The 2023 season of historic Assetto Corsa simracing at THR started on 22nd January 2023 with the biggest endurance race in THR history. An enormous field of 72 drivers from 7 communities shared 36 Group 3 GT cars of the mid-1960's and embarked on a grueling 4 hour race.
A huge thank you goes out from the entire THRacing team to our friends and fellow competitors from:
- Americas Sim Racing League (ASRL)
- Cockpit Racing Simulation (CRS)
- Classic Vintage Racers (CVR)
- VintageAC (VAC)
- Virtual Racing e.V. (VR)
- virtueller Asphalt (vA)
Special thanks in particular go to Virtual Racing for hosting both live streams, to Dennis & Thomas for narrating the German live stream, and to Microlin100 & Alfoyb for narrating the English live stream. ALL OF YOU made this evening special for us!
[Continue reading for the full report on the event with plenty of screenshots, videos & official results]
The venue of choice for the event was the Deutschlandring near Dresden, carved into the mountainside along the picturesque Saxon Switzerland mountain range. This treacherously spectacular racetrack was conceived and built as a 10 km monument of superlatives for motor racing, but never hosted a single race in real life. Caught up in the darkness of its own history, the facilities for hosting up to 1,000,000 spectators were never built, and its fate was to become a part of the public road network in which it has largely remained ever since. Motorsport in Saxony stayed at the nearby Sachsenring, which had already made a name for itself and continued to be in use throughout the days of the Iron Curtain.
Modeled into Assetto Corsa by Fat-Alfie, this circuit is an absolute masterpiece with a well-deserved seat in the olymp of the greatest vintage racetracks ever released for this simulation: thank you, Fat-Alfie, for all the joy that this track has been providing to vintage simracers from all over the world!
The Deutschlandring drew inspiration from the state of the art for motor racing circuits in the early 1930s: Spa-Francorchamps, Brooklands, Nürburgring and the Targa Florio. This resulted in a track with a unique set of characteristic traits. The lap begins with a long and slightly curved uphill start/finish straight, driven flat-out all the way to the highest point of the track just before the first curve: a tightening and very fast downhill right-hander driven with a small lift of the throttle. At the end of this curve, the descent bottoms out abruptly, kicking the suspension into the bump stops before crossing a bridge that spans the Hohburkersdorf village at 240 km/h. The following left-hander begins immediately after the bridge and demands full commitment. The track drops away again as it leads into a fast left-hand curve with a slight banking, allowing drivers to navigate it at up to 220 km/h if they dare to, and if they master the challenge of turning in unloaded front wheels smoothly enough to avoid understeer.
This sets the stage for the Große Schleife (grand loop), a spectacularly banked and very wide 240 km/h curve southeast of the village of Stürza, before a medium-speed 120-degree curve outside of the neighbouring Heeselicht village marks the start of the fast and fluid descent along the Goldflüsschen stream into the Polenz valley. After following the Polenz river past Heeselichtmühle and the Russigmühle restaurant, a sharp right-hander at Maimühle takes drivers onto the Wartenbergstraße. This steeply ascending road with several hairpins was used for the Hohnstein hill climb motorsports events from 1926 until the racetrack's construction began in 1933, when it was drastically widened to include it in the Deutschlandring. The Hohnstein hill climb race returned in 1951, but two fatalities among the participants that year sent it into the history books forever. After completing the steep and tightly curved ascent of the Wartenbergstraße, the Hocksteinschänke restaurant marks the start of the final sprint to the finishing line, for drivers to squeeze everything out of their powertrains uphill and flat-out.
Eligible for competition were 12 of the 15 cars from the incredible AC Legends GTC 60's set. Special thanks to Bazza, DrDoomslab, Norms, Benjamin Nash & Pasta from the AC Legends team, and to all other contributors listed in the car pack's user manual, for their amazing work on these cars!
This event was held as a single-class event, with the agile 2-liter sportscars competing directly against the over-2-liter GTs for overall positions. In the end, 10 of the 12 offered cars made their way into the entry list, with the Bizzarrini GT 5300 emerging as the most popular choice:
The entry list was packed with drivers from seven different communities. The participants were more than eager to put in their laps to refine their track knowledge and optimize the setups of their cars. Across three weeks of public practice and one week of qualifying, a whopping 5,505 laps were recorded on the THR servers, totaling 55,050 km and thus more than 1.25 cirumventions of the globe!
After a furious late battle for Pole Position in the final 2 hours of the qualifying week, the #127 Classic Team Side Heart Porsche 904/6 from CRS, shared by JaydenHW and Adamike99, emerged on top. The three-wide front row was rounded out by the #727 Kamikaze Alfa Romeo 33 shared by HappyKojot & Flow from THR, followed by the #740 GG Speedy Battle Taxi Bizzarrini from VAC, qualified by Goodsmile Racing (winner of the 2022 THR 2.4 heures du Mans with Felix789) who joined forces this time with Gregory Myers.
Start & Lap 1
The stage was set for a four hour pursuit with stunning displays of bravery, skill, and sportsmanship - an epic story that would have it all: drama, triumph, and tragedy. A fire-breathing orchestra of 288 cylinders provided a violent crescendo to the spectators in the grandstands in sunny afternoon conditions as the countdown ticked down and the lights went out to send 36 brave teams out on their journey. There could not have been a more fitting soundtrack for them to witness HappyKojot's fantastic launch in the #727 Alfa Romeo to outgun the pole-sitting #127 Porsche of JaydenHW.
Drama immediately entered the conversation further back in the pack, when Christian Hanna in the #777 Alfa Romeo of the SG Stern team tussled with MackAfat9000's #71 Jaguar from 1UP SIM RACING, leading Christian to collide with his own team mate Sebastian Holler (#96 Mercedes) before narrowly escaping a pit speeding penalty while fighting to regain command over his car's direction of travel.
HappyKojot's initial lead was short-lived. In the Fly-By E-Sports Bizzarrini #195, Jakob Breurather from the 2nd row switched on his hazard lights and capitalized on the enormous torque of his detuned Corvette engine to outaccelerate the screaming Alfa Romeo around the outside through turn 1.
The first major tragedy of the race was only just around the corner. Exiting the Große Schleife into a 4-wide fighting for 8th position, Florian Masse in the #131 No Good Racing Cobra opened up the steering slightly too soon, leading to contact with fellow French driver Maxime Tendil (#2 Srou Outcasts Cobra) and the early demise for the hopes of both of their cars. Tendil's car t-boned a kilometer stone in fatal fashion in the braking zone for the Heeselicht bend, throwing the car out of the circuit. The Srou Outcasts reacted quickly, wheeling their T-Car into the pit lane and letting Maxime's ghost take the wheel. However, the irrecoverable loss of nearly 3 minutes in the wake of this horrific accident shattered the hopes of a strong finish for the top-qualified Cobra team, which many observers had expected to yield a very strong result. They ended up salvaging 14th place.
Between the two of them, Florian Masse was slightly luckier: his black Cobra only spun into the fence, as did several other cars behind in the wake of the crash. Florian resumed the race at the tail end of the pack, but race control would go on to assign a 75 second post-race penalty to the No Good Racing entry for causing this accident, demoting them 20th place in the final results.
Luckiest of all, though, were Tyler van Beek (#109 Rust Bucket Racing Bizzarrini) and Henrik Ward (#10 Bloody Wartburg Racing Mercedes), both of whom got away unscathed after retaining control over their cars while one doomed Cobra had veered into either one of them.
Sight unseen, the leaders embarked on a wild chase down into the Polenz valley, with five different manufacturers battling for the first seven positions, closely followed by even more fights in the midpack.
As the field stormed past Russigmühle at full throttle, a misshift grenaded all hopes of 1UP SIM RACING in the only Jaguar, while their unexpected deceleration also caught out the recovering #131 Cobra and the #420 Mercedes of Parrot Racing (Seppänen/Koivisto), with the latter spinning into the fence. The Jaguar crew of MackAfat9000 & Lanfear proved their great team spirit by calling the tow truck and resumed the race after lengthy repairs, repeating the feat even after the same fate befell them again for a 2nd and 3rd time later in the race en route to finishing in 31st place.
As the leaders crossed the Polenz river again at Maimühle to begin their first climb up the Wartenbergstraße, the leading seven cars were nose to tail, with Jakob Breurather continuing to defend the lead from the agile featherweights of HappyKojot and Jayden HW. A gap opened up behind them when Andreas Roggel in the #36 Cursim Vector Corvette got under attack from Valentin Knechtel in the #92 SG Stern Mercedes-Benz 300 SL powered by a retrofitted inline-8 engine from the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé. Side-by-side, the two of them went through three consecutive curves before the Silver Arrow with petrol blue fender triangles emerged ahead.
Lap 1 would not go out without another bang, though. A cruelly unlucky chain of events led to the tragic demise of the #59 Doppio Bravo Corse entry, the grey Alfa Romeo shared by Rolf Biber (Switzerland) and Pete Bondurant (Ireland). As the clock counted down for the start of the race, the THR Television Van had gone unnoticed and remained on the starting grid instead of the typically enabled automatic teleportation into the pit lane. At the end of lap 1, it still stood in the same place, well-camouflaged in colours matching much of the trackside scenery around it. While the stationary van was quickly noticed when the first car passed it and immediate action was taken by the streaming team, that proved to be three seconds too late to avoid disaster. Running in 6th place with his line of sight to the van impaired by the two cars ahead, Rolf Biber's Alfa Romeo clipped the stationary TV van at 200 km/h and lost control, while Nat Stevenson in the #22 Bizzarrini behind narrowly escaped unscathed. The Alfa Romeo went on to crash into the entrance of the pit lane with immense force, leading to to lengthy repairs and, adding insult to injury, a stop-&-go penalty for pit speeding during the crash. With the unlucky Doppio Bravo Corse entry, another strong challenger was out of contention for the top 5 but they nevertheless soldiered on and fought their way back up to 15th place.
What followed in the next 40 minutes was a fierce five-way battle for the lead between cars from five different manufacturers:
- #195 Bizzarrini GT 5300 driven by Jakob Breurather for FlyBy E-Sports
- #127 Porsche 904/6 driven by Jayden HW for Classic Team Side Heart
- #36 Corvette C2 L79 driven by Andreas Roggel for Cursim Vector
- #92 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL(R) driven by Valentin Knechtel for SG Stern
- #727 Alfa Romeo 33 Corsa Stradale driven by HappyKojot for Team Kamikaze
The Kamikaze Alfa Romeo aggressively fought its way back to the front, successfully intercepting Breurather's leading Bizzarrini around the outside on the first hairpin of the Wartenbergstraße after 28 minutes, with Jayden HW following through only a few turns later. While Breurather launched a successful counterattack, he had to accept defeat early on the next lap.
HappyKojot's fight for the lead against Jayden HW ended in spectacular fashion after 45 minutes, when the rapid youngster from Poland lost the rear in the approach to Heeselichtmühle and stuffed the Alfa Romeo into the haybales, prompting an early first pit stop for repairs. Throughout the whole race, many close battles were fought throughout the entire field.
At the front of the field, Jayden HW in the Classic Team Side Heart Porsche was beginning to run away after the Kamikaze car had pitted prematurely. An hour into the race, Breurather's Bizzarrini rammed the haybales at Hocksteinschänke during his dogfight with Knechtel, who was lucky to avoid a collision with the Austrian. After a third of the race distance, Jayden handed over to his Czech Co-Driver Adamike99 who also delivered a spotless performance with consistently quick laptimes. With the first round of pit stops in the book, a new contender for podium positions joined the fight.
Behind the wheel of the Flashback Racing Bizzarrini, Nat Stevenson had been an unsuspicious Dark Horse by shadowing the leaders just outside of striking distance, keeping his car in good shape. Pitting on the same lap as the SG Stern #92 Mercedes ahead, the Flashback driver took on less extra fuel than the Silver Arrow ahead, and moved up into 4th place with a margin of 8 seconds when they exited the pit lane at the very moment when Roggel's Corvette flew past and into 3rd place at 240 km/h, roughly 20 seconds behind the Kamikaze Alfa Romeo. Not long after, Jayden HW in the leading Porsche pulled into the pits to hand the car over to reigning THR Formula 1991 champion Adamike99 - earlier than most other teams. Throughout the 2nd hour of the race, Stevenson kept the Flashback Bizzarrini in contention with quick and clean laps, maintaining a consistent gap to the Corvette ahead. Stevenson also kept Knechtel's Mercedes behind until just before the halfway point of the race, when the Flashback Racing Bizzarrini pulled into the pits for its second pit stop.
The halfway point of the race was selected by most teams as the time for their mandatory "long stop" that would require their car to stay within the boundaries of the pit lane for 3 minutes, while also performing a driver swap. In 2nd place and off-sequence to everyone nearby, HappyKojot handed over the #727 Kamikaze Alfa Romeo to his co-driver Flow from Croatia. The command over Cursim Vector's #36 Corvette was passed from Andreas Roggel to Marcel Mättig. The Flashback Racing #22 Bizzarrini was handed over from Nat Stevenson to Flashor. In the SG Stern Silver Arrow #92, meisterJäger was thrown straight into battle on his out lap after taking over from Valentin Knechtel: at turn 1, Mättig in the Cursim Vector Corvette stormed past him around the outside, with Flashor rapidly closing the gap from behind as well.
Classic Team Side Heart achieved what neither of the other Porsche teams had been capable of on race day. Not only did they craft what was evidently the fastest race setup of all Porsche teams by an enormous margin - achieving a pace that was only matched by the thirsty Kamikaze Alfa Romeo. Jayden HW and Adamike99 crucially also made the most of it, because they were consistently extremely fast while staying out of trouble to conserve the strategic advantage posed by their car's fantastic fuel efficiency. In the end, Adamike99 could afford several self-inflicted spins on lap 64 to spare himself from having to add a 65th lap to their race. With a dominant and well-deserved winning margin of more than two minutes in the THR 4-Stunden-Rennen Deutschlandring 2023, Classic Team Side Heart have boldly put their mark into the legacy of THR Endurance races.
Behind them, unbelievable levels of drama unfolded in the quest for 2nd place in the final minutes of the race. After holding 2nd place for more than 2.5 hours with a fantastic pace, disaster struck the Kamikaze Alfa Romeo. Just before he embarked on his penultimate lap, Flow hit the lamppost on the apex of the second-to-last curve, severely damaging his car. After he had chosen to limp to the finish instead of repairing, he fought to keep his damaged car on course on the final lap in the Polenz valley, when an unlucky contact occurred between him and the Doppio Bravo Corse Alfa Romeo of Pete Bondurant, who was unlapping himself around the outside. But even without the 2 to 3 seconds that Flow lost here, the outcome that followed would likely have been inevitable.
Having been away from attention ever since capturing third place just after the halfway point of the race, Flashor in the hard-charging Flashback Racing Bizzarrini #22 now stormed towards the limping Alfa Romeo. All of it paid off when Flashor captured 2nd place between Russigmühle and Maimühle on the final lap and escaped into the distance. They flew under the radar cleanly and quickly for hours, and put the hammer down when it mattered: Nat Stevenson and Flashor took home a well-deserved 2nd place for Flashback Racing.
Scarred extensively from a tough race, the Kamikaze team have nevertheless put themselves on the map in historic Simracing with their tremendous effort. Posting the fastest race lap of all participants by far (3:35,891), HappyKojot and Flow drove themselves into the hearts of the fans with their fast and flamboyant driving style. Deservedly, they crossed the line in 3rd place to secure their spot on the podium. Another 22 seconds behind them, meisterJäger brought home the #92 SG Stern Mercedes that he shared with Valentin Knechtel, rescuing 4th place just two seconds ahead of Joni Lindholm's rapidly-advancing Bloody Wartburg Racing Mercedes (#10 started by Henrik Ward).
Four hours of stunning displays of bravery, skill, and sportsmanship have come to an end - an epic story that had it all: drama, triumph, and tragedy. These are the official results of the THR 4-Stunden-Rennen Deutschlandring 2023.
The top 9 cars finished on the lead lap, and the top 20 cars finished no more than a lap behind the winner: a great feat considering the difficulty of the challenge that all participants tackled here. Several teams soldiered on against all odds, towing back cars with blown engines, repairing input hardware defects, and troubleshooting DRS apps that interfered with Real Penalty driver swaps: this sporting spirit is what this race was all about.
Congratulations to the winning teams and everyone who made it to the checkered flag, and thank you to everyone who helped us to make this spectacular event happen. It was magic, and we'll remember it fondly!