Community Interview: Hendrik Blacha

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Today, it’s my pleasure to interview Hendrik Blacha, a driver I’ve shared the track within Season 3 of British GT4 on Assetto Corsa. Also known as FumbleFellow across our Discord sphere, Hendrik has been around for quite some time now, and he collected a very special title at the very end of October. More on that later!

Hello Hendrik, can you please introduce yourself in a few words for our readers? 

Salut Julien, hello readers, there’s a lot I could tell here but to keep it short I’ll stick to some bullet points and fun facts about me:

  • I’m a 25-year-old computer science student from south-west Germany.
  • My favourite real-life racing series is the IndyCar series closely followed by Formula Student.
  • I restored and rebuilt a clay bowl from the bronze age as part of my school internship.
  • My favourite non-alcoholic drinks are cola and homemade lemonade.
  • I once waited five hours in line to get a Scrooge McDuck comic signed.
  • My favourite alcoholic drink depends on mood and occasion, but a Cabernet Sauvignon or well-made caipirinha will almost always work.
  • I really like to cook but usually make something simple for myself because I don’t like to wash the dishes.
  • My dream jobs as a kid were an astronaut and after I watched Apollo 13, palaeontologist.
  • I love animated movies/TV shows and prefer western cartoons, claymation and stop motion over anime.
  • My favourite TV shows right now are Doctor Who and For All Mankind.
  • I’m a firm believer that Margaret Hamilton should be as commonly known as Alan Turing.
  • My guilty pleasures include Taylor Swift’s music and Josh Scherer’s YouTube videos.
  • I had four years of Latin classes in school and do have a Latin certificate but all I remember is from Asterix comics.
  • My go-to character in Dungeons and Dragons is a Dragonborn Paladin.
  • There are no less than three different models of the Apollo Lunar Lander in my room right now.

Well, I guess we’re done with the interview, what else would be there to know?! Oh, I got it! How long have you been into sim-racing?

There’s no clear answer to it. I have played racing games for around 20 years now and played more titles than I can recount. Some of my favourites were and still are Need for Speed from the Underground and Most Wanted era, Lego Racers and the Colin McRae Rally series. When it comes to racing sims I have always liked the realistic approach to driving physics and being able to race cars that actually race in real life. But I approached them the same way I approached the arcade racers I played – choose a car, start a race and lower the AI strength if they are faster than me. The first games I started somewhat practising for were F1 2013 and GT5/6 I think. In the latter, I even entered one of the GT Academy competitions but didn’t get anywhere close to the really quick drivers. It was enough to unlock special cars though so I was very happy with the result. The first time I properly practised for a race was just before I joined this community. So depending on how you look at it the answer is somewhere between 20 years and 20 weeks. I’d say it’s closer to 20 weeks.

As far as is concerned, when and how did you join the community?

That was at the end of July. I found a post about the 1960s LeMans event on Reddit and, as someone who likes the Ford GT in all its iterations, that got my attention. My last exam of the semester was coming up, and I was looking for something to do until lectures started again (on November 2). So I thought I might as well participate in some online races. Looking through the website, I found an announcement for an upcoming beginner series, the season 2 Tatuus championship. That seemed like the kind of race I was looking for, and that’s how I joined this community.

Do you have a special memory or maybe a favourite moment of racing with us? 

There are a couple of memorable moments.

First of all the second MX5 race in Zandvoort in season 2. Because of the reversed grid, I started in the front row and managed to pass the pole sitter into the first corner to lead my first and only race up until the point where I missed my braking point and shortly after, left the track and decided not to rejoin until the whole pack passed me.

A memorable race was the second M235i race on November 11. Callum Bethell, Alex O’Mara, and I were battling for position almost all race hard and clean. Easily one of the most fun races I’ve been in even though we were out of contention for points.

Last but not least my very first race event with ThePitCrew: the Imola races in the Season 2 Tatuus championship which also were my first online race outside of Gran Turismo public lobbies. I was about half a lap short on fuel and didn’t realize until the final lap. With what felt like a very heroic drive, I managed to save enough fuel to cross the finish line, albeit with a shut-off engine, in 6th place. I felt like Alexander Rossi winning the Indy 500 for a bit. It still is my best finishing position in this community, and probably the moment I’m most proud of. Nonetheless, I don’t want to repeat that last lap. 

Ahah, I bet you don’t! How did you feel about Season 3? Did you have fun and is there anything you’d have done differently, as Hendrik or from an organizer’s point of view?

The British GT4 championship was difficult for me. I couldn’t get up to speed in the Camaro and still struggle to find lap time in that car. While the car isn’t one I’d want to race again, I made up for it with what has to be my most elaborate livery yet. It’s also the only one that features an actual brand/product, one of my favourite video games, as the main sponsor.

Racing in the F3 championship was a lot of fun though. I scored more points in 5 races than I did in the Tatuus championship in 16 races, the car was an overall blast to drive, and a close battle for 7th in the championship with Callum Bethell and Chung Siyin up until the last round made it my favourite series I have been in so far.

The only thing I would have done differently is to create a custom livery for F3. Sporting your own colours is an integral part of the fun for me.

Season 4 has started. You registered for two Assetto Corsa leagues: BTCC and F3. Why did you pick these series?

Registering for F3 was a no brainer with all the fun I’ve had in season 3. I’m very much looking forward to it and hope I can improve some of my results from last season.

For BTCC, I didn’t plan to sign up at first. But with all the buzz and hype around that series within our community, I decided to try some of the cars out. Racing fwd cars hasn’t really been my cup of tea before, and I was positively surprised by how much fun the BTCC cars are to drive. So I decided to join in on what seems to be one of if not the most anticipated series we had so far.

Our British Touring Car Championship was indeed one of the most awaited series. Maybe because ThePitCrew is UK-based… But anyway, everybody was excited to take part and to watch those races, and still is actually. What car did you pick out of the pack and are there specific reasons for this choice?

The Ford Focus is my car of choice, simply because I think it’s the best looking one from the pack.

Hendrik’s Ford Focus for the Season 4 BTCC Championship

My livery is a little bit of a big deal for me though. Last Row Motorsports, the team I race for, hasn’t had a team branding before. I created one-off liveries and I really liked the GT4 one, but there was no connection between them. So I took season 3 to find a colour scheme that I like and find a way to incorporate it onto different cars to make my cars look like they belong together. And I think I found a nice way to do so!

Let’s see that F3 livery too, then!

Matching liveries was Hendrik’s take for this season.

Those are both stunning. What’s your personal goal for this Season 4? 

In BTCC, my only goal is to have fun and clean races. Getting points will be a bonus, but I know that the competition is going to be tough and every position will have to be earned.

In F3, I’d like to score points in every round. I’d love to improve some of my qualifying times as well as my average race pace and equalling my “career” best finishing position would be great. But, as in BTCC, my main goal is to have fun and clean races. At the end of the day, that’s what I’m here for.

Now that Round 1 of both championships is over, you’ve had a taste of the average level of drivers in each series. As I see it, it is getting better and better. Did you enjoy those races, and are you satisfied with your performance?

I agree that it gets better and better. We get more and more regular drivers and the level of drivers seems to get better from season to season.

The BTCC races were very enjoyable. It’s a highly competitive field, and even more than I expected, every position would have to be earned. That made the 20th place out of 23 still highly satisfying and very rewarding. The level of racecraft throughout the field seems to be pretty good so I’m looking forward to what is yet to come at the back of the grid.

The F3 race was a bit more frustrating. My qualifying time was a second better than in season 3 and I qualified in the third to last row for the first time I think. During the race, both my fastest lap and my clean lap average surpassed the last race at Spa. So it was a very successful and satisfying race – if it weren’t for all the avoidable penalties and damage I collected within the first 15 minutes. After not even 20 minutes I had served two drive-through penalties, pitted twice for damage and spent almost a whole lap nursing a car with broken wings and a damaged suspension back to the pits. While I’m happy that I could continue to race after a very hard impact at Eau Rouge, it also meant that I was already two laps down. All I could do after that was to keep my head, get a bunch of clean laps in and limit the damage that has already been done. It’s a race that could and should have gone better. My pace was there for another top 10 finish but I made too many mistakes to make use of it. What speaks about the quality of the field is that even with my quicker pace and without Zheng Ting Lim and Andreas Vestergaard a 7th place finish, as last race, was still out of reach. A bunch of new names have signed up for the championship and I’m excited to see how they will do, where they stand in a couple of weeks time in Mugello. Maybe some of them will be able to challenge Jakub Majewski in upcoming races.

Adds up to the challenge and forces you to always improve! On another matter, as said in the introduction of this interview, you recently earned a very unique Discord title in our PitCrew server. Can you please tell us the story behind it, Champ?

Sure. To get the community into the Halloween mood, and to add to our !fishing antics, Terry added the Trick’cord Treat bot to our discord server. Every now and then the bot spawned trick or treaters and whoever greeted them first got a collectable item. Every trick or treater came with a name and drawing of them, some of which could have straight-up come from Darkest Dungeon. I loved it instantly. Because my last exam was over and the new semester hadn’t started yet I also had a lot of time that I could and did spend on my computer with discord open. It was a perfect storm and I started to farm those collectables like crazy. At some point, I think I had almost twice as many collectables as everyone else combined and got over 20 items a day. Towards the end, Zheng Ting Lim, Andreas Vestergaard and you were closing the gap more and more but it wasn’t enough to catch me before the event ended. One or two weeks longer and one of you might have caught up and passed me. I’m glad you didn’t because that’s how I won the coveted title Champion of Halloween. I like to think of it as the first championship I won in this community and I managed to beat some of the fastest drivers from season 3 doing so.

( Edit from TFrag – We’re not only about racing here at the pit crew, we’re also about that community spirit. 😉 )

What would you be most proud of: Champion of Halloween, or getting a podium in BTCC or F3? 

A podium for sure. As I said earlier my best finish was a 6th place and with the quality of the grid we have any improvement of that will be a great success. There’s still a lot of work I have to put in before I can fight for a top 3 finish, so if you see me on the podium at some point you can be sure I’ll be very proud of it.

Thanks Hendrik for your passion and all your answers. Best of luck for you throughout a very competitive Season 4! If you too are interested in being our community interviewee, you may leave a comment below and hope for the best! I will see you all on Discord and more importantly, on track!

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