“That’s really the team that got me into sportscar racing,” I said at dinner, pointing at Allan McNish’s table behind me with my fork. Then, of course, I realize that holy crap, I’m pointing at the Audi LMP1 team with a chunk of dead cow, and that’s exactly how surreal and amazing a trip to the Nürburgring really is.
[Full disclosure: The World Endurance Championship wanted us to cover this race so badly that they flew me over here to cover it, put me in a hotel for the weekend, provided a rental car and is going out of their way to make sure I’m fed and happy while I’m here.]
This is, of course, a place I’ve wanted to go to for as long as I’ve known it existed. Whenever the cheeseball question of “Where would you go on a honeymoon?” comes up, I’m always the weirdo that interrupts the basic answers of “Hawaii,” “Aruba,” blah blah who cares with “HOLY CRAP, THE NÜRBURGRING” in exactly the kind of voice that all-caps italics implies.
Part of me expected to be disappointed somehow, as the beginning of my drive was on major roads that weren’t super exciting. Any emotion other than “oh my gosh” and “can I stay here?” went away the second I turned off onto the twisty roads that led to the circuit itself. There were rolling hills with farms and little villages that sort of looked like a cleaner, greener Pennsyltucky. That gave way to more mountainous terrain with lush forests and even twistier roads.
Seriously, can I stay here? I’ll trade my return ticket for an old 944, and I’ll just live here from now on. I’m okay with that.
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I’m here for the 6 Hours of Nürburgring this weekend, which is fantastic in its own right. All three manufacturer LMP1-class teams can sort of claim this as their home race. There’s the obvious German marques of Audi and Porsche, plus Toyota is based in nearby Köln. It’s the cars from Le Mans, but at the Nürburgring, a region so over-the-top about motorsport that every random little house seems to have a track car in its backyard, and it’s not bizarre at all to run into drivers and teams in Nürburg and Adenau after the track goes cold.
Many of the local restaurants dedicate a significant amount of wall space to awesome motorsports stuff. Last night, I went to the nearby Pistenklause, which not only had giant ridiculous chunks of meat served on hot stones for you to cook (or not) to your liking, but also had a crunched Mini hood behind our table, random signatures and stickers on the wall, and all manner of Nürburgring-related stuff everywhere. This whole area is like one big Siebkens. It’s ridiculous.
With no Formula One German Grand Prix this year, the World Endurance Championship round is the Nürburgring’s biggest race. This is the WEC’s first ever trip to the ‘ring in its short existence, and so far, so good. If there’s one series that seems to have its act together, it’s the WEC. It was the example that immediately came to mind the other day when writing about the cockpit debate raging in other series. WEC felt as if they needed to close up its prototype cockpits for drivers’ safety and now it’s often touted as a feature of the series that they were willing to take such a forward-thinking approach.
The series keeps growing and growing, with more manufacturer interest than ever before. Porsche, for example, just extended their commitment to its LMP1 program through 2018, and there’s still Nissan waiting in the wings whenever they get their car up to speed.
The WEC has also been somewhat of a benefactor from Formula One being an unaffordable hot mess. The top three GP2 drivers from 2013 ended up in the WEC for 2014, for example. It’s hard to find an F1 seat without bringing pay-driver levels of cash with you, so WEC really isn’t a bad place to land.
Then, of course, they’re at the Nürburgring, a track so legendary that it’s a destination in its own right. Later, I’m going to try to hop onto the Nordschleife. That’s right: there’s still tourist drives going on this weekend while the WEC takes over the GP track. It’s my ultimate want in a track weekend where I have to cover a race. I’m always around the track whenever I’m sent to cover things, but I rarely get to drive on track. It’s not fair, man. Either I need to get better at racing cars or just cover stuff at the Nürburgring all the time, haha.
If you’re not here this weekend, you should be. There are freaking Le Mans cars at the Nürburgring. There is absolutely nothing about that statement that isn’t epic.
Go to the Nürburgring. Yes, it’s worth it. I haven’t even been on the track itself yet, but it’s already worth it. The drive over here alone is like driving in a fairy tale. Everything caters to racing nerds. Every. Single. Thing. Go. It hasn’t just surpassed “not a disappointment”—it’s more spectacular than I could have ever imagined.
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