Photo: Porsche

I knew the Nürburgring 24 Hours was a big deal before I got here. They’ve got 15.99 miles of track to run tons of cars at once, and regular enthusiasts routinely go door-to-door with Le Mans winners. But the sheer size and scale of this event is larger than I could have ever imagined, and the utter lunacy of racing here is why you should burn your weekend watching it, even from home.

[Full disclosure: Porsche wanted me to check out the Nürburgring 24 Hours so badly that they paid for travel, lodging and snacks for this trip, and I am slowly recouping the thousands I’ve spent on 944 parts in little bowls of Haribos.]

Several people this weekend have described this to me as Germany’s largest sporting event, and by the sheer numbers of participants alone, they’re probably right. One hundred and forty-six vehicles are on the final entry list for the main event alone, and over 500 drivers there are signed up to split driving duties.

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That’s not even including the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup, WTCR and 24h-Classic support races. While the first two were more regular-sized fields, the 24h-Classic is a behemoth. There were 160 cars listed for the 24h-Classic qualifying session today, most of which listed multiple drivers to handle the three-hour race tomorrow.

The selection of vintage and offbeat metal in that 24h-Classic session alone broke my brain with joy, and that was before I got to watch TCR cars—one of my new favorite specs of angry-peanuts with mad fender flares—tackle the full-length course. On top of that, tomorrow there’s going to be a drift show as well. I can’t wait.

Yes, that sign says what you think it says. A lot of folks have compared this to the rowdy infield at Sebring.
Photo: Porsche

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Well over 200,000 fans are expected to show up for the weekend to watch the utter lunacy of people trying to race the full, combined Nordschleife course with the grand prix track included, and it’s worth paying attention to the broadcast cut-aways out to the fan areas. Beer bongs were already out in force for support race qualifying earlier today, and some of these campsites look nicer than my last apartment. Given that this race attracts enthusiasts from around the world, the parking areas alone are almost as good as the cars on track.

That’s not to downplay the main day-long race, either. I can’t stress how insanely tough this must be to race. Remembering what’s next on a 3-mile track with tired race car brain is tough enough. Trying to race a track that’s nearly 16 miles for an entire day—including in pitch black sections, and with potentially wet weather this weekend—is completely ridiculous.

One of the most legendary Nürburgring 24 Hours onboards of all time—Leh Keen in a Porsche 911 GT3 R on a wet track in the dark—shows just how insane it can get out there.

To put it in perspective as to why this is hands-down the most insane feat in racing, Daytona’s road course is a mere 3.56 miles, and Circuit of the Americas is only 3.4 miles. Le Mans’ Circuit de la Sarthe is just shy of 8.5 miles, and far less kinky than the full Nürburgring.

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That main event holds something for everybody, from some of the fastest GT3 squads on the planet to an Opel Manta and small TCR cars that wouldn’t be out of place in the support series. There’s even a Dodge Viper on the entry list, which will hopefully do America proud. If the Viper doesn’t get it done, perhaps Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus’ insane SCG 003 or the mostly-American driver squad of Securtal Sorg Rennsport’s No. 27 BMW M235i Racing will represent us well.

They’re going to have to beat out a lot of locals to do it, especially given that major teams like Manthey Racing and Aston Martin have home bases right down the road. Occasional Jalopnik contributor and Bridge to Gantry scribe Dale Lomas is there in Manheller Racing/Milltek’s Sport’s Toyota 86 Cup car that’s been nicely upgraded with a sequential racing transmission, among other things.

Photo: Porsche

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And there are still others from around the world. Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Team Thailand brought a pair of Corolla Altises to run. Other teams’ driver lineups hail from as far away as Japan or Argentina.

Last year’s winners and burnout pros, the No. 21 Audi Sport Team Land R8 LMS, set the fastest lap Thursday with an 8:18.914. There’s more sessions to come before they race Saturday, and it’s hard to say who might be holding back in these earlier sessions. The entry list is truly ridiculous with fast names far too familiar to sports car nuts, including three-time Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer in the No. 26 KÜS Team75 Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3 R. That list can be viewed in full here.

Of course someone’s still racing a BMW E36 here!
Photo: Porsche

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Thankfully, keeping up with the race from home this year is pretty simple. The official ADAC Zurich 24h Rennen YouTube page has all kinds of onboards, recaps and live streams, including the English-language stream set to go live at 8:45 a.m. Eastern U.S. time (2:45 p.m. CET local) shortly before the main event starts. (Note: ADAC’s live stream isn’t available in Germany as NITRO is broadcasting the race here.)

Radio Le Mans will be providing English commentary for the race as well, which is overlaid over the video stream here (without a German geoblock), and accessible as an audio-only stream as the RS1 channel here.

Live timing can be found here, the full weekend schedule (all times CEST) can be found here, and a running text news ticker of significant action (in German) can be accessed here. Now for the important question: how little sleep does one need to function?

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Photo: Porsche

Correction [5/12]: An earlier typo listed Daytona’s road course as 2.5 miles instead of 3.56 miles, and this has been amended above. Additionally, a press release I’d used as a reference listed the 12.9 length for the course this weekend, but the course is actually 15.99 mi (25.738 km) this weekend per an info sheet from the race organizers themselves. That’s even more insane!