Nicolas Hillebrand: “World eX is just a great series”

25-year-old German is racing for his childhood hero

December 16, 2022

Biela Racing Team EURONICS is the host team of the German eX Prix at the Nürburgring on December 20, the final round of the 2022 World eX Championship (life on motorsport.tv, YouTube and Twitch from 19:00 UTC). 25-year-old German Nicolas Hillebrand is racing for his childhood hero Frank Biela in World eX and has become a huge fan of the series and the all-electric eX ZERO. He is hoping to compete in the BMW M2 Cup in the real world in 2023.

Nicolas, how did you get involved in esports racing?

I got into esports racing because I was doing kart slalom and auto slalom and a lot of my opponents started going into racing, either karting or touring car racing, which I couldn’t afford at the time, and my parents didn't have the time to support me with that as well. I looked for other ways, which I found on YouTube and in the form of Jimmy Broadbent. And I saw that they are preparing to do an F1 2000 series. It was the first full year that I watched Formula 1 as well. So, I got into that, started racing, then got into sim endurance racing and to rallying and all that stuff and the rest is history. Now I am here (in World eX).

What is your history in real racing?

I joined real racing at a quite late age overall, 12/13, with kart slalom, a year later auto slalom practice as well and then with 16 years of age competitive auto slalom, on a regional and national basis. A couple of years later, when I saved up enough money, I did a couple of weekends in touring car racing as well, where I still have a very nice podium ratio of 75%. I hope I can keep it up if I can return to racing next year.

Are you still hoping to return to real racing?

Yes, I hope to return to real racing. As part of my role in the Honda esports works program I had a TCR test this year in October, which reignited my flame. I’m currently very busy looking for sponsors so I can maybe have my debut in the BMW M2 Cup Germany next year at the big ADAC weekends with DTM, DTM Endurance and all that stuff. Hopefully it goes well, and I can get back behind the wheel of a real car.

What are you doing for a living?

Mainly I’m an economics student. Besides that, I am also a works working student at Project 1 Motorsport, where I work as a simulator consultant and driver coach, and I also do a bit of streaming to earn some money by the side.

What are your hobbies?

Obviously, racing is beyond the point of a hobby. It’s pretty much my life. Everything I do is sort of involved with racing. Also, I’m quite interested in history, especially naval history in regards to World War II and all that stuff. Model building for the Mobile Suit Gundam Universe is also quite fun to me because it’s a very relaxing thing and I quite like the fictional universe there.

We’ve seen you racing with historic helmets in World eX. What’s the story behind that?

The story behind that is I got into historic racing with the GPLaps community in a 1950s sports car league where we’ve been racing on historic circuits like Targa Florio, Spa, Oulton, Le Mans and all that stuff. It’s been great fun. I found glasses and this helmet (from those days), and I was like wouldn’t it be funny if I streamed the races looking like that as well.

How did you end up with Biela Racing Team EURONICS?

Quite honestly, by sheer coincidence, because I knew a couple of the guys from RCCO. Julien Grünastel, one of the guys in the management of the Biela team was searching for a driver to replace Frank (Biela) for a round and he got recommended to me. I very quickly accepted, did the first race at Monza, which didn’t go so well. And then the second race at Indianapolis, I very luckily won. Since then, I’ve been with Biela Racing and it’s been great.

Did you know Frank Biela before getting involved in his team?

I did know him quite a bit. He’s one of my childhood heroes in endurance racing because of all his exploits with Audi at Le Mans and in the American Le Mans Series which I loved to watch as a kid. I saw him at events, I had him as my second driver whenever I could in Race Driver: Grid in the very old career mode when you could go to Le Mans and all that stuff, it was just a great experience as well. I was getting to know him as a person more and more throughout all this time and seeing his personal side as well. He is a very nice guy. Whoever says don’t meet your heroes, obviously doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Or they have the wrong heroes.

Biela Racing struggled a little bit in World eX in season two after winning two races in season one. Why?

The racing format has obviously changed which made it a lot more competitive. If you make a mistake in the first race you are out immediately and it’s a lot more cars to worry about as well. And we also got a lot more people in now. We’ve got the R8G team from Romain Grosjean who are insanely competitive and fast with Jiri Toman and of course WRT with Devin Braune as well – a good friend of mine who has been in insanely rapid. Everyone has the same car, the same setup and it’s a very close competition, so it’s not as easy to get the same result as last year.

Any chance to qualify for the Super Final at the last round at the Nürburgring?

I certainly hope so. If I get lucky and maybe a little bit, obviously we make the setup for that round because it’s our home race and I would love to get into the Super Final because Nordschleife with this amazing car is always a ride. It's certainly not out of the possibilities but we’ll see.

How do you like World eX and the eX ZERO?

The World eX is honestly one of my favorite activities in sim racing and esports at the moment, simply because it’s a very competitive series. Everyone is in the same car, it’s a very difficult car to drive and a very cool car concept. It’s very close racing, but the atmosphere isn’t as tense and as stressful as in other series. It’s still more like a fun evening with friends. Even if you don’t know some guys or some girls so much, you still have a fun experience at the entire time and you are having a laugh with friends so to say. It’s just a great series.

Biela Racing Team EURONICS is promoting “Planted” through World eX. How important is climate protection for you and what are you doing yourself?

Well, I am trying to take the train more often. Climate protection obviously is very important to all of us. For me it’s very important that we do it in a sustainable way, not just for the planet, but also for the human communities. Because obviously forcing new policies without people being able to afford to keep living in the normal standards under these new policies is also quite difficult. I think innovation and pushing new technologies and hydrogen and synthetic fuels and stuff is very important. And I really hope that we can push more towards that. And “Planted” is obviously one of these great programs where you plant a lot more trees, which obviously very important for turning carbon dioxide into proper breathable oxygen for us. Hopefully that can do a little bit to offset stuff like what’s going on in the Amazon Forest.

You’ve also been competing in World eX Slot Racing this year. How was this experience?

This was one of the most fun experiences of my life. The entire weekend was absolute bliss at the BILSTER BERG and the 24-hour slot car race was something I hadn’t even thought about before and it’s been absolutely fantastic. I was completely baffled by the level of technology in this race. It’s just been great being able to do a 24-hour race with one of my childhood heroes (Frank Biela), with one of my best friends, and also with (World eX Host) Luisa (Skottke), who is also an amazing girl. It’s been great. Everyone was very nice. The (World eX) Summit was a lot of fun, meeting a lot of people there that I already knew or hadn’t met yet in person. It’s been great. I enjoyed every single second of it.