Why you should watch… Nurburgring 24 Hours

Why you should watch...

Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

If this year’s thrilling Le Mans whetted your appetite for endurance racing, there’s another 24 Hour race to enjoy this weekend.

The Nurburgring 24 Hours takes place on the fearsome Nordschleife: the 20.8km, 170-turn beast of a track which last held an F1 race 35 years ago.

It boasts an entry list to match with over 200 cars taking part. Guest writer Christian Zorner is your guide to this massive race.

Unlike the high?ǣtech cars seen in Le Mans’ LMP1 class, most of the cars on the Nurburgring are much closer to ordinary production cars.

At the Nurburgring 24 Hours you can see a proper international race with factory-backed efforts at the top of the grid – and amateur drivers who work as pit crew members when they’re not driving at the other end of the grid.

The Nurburgring 24 Hours has been an institution in German motorsport for decades.

Its first running was in 1970 and it has been held ever since with three exceptions – twice during the oil crisis and when the modern Grand Prix circuit was bring built. International interest has increased in recent years as the Nurburgring’s fame has grown via its inclusion in games such as the Gran Turismo series.

The track

Aston Martin V12 Zagato, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

Aston Martin V12 Zagato, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

A combination of the modern Grand Prix circuit and the famous Nordschleife is used for the race. During one lap a car goes through inclines of up to 18% and drops of up to 11%. The difference between the highest and lowest point of the track is 290 meters.

While the long and narrow race track is difficult to drive on during the day, it becomes even harder during the night. Only the Grand Prix circuit has artificial lightning, leaving the drivers to rely solely on their headlights for most of the Nordschleife.

The twisty layout of the course, the lack of artificial lightning, the huge grid and the inevitable hazards of the weather make for a uniquely challenging event. Here’s a video lap of the track:

The cars

Volkswagen Golf 24h, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

Volkswagen Golf 24h, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

The great difference in performance between the cars has always been part of the race’s appeal.

Many fans were disappointed in 2009 when the race organisers excluded some of the slower cars and slowed down the front running cars to reduce the gap in speeds. Before that it was possible to see Mini Coopers and even estate cars in the race.

But there remains great diversity in the field. Naturally, the pack is well-populated by German car models such as the Mercedes SLS AMG, Audi R8, Porsche 911 and BMW M3 and Z4.

Among the foreign supercar entries are the Aston Martin V12 Zagato, Lexus LF-A and a Holden Commodore.

Ferrari P4/5 Competizione, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

Ferrari P4/5 Competizione, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

And keep an eye out for the Ferrari P4/5 entered by N. Technology and piloted by former F1 racers Mika Salo and Nicola Larini along with touring car champion Fabrizio Giovanardi and Luca Cappellari.

The first VLN races of 2011 (also run on the Nurburgring, to similar rules) were won by a factory-entered BMW, a GT3-class Mercedes SLS, a Ferrari 458, the Porsche GT3 hybrid and an Audi R8 LMS.

This makes predicting the outcome of the 24 Hours very difficult – at least five different car manufacturers are capable of winning this race overall.

You can view a full list of entrants (in PDF form) on the German Automobile Club’s website.

The drivers

Lexus LF-A, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

Lexus LF-A, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

There are many familiar names on the grid as well: Stuck, Winkelhock and Abt are well-known outside of Germany.

Touring car drivers like Dirk and J??rg M???ller, Augusto Farfus, Tom Coronel and DTM drivers like Mattias Eckstr??m and Timo Scheider will all start the race.

Le Mans 24 Hours winner Andre Lotterer will swap his Audi R18 for a Lexus LF-A.

Multiple World Rally champion Tommi M??kinen will drive a Subaru Imprea WRX STi. Top Gear fans will recognise Sabine Schmitz at the wheel of a Porsche 997 GT3.

It might surprise some people to learn that F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke is a big fan of the Nurburgring and finished the 2007 race in eighth place.

F1 technology on the Nordschleife

Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

It’s been a while since the last F1 car run on the Nordschleife, but fans of F1 technology still should be able to enjoy this year’s race.

One of the talking points of last year’s race was the impressive drive of the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid. This car uses a flywheel Kinetic Energy Recovery System developed by Williams Hybrid Power for use on Williams’ F1 cars.

The Porsche led the race with two hours to go but then suffered a mechanical failure.

Another familiar name for Formula 1 fans continues its involvement in endurance racing: Pirelli will equip several teams with tyres – though of course not the high-wearing kind we are used to seeing in F1.

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “Cars competing in endurance racing need to be equipped with a consistent product with strong durability features, whereas our Formula 1, GP2 and GP3 tyres have been designed to have variable durability features, as requested by the organisers to spice-up on-track action.”

The oddities

Aston Martin V12 Zagato, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

Aston Martin V12 Zagato, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

Three cars sharing the same garage and no safety car interruptions are just two ways the Nurburgring 24 Hours is unlike other races.

The garage sharing arrangement is simply by force of necessity with a field of 200 entrants. Among other things, they have to share a fuel pump with other pit garages as well.

Due to the large grid, the field is divided into different starting groups. This prevents big turn one crashes but also means some cars go a lap down before even competing their first lap.

Although closing speeds are not as high as they were in the past, the leaders are still faster by minutes rather than seconds.

Instead of the safety car, Intervention Vehicles are driven onto the course to collect crashed cars and pull them off the circuit.

The teams are allowed to work on their cars or haul them back to the pits. When there is fluid on the track, the marshals may close half of the road – this on a circuit which is already very narrow. You can see examples of the track closure and Intervention Vehicle at 2:37 and 5:00 respectively in this video:

During the last few years, there were up to 200,000 spectators at the race, making it one of the biggest motorsport events in the world.

At night you can see camp fires, barbecues and even light shows around the track. Some drivers even claim to be able to smell what’s cooking as they fly past.

Porsche has invited teams from various international Porsche Cups to enter a supporting race on the track before the main event. Over 200 911 GT3 Cup cars will participate in a six-lap, 152km race.

As a result, there is no Porsche Supercup race supporting this weekend’s Grand Prix. Given the choice between Valencia’s concrete barriers and angular turns and the Nordschleife, would anyone choose not to race in Germany?

The coverage

Audi R8, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

Audi R8, Nurburgring Nordschleife, 2011

In Germany, parts of the race are broadcasted by Sport1. Live streams can be found on the official website or on the sportauto website.

Audi also provide a live stream. Since 2007, the guys at Radio Le Mans provide their knowledgeable, passionate and entertaining commentary online.

Some cars also have GPS trackers you can follow.

Practice for the race begins this afternoon, followed by the first qualifying session which runs into the night.

The second qualifying session is on Friday and the race gets started at 4pm local time (3pm in the UK) on Saturday.

What motorsport would you recommend other F1 fans to follow? If you want to put the case for your favourite non-F1 category write a guest article and send it in. More information here: Write a guest article for F1 Fanatic

Why you should watch…

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67 comments on Why you should watch… Nurburgring 24 Hours

  1. Tyson Evans (@bobtehblob) said on 23rd June 2011, 10:06

    Anyone got any more info on the Commodore racing? Is it an ex V8 Supercar or what?

  2. Tyson Evans (@bobtehblob) said on 23rd June 2011, 10:11

    Also, how can Tilke be fan of the track? It’s actualy an entertaining track with character.Unlike any of the tracks he’s made/ruined. You’d think he’d learn how to make a half decent one himself if he loves this one so much…

  3. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 23rd June 2011, 10:12

    What a great article. I got my first taste of endurance racing at Le Mans this year and i’m hooked. Will be keeping an eye out on this race.

    Thanks for the heads up!

  4. Stephen Jones (@aus_steve) said on 23rd June 2011, 10:15

    never knew about the intervention cars.. seems a bit insane to me! otherwise the event is amazing.. fantastic track, atmosphere, racing and array of cars.

    Other well known drivers competing this weekend include Kazunori Yamauchi (creator and producer of the Gran Turismo series) and Craig Baird (co-host of the Australian coverage of F1)

    awesome article!

  5. Andy said on 23rd June 2011, 10:27

    Has anyone ever won Le Mans and Nurburgring in the same year?

  6. Millsique (@millsique) said on 23rd June 2011, 10:27

    Great article, many thanks.

  7. David B said on 23rd June 2011, 10:39

    I sometimes wonder if all the money spent for Hockenheim refurbishment, new Nurburgring building and many other works could have been used to make Nordschleife safe for F1.
    What a dream.

    • topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 23rd June 2011, 13:04

      Making the Nordschliefe “safe” for F1 would have completely ruined it IMO. Track width, runoff, camber, how close the trees are, the bridges, everything… it’d be easier to F1-ise the Stelvio Pass than the Ring :D

  8. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 23rd June 2011, 10:41

    Brilliant article. I wasn’t actually planning on watching it, but I might give it a go having read this. I also wasn’t aware it was this weekend!

    • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 23rd June 2011, 10:45

      And I forgot to add, I can’t believe how big the crowd is! I suppose it’s not the racing itself, but the legendary history of the event and the atmosphere that makes it such a popular race. I know I’d like to go one day!

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 23rd June 2011, 19:58

        Well, with about 260 cars entered, there is bound to be a few thousend family and friends alone!

        And a lot of fans of fast driving enjoy their rounds on the Ring themselves so they can come for a nice weekend.

        But it did suprise me how much it really is.

    • Stephen Jones (@aus_steve) said on 23rd June 2011, 12:55

      i know what holiday i’m doing next year!

  9. HounslowBusGarage said on 23rd June 2011, 10:46

    Brilliant race on a superb track. Thanks for the article, it’s a great read and the incar footage in the video clips is excellent..
    Incidentally, I didn’t realise they only used the short version of the Grand Prix track, turning right onto the link road. Why is that?

  10. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 23rd June 2011, 10:48

    Endurance racing is not for me, sadly.

    But massive thanks for letting me see that Aston Martin. That livery is great! Is that a Red Wings logo I see on the back?

  11. dennis said on 23rd June 2011, 10:52

    Yes, I will be there on saturday.

  12. Some interesting names have been entred. A “Peter Konig”, and car 208 “Bugs Bunny” – who also seems to be entered in car 228. I guess a few guys really don’t want their mother to find out….

    I also thought I heard a little while back that Craig Lowndes, Warren Luff and a couple of other Australian drivers were taking an R8 LMS over, guess that didn’t pan out.

    As a side note, this isn’t the first time there has been an Australian team at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, back in 2009 VIP Petfoods competed with their 911 GT3 RSR, coming in 9th overall and 3rd in class (SP7). Car was driven by Klark and Tony Quinn, Craig Baird and Grant Denyer.

    From an F1 point of view, Mark Blundell and Johnny Herbert are also driving in a Golf GT24 for the VW factory team

  13. sato113 (@sato113) said on 23rd June 2011, 11:10

    yeah great article! so much info.

  14. Really well written article there. Might have to take a look at it this weekend, sounds epic. And that Lexus LF-A… what a mega looking car!

  15. schooner (@schooner) said on 23rd June 2011, 12:24

    That’s the first time I have seen in car footage of the mighty track at night time. Very cool … and very dark!

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