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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

Nurburgring 24 Hours 2017 Preview

This time of year the major events in the motorsport calendar come thick and fast. Having just had a great time with hundreds of Travel Destinations customers at the Spa Classic this last weekend, we are swiftly moving on to the Nurburgring 24 Hours this weekend. Once again we are looking after lots of our customers at the circuit for this amazing event. Our man in the stands has taken a look at what our guests can expect to see this weekend.

It is that exciting time of year again, where over 150 cars take on the Nürburgring Nordschleife for 24 hours in an attempt to conquer the world’s toughest circuit through night and day, sun and, most likely at some point, rain! The classification of cars taking part can appear complicated and the garages are certainly crowded, but this all adds to the spectacle.

The SP9 class for GT3 cars; which will almost certainly produce the winner, features no less than 34 of Europe’s best GT teams this time around, spanning seven automotive brands. The marques with the most this year are BMW and Mercedes with ten and seven apiece respectively.

Nurburgring 24BMW will be looking to extend its record of 19 N24 overall wins with the M6 GT3 returning for its second crack at the ‘Ring with Schnitzer, Falken, ROWE, Schubert and Walkenhorst. The driver lineups are stellar across the ROWE, Schnitzer and Schubert entries in particular, with a good mix of N24 veterans and rookies providing the backbone for its effort. It’s been a tough start to the year for the M6 racing on the Nordschliefe though, with its best finish 10th in VLN 2. That won’t necessarily translate to race-week at the Nurburgring though, with Balance of Performance always a factor all the way up until the flag drops on Saturday. The car, while still in its infancy, notably won the Spa 24 Hours last year too, after a disappointing run at last year’s Nurburgring 24. Look out for the Falken team, which is racing with BMW for the first time in its 17-year history at the Nurburgring 24 – and Schnitzer, which took the win back in 2010 for BMW (its last victory) and is back racing in GTs after a handful of seasons in DTM.

Nurburgring 24Mercedes meanwhile, is looking for another dominant run to the finish at the Nurburgring 24 much like in 2016, when its AMG GT3s finished 1-2-3-4 in their first attempt at the race. Globally the AMG GT3 is one of, if not the strongest car in the GT3 ranks, with great speed and reliability, both which are of the utmost importance for the Nurburgring 24. HTP, Black Falcon and Haribo Racing are all back with Mercedes cars, and with another stellar set of drivers are looking to score the Stuttgart-based brand’s third overall victory.

Don’t count out Audi or Porsche though. The other two German marques head to the Nurburgring 24 with the best run of form. Nurburgring 24 stalwarts Manthey Racing bring arguably the strongest lineup to the race, with reining World Endurance Champion and Le Mans winner Romain Dumas and fellow Porsche factory drivers Fred Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz driving its No. 911 Porsche 911 GT3 R which won VLN 1 and 2. Local favourites Frikadelli Racing and Falken Motorsport make up the remaining teams racing with Porsche in SP9.

Nurburgring 24At Audi, perennial Blancpain frontrunner and 2015 Nurburging 24 winner WRT will bring two R8 LMS GT3s, as will Land Motorsport, which won Germany’s premier GT series (ADAC GT Masters) in 2016 as well as multiple VLN races. Phoenix Racing, which won Audi’s first N24 back in 2012 returns with a single GT3 entry for the Four Rings too, though without factory backing this time. It did win the N24 Qualification Race earlier this month though, and has a formidable quartet of Dennis Busch, Nicolaj Moller Madsen, and Audi stalwarts Mike Rockenfeller and Frank Stippler.

The other three brands are lower in the car count, but will be just as interesting to follow.

Bentley are looking to score a landmark result as the Continental GT3’s lifecycle begins to reach its end. They will race with three Abt entries packed with factory drivers and regional specialists. This year Abt has opted to switch up its tyre partner and race with Yokohama, which could well prove an advantage in certain conditions. It must be noted that Bentley has had a positive start to the season, with second and fourth place finishes in VLN 1 and 2. Everyone back at programme HQ in Crewe will be hoping it can challenge with the frontrunners until the end.

Single Ferrari and Lamborghini entries bring the total to 34 in SP9, with Konrad racing a Huracan GT3 and Blancpain regular Rinaldi Racing operating a Wochenspiegel Team Monshau 488 GT3 for the car’s Nurburging 24 debut.

Nurburgring 24Outside the main interest, there is, of course, plenty of other oddball entries to keep an eye on during the race as well. Two Glickenhaus SCG003Cs will race in SPX against a pair of brand new Audi R8 GT4s run by the aforementioned Phoenix Racing crew. Aston Martin will also compete. Whilst not in SP9 as in recent seasons, the Aston Martin Lagonda team will run two SP8 class Vantages – a  V8 with factory drivers Darren Turner and Nicki Thiim – and a V12.

Nurburgring 24 HoursThe Kissling Opel Manta, with its own cult following is, as ever, on the list, racing a pair of Opel Calibras in SP3 and a pair of Toyota Gazoo Racing Carollas; one of which will be driven by four Thai drivers!

Predicting a winner is always impossible when it comes to the Nurburgring 24, partly because there’s usually 30 cars capable of crossing the line first, and also because the circuit and local climate throws up so many variables. It is strength in numbers though, which is why the German factories come armed with a fleet of their latest kit each year! That’s what makes the Nurburgring 24 a special event. It is pure automotive bliss, supported by the most influential car brands in Europe.

The Nurburgring 24 Hours is a rolling motor show and a week-long festival for the locals, who refuse to let the event become stale, and continue to party in the Eiffel Forest like its 1979.

The Nurburging 24 Hours 2017 is a sell out event for Travel Destinations. However, you can pre-register now for the 2018 Nurburgring 24 Hours by calling 0844 873 0203. You just have to be there!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar.com

 

Lamborghini at Spa 24 Hours

More from the Spa 24

Five things we learnt from the 2016 24 Hours of Spa

Following the Spa 24 Hours last weekend, our man in the stands, Stephen Kilbey, takes a look at 5 main points that arose from the race.

The BMW M6 has come into its own
Few people would have predicted a BMW M6 would come out on top, after a lengthy battle with Bentley for the win at the Spa 24 Hours this year. After the Nürburgring 24 Hours (the M6’s big 24-hour debut) didn’t go to plan with various incidents and mechanical failures prevented it from splitting up the Mercedes armada, hopes were not high. But Spa was different. With Mercedes’ uber-quick AMG GT3s on the back foot before the race even started, Audi having yet another very un-Audi race, McLaren proving to lack strength in numbers, Bentley suffering bad luck and serving penalties and Lamborghini not having a real challenge it suddenly became ROWE Racing’s to lose; and this time they didn’t.

BMW at Spa 24 hours
For any new car to come in and win a 24-hour race in its first year is impressive, and that’s definitely a worthy adjective to describe ROWE’s performance top to bottom. Alex Sims, Philip Eng and Maxime Martin all drove flawlessly and in the end had the luck, bold strategy calls and speed to win the race and deliver the team its first big win. After so many attempts at winning both Spa and the N24, ROWE Racing wont be forgetting this year’s Spa 24 Hours in a hurry. Neither will BMW, as the M6 looks like it’s a good all-round package that will remain a challenger on big stages for years to come.

Driving standards have improved
After the debacle of two years ago, when the Spa 24 Hours of 2014 was marred by a series of huge incidents following multiple safety car periods, it was good to see that such an enormous 65-car field produced a clean race. In recent years, the amateur/gentlemen drivers have really upped their game in the spirit of competition and its safe to say that it’s been at the benefit of GT3 racing across the board. Whilst there were naturally a couple of big shunts (one particularly scary one on pit-exit which saw Kevin Estre’s Attempto Porsche thrown into the Armco after contact with a Ferrari running at full speed) the racing overall was hard and fair, with most of the field leaving the event feeling encouraged by the performances of their peers.

Spa 24 Hours
As much as enormous grids are used as a yard-stick for the success of a series/event these days, safety is just as important. It’s good to see that the SRO’s Blancpain GT Series continues to attract quantity and quality.

Mercedes has some post-Spa PR work to do
This year’s race will most certainly always be remembered for the post-qualifying exclusion of the Mercedes runners in the Top-20 Shootout. What should have been a 1-2-3-4-5-6 formation on the grid for the Stuttgart-based brand turned into a PR nightmare after an illegal engine map was found on all the cars, giving them a pace advantage. All the six cars featured several values in one of the three homologated maps in the car (Qualifying/ Race and Safety Car) that did not comply with the quoted values. As a result, they lost their qualifying times and received a five-minute stop and hold penalty at the start of the race too, effectively putting all the Mercedes contenders out of the running before the lights went green. It is an  incredible achievement that the leading AKKA ASP Mercedes came home second, overcoming an enormous disadvantage.

Mercedes at Spa 24
It’s one thing to dominate due to sloppy Balance of Performance (BoP) adjustments, but when the manufacturer does more than just ‘play the game’ it is another entirely. Mercedes declined to comment on the reason for the issues, but failed to put in an appeal because they ‘ran out of time’. If it genuinely didn’t have any part in changing the engine maps on purpose, then so be it, but a lot of people will look at the 1-2-3-4 at the Nürburgring 24 Hours earlier in the year and now become suspicious of the result.

Bentley blew its big chance
The Bentley Continental GT3 has won plenty of races in its lifespan, but has thus far failed to win a marquee race. This year, with ex-Audi engineer Leena Gade at the helm, the British M-Sport crew had a very good chance of winning, pushing the ROWE team to its limits as the race wore on. A mixture of bad luck under full course yellow conditions, penalties and a late puncture cost the Bentley squad dearly. It was agonizing for the team after having the lead with just over two hours remaining in the race.

Bentley at Spa
In years past Bentley hasn’t featured in the running for the win of either the Spa 24 Hours or the Nürburgring 24 Hours, and it felt like that it may of missed out on its big chance last weekend to get a signature victory under its belt before the next chassis comes in to take its place in the coming years.

Maxime Martin got his big win
It has been a long time coming, but Maxime Martin finally has a career-defining win. The Belgian GT star, who will always be remembered for his astonishing performance towards the end of the 2013 Nürburgring 24 Hours, where he hunted down the leading Mercedes through adverse weather in the closing stages, only to finish second, now has a big 24-hour race win. After coming so close at both Spa and the ‘Ring in recent years, the 30-year-old Belgian couldn’t contain his emotions after winning the ‘big one’ on his home soil. And it is no surprise because every Belgian GT driver wants to win the Spa 24.

Podium at Spa 24hrs
It was a very deserving victory. Martin still has many years left in his career to add to his resumé as a BMW factory driver be it in GT3, DTM or wherever he ends up in the future. Few people have any doubts about his talent, and he now has a trophy to show for his efforts.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar