The 24 Hours Nurburgring, the Race!
By Mike Kojima, photos by Jeff Naeyaert & Mike Kojima
It's hard to imagine the magnitude of the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. I have never been to any sort of public event that had this many people. It is estimated that as many as 250,000 people attend the race and by the sheer volumes of the crowd I saw I don't doubt it. The race isn't just a race either, it's a giant party and a huge celebration of life. My guess is that half of the fans that flock to the event are there to take in the party/festival like atmosphere.
After a grueling plane flight in awful seats, we are in Germany. Look how beautiful it is!
Our group is herded together in the Frankfurt airport. From left our host Melanie Feucht from KW, Jay Chen from KW USA, Paddy McGrath from Speedhunters.com (he is mostly hidden), Sean Klingelhoefer from Super Street, J.G. “Birdman” Pasterjak from Grass Roots Motorsports, Carter Jung from Import Tuner, Jeff and our other excellent host Oliver Scherbaum.
We pile into these awesome VW Ubervans. They are pretty small but they swallow us, our tons of gear and our luggage. Not surprisingly they are equipped with KW Variant 3 coil over systems and they handle amazingly well even with the maxed out load.
Tired but excited, we head straight to the Nurburgring from the airport.
A portion of the RingºWerk, a huge complex at the track which features a racing museum, a car themed mall and amusement park. Awesome. There are hotels shops and other amenities at the track unheard of in the USA.
That's not to say that German race fans are not hard core motorsports enthusiasts. Fans packed the stands, the hillsides around the track, the town, the pits and the garages, fans as far as the eye can see!
We check into the media center. We were very impressed, most tracks in the US don't even have a media center. This one had web access, many video monitors with TV feed and live feed from around the track, live scoring, big windows overlooking the track, nice bathrooms, secure lockers and free food and drink. We had planned to camp out and base our operations from here but the race is so immense and the ground covered so vast that we could not manage to do this. The event is also a cultural experience so to write about it we had to experience the whole scene. We had also intended to give more live blog updates but unfortunately, the Internet in Germany seems hit or miss. The lines in the media center got overloaded and kept dropping off–not good for trying to live edit MotoIQ. We also had trouble from our hotel rooms and even the KW factory. We are spoiled with fast Internet back home!
European race teams have amazing temporary garages that they erect on the sides of their transporters to do more serious work on the cars away from the hot pit areas. This stuff is nicer than what even Indy and ALMS teams do with climate controlled conditions and plastic tiling on the floors. Even the privateer teams have pretty nice setups.
Check out these cool TDI ETCC racers, Diesel power rules in endurance racing. I would love to give one of these guys a try!
We got a good look at this Aston Martin ETCC racer. In Europe, the teams are so much more accessible than in the states. Most teams let fans and the media right into their pit garages and everything! Fans just walk right in through closed doors. No one steals stuff and the fans stay respectfully out of the way. Try walking into into the private area of a NASCAR, ALMS or IRL team and see what happens. It's probably because Europeans know how to behave and don't sue for every little thing like Americans tend to.
|The lower ETCC classes have to stay pretty stock.|
We had planned to blog from the race with updates and other news but were stymied by several things. One was the sheer enormity of the event and the size of the track, it sometimes took several hours of hiking just to reach an ideal photo spot. The ultra modern media center was filled with journalists from around the world, journalists who were downloading huge image files and jammed the internet line. Without a good connection our editing and uploading abilities were limited. We had to stay up into the late hours of the morning to get what we did up.
We thought you would like to look at cage details. European racers tend to have elaborate tube work around the perimeter of the car but strangely lack cross bracing behind the seats and have strange mounting points for the shoulder belts. This would not pass SCCA or NASA tech.
The Aston Martin had excellent KW Motorsports three ways just like what you and I can buy. KW equips about 30% of the field for this race–more than any other shock brand. KW's have a reputation for really working on the rough and demanding Nordschleife or North Loop. We will get into that more later.
The Aston Martin has pretty stout stock brakes.
Like our rules, the fuel system has to stay behind metal shields.
|All of the cars running the race have to run the same spec fuel provided by the FIA. It is a fairly low octane, close to pump gas unleaded brew needed because all the cars in the race run catalytic converters.|
It would be cool if GM brought in some of these cool Opals to our shores.
I really loved the sleek and fast Audi R8 GT racers. I believe these cars are built to GT3 Specs, a step up from the Group N and ETCC racers. The GT classes are home to the corporate sponsored teams and the factory works teams. The Audi's look better without that dumb black vertical band on their sides.
I think this Ford is a Group N car, I am sort of lame at the differentiations but the lack of splitter and wing make me think so.
The Live Strip company seemed to sponsor a pretty serious racing team. They had girls handing out these flier things, sort of like the Mexican dudes on the Strip in Vegas if you know what I mean. I think Europeans are less hung up on sex than uptight Americans are. I think this was some sort of coupon. I wonder if Vandersexx has a race team?
|For every space in the Hot Pit live lane, there is a large garage built into the grandstands. Six cars are assigned to each garage so space is really tight. If a car cannot be repaired in the hot pit lane during the race, it gets pushed in here. Before the race the garage is packed with six cars and crews. Amazingly, the public can just walk in and fans pack these garages as well. Most teams don't mind the fans but the Porsche team was a little uptight about people milling around the super secret and trick Hybrid GT car and the other entry, a totally stock 997 RSR that was competing after being driven to the track on public roads and driven back to the Porsche factory after. More about Porsche later. In this race the cars and drivers are very accessible to the public and fans can mingle with their heroes. Nothing gets stolen and people don't seem to get in the way either.|
Although we usually pride ourselves with technical accuracy, please don't pick apart our stuff on the cars. We are not familiar with all of the classes and since the 24 hour race is international, the field consists of LMS GT cars, FIA Group N cars, ALMS, Super Taikyu, European Touring Car and Club racing classes so if I made a mistake on classes or specs, well sorry.