There’s a siren at the end of the Nürburgring 24 Hours’ pit lane that blares every time a car enters the pits. With 146 cars in the race and between four and six cars crammed in each garage, you hear this siren constantly. Pit lane at the Nürburgring 24 Hours race is a constant struggle not to get hit by anyone’s car, and I have a newfound respect for anyone who races here.
[Full disclosure: Porsche paid for travel, food and lodging for me to get to the Nürburgring 24 Hours this year. This is the story of me trying not to get hit by any of their race cars.]
I usually like to peek into the pits at some point during races because it shows teams at their most basic and relatable. Cars break, or need service. It doesn’t matter if it’s a six-figure GT3 racer or your mom’s minivan—it will need fuel and service.
In an endurance race, that has to be done as quickly as possible in a manner that will actually hold up when drivers push the car. The art of frantically wrenching a car back together comes together like a messy, greasy ballet for some of the top-level endurance teams.
Yet there’s just no space to pit or wrench with so many teams piled on top of each other. No one has the room or even the time to give anyone any room.
Close proximity does lend itself well to having teams help each other get their cars back on the track, which is something I saw in several garages. It doesn’t matter whose hands we’re talking about so long as all hands were on deck when there are so many cars crammed into so little space. After all, do you want a broken garage-mate’s car in the way if yours also needs to come into that space? Probably not.
FEV Racing—a team of coworkers for an engine engineering services provider who now runs a VLN team in their spare time—was spotted frantically working on an engine swap in their Seat Cupra TCR. This is their first Nürburgring 24 Hours running their own car, as previously they’ve only tuned other entries’ engines.
All of that work on engines paid off, however, and they made short work of taking the front end of their car off to install a new engine, as they believed their old one had a coolant system failure. Within a couple hours, the car was back together and back on track.
A venture out of the garages is a flirt with danger. You learn fast that anyone yelling—be it “Actung,” “Car!” or anything else—is a sign that you should look for a car about to barrel right into where you’re standing. One such pit stop had three cars angle right in front of me like it was no big deal. It’s what they have to do to share space, so they just do it.
One car—the race’s lone Ferrari 488 GT3—even caught on fire right in front of me. A fire extinguisher put it out fast, but not before the tip of said extinguisher also caught on fire.
It’s hard not to recognize the telltale cloud and whoosh of extinguisher gunk that goes up in the air, which is extremely worrying when said fire is right next to one of the gas pumps along pit lane.
Weirdly, teams fill from a regular gas-station-style pump here. The regular fueling procedure for most teams here would probably give safety stewards in other series a mild coronary.
I saw numerous fuelers climb up onto the nose of their cars to pop the fuel nozzle into fuel filler necks in the center of some cars’ hood as other work was performed on the cars’ tires and brakes. Cars were angled outwards in order to be able to leave if another car zoomed into the pit stall next to them with crew members still balancing on the cars’ noses.
Dodging 146 teams frantically trying to stay in the race was exhausting enough that I chose to stay above the pits in a tower suite as everyone came in for wet tires as a deluge of rain interrupted the night. It was like watching the world’s biggest game of Tetris, only with race cars.
If you don’t have a good view of pit lane to sit and enjoy the madness from a place where you’re less likely to get hit, there’s a pit lane live stream for the race that is utterly mind-blowing to behold. When there’s so little space, everyone is shockingly polite and efficient at using the tiny postage stamp they’re allotted to pit. It’s the epitome of making the most of a less than ideal situation.
While accidents do still sometimes happen, this race wouldn’t work at all if folks weren’t working together to stay out of pitting cars’ ways.
The No. 912 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R regained its the lead after a wet-track mishap this morning where they hit a slower car, and currently leads the race overall with just under five and a half hours left. However, the No. 4 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Black Falcon Racing has been swapping first and second places with the No. 912 for the past few hours, so it’s really anyone’s race there. You can keep up with live timing (and your favorite class) here.
Friend of Jalopnik and man who now knows the misery of being hit by a car getting pushed down this packed grid Dale Lomas sits in second place in SP3 class in the Manheller Racing/Milltek Sport Toyota GT86, despite that being one of the least powerful cars in the class. It sips fuel at a rate far below most of its competition, though, so it’s got a chance!