Sunday, July 7, 2019

Nürburgring 24 Hours 2019

The short summary of this post would be that visiting the Nürburgring and attending the 24h race is possibly one of the best experiences I’ve ever done as a car enthusiast. If you have the chance I would absolutely recommend doing it. 

Like many of us my fascination for this place started with magazines, followed by countless virtual laps on Gran Turismo and hours spent on Best Motoring videos. I’m also the lucky owner of a Nür spec BNR34, a car with racing competition pedigree on the ‘Ring and named after course itself. So, after a year of procrastination I thought it was time to pay a visit to what is regarded as the ultimate circuit on the planet. My trip consisted of the full 24h race weekend, followed by four more days spent driving on track and exploring the Eifel area surrounding the circuit.

I arrived on Friday morning, a full day before the race start, and quickly reached my hotel in Müllenbach (a small town five minutes away from the track) after an effortless two hours drive from Frankfurt. The German Autobahn really does live up to its reputation: the tarmac surface was smooth, the scenery incredible and German drivers have impeccable manners. What’s even better is that it’s completely tall free! 

After dropping my luggage I headed straight to the circuit where I couldn’t help but marvel at the size of the facility, especially the hospitality area: the ‘Ring really is a juggernaut of a track!

The second thing that struck me is the German efficiency and how everything was easily accessible despite the thousands of people attending. Two effortlessly purchased standard tickets granted me both parking and full access to all areas of the track for the whole three days of the race (except the private VIP lounges, of course). Easy and simple! Maybe Japanese organizers should take note?

To my surprise this also included access to the paddock area: you could easily peep inside top teams garages minutes after they finished battling in the super lap qualifying session. Something unheard of in Japan and proof that when manners and common sense meet a well organized event there is no need for crazy restrictions.

The Nürburgring 24h is often regarded as the biggest GT race in the world and it’s not hard to understand why. Up to 7 teams in different classes would share a single garage and with over 100 cars entering the race it makes for the most diverse field you can imagine, from top level factory backed GT3 cars to amateur and ladies-only teams!

The qualifying laps went by very quickly, with Mercedes taking the top spot, followed by a fleet of Porsche’s

After the qualifying session all cars were taken to the parc fermé for technical inspection. At the time that I'm publishing this post, looks like the second place finisher (the Porsche #911 entered by Manthey Racing) has been disqualified to a post race penalty concerning the car's power output.

Having full access to the track really allowed me to take in all the details and follow the race events as they unfolded. It was cool to see the procedures that take place behind the scene and how much work is required to field one of these machines.

The day of the race I woke up nice and early and secured a spot on the famous M-Power tribune on the main straight where all the cars were lining up for the formation lap. Again, pictures just don’t do justice to the sheer size of the event and palpable tension in the atmosphere ahead of the start.

After enjoying the first hour from the main stand I started to make my way around the track, pretty much following the layout of the course. 

There are several spots from where race action can be enjoyed. I started from the iconic Hatzenbach, which is pretty much the first corner of the Nord course.

One of the most unique aspect of this race are definitely the fans camping trackside, with some of them spending a full week at the Nürburgring just enjoying barbecues, beers and some of the best racing in the world.

The creativity of some set-ups was quite impressive. German racing enthusiasts do go hard and surely take the N24 very seriously when it comes to party!

Few hours in and the sun started to set over the mountains. This was easily my favorite part of the race, with cars appearing from uphill and blasting down the track at full speed, diving into the sunset. Driving a racecar at full speed and in complete control at this time of the day must be incredible.

The diversity of the circuit and the views it offers are something also that is quite unique to the Nürburgring. You can enjoy the fancy hospitality of the main stands, the parties in the camping zone or just detach yourself for a minute and take the moment in. I walked down to Schwedenkreuz and watched the sky turn from dark orange to night blue while GT3 cars were blasting down at over 250km/h; it was a bit surreal and offered a moment of just pure calm, enjoyment and a bit of self reflection.

If straight and cornering speed wasn’t enough, watching the cars blasting down the Fuchsröhre was something else. Think about nose diving from the highest point in a rollercoaster, but in a racecar. I’ll touch on this in a different post, but while games do a very good job in reproducing the track layout they absolutely won’t prepare you for the extreme changes of elevation. 

The night scene was worth the trip alone: the camaraderie between fans, camp fires, neon lights, fireworks, barbecues, music, raves (somehow the Germans seem to be pretty much still into late 90’s tech house) and just some of the most outrageous camping set-ups you can imagine. 

I was also impressed by the manners and respect of the fans both towards the event and fellow enthusiasts. Despite the industrial amount of beer and alcohol that had been flowing from early morning I couldn’t witness a single brawl or act of vandalism. 

After a brief stop back to my hotel for some sleep and food I returned to the track for the last hours of the race. People asleep in the stands, early morning schnitzels and large coffees were the tell tale signs of a night spent partying and watching some of the best racing in the world. 

Audi took home the overall victory, followed by Manthey Racing in their iconic “Grello” livery Porsche GT3 R.

Other teams weren’t as fortunate and came back to the pits showing serious battle scars. It might be a cliché, but photos really don’t do justice to this event, it’s something that must be seen and experienced in person to truly be appreciated. 

Professional and amateur racing meet in an event of massive proportion while drivers, manufactures and fans from all over the planet come together for the biggest race in the world surrounded by a scenery that could be out of a movie. 

Those 20 kilometers of tarmac and the mountains around them are everything that is right about motorsport. I’ll be back.

Until next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment