24 Hours of Nürburgring 2010

Editor’s note: Due to our blog’s closure, we were unable to post our coverage of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring in a timely manner. We wouldn’t want to put Christoph’s efforts to waste though, so here’s his report.

Better late then never, here are my impressions from this years 24 Hours race at the Nürburgring.

I arrived at the track on Friday, facing miserable weather and a weekend of camping. Couldn’t be happier.

Earlier that day, the 2nd qualifying session had been held and had established the starting order.

Audi #100 was on pole, with the next three spots occupied by Audi.

Then there were three Porsches and on eighth place the BMW #25 of Schnitzer Motorsports.

The Manthey Porsche that has won for the last four years was only seventh.

During the afternoon, the 24 Hours classic event took place on the track. There were a lot of interesting cars, and a lot of E30s.

The entries included a Cobra (Possibly a replica), a Morgan, a Lada, several Austin Healeys and Alfas and my favourite BMW of all time, the M1. The sound was beyond description, and it was by far the loudest car all weekend.

In the evening hours we visited the RingWerk, a new exhibition centre at the Grand Prix circuit. While it is still under construction (a roller-coaster is going to go right through the building once it is finished), there was still a lot to see.

Nissan had a couple of GT-Rs on display, one of which was the Spec-V, limited to just 40 units for Europe and sporting a lot of carbon fibre. For me though, the most impressive thing was the size. Having seen them only on pictures, I was surprised how big Godzilla really is.

Also on show were a couple of Porsches, including the GT3 R Hybrid entry.

The GT3 version of the Mercedes SLS appears to be ready to race, and hopefully is going to do so at next years event.

For the parade lap and the first couple of laps of the race, we positioned ourselves at the section Bergwerk, where Niki Lauda had his severe accident in 1976. During the parade lap, I was amazed at the diversity of cars taking part.

From full blown GT3 cars like the Audi R8 GT3…

… to Renault Clios.

Not to forget the legendary Opel Manta, which is said to have its own exception in the rules just to sport that foxtail. Sadly, it retired very early on.

Another interesting entry, the Focus RS prepared by students of the Cologne University of Applied Science supported by Ford.

After all cars flew by, I stand there waiting for the cars to come by in full race pace for the first time. Since Bergwerk is merely half way around, I was not expecting a lot of position changes. I was badly wrong.

The Manthey Porsche came by as the first car. It looked like they made up six places in half a lap from where I was standing. It did not even take them that long, as can be seen in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wA-5VB9uas (from around 3 minutes in)

Now we would have to wait and see which cars are the fastest during racing, which has the least problems with the traffic (roughly 200 cars started) and which would last the full 24 hours.

While Audi dominated the qualifying, it seemed that Porsche had a much higher race speed. After an hour, there were three Porsches on top, with three R8s following closely.

As we approached the evening, the Manthey Porsche keeps a steady lead, while the hybrid Porsche driven by Jörg Bergmeister in a double stint works its way up the rankings.

The BMWs seem to be off the pace from the other top teams, but that didn’t break their spirit.

The new Z4 GT3 looks awesome and sounds even better.

I couldn’t quite decide which sounded best though.

As the night falls, the Nordschleife is beginning to take its toll.

At 9:30 pm Audi #98 has to swerve to avoid hitting another car, goes onto the grass and hits a curb. Driver Marc Basseng reports losing oil, minutes later the car stops due to engine failure.

An hour later, the #1 Porsche gets hit by another car, taking last years champion out of the running.

The Nordschleife makes for quite a lot of photo opportunities at night, especially when it is populated by an array of racing cars.

We walk back to our camping site, take a bite to eat and plan on going to bed.

The atmosphere is breathtaking, the beautiful Eiffel scenery and the noise of a couple hundred race cars make for quite an experience. Or as Jeremy Clarkson would put it: “The hills are alive to the sound of horsepower.”

When I got up, the whole track seems to have settled down a little. The fans that were partying hard the last night were asleep and on track, the number of cars was diminished over night, with the drivers now being more cautious to increase the chance of their car seeing the checkered flag.

The hybrid Porsche and Audi #99 battled during the whole night for the lead.

This fight was put to an end when the Audi squad has to change the rear axle. Amazingly, the car is back on track seven minutes later. More technical problems however means that they have to retire the car.

This moves the Audi #2 from Abt Racing to second place, shown here lapping the not so common Ginetta.

The only Ferrari at the race, entered by Team Farnbacher, climbed several places during the night and is now running an unbelievable fourth.

The #76 BMW Z4 is also on its way up the ranking, now on fifth.

One of the local favourites, the Frikadelli Porsche, has to retire in the morning.

At 10:30 am the remaining Abt Audi is stranded on the Nordschleife due to a broken drive shaft. This makes for good news for the hybrid Porsche, acquiring first. Yet they don’t run trouble free either.

The manifold on the Porsche needs to be replaced, which the Manthey crew does in just 12 minutes.

Their advance is now less than two minutes on the following BMW #25. An hour later, the hybrid is out. The car stops at Breidscheid with an engine failure, probably due to damage from the manifold problem.

This in turn puts the BMW on first and the Farnbacher Ferrari on second place.

The Schnitzer team has a substantial lead of one and a half laps, that may not sound like much, but on the Nordschleife that equals 15 minutes. However, to finish first, first you have to finish. Less than two hours to go, they start having trouble with their transmission.

Uwe Alzen, driving the last stint without fourth gear, is instructed to nurse the car home, keeping in mind the fast approaching Ferrari.

In the end they keep their lead, and the Schnitzer BMW #25 driven by Jörg Müller, Augusto Farfus, Uwe Alzen and Pedro Lamy wins the 2010 24 Hours Nürburgring.

I was even more impressed by the second place of Team Farnbacher, a privateer team running against one of the strongest grids the Nürburgring 24 hours has seen so far.

Audi was able to redeem itself by car #97 finishing third.

Even though Manthey had a tough time with their #1 car getting caught up in someone else’s accident, and the hybrid failing with the end in sight, Porsche has one car to be proud of.

They ran a stock – demonstrated by the license plate –  GT3 RS and finished 13th against highly prepared race cars. One of the drivers was Chris Harris from Evo by the way.

All in all it was a great race and the Nürburgring proved once again that it is one of the most gruelling race tracks in the world, taking out a lot of the high profile teams and cars. The best thing however about the 24 Hours Nürburgring is how close you get to the teams, the cars and the racing. After the checkered flag, I was able to wander through the paddock area and even take a close look at the cars in the parc fermé. Where else do you still get this sort of hospitality for the fans? Truly unique.

All photos Copyright © 2010 Christoph Pohl/The Blog of Cars

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