Tag Archives: Nordschleife

VLN Championship

Introducing the VLN

Imagine the all the intensity, raw power, edginess, drama, unpredictability, beauty and quirks of the Nürburgring 24 Hours (N24), in a more condensed format. Imagine the 25km Nurburgring Nordschleife with a crowd big enough to create an atmosphere, but small enough to make the circuit’s wide variety of spectating opportunities easily accessible. Imagine fan access unparalleled in high-level sports car racing, with free grid walks, and garage access before and during the races and countless vantage points for fans, at no cost beyond the price of admission. Well, it’s not fantasy, what you’re imagining is the VLN championship, which runs throughout the European motorsport season.

The VLN championship, or Veranstaltergemeinschaft Langstreckenpokal Nürburgring if we’re getting technical, does not feature the Nürburgring 24 Hours as part of its calendar, but much of the same teams and drivers compete in both. The drivers have to, to obtain a permit to race in the 24-hours in June, and the teams use the rounds as preparation for the big dance each year.

VLN RacingOver the years the Nürburgring 24 Hours has gained much exposure. It is far more of an international event than it ever has been. It maintains its ‘German’ feel, but has never been more accessible and marketable to the wider motorsport community. It doesn’t feel as much of a hidden gem as it did at the turn of the century. This is in part because the VLN championship, which runs on the full Nordschleife and runs with grids close to 200 cars, has become more professional and important. In recent years the Nürburgring circuit owners have gone to great lengths to ensure that racing on such a vast, unforgiving circuit is as safe as it can be for competitors and spectators alike, and required the competitors to step up their level of professionalism. This has made the racing better, and attracted the attention of the major manufacturers that now do battle with their customer GT3 programmes to win the N24 overall.

But heading to the ‘Ring for a VLN race gives you the best of both worlds. You still get a fleet of world-class teams and drivers racing up front in GT3 machinery, and a mixture of entry-level and mid-tier race cars following on behind. Crucially though, as a fan, it’s as accessible as it ever has been. You can still head onto the track for a grid walk pre-race, access the paddock easily and navigate the forestry surrounding the Nordschleife without the need to utilise the shuttle-bus system that the N24 now relies on. Instead, there’s space and time to drive your own car to the various car parks near the key corners such as Pflazgarten, Hohe Acht and Hatzenbach and come and go as you please.

VLN RacingSpectating at the full ‘Green Hell’ is an old-school experience, which must be savoured, treasured and preserved. Travelling the world, visiting circuits old and new for a living, as this writer does, you become somewhat of a connoisseur of motorsport venues. You can travel to Abu Dhabi for the modern, pristine feel that the Yas Marina circuit has to offer, Bathurst to marvel at Australia’s most celebrated racing amphitheatres, or Sebring to get a snapshot of rural America and its motorsport culture, but no circuit, even rival venues in Germany, matches the Nürburgring if you’re a fan of circuits that are as beautiful as they are steeped in history.

VLN races are either four or six hours long. There is plenty of time to take in the seemingly endless pre-race grid walk, dash to the Mercedes Tribune to watch the cars pile into Turn 1 at the start of the race, before heading out into the forest for an adventure. There’s something special about navigating the Eiffel Forests to find spectator banks and trails during a race. Those who have attended World Rally Championship events will be in their element, taking out a map, driving to a corner, and exploring the surrounding areas to find man-made grandstands, and climbing grass verges to get a glimpse of some of the more stunning backdrops that the ‘Ring has to offer. Why not start at Pflatzgarten and walk the trail that leads past Brünnchen, Eschback, Wipperman, Hohe Acht and all the way to a clearing where you’ll find the world-famous Caracciola Karussell. By taking in that sequence of corners you’ll see the drivers test their mettle in low, medium and high speed corners. It’s narrow, bumpy, with very little run off. The skillset required to win at the ‘Ring becomes far clearer.

VLN NurburgringIf you’re new to the circuit as a fan, a trip to a VLN race isn’t as overwhelming as it sounds, and will prepare you well for a trip to the N24, where the crowds are far bigger and local knowledge is key to getting the most out of the experience. Once you’ve reached the famous horse-shoe, turn around, and return to your car, before heading to Adenau, where with Travel Destinations, you’ll be staying. It’s a friendly town, littered with petrol-heads and homages to motorsport culture. There the walk from Ex-Muhle to Kallenhard is another fan-favourite trail. It’s hilly, but work the trek, is the cars navigate the sharp turns and sudden drops. And that’s just two sections, for there are plenty more fan-friendly areas to touch on in future trips.

Outside of the race itself, there are many more opportunities to explore in region surrounding the circuit. It’s somewhat of a goldmine, full of restaurants, bars, landmarks and museums to visit. So prepare yourself. The Nürburgring is like no other circuit; you don’t just turn up, watch the track action and leave. There’s always something nearby that will either prompt you to stay after dark or return again soon.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

If you would like to experience the best of the VLN then we have something special for you. Take a look at our exclusive special offer for the finale of the 2019 VLN season. Experience hospitality and tours around the garage with our friendly driver David Pittard, currently racing for the Rowe Team. If you want to experience more he can even take you on hot laps around the Nordschleife. Visit our website or call 01707 329988 for details.

Nurburgring 24

Nurburgring 24 Hours is better than ever

46 years later and the Nurburgring 24 Hours is better than ever

This year is the 46th running of the Nurburgring 24 Hours, arguably the toughest race on the planet, which pits man and machine, against the toughest circuit in the world – the Nürburgring Nordschleife – and often, unpredictable weather. And that’s the reason around 200,000 people descend on the Eifel region each year in western Germany, because it’s un-predictable, spectacular, and off the track, it is a wild party.

It may not have quite the international prestige of an endurance race like Le Mans or the Sebring 12 Hours, but when you’re there, you’ll realize that the Nurburgring 24 Hours doesn’t need it, as it isn’t lacking in any area. It is a spectator’s dream, with such a vast circuit to explore and watch from, and with unrivaled variety in machinery racing together on the same circuit, it’s hard to look away.

Nurburgring 24The race has been held since 1970, and in recent years has exploded from a quirky German event, with low powered touring cars and a few odd-ball GT cars, to a race which all the key European factories take very seriously. It is now an arms race between the German marques. At Le Mans, Porsche or BMW may bring two cars to the top GT class, but at the N24, where strength in numbers is key, customer teams oozing with factory drivers and support come in big numbers to help their respective manufacturer take an all-important win. What you’re left with, is a titanic battle between over 30 cars from the likes of Porsche, Mercedes, Audi and BMW, with other entries from the likes of Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini and sometimes Lexus thrown in.

What are the factories racing with you ask? GT3 cars, and the odd N24 special like the fabled Glickenhaus SCG003C. At most circuits, GT3 cars may not seem like high-powered monsters, but at the N24, when they literally have to slalom through endless streams of lower-class GT and touring cars on narrow stretches of road, they look remarkable, especially towards the end of the race when they’re covered in battle scars. And yes, they do still get a little bit of air at certain parts of the circuit when the drivers push themselves to the limit!

Nurburgring 24The race itself – which is run on the full Nordschlefie with the GP loop on one end – is astounding. At night it’s an absolutely awe-inspiring event, and during the day, it’s got a similar ‘motorsport festival’ vibe that its French counterpart does. It’s not the easiest to follow, (but if you have data you can stream Radio Le Mans track-side for English commentary and view live timing), but you’ll be so swept away by the atmosphere that sweating over who’s leading some of the small classes won’t cross your mind.

It’s true, that the Nurburgring 24 Hours is still very much a German affair, but don’t let that put you off, in fact, treat it as part of the charm. Much of the fanbase who line the sides of the circuit and sleep track-side in ludicrously large tents, caravans, motorhomes, or a combination of all three, are seasoned veterans. They’ve been there, done it, and got the t-shirt, and while they can seem intimidating, as they can, and will, drink most under the table, they’re friendly, and have really come to like the new international feel the race has.

Nurburgring 24If you’re new to spectating on the full ‘Ring, you’ll benefit greatly by getting a map and planning which sections you wish to do before the race. Prepare to spend a lot of time during the race getting from corner to corner in your car or a shuttle bus, but once you get to each spectator point, you’ll realise quickly that it’s worth the wait. Especially as large parts of the circuit are accessible on foot, and linked together.

Don’t be afraid to start at one corner, and keep walking through the forest in one direction for an hour or two, five or six corners up the road, then turn back and do the same again in the other direction. It’s one of those places where, you’ll look down at your watch, and realize you’ve lost six hours seemingly at the snap of your fingers. The best places to visit as a spectator are Pflanzgarten – where the cars snake downhill, and in some cases leave the ground over the crest at the bottom – and Hatzenbach, where drivers have to really work hard to dart past traffic through the narrow esses.

Nurburgring 24The Schwadenkreuz is also worth visiting, as for drivers, it provides a great challenge. It’s a fairly gentle and innocuous- looking corner, but a deadly camber change mid-way through can seriously unsettle a car. Heading for the village of Adenau allows you to access the track and walk back in the opposite direction to race traffic. Starting at the Breidscheid bridge, you climb uphill with the circuit to your right, peering down through trees at the action below. You’ll eventually come to Metzgesfeld, which offers a nice view of the double-apex left-hander after Adenaur-Forst.

Another good entry point is Hohe Acht, towards the end of the lap. You’ll need to park up and walk along a forest path for about 20 minutes to reach the track, but once there you can walk down through a campsite to the world-famous landmark that is the ‘Karussell’, where you’ll hear the constant crunch of front splitters and undertrays hitting the ground as the cars negotiate the iconic banked hairpin. You can then walk back up the hill to Hohe Acht, before heading downhill in the opposite direction, walking in the same direction of the cars this time, past a series of sweeping left- and right-handers that drop down to the double-apex left at Brünnchen: home to a large and very vocal spectator camp. The track then climbs again, passing through the opportunity to ‘get air’ at Pflanzgarten, before it reaches Döttinger Höhe – the Nürburgring’s fastest section, where the cars run flat-chat for about two kilometres.

Nurburgring 24If you’re driving on the main road that runs parallel to the straight, turn off at the Bilstein bridge and park on the approach to it. Taller fans (or shorter ones on stepladders) should be able to peer over the advertising hoarding and get a stunning view of the cars cannoning down the straight towards them on the approach to the Antoniusbuche left-hand kink. Shortly after this point, the cars rejoin the modern Grand Prix circuit and begin another lap. You can also see it by standing behind the big iron gate by the Devil’s Diner at the tourist entrance.

Oh and don’t discount visiting the GP loop, which is a great place to watch the start of the race from, and if you get there early enough on the Saturday, you’ll be allowed to go on the grid for the colossal grid walk, by heading across to the paddock via the pedestrian tunnel by the Bilstein Tribune. But these parts of the circuit, are just the highlights, when you go there yourself you’ll likely discover somewhere that you’ll be certain nobody else has found – it’s that sort of adventure.

Nurburgring 24When you arrive, forget everything you already know about motorsport spectating, strap yourself in and prepare for a wild ride. There really isn’t anything like the Nürburgring 24 Hours, and that, is why you’ll want to keep coming back.

The dates for the Nurburgring 24 Hours change each year as it follows a public holiday. You can join Travel Destinations at the Nurburgring from the 10th – 14th May 2018 and then again next year from the 20th – 24th June 2019. You can reserve your place on our private trackside campsite now by calling 0844 873 0203.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar