Recapping Our Trip to the Nürburgring: What We Saw

There are more 24 hour sports car races than you can shake a stick at these days, but the ADAC/Total Nürburgring 24 remains unique, if only for the historic venue. Never mind that this race blends over 150 factory supported pro teams with amateur club racers in cars with time differentials measured in minutes on the 26km circuit that combines the Nürburgring GP circuit and the Nordschleife itself.

Apart from the on-track spectacle, the scene around the event must be seen to be believed. While the “official” number of fans was listed at 230,000 for the 2019 event, the real number is likely tens of thousands higher than that, simply due to the size and scope of the facility, which winds through no fewer than four villages in a single lap. Those numbers make it the largest spectator sporting event in Europe, and one of the largest in the world.

If you ever make the trip (and we highly suggest you do, because it’s worth it), here’s a bit of what you can expect to see.

Some Sights

The Nürburgring is a local industry. The gas station across from the track will happily sell you some Pringles if you’re hungry, or a Bell helmet if you’re hungry for speed.

Pre-race activities are much like any other race. Tech and garage setup are each team’s primary concern, although the latter can be complicated. Each team much share garage space on pit row with up to five other teams. This isn’t so bad if you happen to have a six-car team all running out of the same prep shop, but most of the garages on the row have mixed teams trying to go about their racing business all up in each others’ grilles.

We saw a cool trick on the Glickenhaus SCG-003: Colored cards under the wiper with current status of major systems. Red cards needed attention and green cards were good to go, but all cards had to be removed before the car went out, obviously. This means someone would have to consciously review major systems before the car went on track. Clever analog reminder system.

Painting your plywood splitter before the major international competition is peak racecar.

Hyundai was at the event in force, with TCR cars for both the 24 hour contest and the WTCC races that took place Friday and Saturday morning. Hyundai won the first WTCC race of the weekend, and nearly took the TCR class in the 24 after a ferocious comeback from deep in the field.

Fans begin arriving days—even weeks—before the race to build elaborate camping facilities. Within 24 hours of the race ending, you’d hardly know they were ever there. Kudos to German race fans for cleaning up as hard as they party.

This thing was in the pits for some reason. Maybe someone needed to charge their phone from it?

American Jim Briody straps in to start his 19th Nürburgring 24 hour and the 97th 24 hour race of his career. He expects to compete in his 100th later this fall at COTA in Austin.

WTCC

World Touring Car racing was one of the featured events of the weekend, with three sprint contests over two days.

Teams have very limited windows to work on cars between races, so activity is quite furious when the whistle sounds for the cars to roll to grid.

Historic Race

One of the highlights of the weekend is the 24 Hour Classic.

This three-hour endure for historic race cars features intense racing, and amazing cars from many eras of competition at the Nürburgring.

Historic racing in Europe tends to be a bit more intense than in the US. Several cars were brought into the tech area for post-race teardowns to confirm their legality.

24 Hour

The main event of the weekend saw clear skies for the entirety of the 2019 race—a rarity for the event over the last few years. With so many teams of such varying performance on such a narrow track, traffic is the biggest obstacle to overcome for the contenders.

When you’re in the right place at the right time, you just might catch the president of Toyota climbing into his company’s latest creation. Akio Toyoda was among the driver roster in the brand new Supra making its international endurance racing debut.

The Giti Tire VW Golf team—an all-female team of drivers and engineers—ran in to oil pressure trouble with their race car which necessitated an engine replacement. They got it done in time to take the checker.

Tire management is a huge factor for many teams. Large squads running multiple cars tend to have their own tire maintenance facilities in their paddock where they prep and preheat tires, and cycle takeoffs to the mounting facilities in a flurry of organized chaos.

Pit Stop

Pit stops during the 24 Hour race can be a bit more complex than some endures, mostly due to the sheer number of competitors trying to do the same thing at the same time.

We hung around the Hyundai pits before and during a stop to watch the process unfold.

Before any driver gets into a car, they have to confirm their identity with the pit marshals and sign off on their entry card. Sometimes this means the literal showing of a picture ID. Once a driver has signed off that he or she is next in the car, that pit marshal will stick around through the stop to confirm that that’s actually what happens.

The preparation for the stop begins well before the car is even called in. Parts are retrieved from shelves and specific tool trays are arranged for each team member involved in the stop. Not all of these parts may be used for each stop, but they’re all ready to go in case they are needed.

The countdown to the stop begins with chats between the team members in the garage. Everyone confirms their role and outlines their plan for the stop. This process confirms that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing, and multiple crew members aren’t going to try and do the same thing at the same time. Or—perhaps worse—a job is left unmanned.

The next chat is with the neighbors. Teams closely monitor the pit situations of neighboring garages so they can better manage the tight confines of 150+ cars in a pit lane designed for a fraction of that. Neighboring teams will coordinate schedules closely, so everyone gets the best chance for success.

When the car is on its way in, the team is ready to pounce, as are the marshals. Pit stops at the N24 are closely monitored for safety, as well as logistical and rules compliance.

The actual stops tend to be lengthy affairs. All cars much refuel through standard commercial-style pistol grip fuel pumps. No high-speed gravity rigs here. So fueling takes a while, during which time the crew performs copious inspections and necessary maintenance and repairs.

Despite thorough coordination, the occasional unscheduled stop ends with a car pointed in a less-than-ideal direction because that was the only place the driver could fit the vehicle into the service area. Luckily there’s always plenty of folks around to help push cars back to the right angle for exit.

Want To See More?

if you enjoy watching sports car racing on one of the world’s great track, GRM is now carrying the entire VLN series live on our website and social media. The VLN is the same series that comprises the 24 hour field, and ranges from current GT3 machinery to older club race entries.

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ronbros
ronbros Reader
7/13/19 3:04 p.m.

 bet that was a nice trip!

Ron

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