With Sao Paulo disappearing from the WEC calendar this year a different location had to be added. And boy, am I happy they decided to go to Germany!
Of course it’s awfully convenient to hop over to Germany from the UK, but there is something about that name: Nürburgring.
I was fully aware they were not going to race at that part of it. Nevertheless this was a trip I was looking forward to for months. On 28 August the day finally came that I flew to Düsseldorf and from there I drove straight to the track. Throughout the weekend the weather was amazing (read: hot!) and I found several brilliant spots to view the action from. I think in most locations you’ll be able to see several sections of the track.
One of the things I found unusual is that the complex is for a very large part open to the public. With there being a cinema, shops, a kart track and more it makes sense to ensure people only need a ticket for a race. The stands were behind ticket machines and fences, everything else is freely accessible. In addition, there are areas of the track you can reach by simply driving there and having a look through the mesh fence. I did get the idea those areas may be part of the Nordschleife, but I didn’t give myself the time to fully investigate.
On Friday afternoon it was nice and quiet. Not that many people decided to show up. In my opinion you miss out if you only go for weekend or, worse, only on Sunday. The atmosphere was calm, the weather helped put people in a good mood and there was still lots to see. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to walk around and get acquainted with the track. I even made my way to the paddock, because I had a pit walk ticket for the Sunday.
I ended up staying until the very last part of the programme – practice 2 – had finished, so I certainly made the most of my day.
Saturday was another busy day on track, so I spent my day trackside as much as possible. I managed to get some nice photos of the Porsches going round and of course the so-called Legends of Nürburgring. Being a car enthusiast it was a real treat for me to see some older cars race. The fact that the ‘Legends’ were mixed up, rather than put in neat classes, just added to the fun. There was one classic Mini which gave chase to some newer and much bigger cars! Entertainment value 100%.
Sunday was of course the main thing: the race from 13:00 to 19:00 local time. But before that I joined several thousand people for the pit walk.
I’ve only been to one other pit walk: in April before the 6 hours of Silverstone. That was busy…in Germany it was busier. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was due to the fact that there were 8,000 tickets available and they didn’t check the tickets. In theory anyone could get in, even without the pit walk ticket.
Despite the pushing and shoving during the signature sessions it was still pleasant enough to get a closer look at the cars (and the drivers).
I’ve mentioned in my post about the race at Silverstone that it’s not impossible to keep up with the positions of the cars when you’re trackside. Even though I did not see any radios being sold (something they do do at Silverstone) and I could not read the listing on the enormous screen opposite the stand where I was, I still had an idea how things were going. Obviously the lights at the side of the cars help to determine who is running first, second and third in each class. And there’s the WEC app which can also be a helpful tool (unless your mobile’s battery is running out, like mine). Anyway, I think that by staying on my seat as much as possible during the race I managed to keep up pretty well.
My favourite team (Aston Martin Racing, but I bet I didn’t need to remind you) wasn’t doing as well as I had hoped. Before the race I had heard about the Balance of Performance rule. To be honest, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. I’ve tried to find more information on this rule, but couldn’t find much other than that it is meant to even out the performance across a class and it’s at FIA’s discretion. That means to me that pretty much anything can happen and it did. If someone knows how to explain the fact that the slower cars (being the Astons) got hit with a BoP penalty, please do, because I don’t understand. The result was as good as disastrous. The drivers were clearly pushing as hard as they could, but the cars simply could not deliver what was needed.
In case someone thinks I’m really angry about this – no, I’m not. I just don’t understand this rule and of course it does bother me my favourite team didn’t do as well as they could have done. Thankfully, in the GTE AM class the #98 still made it to a well deserved 2nd spot.
All in all I had an absolutely wonderful time. This was not only due to a nail bitingly exciting race, but also the weather and the relaxed attitude of the mainly German spectators. So what if you support Aston Martin Racing rather than a German brand like Porsche or Audi? We were all there for the same thing – superb racing – and we got just that. This was a weekend which resulted in a lot of smiling faces, regardless of which team the people supported.
If there is another race, WEC or otherwise, at Nürburgring next year (and I know there will be!), I am most certainly going again.