Tyler Kicera showed Saturday he is as talented behind the wheel of a real racecar as he is in the Esports racing world.
Kicera, who finished second in the Trans Am by Pirelli Esports Championship with five race wins, scored his first victory in his fourth TA2 Powered by AEM start, taking the win in Saturday’s 28-lap race at VIRginia International Raceway at Alton.
The Esports standout sped into second place on the second lap of the race and took the lead from eventual runner-up Rafa Matos on the fourth circuit, just before an incident occurred in Turn 14 that necessitated lengthy repairs to the tire barrier.
That incident put the race under caution for 17 laps and created a seven-lap dash at the end to decide the outcome of the race. Kicera, driving a Ford Mustang, quickly pulled away from Matos after the restart and finished 2.480 seconds ahead of the 2018 Trans-Am TA2 champion to take the win.
Cameron Lawrence, a former VIR winner, finished third in a Ford Mustang, Thomas Merrill finished fourth in a Ford Mustang and 21-year-old Connor Mosack finished fifth in a Chevrolet Camaro.
Kicera said he knew he was going to have a tough fight on his hands in the seven-lap dash to the finish.
“I knew it was going to be tough because I know Rafa is super aggressive, and Cameron was back there,” Kicera said.
“I did a lot of leading in a lot of laps in the Esports championship, and I tried to get back into that mindset of running eyes ahead, hitting my marks and being consistent.
“It paid off,” he added.
“I saw the gap start opening up a little bit, and towards the end I was just being conservative in the braking zones, making sure I didn’t make any mistakes.”
Matos, who was looking for his first win of the season, said Kicera had the better car.
“I had a really good start,” Matos pointed out, “and I had a good enough pace that I could keep (Mike) Skeen behind me, but that was not the case with Tyler Kicera. He was very hooked up today. Today was a day to finish second, and we picked up some good points for the championship.”
Matos said he did not feel like he could overtake Kicera in the short stint at the end of the race.
“My car was handling very well, but he seemed to have more power and straight-line speed, so it’s really hard to make up that time around this place. I was super deep on the braking and catching him a little bit, but I was losing a bunch in the straight-line so it was very difficult.”
Skeen, the series points leader, started the race from the pole. His Chevrolet Camaro started losing power early in the race, and he was never a serious challenger, finishing sixth. That finish was good enough to allow him to maintain the series points lead.
Tom Sheehan reached a milestone in the Trans-Am TA2 series Saturday by becoming the first competitor to race in 100 races in the class. He started racing in TA2 in 2011 in the inaugural season for TA2 and finished fifth in the class. Since that time, he has missed only one race in the series.
He was running in seventh place in Saturday’s race when his car suffered a mechanical issue and he pulled off of the track with just seven minutes left in the race.
Saturday’s TA2 class race was featured in a separate race from the other four Trans-AM classes. On Sunday, all five Trans-Am classes were to compete in a 100-mile race to conclude the unique VIR doubleheader weekend.