► 2017 Nurburgring 24h in pictures
► 180 cars, 600 drivers, 900 marshalls
► Trackside, in the pits, and in the paddock
‘You must go to the Nurburging 24h,’ SCG founder Jim Glickenhaus told us when we interviewed him at the Geneva motor show earlier this year. ‘It’s like Woodstock and Burning Man festival, with a race going on at the same time.’
‘It’s the least German event you can imagine’, said a press officer for another team. ‘It’s like a race from the ’70s. It’s one of a kind.’
We had to see it for ourselves. CAR’s James Taylor, James Dennison and photographer Tom Chapman were trackside and backstage at N24 2017 - here’s a snapshot or two from two days and a night of racing at ‘The Green Hell.’
A race with big numbers
Some of the numbers associated with the Nurburgring 24h warrant a double-take:
- 180 cars, setting off in staggered rolling starts
- 600 drivers
- 900 marshals
- Each lap covers 15.8 miles
- 170 corners (or thereabouts, depending on who you ask)
- A crowd in excess of 250,000 people
The first 24h ’Ring race was in 1970; there have been 45 since.
Time for heroes
The Wall of Nurburgring legends is full of iconic names. Graham Hill, Jacky Ickx, Tom Kristensen, Jochen Mass and Niki Lauda all feature on the list of Ringmeisters.
The spice of life
The variation of cars on the grid is immense, from full manufacturer-backed Audi Sport, AMG and Porsche teams to the RLE International-sponsored Ford Focus. Yet, despite the vast gap in experience and resources, every car still has to fight for the same piece of narrow tarmac.
Happy birthday AMG
50 years of AMG called for a small celebration. And what better way to do it than to wheel out some AMGs past and present, including the historic 300 SEL 6.8 affectionately known as ‘The Red Pig’. The first car to be professionally raced under the famous three-letter acronym, half a century of road and racing cars started here.
Happy birthday AMG, love BMW
Never those to miss an opportunity to have a little fun with its rivals, BMW sent a special message to AMG on its 50th anniversary.
A historic race for ‘old-timer’ and ‘young-timer’ cars kicks off the racing programme. Some stunning cars include plenty of old 911s in a variety of iconic liveries, and there was plenty of on- and over-the-limit action, despite the cars’ values.
World Touring Car Championship – on the support bill
You know a race is a big deal when one of the support races is the World Touring Car Championship. The world’s top tin-top series completed two hairy-looking races on the full Nordschleife circuit; marshals appeared unmoved.
We caught up with British driver Alexander Sims ahead of the race. Clearly a glutton for punishment, he was entered in not one but two cars in the same race, for the Rowe racing BMW M6 GT3 team.
‘The traffic and the narrow circuit are the two main factors of the N24. It’s like Le Mans, in that there are different classes, but here there are 20 different classes, and in a GT3 car the closing speeds versus a Clio or a Golf are just staggering. For 24 hours you’re ducking and diving. It’s such a fine balance between being cautious and losing time.’
A busy weekend for Audi
The 2017 Nurburgring 24h was the debut race for Audi’s new R8 GT4 car, which shares around 60% of its components with the road car (as opposed to the top-category R8 GT3, which has around 40% of its parts in common with the production R8).
For the first time, every model from Audi Sport customer racing range were competing at the same weekend: the R8 GT3, the R8 GT4, the RS3 LMS in the 24h, and the Audi Sport TT Cup support race.
Qualifying begins on Thursday and concludes on Friday, with a 2-lap shoot-out for the top 30 fastest cars.
Glickenhaus grabs pole
And it’s the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 003 that qualifies fastest. It’s a popular outcome; a small independent marque that designed its car specifically for the Nurburgring 24h, there’s a lot of warmth towards them. ‘I’m really happy for them,’ Alexander Sims told us. ‘They’ve invested a lot in this race, it’s a nice story.’
Here’s a closer look at the SCG’s headlight stack. Designed to cut through the pitch black of the Nordschleife’s forest sections, the front-running cars include powerful flasher lights to usher backmarkers out of their path.
Up close with the SCG 003
The access possible at the N24 is incredible; anyone with a ticket can go to the back of the garages, and anyone with a media pass can nip inside (even us). Here’s the pole-sitting SCG 003, which shares its cramped garage with its sister car and two Renault Clio Cup cars – summing up the sheer variety of the N24 grid.
BMW M8: first look
BMW’s M Division gave the world a preview of its upcoming M8 luxury performance car, as a camouflaged prototype completed a demo lap of the circuit before the start of the 24h race. You can read the full story here
Hyundai’s N division warms up
Anything M Division can do, Hyundai’s N division can too; shortly before the M8 lapped the circuit in camouflaged prototype form, Hyundai’s upcoming i30 N hot hatch did exactly the same thing in a similar promo stunt – and two development cars entered the race, too, using the road car’s engine, gearbox and similar chassis settings. Both made the finish, with the top one 5th in class and 52nd overall.
In 2016 the Nurburgring 24h featured hailstorms, freezing fog and was temporarily stopped after scores of cars skated off the iced-over circuit…
…and this year teams and drivers roasted in 30degC heat.
We bumped into the very fast racing driver Benny Leuchter, who we met at the launch of the VW Golf GTI Clubsport S – the car he set the front-wheel-drive production car lap record in (before it was recently nicked by Honda’s new Civic Type R). Read our account of following Benny round the Nordschleife here
Somewhere behind them is the VW Golf GTI TCR car Benny qualified on pole in class by more than half a minute, ahead of various GT4 Porsches, Aston Martins, BMWs…
BMW's new M4 GT4 makes its debut
BMW’s new M4 GT4 customer car made its race debut at the Nurburgring 24h. A successful one, as it turned out; it would finish first in class.
Go go go!
The clock strikes 3.30pm and 180 cars blast off, in three staggered rolling starts.
Squeaky-clean tyres are faster tyres. No, not really, but they still look better – and are easier to work with – then brake dust- and grime-caked rims. Even in the high-tech world of F1 you’ll find a mechanic hosing down the tyres behind the team lorries.
Slick tyres freshly scraped for their next stint, the mechanics at N24 take a relaxed approach between pit stops. Smoking cigarettes next to the pit garage, napping in cars and playing games on camping chairs, it can sometimes be hard to tell the mechanics from the fans.
To say the fans trackside at the Nurburgring 24h make the most of the weekend is something of an understatement. Some set up camp weeks before the race begins, building impressive sleeping quarters and viewing platforms, sometimes even with hot running water, and invariably imbibing plenty of alcoholic beverages.
SCG leads the way
Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus leads the opening laps, before contact with a lapped car means a stop for repairs; the pole-wining car will eventually crash out of the race on Sunday morning. Its sister car finished 20th overall and first in class.
Apexing at sunset
Dusk means some spectacular photos from Porsche, and spectacular driving: here’s the Frikadelli Racing Team 911 GT3 R.
Nightfall at the Nordschleife
The atmosphere trackside at night is quite something. And some of the campsites can be more than a little bit rowdy…
No sleep for the pit crews
Here's a 2am pitstop for the Glickenhaus SCG 003.
Improvisation is a hallmark of motorsport.
It’s been emotional
Morning has broken, over 250,000 hung-over race fans, 900 very tired marshalls and well over 100 cars still running.
Spotted: Bugatti Chiron
Casually cruising around the paddock
Everything including the kitchen sink
Before the race is over, the WTCC teams are already packing up their gear. This one brought plenty of kit…
Souvenir hunting, Nurburgring-style
One man’s worn-out racing tyre is another’s treasure, as that well-known saying goes.
Emergency repairs, al fresco
With well over 100 cars in the race, room in the pit garages is tight. Therefore if a car needs repair work done, any old piece of tarmac will do – even if it does mean mechanics beavering away slap-bang in the middle of the paddock. Members of the Walkenhorst Motorsport team are seen here trying desperately to breathe life back into a stricken BMW M235i.
After 23 hours of racing it looked as though the wet tyres would be staying firmly on their racks. However, with around 20 minutes remaining the rain began to fall. Cue a mad scramble for grooved tyres with catatonic mechanics hauling rubber across the paddock towards their team garages.
This is what pressure looks like
Half the track is soaking wet, half of it bone dry. The drivers just need to get their cars across the line. We snuck into the pit garages to watch the final few minutes of the race, where the tension is almost unbearable
This is what relief looks like
And these are the scenes in the winning Audi Sport customer racing Land Motorsport garage as their R8 GT3 crosses the line. With less than an hour to go they thought the race was lost as they were slowed with a faulty sensor; changing to rain tyres at exactly the right moment won them the race.
There's one of the four winning drivers, Markus Winkelhock. He's probably had worse days in the office.
The car's the star
And there's the winning car, the Land Audi R8 GT3. At the N24 they have one podium for the drivers, and another for the cars. The R8's just been forklifted onto the top step.
Guess who's second
One of the two Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3 cars driven by Alexander Sims (below left). 'It's all about winning the race of attrition and not having any reliability issues,' he told us pre-race. 'We've had a power reduction, and realistically, a podium finish will be difficult.' He looks quite happy to have been wrong...
Celebrations are justly boisterous for the top two teams, and more muted for the third-placed Audi Sport Team WRT team, who'd been leading the race before the rain fell with mere minutes to go. Racing is a tough sport - and no race more so than the N24.
Words: James Taylor, James Dennison
Photography by Tom Chapman, Falken, Porsche, James Dennison