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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

Nurburgring 24 Hours

Looking back at the 2017 Nurburgring 24 Hours

What looked like a certain 1-2 finish for Audi in this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours, with Land Motorsport crossing the line with a comfortable margin over the chasing WRT R8 LMS, went out the window with two hours of the race to play. Prior to the penultimate round of scheduled stops, the No.29 Land Audi of Markus Winkelhock, Connor Di Phillippi, Kelvin Van der Linde and Chris Mies had led 125 laps, which in Nürburgring 24 Hours terms is pretty much the entire race. But a software glitch caused Van der Linde to slow after the stop, forcing the team to pit him again to reset a faulty sensor. It cost them the lead, and then second, as their hopes of scoring a first win as a team appeared to vanish.

N24But the Nürburgring Nordschleife wouldn’t be the Nürburgring Nordschleife without a surprise change of weather. The forecast all week was bone dry, with mid to high 20s for all the track action. By race day, even with many drivers having competed in VLN 1, VLN 2 and the Qualification Race prior to the N24, nobody had a single lap on rain tyres. Suffice to say, the late-race shower threw a spanner in the works, and with a little over 30 minutes of racing left the race swung back to Land. WRT and the second-place ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 had just pitted when the rain was first reported, but opted to stay on slicks for the final dash to the flag. Then van der Linde came in, and after a fumbled fuel stop, causing the team to lose further time, the decision was made to gamble on wets as a last roll of the dice. With the South African making his way round the GP loop of the ‘Ring, the TV cameras cut to the end of the lap, where cars were seen battling heavy rain, and down to walking pace on the wrong-rubber. It was the perfect storm (pun intended), and the Land crew went from drowning in sorrow, to crowding around the screens willing on their lead car.

N24Van der Linde, predictably, slalomed through the traffic, eventually taking the lead at the start of the final lap with Rene Rast and Nicky Catsburg deciding to pit the WRT Audi and ROWE BMW for wets with just one lap to go as a means of damage limitation. So, after a final tour of the grueling, rain-soaked circuit, Van der Linde crossed the line first. It was a landmark win, with Van der Linde becoming the first ever South African, and in fact, African to win the race, Di Philippi just the second American, and Land the team responsible for Audi’s fourth N24 victory; its fourth in five years too. With WRT’s sole-remaining Audi coming home second, it was also a 1-2 for the Ingolstadt-based brand.

How did the other manufacturers fare? Like many of the front-running teams, the race proved costly despite the good weather, with multiple on-track incidents taking out pre-race contenders. Along with WRT and Land’s second Audis, the lead Manthey and Falken Porsches, Pole-sitting Traum Glickenhaus and top-five running Schnitzer BMW all crashed out. Lamborghini’s single Huracan from Konrad Motorsport also failed to finish, retiring out on circuit after a fire, and the three Bentley’s failed to feature. The ABT-run Continentals, after positive outings in the VLN prior to race-week, had neither front-running pace, or consistency. The Wockenspiegel Team Monshau Ferrari meanwhile, had an impressive run to seventh place, with its Pro-Am lineup driving well throughout the week, keeping the single 488 GT3 entered, in the running.

N24Mercedes was the other big brand in with a shout, and after its 1-2-3-4 finish in 2016, didn’t have the ultimate pace to challenge for the podium after the halfway mark. The AMG-backed AMG GT3s from HTP Motorsport and Black Falcon didn’t lead at any point, the defending champions in the No.1 Black Falcon entry eventually finishing fifth, while HTP’s No.50, which was high up the order the entire race, crashed out on the final lap in the rain.

N24Outside of the top SP9 class, the Kissing Motorsport Opel Manta – which has built a cult following over the past decade or two – unfortunately didn’t see the checkered flag. The car, which usually runs a steady race, spending extended time in the garage after offs and mechanical difficulties, before retiring. The big story of the many fan-favourite entries went to Aston Martin as a result. The Lagonda team’s Vantage GT8 – with WEC drivers Darren Turner and Nicki Thiim driving – climbed the order, as expected, finishing an impressive 21st, and top of the SP8 class standings.

The 2017 Nürburgring didn’t disappoint. It featured a world-class field, which in the end provided drama, and an ending which will be remembered for years to come. But it feels like we always end up saying that? Because it’s a special race, which thrives on un-predictability, producing a thrilling 24-hour encounter every year. The 45th running, was no exception.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

The Travel Destinations trackside campsite was another sell out in 2017. Thanks to everyone who came with us. We will be back again in 2018. The provisional dates for the race are the 10th – 13th May 2018. If you would like to stay with us trackside you can register with us now.

Nurburgring 24 Hours

Taking on the Nurburgring 24

What It’s Like To Take On The Nürburgring 24 Hours

This year’s Nürburgring 24 Hours was record breaking, with Mercedes finishing 1, 2, 3 & 4 seeing off all threats from the other manufacturers in the race. There were so many talking points, with adverse weather, a few sizeable incidents and an unusually quiet showing from favourites Audi, but the main one was Maro Engel.

At the end of the race, the leading No.29 HTP Mercedes had a comfortable lead of a little under a minute over the No.4 Black Falcon AMG GT3, but the No.29 had to pit for fuel. The splash at the end created a phenomenal final two laps, with both Christian Hohenadel and Engel fighting it out for the lead. In the end Engel pounced at RTL corner on the final tour of the circuit, diving up the inside of Hohenadel, rubbing doors on his way past to take the win. The Black Falcon team were euphoric, HTP staged a protest against the move, and the fans went wild in the stands. If you like drama, it was the perfect way to end a 24-hour race.

Nurburgring 24 Hours

What’s particularly special about the N24 though, is that further down the order there are hundreds of other tales to tell amongst the runners and riders in the 150+ strong grid. Like the story from the up and coming British driver George Richardson, who co-drove Walkenhorst Motorsport’s No.101 PlayStation SP9 class BMW M6 GT3 with non other Gran Turismo creator Kazunori Yamauchi, Max Sandritter and Mathias Henkola.

“The Nürburgring 24 Hours this year was an incredible event, and so much went on. I’m incredibly grateful to have been a part of it in the top class. However, like so many of the teams out there, it didn’t go quite to plan.”

Nurburgring 24 Hours

Richardson’s car had an off in practice, leaving the team scrambling to rebuild it, just to get it out for Qualifying. This is by no means an odd occurrence at the ‘Green Hell’ 24, which often claims multiple victims in the pre-race sessions. “It delayed everything,” Richardson admits. “It meant the team had to rebuild parts of the car, and for us drivers, we lost a lot of track time.”

Because the lap of the full Nürburgring Nordschliefe is so long, most drivers don’t get many laps in before the race starts anyway, and incredibly, Richardson had zero full laps before getting in mid-race. “Earl Bamber said he had two laps, I can beat that!” He says. “I did just two in and outs because of the problem, and got into the car during the race having to find my feet quickly. The weather at the start of the race was insane, and I felt the end of it, as my first stint was in mixed conditions with a low-hanging fog between Höhe Act and Bergwerk during the night.”

Nurburgring 24 Hours

The rain came down in the first hour of the race so hard that multiple cars went off the circuit, on slick tyres out in the forest. Shortly after, the race was stopped as hail came down and froze, leaving many cars stuck trying to climb the final hill to the pit straight. It was truly the most bizarre sequence in motorsport. The ‘Ring is known for its ability to throw all sorts of weather at its drivers, but even that came as a surprise. “When you’re out there in the pitch black and driving in fog, it’s all about instinct and respecting the circuit. Because we didn’t make it into the Top 30 Qualifying session our car didn’t get a blue flashing light on the front windscreen to help you get through traffic during the race. It meant we really had to hustle our way past the other drivers as many of them couldn’t tell that we were in the top class. But we made it through the night, and to the end of the race, despite having an intermittent problem which the team couldn’t fix. We were losing a lot of power throughout the race, but the BMW M6 held up well, and made it to the finish.”

Nurburgring 24 Hours

“The Nürburgring 24 Hours is the world’s toughest race for a driver,” he states. “So to finish is such an achievement in itself. The fans come in numbers, and after being in the thick of it in one of the quickest cars, I really see why. Driving past the campsites, it’s crazy, there’s fireworks going off and you can smell the food being cooked. Atmosphere-wise, there’s nothing like it.”

Richardson’s car crossed the line 22nd, having completed 121 perilous laps of the circuit, but that’s what’s special about the N24. It’s a rugged event, which puts drivers through a challenge unlike any other in motorsport.

2016 was an incredible race, 2017 promises to be just as good, if not better. You can register now with Travel Destinations to be at the Nurburgring 24 Hours 2017. Call 0844 873 0203 to reserve your place now.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photos by Dailysportscar