Tag Archives: Nurburgring 24 Hours

Nurburgring 24 Hours 2021 Preview

The Nurburgring 24 Hours has long had the reputation of being the ‘toughest’ 24-hour race on the planet. With such a diverse grid of cars, unpredictable weather and a gruelling 25km circuit, it’s a challenge that keeps teams, drivers and manufacturers alike coming back for more each year.

Last year’s 24 Hours was a strange event. Held in September due to the pandemic, with little fanfare and a much smaller grid, it was a reminder that an event as large as the N24 can feel hollow. Without the supporters behind the catch fencing who making the effort to travel to the Eiffel Forest year after year, it simply isn’t the same event.

This edition will not see the roaring return of fans that the organisers will have hoped for, though the signs are clear that this endurance classic is on the road to recovery. A modest amount of fans will be present on the Grand Prix loop this year, and the Camping Am Nurburgring site (frequented by Travel Destinations and its customers) will also be up and running. The grid too has seen an uptick in entries, with 125 cars (across 24 classes) set to take the start, up from 100 last year.

It’s a quality field too, with 34 SP9 cars gunning for the win, in addition to a pair of GT cars in the SPX category with an outside chance. As usual, the German marques have a real presence, with factory drivers aplenty among the GT3 ranks. If this year’s edition has one real purpose it’s to push the event back into public consciousness once again, and prepare the passionate fans for the big 50th anniversary celebrations set to take place in 2022.

Picking a favourite for the N24 has almost always been impossible since the start of the GT3 era and this year is no exception. In this year’s race Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Glickenhaus, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Porsche are all in with a chance, with the four major German marques opting for the ‘strength in numbers’ approach with seven cars apiece, aside from Porsche which has eight.

Most of the entries are filled with uber-talented factory/pro driers. From the Haput Racing Team Mercedes featuring Patrick Assenheimer, Nico Bastian, Maro Engel and Hubert Haupt to the Phoenix Audi with Frank Stippler, Dries Vanthoor, Robin Frijns and Mattia Drudi at the wheel, there’s talent everywhere.

There are plenty of key storylines surrounding each of the German manufacturers too. BMW is looking to repeat its 2020 success with the M6 GT3 and ROWE Racing and further extend its record of 20 overall wins, Audi is looking to continue its trend of winning the race every other year (after taking wins in 2019, 2017 and 2015), Porsche will be eager to see if Manthey Racing can win the race for a seventh time or perhaps Falken Motorsport for the first time, and Mercedes is eager than ever to score the first N24 win for its current AMG GT3.

As usual, the winners will be the drivers that stay consistent with laptimes throughout, are on the right tyres for the conditions during the race, can work around the Balance of Performance parameters set by the organisers and get a helping hand from lady luck. All the aforementioned marques have tried and tested packages for this event. Each chassis has its strengths and weaknesses, but all of them are capable of winning. Only Ferrari, Lamborghini and Glickenhaus are without overall wins in the event and that is mainly due to the level of resources being poured into the event being small compared to the German makes which view winning this race as hugely important, a point of national pride.

N24 regulars know well that outside of the SP9 battle for victory there’s always a generous helping of odd-ball entries from teams and manufacturers around the world each aiming to get a slice of Nurburgring glory for themselves.

Glickenhaus, mentioned above, is arguably the most high-profile of the non-SP9 pack, with its SCG004c set for a second attempt to win the race in the SP-X class. As it isn’t a homologated GT3 car it isn’t eligible to compete against SP9 competitors, though it is balanced to the same performance level the class and will be a contender for pole position and a strong finish.

Jim Glickenhaus’ team will also be parading their 007 FIA WEC Hypercar at the end as part of the pre-race festivities. This is the first of many critical weekends for the American brand, which for the first time in 2021 has its sights set on winning trophies at the Nurburgring 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours in the same year.

Interestingly, a Mercedes-AMG GT3 has also been entered into SP-X this year, by Space Drive Racing. This is no ordinary AMG GT3 though, it’s the first GT3 car to compete in a 24-hour race with no steering column. Instead, it uses ‘steer-by-wire’ technology developed in house. It’s an incredible fascinating and ambitious effort, and one which deserves its fair share of attention. To read more about the tech involved we suggest you read Dailysportscar.com’s latest feature on it HERE.

There are only a handful of brand new cars making their debut in the event, none in the top classes. However, the 2020 Cupra Leon Competition TCR, KTM X-BOW GTX and Hyundai Elantra TCR are all newcomers to watch out for further down the order.

Moving away from the cutting edge of technology to efforts rather more analogue, the Foxtail Opel Manta returns, as always, and the SP3 class features a rather modest Dacia Logan.

The tyre war is also a race in itself at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, one of the last bastians of truly open tyre competition. A scan of the entry list reveals that: Toyo, Falken, Goodyear, Michelin, Giti, Hankook and Yokohama are all represented up and down the order, using the race as a test bed for new rubber technology.

The 2021 Nurburgring 24 Hours is set to start at 3:30pm local time in Germany tomorrow.

Stephen Kilbey

If you want to be at the event next year for the 50th anniversary edition of the Nurburgring 24 Hours in 2022, call us on 01707 329988 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk to make a booking.

Images courtesy of GruppeC Photography/ADAC

Storylines To Follow In The 2020 Nürburgring 24 Hours

The dust has barely settled on the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours and already, less than a week later, it’s time to start looking ahead to the next major endurance race: the Nürburgring 24 Hours (N24).

Predicting who will take the crown at the N24 each year is notoriously difficult, with so many cars in the SP9 category featuring crews of world-class drivers in with a legitimate shot at glory.

Gone are the days where it felt like a small-time event lacking appeal outside of Germany. Now it’s a race with a huge international following, that is taken incredibly seriously by a slew of major manufacturers. That’s not to say it has lost its club-racing roots, as it is still very much a race with its own culture, that welcomes just about every type of GT or touring car past and present.

With the absence of fans on the Nordschleife, (though happily there will be some on the GP loop) this year’s race may look and feel different, but the teams and manufacturers involved will all be pushing as hard as ever to be crowned ‘King of the ‘Ring’

So who are the contenders? What oddball entries should you follow?

Let’s take a look at some of the storylines to follow in this year’s race:

The SP9 war

The battle for the overall win at the N24 is seldom a dull, predictable affair. This year will be no exception. The race as a whole may featuring a lower car count than usual, but in the SP9 class there’s 30 cars all in with a chance at taking overall honours.

Customer teams from Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Mercedes, and Porsche will be going tooth and nail with GT3 machinery. So far Mercedes, BMW and Audi have taken wins in the NLS (formerly the VLN), with an Octane 126-fielded Ferrari almost taking a surprise win in the third round.

Could the 488 GT3 prove to be the surprise package here? Ferrari has never won the Nurburgring 24 Hours, despite having produced GT3 cars more than capable enough. This is mainly because there hasn’t been a serious factory-supported effort from the likes of AF Corse or any of its other major teams since Hankook-shod models came close a decade ago in the pre-GT3 era, with GT2-spec 430 and 458s.

Porsche meanwhile, hasn’t taken a win this year at the ‘Ring in NLS competition, but its customer teams should never be counted out. Frikadelli Racing, KCMG, Falken Motorsports and Huber Motorsport will all be present, and eager to score the Stuttgart-based marque its second victory in three years at the event.

The spotlight will be on Porsche in particular this year, after Manthey withdrew its ‘Grello’ #911 entry due to some positive COVID tests emerging for the crew post-Le Mans. This had a further knock-on effect, as the withdrawal of all Porsche’s Le Mans factory drivers (as a result) left Falken and KCMG with last minute decisions to make; both were due to compete with drivers that will now not make the trip.

Falken has opted to reduce its driver crew from eight to six, while KCMG has drafted in the likes of Earl Bamber, Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmiester to make up the numbers.

Which teams will be in the mix from the other marques?

Audi Sport has entered three factory R8 LMS GT3s all packed with factory drivers. Phoenix Racing also has a pair of R8s to add to the attack. None should be counted out here, especially considering Audi’s form at the N24 which has seen it claim five of the last eight overall wins with the R8 platform.

Mercedes meanwhile has seven AMG GT3s in the race, headlined by debuting team Haupt Racing’s trio of entries, all featuring experienced peddlers. HRT effectively replaces Black Falcon in Mercedes’ line-up of factory supported teams, the longtime German outfit stepping back to compete in the lower ranks going forward. But Mercedes hopes this change won’t affect its hopes of a win. The NLS season so far has been encouraging, HRT delivering a maiden victory as a Mercedes customer team in just its second appearence.

Then there’s BMW, which is desperate to end its win-less drought that dates back to 2010. The GT3-era hasn’t been kind to the Bavarian brand which has been unable to score wins with either the Z4 or M6 models.

BMW has come close numerous times in recent years, but no matter how much firepower it throws at this race it always seems to end in bitter disappointment. This is a far cry from the pre-GT3 era of the N24 when it regularly dominated proceedings

ROWE Racing (above), Schnitzer and Walkenhorst have been tasked with putting an M6 GT3 on the top step this year, and all three are capable of doing so. Will they deliver?

Glickenhaus’ 004C put to the test

It wouldn’t be an N24 without odd-ball entries or one-off specials in the field. While there is no Opel Manta this year (for the first time in almost two decades), there are still some fan-favourites set to take part outside of the SP9 field.

The most high profile is Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus’ new 004C which will run on its own in the SPX category. Now, this isn’t SCG’s attempt at taking a trophy by default, as usual the team has its heart set on overall glory. As was the case in the past, the 004C is set to be able to remain competitive alongside the SP9 cars in the race; it just doesn’t fit in the category by regulation as it isn’t an FIA-homolgated GT3 car.

The 004C takes over the reins from the 003C which SCG has fielded in the race over the past few years. And it has a lot to live up to. The 003C may not have won this race overall, but it did storm to pole position back in 2017 and prove time and time again to be fast enough to keep up with the best of the best in the SP9 ranks.

Franck Mailleux, Felipe Laser and Thomas Mutsch have been entrusted with the new car for what will be an incredibly important weekend for Glickenhaus.

This race will see the 004C put to the test properly for the first time. Following its initial test programme, the team did manage to get the 004C to the finish in its debut NLS race ahead of this weekend, despite an exhaust fire which saw the team work overtime to rebuild much of the car using spares loaned from Black Falcon.

This latest chapter in Jim Glickenhaus’ N24 programme will be well worth tracking. Lest we forget that this serves nicely as a precursor to his forthcoming FIA WEC Le Mans Hypercar programme next year.

Interestingly its main rival in the 2020 FIA WEC season, Toyota Gazoo Racing, also features in the race this year with a pair of SP3-class Carolla Altis’!

Will the SP8s provide the most entertaining race within the race?

Further down the order the most interesting racing beyond the SP9 may come in the SP 8 (normally aspirated) and SP 8T (turbo-charged) categories which predominantly feature GT4 cars. The numbers in the two categories aren’t huge, but there are some rather interesting drivers and teams involved.

In SP 8T there are four cars representing three marques. The only Aston Martin in the race is included in this bunch, former Blancpain Endurance champion Garage 59 (above) making its N24 debut with factory driver Darren Turner, former McLaren test driver Chris Goodwin and Alex West.

The team has high hopes after successes in NLS races prior to this weekend. Aston Martin may not have a history of winning this race overall, but it has a track record of customer and factory efforts taking regular wins in the lower classes with the Vantage platform in recent years.

“This is the biggest test yet of the Garage 59 team,” says Goodwin. “We entered two NLS races to tune our Vantage to the particular requirements of the Nordschleife but also to prepare the team itself.  

“The 24-hour race is a massive challenge but this team has great experience in other forms of GT endurance racing so we knew they were up to the challenge. Second place at the six-hour race here last month confirms that.”

Garage 59’s competition will be hot, up against an M4 GT4 from N24 stalwart Walkenhorst Motorsport, a Mercedes AMG GT4 from multiple former overall winner Black Falcon and a Keeevin Sports & Racing BMW M2 CS for added variety.

SP8 meanwhile, is a two-horse race between two aspirant tire brands: a Giti Tire Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT4 and Lexus RCF fielded by Toyo Tire Ring Racing. Dominik Farnbacher.

As usual, if you love tyre wars, then there’s plenty to look out for in this race. In SP9 alone, Michelin, Yokohama, Goodyear and Falken are represented. Beyond the top class, Toyo, Hankook, Pirelli, Nexen and Giti are also supplying tyres to teams. And with heavy rain forecast for the race, it will fascinating to see which tyres are the ones to have as the conditions change and evolve…

Stephen Kilbey

Want to head to the Nürburgring for next year’s 24 Hours? Travel Destinations is already on sale. Call our office on 01707 329 988 to make a booking today!

Photos courtesy of Garage 59/Aston Martin and N24/ADAC

Nurburgring 24

Nurburgring 24 Hours 2019 Review

The 2019 Nurburgring 24 Hours

Last weekend’s Nurburgring 24 Hours was ‘old school’, in almost every way. It featured a smattering of factory teams, and twists and turns throughout. Despite the form of the region the circuit sits in weather didn’t play a part this year, but drama certainly did. With almost every contending car finishing the Nurburgring 24 Hours filthy and damaged, and a combination of mechanical issues and incidents mixing up the order at steady intervals, it was an encounter we won’t forget in a hurry. Ultimately it was Audi’s day, after Mercedes and Porsche came achingly close. And it served up some interesting talking points.

Safety changes and smaller entries are not ripping the heart out of this race
Safety is paramount at a circuit like the Nürburgring Nordschleife; it is long, narrow, and features little or no run-off. With such a mixture of machinery permitted to compete in the Nurburgring 24, ensuring that the drivers and fans aren’t in too much danger is important. In recent years so much action has been taken to improve the circuit’s safety, as huge incidents over the years have threatened not just the Nurburgring 24 Hours, but the viability of the circuit in the modern day. But the ongoing work continues to retain the spectacular nature of the historic forest circuit while making necessary the improvements.

This year much of the circuit had been resurfaced, and the SP9 GT3 cars had to run slightly down on power. That, coupled with a smaller entry list of just over 150 cars, on paper, may appear to be tweaks against the spirit of this historic endurance race. But, once the cars got going, it made little difference to the excitement levels. In fact, with a little more space and less traffic, it prompted the top drivers to push even harder. The racing was spectacular and the variety in the field is still very much apparent. Of course, just 10 years ago the N24 used to run with around 250 cars, but in hindsight, that may have been just too much. What we have now, is a better selection of cars, driven by a smaller cabal of drivers that all have to work harder to earn the right to race. It’s making for a better race, and this year’s edition proved that. We still had a huge field of GT3 cars racing on the same track as Opel Mantas, VW Golfs, Opel Astras and an armada of cup cars, on arguably the most spectacular circuit on the planet. Long may this continue.

No rain? No problem!
It has become almost a rite of passage for fans of the Nurburgring 24 Hours to have to spectate in a combination of blazing sunshine, heavy rain and even snow on occasions, sometimes within the same hour. But this year, aside from Free Practice being stopped due to heavy rain, the weather gods were kind to those at the ‘Ring. Some, may complain, as rain only adds to the spectacle this race can deliver, but this year, we had just as many thrills and spills without a drop of water falling on the circuit. There was a battle for the lead, where Kevin Estre in the No.911 Manthey Porsche took to the grass on the Dottinger Hohe at full speed to make a pass, and hours of squabbling for the podium places. That’s not to mention the amount of offs there were on the bone dry circuit. Drivers up and down the order pushed unbelievably hard, and were going to extreme lengths to make passes through traffic. All the cars that made it to the end, and around 50 retired, looked battered, covered in dirt and tank tape. If you tuned in just for the finish you’d have taken some convincing that this was a dry race, as the drivers and cars all looked like they’d fought through rain and shine as well as night and day.

Nurburgring 24BMW’s worst nightmare?
Just a week on from BMW’s disappointing final FIA World Endurance Championship appearance with its GTE Pro M8s, the Bavarian brand had a disastrous outing at the N24. The customer teams, ROWE Racing, Walkenhorst Motorsport, Falken Motorsport and Team Schnitzer, who all received some level of support from the factory had a tough time. The speed of the M6 GT3, which has yet to win the N24, wasn’t there, and neither was the reliability.

Almost the entire fleet of BMWs were out of this one by the quarter race mark. ROWE Racing’s team manager Hans-Peter Naundorf claimed that this year’s N24 was “the worst 24-hour race we’ve ever had”, and he was right. The Falken M6 GT3 was the only one that managed to finish high up the order, but multiple issues meant the team spent almost the entire race fighting back from laps down rather than for a podium. It really was a disaster, especially in a race that features all of its key domestic rival brands, who all had a better showing. This may sound hugely negative, but this should spur on BMW to come back stronger next year. And that will be a sight to see. BMW is the brand with the most overall wins at the Nurburgring 24, it has a proud tradition and history of success. But its last win was a very long time ago now. How long? Back in 2010, when GT2 cars were the top dogs in the field. The SP9 GT3 era hasn’t been kind to BMW M-Power.

Nurburgring 24 HoursAudi has still got it
Audi on the other hand, played a blinder last weekend with its customer teams. The R8 LMS pack didn’t have the outright pace to win this one, but as always, Audi stuck to its longstanding strategy of outlasting its competitors. Rarely has Audi won big endurance races over the years, in GT or prototype racing, with the fastest car. When attrition sets in the ‘Four Rings’ always rises to the top. It wasn’t a perfect race for the teams racing with R8s, as punctures and incidents did put Car Collection and Land Motorsport’s challenges to a premature end. But Phoenix Racing, which has a history of winning the ultimate prize at the ‘Ring, was there to pick up the pieces when other cars hit trouble, and crucially, when the No.911 Manthey Porsche, which led the race for 14 hours, was handed a huge five-minute 32-second stop-hold penalty for speeding in a yellow flag zone. Audi has now won the race five times, and Phoenix has emerged victorious four times. The marque’s main focus may appear to be on Formula E since its LMP1 exit, but it continues to put resources into its customer GT programme, and it is paying off.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

You can join us track-side at the Nurburgring 24 Hours 2020 and we are on sale now. Visit our Nurburgring 24 pages on this website now for more 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

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