Michael Niemas wins thriller at Bilster Berg
08.04.2018 Michael Niemas remains unbeaten in the 2018 RCCO. At Bilster Berg the KTM campaigner repeated his victory from last year which he had to fight hard for though. Only in the last minute of the ten-minute final race, Niemas overtook the Audi of record champion Thomas Voigt that had been leading up until that time. Eldert Hedden (Lamborghini) completed the podium.
Third race, third victory
The Bilster Berg Challenge was a duel between Michael Niemas (KTM) and Thomas Voigt (Audi). In the battle for pole position Voigt was running in front with 15 thousandths of a second and in the final everything was also going well for the record champion who, unlike Niemas, escaped collisions in the early stage and quickly achieved a two-lap advantage which he subsequently seemed to be surely defending. However, when Voigt, shortly before the end of the race, got stuck in dense traffic, Niemas managed to make up his deficit within a very short period of time and overtook Voigt in the last minute of the race. Although the Audi campaigner massively made up ground again on the final laps he ultimately had to admit defeat by six tenths of a second in a photo finish.
“That was incredibly exciting,” said Niemas, taking a deep breath after having taken victory once again. “With six cars on a very short track, the race was very strenuous. Like in real racing, it took tactics and a bit of fortune to find your way through traffic. In the end, that was decisive because the lap times of the top people were close together.”
Voigt both happy and disappointed
RCCO record champion Thomas Voigt was the only one who at Bilster Berg could have prevented Michael Niemas from scoring another win. Third place in free practice was followed by a narrowly clinched pole position and a hard-fought victory in the qualification race in which shortly before the finish he eliminated the Lamborghini of Eldert Hedden and his teammate, Volker Paulun, in front of him with a controversial manoeuvre. With that, Voigt directly secured his move into the final in which he seemed to be headed for a dominant lights-to-flag victory. But the attempt to maintain a two-lap advantage without taking major risks went awry. Voigt got stuck in traffic in the final stage which Michael Niemas took advantage of with no holds barred. “I had a car today that was absolutely in contention for victory and would have had to win,” said Voigt. “Even after 28 years in RCCO there are still things to be learned. If your rival’s name is Michael Niemas you simply can’t play it safe. I would have had to take more risks while lapping the second KTM in the last two minutes. But hindsight is always better than foresight. Second place this time is painful, but outweighed by the joy of having delivered a good overall performance and above all, by another brilliant and exciting RCCO race.”
First podium this year for Joest Racing
After the first two races for Joest Racing and Hedden-Motors had ended in disappointment, Eldert Hedden made an impressive comeback to the top RCCO ranks at Bilster Berg. The ex-champion in his qualification race fought a gripping duel with Thomas Voigt which he lost just shortly before the finish due to an extremely hard manoeuvre by the record champion. Still, with a clear victory in the B final Hedden made it into the final in which he was chanceless against Michael Niemas, but secured third place with a clear advantage. “The podium feels good,” said Hedden. “And once again it was a tremendous event at Bilster Berg.”
Daniel Bäumler misses podium
For Daniel Bäumler and Team Volkswagen Motorsport-Phoenix Racing, the 2018 season has not been going as expected yet. In the season opener Bäumler and Hauschild had to admit defeat to the two KTM cars. In the Just-a-minute event Bäumler on his home track at the ‘Eiskeller’ in Harburg in sixth place surprisingly missed the final. And in spite of setting a best time in free practice, Bäumler, in position four, stayed below his own expectations in the Bilster Berg Challenge as well. “I’m particularly concerned about what we can do against Michael Niemas’ winning streak,” Bäumler said after the race. His teammate, Kim Hauschild, was absent at Bilster Berg. Instead, Jörg Schumacher from Team Volkswagen Motorsport-Das Kartell in fifth place scored his best result of the season to date.
Stop-and-go penalty slows Scuderia Suedschleife.com
A stop-and-go penalty deprived Scuderia Suedschleife.com of a better result at Bilster Berg. Julius Kragl in his ‘bilious-green’ Schaeffler Vision RCCO was the front runner in his qualification race when shortly before the end he had to sit a 20-second stop-and-go penalty. On the straight Kragl had been tailgating too often which earned him the penalty that eliminated him from the top ten.
Extremely short time gaps
Close, closer, vision RCCO: The Bilster Berg Challenge was another event that showed how well the regulations of the ‘big little’ racing series work. After free practice the quickest seven cars were within 98 thousandths of a second. “Incredible how close racing has by now become in the big little racing series,” said Volkswagen campaigner Daniel Bäumler.
Actor Richy Müller among the spectators
The ‘big little’ racing series visited Bilster Berg for the third time and for the third time, the private race track shone with brilliant sunshine and perfect conditions. Due to a shareholders’ day being held at Bilster Berg in parallel to the RCCO race, there were many interesting guests at the Slotfire racetrack, including actor Richy Müller (‘Tatort’) und ramp editor Horst von Saurma-Jeltsch. “The people at Bilster Berg are real petrol heads,” said winner Michael Niemas. “They also think it’s great to watch our small cars. We feel highly welcome here and in Rolf Neuhaus have a man from Bilster Berg in our racing series. The event is clearly one of our highlights of the season.”