Michael Niemas’ NReSports secured victory in the 28th edition of the famous #RCCO24 24-hour slot car race staged for the first time at BILSTER BERG as a part of the inaugural World eX Summit.
Slot racing specialists Michael Niemas and Fola Osu were the lead drivers of the No. 19 eX ZERO entered as “NReSports Bravo”. The team added esports racers Lennard Rau and Kai Matt to its roaster which proved to be fast in slot racing, too. Daniel Bäumler's “NReSports Alpha” – formerly known as “Volkswagen Motorsport” – made it a 1-2 for NReSports at BILSTER BERG. The other drivers at the controller of the second placed eX ZERO were Jürgen Jungklaus, race engineer of World eX Co-Founder Mike Rockenfeller when he clinched the DTM title in 2012, former RCCO slot car champion and current World eX Bizz AM Champion Stefan Waschow and esports racer Lukas Hofmann. ABT e-line, run by long-time RCCO competitors Hedden-Motors, completed the podium.
It was the fourth victory for model car artist and slot racing “guru” Michael Niemas in the RCCO’s blue ribbon event following his wins in 2015, 2017 and 2019 but his first with his own team. NReSports Bravo was setting the team to beat right from the very beginning of the event, qualifying on pole position and scoring a lights-to-flag victory which was never challenged. After 24 hours and 5,457 laps the eX ZERO of Michael Niemas, Kai Matt, Fola Osu and Lennard Rau crossed the finish line 112 laps ahead of the ‘sister’ car driven by Daniel Bäumler, Jürgen Jungklaus, Lukas Hofmann and Stefan Waschow.
“We had esports racers in each team with no (slot) racing experience,” said Niemas. “They could see how difficult it is to focus one hour in a stint about that (little) car because you can never relax. That makes this (slot racing) so special.”
“We were very surprised that the track was having so little grip at the beginning. That’s due to Corona because the track was stored for almost three years. The first two or three hours were decisive because it was so difficult from the conditions. The more experienced teams (and drives) were able to build a little gap while the newcomers were just looking to stay on track.”
The slippery conditions in the first hours of the race caused a quite unusual #RCCO24 with the positions very much settled right from the beginning. NReSports Bravo just kept extending their lead hour by hour while NReSports Alpha climbed to P2 within the first two hours and remained there for the remaining hours.
The third spot on the podium was more fiercely contested with Biela Racing Team EURONICS, newcomers Axel W. Racing and ABT e-line swapping positions until late in the night. Hedden-run ABT e-line finally emerged as the most serious contender for P3 as the team decided to race with a defensive and careful strategy right from the beginning not going for fastest lap times but keeping their eX ZERO on track. The strategy finally paid off and the team of 2019 RCCO Champion Eldert Hedden completed the podium.
While the event’s record winner tv racing was on the backfoot right from the start with three of the team’s original drivers forced to cancel shortly before the event – the last one World eX star Lasse Sørensen due to COVID-19 – and losing the entire free practice sessions on Friday due to a malfunctioning controller, a great battle for P4 emerged between Biela Racing Team EURONICS and Axel W. Racing. Former DTM Champion and five time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Frank Biela set one fastest lap after the other in the closing stages of the race reducing the gap to the fourth placed car to just six laps (about one minute).
Even Michael Niemas admitted that Frank Biela’s eX ZERO was the fastest on track with Frank Biela setting the fastest lap of the race in 11.468 seconds. “The car was pefect, thanks to Michael (Niemas). He did all the preparation before the race. Our car was running well and the performance was good. We were a bit unlucky in the first quarter of the race. But anyway, it has been very, very nice to be in here, to be here again with all the people. We’ve done this many times before Corona and it was nice to be here again. I’m also happy with my teammates.”
The “big small” racing series RCCO has always brought drivers from real motorsport to the slot car controllers for the #RCCO24 and for the comeback of World eX Slot Racing some of the world’s fastest esports racers have been added to the roaster. “This was definitely a very nice experience,” said Devin Braune. The winner of the 2022 Maastricht eX Prix of the World eX Championship raced for the team of Frank Biela together with Nicolas Hillebrand and World eX Host Luisa Skottke.
1 #19 NReSports Bravo, 5457 laps
Michael Niemas/Kai Matt/Fola Osu/Lennard Rau
2 #11 NReSports Alpha, 5345 laps
Daniel Bäumler/Jürgen Jungklaus/Lukas Hofmann/Stefan Waschow
3 #17 ABT e-line, 5055 laps
Eldert Hedden/Jan Hedden/Carsten Paulun/Volker Paulun/Björn Skottke
4 #55 Axel W. Racing, 4919 laps
Tobias Brokelmann/Artur Heller/Stefan Lange/Axel Woltmann
5 #45 Biela Racing Team EURONICS, 4913
Frank Biela/Devin Braune/Nicolas Hillebrand/Luisa Skottke
6 #7 tv racing, 4470 laps
Mika Brokelmann/Helmut Schmid/Ellis Spiezia/Thomas Voigt