Sim racing’s unique time travel capabilities were the kickoff for a passion project that saw OverTake lead editor Yannik Haustein and track creator Sergio Loro revive the almost forgotten Braunschweig Prinzenpark circuit in Braunschweig, Germany, for Assetto Corsa.
Historic versions of legendary circuits are no rarity in sim racing, especially not in Assetto Corsa. The sim has also seen its fair share of more obscure venues – the subject of this article falls firmly into the latter category. The Prinzenpark circuit in Braunschweig (or Brunswick, if you prefer the English spelling) was only around from 1948 to 1951, and it most prominently hosted motorcycle races. Then, it was slowly forgotten.
Living in southern Lower Saxony, nothing much really hints at any form of racing here. Volkswagen has their HQ in Wolfsburg, including a mighty test track in nearby Ehra-Lessien. This is where multiple Bugatti models set their absolutely ludicrous record speeds. The closest proper race track is Oschersleben, located an hour’s drive away.
No Racing Here – Or Was There?
As you can imagine, I thought that racing was just not a thing in my home region for the longest time. When I moved to Braunschweig in 2011 from nearby Gifhorn, I certainly was not aware of any racing activity here whatsoever. This took quite a while to change, too.
It was not until I moved to the east of the city in 2019 that I finally found out something interesting. There was a racing history here, after all. Almost on my doorstep, as it turned out – about 100 meters from it, there used to be the start/finish line of a once-popular local track.
Well, it was not a purpose-built race track, but rather a circuit laid out on public roads in and surrounding the Prinzenpark. Up to that point, the park was only known to me as a nice place to hang out in the summer or go for a run in. But nothing at all hinted at its racing history. Throughout the city, there signs posted in places with interesting history. The Castle, the site where Konrad Koch introduced soccer (football) to Germany, various places with WWII history – but nothing in the Prinzenpark.
From The Autobahn To The Braunschweig Prinzenpark Circuit
Before the races took place there, they were held on the Autobahn 2 to the Northeast of the city. Being one of the most important routes to the Soviet-occupied Eastern Germany, which was not officially founded at the time, closing the Autobahn for races was not sustainable. As a result, it moved to the Prinzenpark.
There, a 3.8-kilometer track was laid out on the roads by and inside the park. A simple-looking layout by today’s standards, it would prove tricky at the time. Downforce was not a thing yet, especially not on bikes. Cobbled roads in parts of the layout did not make for an easier time, either.
A Lap At The Braunschweig Prinzenpark Circuit
Starting on Herzogin-Elisabeth-Strasse, drivers and riders would head towards Riddagshäuser Weg (Georg-Westermann-Allee, as it is known today). There, a 90-degree left led them to another relatively long straight, where they would turn left at the Polizeistadion. The run up to Ebertallee sees a bit of an incline, as the streets go uphill to cross over the railway to the right.
Turning onto Ebertallee and racing past a tram stop that no longer exists, drivers head slightly downhill and towards the park itself. A tricky right-hander awaits, and the park roads are anything but straight (and are not open to motor vehicles anymore today). This makes for a tricky braking zone heading into the left-hander at the former Garrison Church.
From there, drivers turn right to leave the park again. Another trick section, as the surface changes from tarmac to cobblestone, and the braking zone for the next left leading onto Jasperallee is not straight, either. Rounding half of the Stadtpark, with more lefts and a final right, the track rejoins the start finish straight.
Braunschweig Prinzenpark Circuit: Bikes, F3, Small Sportscars
In addition to bikes, the Prinzenpark circuit hosted Formula 3 races, as well as for small sports cars. The great-grandfather of any sporty VW car actually raced here, called the VLK. The track was shortened for the 1951 edition, as the fast right-hander leading out of the park was the site of a crash that saw a sidecar motorcycle veer into the crowd – luckily, only three spectators were injured, and the crash did not result in any fatalities.
For the 1951 event, the final sector of the track was skipped as a result. The fast right-hander was turned into a left hairpin back onto the start/finish straight. It would be the final Prinzenpark race. Just hours before the 1952 event was supposed to start, it was canceled. A fatal accident at the Grenzlandring had prompted a ban on such races. All appeals were ultimately fruitless.
Racing Bids Farewell To Braunschweig
The race moved on to a triangular circuit near Lehre, close to the former Autobahn track. The Braunschweig Prinzenpark circuit was no more. But the Welfenring was gone after 1953 event already, too. Before that, there were even plans to create a semi-permanent track there. The groundwork for a start/finish straight including pits in order to exclude parts of the Bundesstrasse 248 had been laid already, but there was not enough money to realize to project. Save for dirt track bike events in the 1950s, racing has never returned to Braunschweig since.
I soon tried to get my hands on any info available for the Prinzenpark circuit, which is scarce. There is one exception, though: a book on the races by Eckhard Schimpf. That name may not ring any bells for many, but aside from being part of the editorial lead of the Braunschweiger Zeitung newspaper, he was also the man responsible for the motorsport activities of none other than Jägermeister from 1972 to 2000. And he saw the Prinzenparkrennen on-site as a boy.
Of course, being an avid sim racer, the thought of how cool it would be to race the track in Assetto Corsa due to its vibrant modding scene came to my mind. Just as quickly, though, I tossed it aside again. I have no idea how to create tracks for AC, and who would be interested in a niche circuit like this?
Meeting Sergio Loro
Well, I only had to look as far as Argentina, it turned out. Many sim racers know Sergio Loro for his classic tracks going back as far as Grand Prix Legends. He seemed to have a knack for classic circuits, and obscure ones from the past as well. So I got in touch to test the waters on the off chance that he would be interested.
To my surprise, I received a positive reply. That was in summer of 2022. While Sergio would handle the actual creation of the track for AC, I would assist him with research, both on-site and online. Numerous photos were taken, precious few from the actual events found, and several details pointed out.
Three factors were in our favor in this regard. One, the area had not really changed much since the late 1940s as far as buildings go, with all of the roads still in place. Two, Braunschweig has historical maps easily available online. This helped us determine details such as now-defunct tram lines that the track used to cross. And finally, three, Eckhard Schimpf himself.
Immensely Helpful: Eckhard Schimpf
When I managed to get in touch with him and explained what we were doing, he agreed to meet at ’72STAGPOWER. Almost hidden away in an industrial area of the city, there is a warehouse full of legendary racing cars in Jägermeister colors. From 70s F1 and F2 to Group C and both original and revived DTM cars, they are all there and still maintained to do show runs at historic events.
We sat down with this epic backdrop and chatted for about two hours. Schimpf’s input helped us immensely with things like track surface, and getting a feel for the general atmosphere. Of course, we got off track as well with all sorts of stories from the history of racing.
A former racer himself, Schimpf is close friends with Kurt Ahrens jr., who used to run rings around many a legendary driver back in the 1960s and 70s, but refused to become a works driver. He did not want to saddle himself with too many obligations and race on his own terms. As you can imagine, this was an immensely interesting chat. And his book held additional, valuable info.
Braunschweig Prinzenpark Circuit In Assetto Corsa: Rough Start
Armed with the knowledge from this, I got back to Sergio. And he started a rough draft of the course based on the old maps available. The first result was rather unspectacular. A simple ribbon of tarmac and grass that did not feel any different to said tarmac just yet. And lots of void to plunge into when missing a braking point – which happened all the time as there were no references.
At first, progress was slow. Sergio had a few other projects to work on, so the initial beta updates mostly included bits of scenery. However, a soccer (football, I know) field on the inside of the second turn soon popped up. Slowly, but surely, the area I used to live in became recognizable.
“When Yannik first contacted my about the Braunschweig Prinzenpark circuit, I didn’t really know anything about the track. Usually, I get suggestions for well-known circuits, but this was new for me“, Sergio looks back at the beginnins of the project. “Yannik’s excitement infected me and I accepted the challenge. After getting some very detailed maps, I got to work.“
It was not smooth sailing from there, though. Sergio continues: “The first lap on the circuit was… meh. Very wide, 90-degree corners, et cetera. Then I started with the buildings, which were more than 70 unique buildings. It was, of course, the longestprocess, which coincided with working on other projects. At that point, it seemed that the circuit would never be finished.“
The Circuit Comes Alive In AC
Luckily, this did not prove to be the case. The first few houses appeared, and the implementation of the former Garrison Church (now Matthäuskirche) was a milestone. The first really recognizable building at the circuit – what a cool moment that was!
At about the same time, around Easter 2023, I got in touch with the Neue Braunschweiger newspaper. I had reached out to multiple papers and even the city itself with the story about the project, but they were the only ones to show any interest. So I met with one of their editors at the former track and told them all about the project.
Now, the Neue Braunschweiger may be a paper that every household receives for free each Saturday, but that did not make me any less proud. It was a front-page article, even! Of course, I had to save an issue and mail it over to Argentina for Sergio. Translation included! If you know German and want to check out the article, it is available online.
Return To Sergio’s Roots
This attention to the project really kickstarted things, then. Updates became more frequent, more houses and vegetation started appearing around the circuit, and you could start to see the track slowly coming alive. “The project really appeared at the right time, because it was a return to those urban circuits that I like so much and that I hadn’t done since the GPL days”, Sergio says. “It opened my mind to possible projects like Nepliget Park or Parco Sempione.“
Something that did become more and more apparent, however, was the difficulty of finding material from the actual races. There simply is not terribly much around, as post-war Germany was still trying to recover at the time and cameras were much less common to have around.
As a result, we decided to have the track in a semi-fictional 1960 setting. As accurate as possible to the original, but with specators, trackside vehicles and other objects looking a bit different than what they may have looked like in the late 40s or early 50s. Due to Assetto Corsa requiring one, we also had to add a pit lane that did not exist back in the day.
Braunschweig Prinzenpark Circuit: The Atmosphere Rolls In
Even with that compromise in mind, a very engaging and atmospheric circuit started to roll in. “After finishing the buildings, the circuit was already starting to feel different, but still not the the level it turned out to be“, reminisces Sergio. As he had finished his other projects by the summer of 2023, things really kicked into high gear. “The last weeks of development were the most exciting. With each addition, the bar was raised for the circuit.“
Each updated beta version felt like a giant leap at this point. More trackside objects meant that the circuit really came alive. And one of the final versions I received put an enormous, goofy smile on my face when I first tried it. This was really the place I used to live close to, but in Assetto Corsa!
Sergio himself also found the track to be quite exciting after all. “Once everything was in place, I reconnected my steering wheel and went for a spin. The circuit is exciting! Not only in its atmosphere, which we owe to the beatiful Braunschweig, but in its curves, all different, with the bumps waiting to kick your butt. The lamps, straw bales, everything is against you, waiting for your mistake. Building this circuit has been a beautiful journey.“
Braunschweig Prinzenpark Circuit: Now Available For Assetto Corsa
Now, we are happy to bring you the result of all this work. The Braunschweig Prinzenpark circuit is available for you to enjoy via the RaceDepartment download section!
Finally, as this labor of love finally sees the light of day, I want to thank Sergio for his immense effort in creating this track. As I mentioned earlier, I never thought that this track would make its way into sim racing. Yet, Sergio proved me wrong, and I am extremely happy to have helped him revive the track with the research I could provide. In additon to that, he turned out to be a fantastic contact, so it should be no surprise that we went off track several times in our conversations to chat about racing, its history, or life in general.
An Exceptional Result
I am immensely grateful that he took on the project and created something exceptional, at least to me – and most likely anyone who has ever been to the site of the former Braunschweig Prinzenpark circuit. And even if you have not, we are extremely curious about what you may think! So please feel free to share your experiences with and opinions of the track.
Special thanks go out to Eckhard Schimpf, whose input on the project has proven invaluable. Even if we did not stick to the circuit’s timeline 100 percent, his memories of actually watching the races at the circuit when they happened were an incredible insight into the motorsport history of the site.
The track may still not have one of those historic marker signs that I mentioned earlier. But it sure does have its own monument in digital form now.
Finally, a few closing words from Sergio himself.
Thank you Yannik for the trust you put in me to fulfill the dream of having your circuit immortalized. I know the trip was slow at first, but I am sure you enjoyed it – From seeing the process of that empty and “meh” circuit until the final result. Thanks also to Tim and Pasta for their help with things like camera positions at the end of the project, you are great!
Enjoy the ride!Sergio Loro
What are your impressions of the Braunschweig Prinzenpark circuit? Are you going to give it a try? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!