To understand me now, you have to know the following: I have been coming to the Nürburgring since 1994, have seen the DTM here, have seen Formula 1 here and still have my heart in the endurance cup, formerly the Veedol series, now the VLN, pledged. And when I came to the 1997-hour race for the first time in 24, saw the campfire, heard the cars, smelled the sweet smell of burned brake pads and unburned gasoline, it was all over for me. Motorsport is part of my automotive passion and I know the Nordschleife from a few laps in tourist traffic. The 24-hour race has been one of my absolute appointments ever since. Mein-auto-blog has been around since 2011 and after a few experiments close to the team in 2003 and 2004, I found my position in the press center. Take your own photos, be close to the action and then report on them.
The 24 2015-hour race and probably the “coolest lap” of my life on the Nürburgring Nordschleife
Once a year, the Nürburgring circus becomes an incomparable fairground. Once a year racing drivers drive through a line of fans, applaud the fans from the racing cars, feel the emotions of the spectators up close, unfiltered and only a few minutes before the start of the toughest long-distance race in the world. There are supposed to be racing drivers who get “pee in the eyes” at this moment. A lead vehicle drives ahead of the field. In - 2015 - ich.
I am nervously on the starting grid 30 minutes before the start of the introductory round. Fought my way through the crowds on the start and finish straight. Nowhere in the world, in any other race, no matter how miserable development is currently going on at the Ring - nowhere do fans and active motor sports enthusiasts come closer together. It is a folk festival, it is an incredible party. They are emotions that you can grasp by hand.
The countdown to 20 minutes of bliss
At precisely 15:40 p.m. we lead the field. Roll on command from the walkie-talkie. From now on we have our own “race against the clock”, says my driver. Gerd steers the lead vehicle. For tens of years. Now we have 20 minutes in which we will lead the top field, starting group 1, over the Grand Prix track to the Hatzenbach, over the airfield and the rest of the Nordschleife to the start and finish straight. Gerd tells me about the top drivers' games. He always has to keep an eye on the vehicles with one eye in the rearview mirror. Are the pole-setters falling behind? Is it going fast enough? Too fast? Under no circumstances may he turn back onto the Grand Prix track before 16 p.m. But not too late either.
When it became clear that I would take part in the introductory lap, I organize a GoPro. This event must be recorded on “tape”. It needs to be commented on. You should hear the sound of the GT3 cars. The borrowed camera comes from “real professionals”. We haven't got the "haug hook" behind us yet, so it makes "beep, beep, beep”- and the red light for the memory card lights up. Card full. I panic and think about the alternatives. I want to tear off the head of the guy who lent me the camera. Not possible, Gerd lets the guide car fly in the direction of the Dunlop turn at the grip level of its road tires. He brakes hard - behind us you can hear the metallic screeching of cold brake pads on GT3 racing cars.
1.5 kg projectile - 700 photos
Before I got in, I thought about whether I shouldn't leave my “big” camera, my DSLR, behind? Camera against helmet? I decide against it and instead drive the side window of the "brand new”Audi R8 V10 down. Lean out of the window? No option. So blindly out the camera, held it back and pressed the shutter release.
In the end, there are 700 photos that I have to work my way through. Only about twenty are really useful. Only when we lead the first starting group into the “grid formation” on the Döttinger-Höhe do I realize what I have been doing for the last 15 minutes. In my hand is a camera weighing a good 1.5 kilograms. Unsecured. While we're leading the field for the 24 2015-hour race. What would have happened if I lost the camera? What would have happened if the camera had flown into the grille of the leading MarcVDS BMW Z4 GT3?
I would probably have been able to sneak out of the lead vehicle then. Make sure I get out of the paddock as soon as possible. But the “racing god” has shown indulgence. No journalist sabotages the 24-hour race. Lucky There are of course delicate moments in the Kesselchen area and at Pflanzgarten. The Audi R8 is a production sports car, but it doesn't move like a sedan chair. My arm hits the edge of the window, I hold the camera tightly and keep pressing the shutter release.
And so today - a good week after the event - I still indulge in these moments of happiness.
I can hear the gears of the GT3 racing cars howling as we roll down the Hatzenbach, smell the unique aroma of the 24-hour race. Can finally understand what the racers are talking about when they mention this atmosphere. The fans are out there, waving to their idols, thumbs up
I catch myself waving at the fans, but I notice the faces immediately - they don't wave to the overjoyed Fatzke in the lead vehicle (me), they wave to their heroes.
When we reach the Tiergarten area, the first starting group becomes quieter. The wild waving, the warming up of the tires stops. GRID - the starting formation is taken. Always two next to each other. There is not much left of the road on the most beautiful race track in the world.
The clock shows 15:59 when the leaders let themselves fall back briefly, only a few meters to the start and finish straight - we brake briefly so as not to let the gap become too great - then we turn onto the start straight. Gerd accelerates the Audi R8 at full speed - with the roar of the V10, we rave on the Grand Prix track until the moment when the leading BMW opens the race and Armageddon breaks out behind us. Breathless right now. I will never forget the sound of dozens of GT3's at full throttle.
Just like this one round, this very special round ...