vojtech Polesny (5th) and Thomas Dolezel (10th) as well as his team boss Stefan Varga.
During the winner's interview and the subsequent award ceremony he let his tears of joy flow: a great man, an even greater winner - and a great race simulator driver. This hymn of praise to Smidl should in no way detract from the equally great and well-deserved performances of Felix Hirsiger and Simon Danner, as well as Dustin Wüest - the second, third and fourth of the final race.
For Hirsiger, the overall winner of our seven Challenge races in 2019, this second place was just as "programmed" as first place for Smidl. For Hirsiger, too, it was "only" a matter of meeting the high expectations.
On the other hand, Simon Danner's 3rd place came as a surprise. "The opportunity presented itself to me - and I grabbed it," said Simon Danner visibly pleased about this podium finish in the final. For Dustin Wüest, the final qualifying at the end was further proof that he is on the right track with his intensive preparations.
Racing driver pros as race stewards
There was a lot of money involved in this final. So it was obvious to consult racing professionals and an F1 expert for controversial scenes or manoeuvres in the races: Andrea Montermini, Gary Hirsch and Peter Lattmann formed the race stewards trio on the day of the final. The Italian Montermini is an ex-Formula 1 driver, ex-Ferrari F1 test and development driver, head of the Racing Unleashed Academy and co-developer of our race simulator technology and software. Gary Hirsch from Geneva is a successful Le Mans driver. Peter Lattmann from Winterthur is the doyen of CH-F1 journalists, young team boss and promoter.