4Fun vs Thunder Crew Grand Prix: racing in the Chicane Wonderland
The season of Yule bringeth darkness and rebirth to ye world, but the virtual track is never cold, and it’s the ideal place to get together with friends for the last Grand Prix of the year! Our good pals at Thunder Crew Simracing offered their collaboration, and so the 4Fun vs Thunder Crew Grand Prix was born. What better opportunity to wish each other a merry Christmas than battling it out corner after corner?
Dario “Santa Claus” Bucalo brought us a present: he picked the WTCC cars from the 2007 season for us to race in. Then it was up to the two organising teams to suggest the tracks that would be voted by the community, as it’s common for our events: the poll included iconic circuits like Bathurst, Daytona and Road Atlanta, but the community went with a euro-centric choice and voted for the Masarykring in Brno, Czech Republic. The track is well-known for hosting top-level motorcycles events, but as it turns out it also provides great four-wheeled racing, especially in touring cars. It is also the first time that the Grand Prix is contested on a track in Europe.
But first, breaking news…
Gianluca is back! The one and only Gianluca Roncaglia put an end to his break from simracing: he found the password of his Discord accou… I mean, he found a renewed passion for the sport and joined us on the virtual tarmac once again… a small Christmas miracle! He also went to great lengths to let us know that he would probably under-perform because, you know, the time away, the lack of training, so little time to dedicate, and then there’s this new Windows update, the public transport is on strike, he ran out of gas, he had a flat tire, and no money for the cab. But that’s why we love him!
By now, the long qualifying has become our standard format to define the starting grid. The WTCC is a multi-brand series, so teams and individual drivers were faced with an additional challenge: choose the car that fits best their driving style, trying to optimise both single-lap performance and race pace management.
No balance of performance was applied to the cars, so one of them quickly emerged as the queen of the class: we’re talking of course about the BMW 320si. Early reports suggested that less skilled drivers would steer away from it, as its rear-wheel drive makes it easier to make mistakes or even spin out; therefore the most common choices fell on the FWD cars. Thunder Crew decided to pick a single make for all their drivers, and went with the Honda Accord; 4Fun left their members free to choose their own instead, with Dario, Simone and Gianluca wholeheartedly choosing the Alfa Romeo 155 GTA, while Maurice and Matteo picked the BMW.
Their audacity paid of: Maurice topped the ranking and got the pole position, while Matteo qualified sixth, beaten by Thunder Crew’s Evgeni Arkov in P3. Further back, the two organising teams were well distributed along the ranking, with our Dario, Simone and Gianluca qualifying 10th, 14th and 16th, respectively, and Jack Mike Mass, Alex Geier, Martin Sorg and Joachim Leonard getting P8, P11, P18 and P19 each.
Many drivers in our community were happy to take part in the event. We had the full Rose Team (well, almost full: one of their drivers was blocked by a personal commitment which we promised we would not talk about – your secret is safe Max, we’ve got your back!), with Claudio Cerrai, Francesco Senni and Mauro Castelli placing their Hondas between P12 and P15 and enveloping a good chunk of the organizers in their thorns. Actually, Gianluca said he liked being in a bed of roses – the fool! HR Racing got P7 and P9 on the grid with Nick Hall and Andrew Roberts, respectively, while PleasePushMe Simracing had Nicolò Bachetti, who got the other position in the front row, and Stefano Casamonti. Many other teams came at the event with a single car: Michal Janak (Team Thorndyke) got a honourable P4 (the fastest of the Alfa Romeo drivers) in what he calls his “home track”, laying just a stone’s throw away from his place; Lucas Biberacher, Michael Martin and Davide Ramo flew their own flags too.
Liveries were prepared and rankings were published – it was time to go to Moravia and get ready for the race.
The 4Fun guys were looking for focus and concentration in the traditional Italian way: they started greeting each other, asking about each other’s family, making jokes about the car, making jokes about the livestreaming, making jokes about NSFW topics, and discussing food and drinks with the only Dutch in the room (who left the chat six seconds later and went practising). Gianluca then mumbled something about needing to stay focused and left the voice channel, probably because he still had to set his car up, while Dario was working hard to beat the world record of disconnections during the free practice. Instead, Simone had a great idea about recapping the starting grid for the benefit of our YouTube followers when the countdown showed 30 seconds left, and thus kept alive his tradition of getting on the grid at the very last moment.
In the meanwhile, the Thunder Crew guys were revving up their engines and warming up their German hearts by discussing race strategies, improving their driving technique and sharing forecasts about tyre wear and fuel consumption.
(Now you can easily see why the “4Fun vs Thunder Crew” format was a match made in heaven.)
Lights went out at our usual 21:50 CET. In a few moments it became apparent who the great star of the night would be – and no, we’re not talking about the Flying Dutchman, Maurice Klerken, comfortably sailing away in the lead: the actual star was the server itself, who decided he’d have strong opinions on which drivers he liked and which he didn’t. That’s probably why the unfortunate Nick Hall was often seen warping around the track… either that, or he got the saying “you’re a simracing alien” all wrong and decided he’d teleport the car rather than drive it. When we reached out to him for comments, he only stated “Puny humans”.
But he was not the only one in trouble: several drivers experienced minor lag, or a slightly higher-than-usual load on their computers. And then there was Dario, who decided that good graphics was not enough for his VR rig and upgraded everything he could just minutes before the race. When the race timer was just under 15 minutes left, Dario’s computer decided it had had enough of ultra-realistic shaders and rebooted, taking our Team Principal out of the competition. Kind words were spent to cheer him up, as you can probably guess.
As the race went on, a few groups started to build up, with several drivers racing closely together and having their own tense races. This was not the case for Simone, who was so eager to lift the clutch pedal at the start that he didn’t wait for the lights to go out. A drive through penalty and a general lack of pace were enough to send him to the back of the pack. Together with Dario’s DNF, this marked a bad night in Brno for the Slorganizers team.
Artificially accelerated tyre wear and higher fuel consumption forced the drivers into the pits in the second half of the race. Some decided to change their tires, rather than going on with rubber that was already half-worn; others took the risk in order to save several seconds. The pitlane in Brno is not as dramatically long as the one in Austin, but it sends drivers back into the racing line at the entry of T1; despite this, no incidents happened there – more proof that our community strives to be always very clean and correct!
Interesting battles were fought in the final laps of the race. You can watch them in Alex’s race analysis; we’ll only mention Gianluca’s two-cars-in-one-corner overtake, and Simone getting some consolation action when he caught up to Thunder Crew’s Joachim in the final lap, exiting the very last corner just fast enough to get on his side and beat him to the finish line – a clear and final word on which team is better!
As we all were having fun together, the two-time 4Fun Grand Prix winner Maurice crossed the finish line in first position once again! Congratulations to him, particularly for taming the BMW by bridling its powerful rear with a great setup.
It was a great result also for the home boy, Michal Janak, who brought the Czech national flag on the podium by getting an awesome second place despite running in the less-performant Alfa Romeo. The top three was completed by Alex in his Honda, with Claudio and Nick following him closely and missing the podium by just a handful of tenths.
What about our other guys? Matteo was slightly out of shape and ended up sixth after spinning out – just a bad night for our very fast driver. Gianluca brushed some rust off his simracing skills to finish P12, and Simone got P16 fifteen seconds behind him. We’re still waiting for Dario: somebody reportedly saw him trying to install Reshade and running it on triple 4K screens.
We’ve already told about Alex Geier’s P3: the other Thunder Crew drivers finished in 9th (Evgeni Arkov), 10th (Jack Mike Mass), 13th (Martin Sorg) and 17th place (Joachim Leonard).
|1||Maurice Klerken||4Fun Sim Racing Team||BMW 320si WTCC||15 laps|
|2||Michal Janak||Team Thorndyke||Alfa Romeo 155 GTA WTCC||+5.911|
|3||Alex Geier||Thunder Crew Simracing||Honda Accord WTCC||+19.984|
|4||Claudio Cerrai||Rose Team||Honda Accord WTCC||+20.395|
|5||Nick Hall||HR Racing||Seat León TDi WTCC||+21.574|
|6||Matteo Venuti||4Fun Sim Racing Team||BMW 320si WTCC||+32.084|
|7||Mauro Castelli||Rose Team||Honda Accord WTCC||+37.871|
|8||Francesco Senni||Rose Team||Honda Accord WTCC||+41.052|
|9||Evgeni Arkov||Thunder Crew Simracing||Honda Accord WTCC||+42.005|
|10||Jack Mike Mass||Thunder Crew Simracing||Honda Accord WTCC||+52.626|
|11||Andrew Roberts||HR Racing||Seat León TDi WTCC||+58.479|
|12||Gianluca Roncaglia||4Fun Sim Racing Team||Alfa Romeo 155 GTA WTCC||+59.914|
|13||Martin Sorg||Thunder Crew Simracing||Honda Accord WTCC||+1:03.627|
|14||Davide Ramo||Pista & Fichi||Seat León TDi WTCC||+1:05.739|
|15||Michael Martin||Shaun Clarke Racing||Honda Accord WTCC||+1:15.110|
|16||Simone Saviolo||4Fun Sim Racing Team||Alfa Romeo 155 GTA WTCC||+1:15.771|
|17||Joachim Leonard||Thunder Crew Simracing||Honda Accord WTCC||+1:15.812|
|18||Lucas Biberacher||Team Engstler||BMW 320si WTCC||+1:19.672|
|19||Stefano Casamonti||PleasePushMe Simracing||Alfa Romeo 155 GTA WTCC||+1:28.744|
|20||Nicolò Bachetti||PleasePushMe Simracing||BMW 320si WTCC||+4 laps|
|21||Dario Bucalo||4Fun Sim Racing Team||Alfa Romeo 155 GTA WTCC||+8 laps|
See the full race results here!
Watch it as it happened!
Both Thunder Crew and 4Fun have their active streamers – and while Dario and Simone are no match for the experience and the Teutonic efficiency of Alex, they all joined forces to broadcast this event: after the race, we all
invaded introduced ourselves met with Thunder Crew in their channel and analysed the Grand Prix together. It’s been a great moment of friendship and shared passions, and of course our loud and silly Italians brought a lot of laughter and joy.
First of all, we’ll never say it enough: huge thanks to Dario, our Team Principal, Server Manager, Discord Moderator, Livery Artist, Mods Explorer, Race Clerk (and this time Race Spectator too), but above all the Man Without Whom All of This Wouldn’t Be Possible (good luck putting that on your business card!). A big thank you also to our friends at Thunder Crew, who came up with the idea of this last race before Christmas and helped a lot to make this a success.
But what impressed us the most was the awesome sight of a full starting grid! Twenty-one drivers is a great pack to bring on the virtual track, and let’s not forget about all the friends who couldn’t race, but joined us on YouTube and followed our livestreams. As always, we’re so proud and so thankful to have you all with us.
Now take a breath and get ready for the next events! As we’re writing, Matteo has already launched a new “eco” challenge (you get a McLaren F1 GTR and a single litre of fuel to record a “hot” lap at Spa) and there’s more stew boiling in our cauldron, so join our Discord to stay up-to-date with our new events (and to enjoy our day-to-day shenanigans).
The Grand Prix will return next year. See you soon with more racing!