“Always the bridesmaids, but never the brides.”
That was the phrase that followed VP Gaming throughout the last few years of Project CARS esports, ever since it was uttered by Slightly Mad Studios' Creative Director, Andy Tudor more than two years ago. This talented German team has always shown great potential in major tournaments, but never quite secured a major title win. That all changed this year though when they finally went the extra mile and won the the Pro Class in the Playseat® SMS-R Series.
Over the four races in the online series, VP found a great rhythm and consistency in their driving, which saw them qualify comfortably for the Series Finals at Mercedes-Benz World in the UK. Their lead driver Isaac21 also came into form at exactly the right time in the competition. He won the last race in online Series and continued his momentum into the Finals, where he won one of the two races to boost VP’s points total and secure overall victory for the team.
We caught up with team manager and driver, Darwin_Daume after the Finals and found out what it means to finally have some major Project CARS silverware in their clutches.
Have you had a chance to calm down now after the intensity of the finals?
Most of us got back on track and started racing again just a few days after the finals. Racing is in our blood, but everything is a bit more relaxed now.
VP was one of the most consistent teams in the entire Series. How did you prepare for the competition to hit that performance level in every race?
Daily practice sessions have been the key to find that consistency on track. Every week we focused on a new track and tried to invest as much time as possible. My personal longest SMS-R practice session was eight hours! Of course, we take a few small breaks in between each session, and it’s important to practice a lot, but not to over practice. When you are in a good flow, keep practicing. When your pace is dropping from race-to-race, go take a break. But remember: You never want to lose because you didn't try hard enough!
It’s a team game in the SMS-R Pro Class, so how does that change your strategy and tactical approach in each race?
We practiced slipstreaming in qualifying and overtaking and defending for the races. It is important in Project CARS 2 to understand how the dirty air works when you are following another car. Therefore, we made sure we always had at least three cars on track when we practiced.
Who did you think your biggest rivals in the championship would be? Did you expect to be battling Veloce at the end?
We decided to travel to England without any expectations about our rivals’ pace for several reasons. Even the most competitive online racer can miss some pace in a LAN Final, and sometimes the drivers with the least hype can win the Finals out of nowhere. The reason for that is that most drivers need to get used to new wheels, seats & displays, as well as driving under a lot of pressure when your rivals sit only a few meters away from you.
VP was one of a few teams who had to use their substitute driver a couple of times in the championship, but you seemed to cope better with this disruption than some others did. How did you keep Yoohan motivated and ready to step in when he was needed?
Yoohan is full-blooded racer and a three-time Project CARS champion himself, so there was no need to motivate him, because he can keep himself in the zone. We did most practice sessions together as a team, with all three of us taking part, so all three drivers were ready to race.
Isaac came good at exactly the right time in the championship. He won the final race in the online Series, and one of the races in the Finals as well. How important were his wins in helping you to win the title?
Isaac's victory at Watkins Glen was important not only to qualify for the offline final, but also to have the right mindset going into the finals. He proved to us and to himself that he has the pace to win world championship races. His win in the final race at Road America also gave us the necessary points to stay in front and win the world championship after my incident in the first lap of that race.
What did you think of the Finals at Mercedes-Benz World, and how did you prepare to travel to the UK and deal with the pressure of a LAN event?
Visiting the UK for the first time, as well as visiting the Mercedes-Benz World was a wonderful experience. We tried to see as much as possible in London and to simply have a good time together. Yoohan even got his hands on a Mercedes-AMG SL 63 in a one hour driving experience.
We prepared our on-track performance more than our travel. Our travel preparation only involved booking flights, a ferry and our hotel rooms. We even forgot to buy a UK plug to charge our phones!
Isaac and I have raced a lot of offline events. Therefore, we did not feel much pressure. In fact, we were even more relaxed than during the online races.
How did it feel to finally get your hands on the SMS-R Pro Class trophy?
It feels wonderful! Wonderful, but still a bit overwhelming to be Project CARS 2 world champions. After so many years of trying our best we finally won a major championship. We lost a lot of times, we finished second a lot of times, but we never gave up. Instead, we learned from it and tried to get better. Now we can look back and see that it was worth it!
“Always the bridesmaids, but never the brides,” was the sentence that followed us through our Project CARS career. Finally we can now leave this message behind.
What’s next for VP Gaming?
We are ready. Ready to grow, and ready to compete in the next competition. We will be back to defend our world championship title, and we will also try to achieve the same in other games too. A special thanks to everyone who believed in us over the past couple of years!
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