Ninety years ago some clever men decided that the rural area of the Eifel needed a race track so the local races would no longer need to be held on public roads in the dangerous Eifel Mountains. The 28.265 km long race track around the town of Nürburg quickly became Germany’s most famous racetrack.
42 years ago some other clever men decided to race around the clock on that very track. The 24 Hours Nürburgring was born. Over the years the prestige and international interest in the race grew constantly.
Today, the 24 Hours Nürburgring can proudly be called the ‘biggest automotive race in the world’. Over 175 cars and 650 drivers tackled the race through the ‘Green Hell’ this year! German carmakers see the race as a showcase for their technology, and being the only 24 hour race on their home ground intensives the drama even more.
The international interest is so high that even Japanese teams find their way to the small town of Nürburg year after year.
Luckily for the over 200,000 spectators Gazoo Racing brought one of the best sounding cars to the race this year: the Lexus LFA.
The V10 powered beauty was surely one of my personal highlights.
Unlike the LFAs, the works Nissan GT-Rs were playing an important role in the fight for the overall win.
On Thursday the weather was quite varied. The first qualifying session started in the dry and ended in the wet. This rain should have been the last rain seen during the race weekend.
Without any signs of use the Schubert BMW Z4 GT3 started in the race. At that moment nobody on the team was aware of the bad luck that would befall them during the race.
On Friday I decided to shoot the second qualifying session at the Karrusell. While hiking through the forest I could locate the place of desire by the sound of dying skid plates long before being able to see it.
After the weak performance of the Porsche 911 GT3 R in the Qualifying Race the Balance of Performance was changed in order to make the car more competitive. The BoP changes included bigger air restrictors; instead of 50mm they were allowed to run 60mm restrictors. With only 1275kg the GT3 R is also the lightest car in the SP9 class (GT3 class).
On the way back to my tent I was delighted by the DTM Revival. I was looking forward to getting everything I needed for the weekend. This wish turned out being unrealistic, as my neighbors camping at the Pflanzgarten decided to set up their massive speakers two meters from my tent. Until 4:00 A.M. I couldn’t sleep at all.
Early on Saturday morning I headed out to the beginning section of Hatzenbach. Not all the cars took part in the free practice that morning, but it was still well worth it.
Manthey Racing had only one 911 GT3 RSR on the grid this year. I really dig the super-wide body of the RSR version.
The weather looked good; only two hours left before the start!
From the top of the AMG Tower you get a brilliant view over the front straight and pit lane. Everything seems so ordered from above!
I followed the start phase at Brünchen, one of the most popular sections underneath the spectators.
The Dörr McLaren MP-12C was starting from P1; in Qualifying he managed to lap the 25.4km long Nordschleife in only 8 minutes and 10.921 seconds. This breathtakingly fast lap equals in a average speed of 186.101 km/h. The #25 BMW Z4 had qualified second.
Lap after lap the gap between the GT3 cars increased. Soon they started to get into traffic.
After the first hour the Schubert BMW was leading in front the #4 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3. The Manthey GT3 RSR already lost some time in this early phase of the race, and as a result the car was back in position 26.
I was quite happy with the light, it was actually the first time that I was covering a race at the Nürburgring in good weather.
The joy of light was completed by the joy of sound. The LFA is an absolute blast at full throttle.
When talking about superb sounding cars, there is no way around the Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3. After three hours the works car driven by Stefan Mücke, Darren Turner, and Pedro Lamy was in position 16.
For hours after the start, 24 Hours Nürburgring rookie Felix Baumgartner and his teammates were in P9.
The Frikadelli Porsche was running strong in the race but a mechanical problem soon stopped their pursuit of the win. Even though the team managed to get the car running perfectly again, the team decided to retire in order to not spend any more money on a race they couldn’t win anymore. For many Frikadelli fans this decision was a bit of a disappointment.
I hiked to the Schwalbenschwanz for the sunset hours and the light was just about perfect there. Sometimes a bit of planing pays out.
The #9 Prosperia C.Abt R8 was running in P7.
It’s a shame that the sympathetic Kremer Racing team hasn’t enough money for an updated version of the 911 GT3. I would really love to see this team back on the top.
The sun is setting, the night is coming!
I headed back to the GP course to unload my SD cards and charge batteries at the media center. After having done these tasks, fellow photographer Elan Newman and I went to the top of pit lane building.
After taking a few shots in the pit lane, I took a media shuttle back to the Nordschleife. Equipped with a tripod I captured a few long exposures before going back to GP Course for some more pit lane photos.
The #44 Falken Porsche worked its way through the field, at 4 A.M the team was in 5th Position.
The race was now halfway finished, the signs of the battle were visible on nearly every car.
Like many others the Subaru team had an eventful night. Problems forced the team to bring the car to pit and work on it.
The disappointment was clearly visible. Being the last in their class wasn’t something the only factory team in the SP3T class was expecting.
After a 2km walk, I arrived at the Antoniusbuche bridge. A few other photographers and I were standing on a camera tower; the sight over the Döttingerhöhe was marvelous. We all couldn’t wait for the sunrise, but soon our hopes for an epic sunrise were destroyed by clouds covering the sun. Most of us were about to leave when suddenly the whole straight was bathing in orange.
After my time at the Antoniusbuche, I decided to go to the other side of the Nordschleife. I started my walk along side the track at Adenau.
I had so much fun shooting trough trees.
For the first time ever I saw the Fuchsröhre in real life. Having driven it million times in Gran Tursimo made this section even more enjoyable for me.
Getting closer to end of the race also means that many of the cars I was looking for were out of the race.
Already looking a bit beaten up, the Falken Porsche was running in P4 after 20 hours of intense racing.
I spent the last three hours of the race in the pits.
The pit lane is an awesome place for hunting emotion and details!
The joy of the mechanics and drivers was heart opening. I can’t think of any other place where so many people were happy. Motorsport is not something you do for the money; it’s something you do because you love it and couldn’t live without it.
In the end it was the Phoenix Racing team that took the win of the 42nd 24 Hours Nürburgring! The new distance record of 159 laps makes this result even more impressive. Congratulations to Christopher Haase, Chris Mamerow, René Rast, Markus Winkelhock, the Phoenix Racing team and Audi!
Make sure to attend this jaw-dropping race at least once before you die, you will love it!
instragram: @maxmuller_555, @lifeblasters