Welcome to the Green Hell!
Our last update came from a bar called PistenKlause, shortly after arriving at the 'Ring the night before the race. It's like heaven in the Green Hell and the best racing bar in the world: its located at the best track in the world, is covered in racing Nordschleife memorabilia, serves some of the best German beer on the planet, and specializes in hot rock steak. What else could you ask for? Well the more I think about it, hot waitresses would be nice, but it’s a racing bar…
When we walked into the bar we ran into Tom and Matthias, two friends that read and comment on Jalopnik regularly from Germany. This is Tom's 12th year in a row at the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring and they took us on a late night tour of the track after helping us edit the first update of the Motorsport Road Trip. Now you understand why I have so many typos. Written over many beers and edited by two Germans, it can sometimes result in such things.
Before we get back to the adventure, there are a few things required to properly experience the greatest 24 hour car race on the planet. First you need a car:
The Fiesta ST is amazing, and not just because Ford let us borrow it for the trip, but because it's really good. More fun to drive than I would have ever imagined. You need to go test drive one when it hits the dealerships, seriously. You will be blown away by how good of a car it is for being front wheel drive.
The second thing you need is beer.
It takes as much beer as it does race fuel to get through the 24hrs of the Nurburgring. Finding the beer isn't the problem in this beautiful country, it's locating a cooler to store it in that becomes difficult. Thankfully, Ford provided us our cooler by skipping the spare tire in the Fiesta ST and replacing it with a styrofoam tool holder! It's like they knew when they named it "Fiesta" that we were going to party in it! So we removed kit and filled it with beer covered in ice.
And finally, you need an awesome raincoat. Or simply a love for racing, because it rains a lot at the Nurburgring! More so than any track I've ever been to. It's also not how much it rains, but rather the quantity of rain. It's thick like snow, blinds your vision, and never stops. The rain drops are so heavy that the noise of them hitting the roof drowns out the stereo.
Check out this restart photo that was taken by Elan Newman. The rest of the field must have been blind behind those first few cars! The rest of Elan's photos from the 24hrs can be found here. Seriously good stuff and worth a look.
But back to the story. What's the first thing you would do the night before the 24hrs of the Nurburgring? It's what I do the night before any race…especially if I'm racing. You go walk the track. Now the Ring is 15.5 miles long in its 24-hour configuration, so you're only going to see a few miles at best. We chose to go find the Karussel, but first we loaded up on beers for the walk after parking the car for the night.
The things we saw on that journey were bizarre. A minute after stepping onto the track we nearly got hit by a gang of skateboarders coming down the hill at warp speed in total darkness. We also came across some of the coolest trackside bars I've ever seen!
Then we found one giant penis after another…Germans love their penises.
After a ridiculously long walk we arrived at the Karussell. That is how the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring really started for us, lying in the Karussell. It was amazing to sit there and drink beers with friends as the sun came up. Sometimes jetlag is a beautiful thing.
The way back to the car seemed to take forever so we stopped by some parties and played the pipe hammer game. I'm not sure of its real name, but basically you try to hammer a nail using a piece of pipe welded to a hammer. Give the amount of alcohol I consumed I wasn’t too bad!
Finally it was time to sleep. Ford felt like being awesome, so they also provided us with a hotel on top of the cooler – I'm starting to think the Fiesta ST is the Swiss Army knife of European road trips (wait till you here about driving the Col De Turini Stage in an upcoming post!). At the 24hrs of the Nurburgring most people camp or sleep in their car, and I can tell you the Fiesta is large enough to sleep two adults with all their gear and their beer. AWESOME.
A few notes on our Nurburgring portion of the Motorsport Road Trip of the Summer. All you need to see the 24 at the Ring is a plane ticket to Europe and a car. The rest will take care of itself. We never purchased a ticket or asked for media credentials. We just showed up like anybody else. Sure there are some areas that require a ticket like Breidscheid Bridge (sorry Maximilian Wegner, next year!) or the pit lane where my friend Yuji Otsuki was working with the Subaru STI team, but we were there to see the race and the woods are pretty much free.
Now we did get hooked up by my friends at Dunlop. I finished 2nd at Targa Newfoundland on the Direzza ZI and raced on the Direzza ZII last month at ESPR so they put me in touch with the Europe guys who throw this ridiculous party. It actually went later into the night than I could stay awake for.
We went back to the car and slept so we could catch the restart in the morning. It sucks they red flagged the race but after watching this lap it sort of makes sense.
The rest of the race was amazing. We went to the mini karussel and watched car after car grind its skidplate while running one hot lap after another. It's amazing how fast some the top cars entered the corner.
Some the cars were seriously destroyed and still racing, like this BRZ that got clobbered early in the race!
We didn't see the podium but Clement Marin captured this great photo(yes I used it in the Dunlop story) but I cant stop thinking about how cool it is that the cars are on the podium with the drivers!
We jumped into the Fiesta and headed to Munich for a day of German beer beforing driving through 7 countries in 10 hours to reach the Monaco Grand Prix.
Photos by Bill Caswell, Elan Newman, Clement Marin.