Spent a fun weekend at the 24-hour Nurburgring race. It's a compelling mix of draws: 199 drivers, 24 hours of hard racing, 13 miles of Nurburgring and a spread of cars most of which you'll recognise from your daily commute.
A small gaggle of CAR journos and designers made the eight and a half hour pilgrimmage to Germany and I was among them. And you know what? Now I've popped my Nurburgring cherry, I can see what all the fuss is about. It was amazing.
All 199 cars set off from the start line on Saturday in three groups from around 3pm. Some estimates put the crowd at around 200,000, but the numbers can never really be counted. The campsites and grandstands were full to the brim, people watching from the side of the road - wherever they can find a space.
The atmosphere at the 24-hour Ring race is enough to send any petrol junky into a spin. The campsite set-ups were so elaborate, scaffolding poles appearing the most popular option to build the highest and give the best view of the track. You won't go to the Ring for sleep: the sound systems blast out Eurogibbon music until at least 5am! One group of hardened fans had even set up a fire engine as a generator for the trailer that was parked a few yards away with the world's loudest speakers.
Team CAR arrived on Friday and I was woken on Saturday by an unusual alarm call: the blare of Clio Cups on a practice run. Better than my Nokia standard alarm clock, I'd say.
Through some mates at VW, we scored a ride in their Dakar rally car. Not advisable just after lunch, but definitely gets you geared up before the race. I could probably have done with a bolster cushion to see over the bonnet whilst being thrown around - my lack of vision just adding another element of surprise as I was flung in my seat around corners and over steep downhill slopes. Yep, a passenger ride in a Touareg Dakar rally car comes highly recommended but it's not for the fainthearted.
We were back just in time to see the crowds clear from the track, and the drivers begin to prepare for the drive of their life. It’s a rolling start, but when they come back around and fly across that start line again the sound and sight is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
The great thing about endurance racing is the flexibility for fans. You're not rammed in a grandstand - you just wander around to catch different vantage points. We strolled on down to the Foxhole at a point where one of the BMWs appeared to have lost the right side wheel. We also caught our brave colleagues at Evo magazine ending their race in a Lotus Exige engulfed in a ball of flames and smoke. How did it happen? You’ll have to watch the video below.
The Nurburgring 24-hour race was won by a BMW M3, but the sheer volume and variety of cars racing means there's something for everyone at the race. I can wholeheartedly recommend it. What an event, what an atmosphere.
Here’s a few videos to give those of you who didn’t make it a taste of the event.
For final race resultsclick here