OPINION. Nürburgring and ‘the scariest race on earth’

This weekend’s 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series season finale at the Nürburgring has Bassam mulling about the legendary circuit, his own experiences on the dips, and the dangers posed racing at night…

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Back in May, crankandpiston.com took part in the 2014 Mille Miglia with Jaguar, an event that was affectionately dubbed ‘the most beautiful race in the world’ by none other than Enzo Ferrari. While I would never dare insinuate that I have even a micro-fraction of Mr Ferrari’s gravitas – and with the 1000km Nürburgring just around the corner – I am going to use my soapbox to bestow the Nürburgring 24-hour race with the title of  ‘the scariest race on earth’. It’s a description that most of you would agree captures the essence of the epic Nordschleife race around the clock.

My sole experience of the Nordschleife was on one of their infamous toll-road style track days, and my weapon of choice for attacking the world’s most famous track was a diesel Volvo station-wagon rent a car with a trunk full of luggage. A mate of mine who had spent way more time than any grown man really should driving the virtual Nürburgring on his X-Box (and subsequently knew every twist and turn of the 20.8km track) was my co-pilot. As he barked directions at me while we barrelled through one flat-out blind corner after another, all I could think was, “I can’t believe they hold races here!” And this was on a sunny summer day.

Not only do they hold races at the Nordschleife, the grid is probably the largest one seen anywhere, made up as it is of more than 170 cars. This means that not only do the drivers have to navigate possibly the most challenging piece of tarmac on earth – predominantly millimetres from unforgiving barriers – they have to do it with a couple of hundred other nutters fighting for the same bit of road. It makes the 24 Hours of Le Mans look like a day at the beach. Not to mention that it’s usually cold, foggy and raining but scariest of all is the fact that nearly eight hours of it is run in the pitch black. I’ve done the Dubai 24 Hour race numerous times and the dark hours are always pant-wettingly frightening. And that’s with half the number of cars, on an extremely safe modern track that I know like the back of my hand. I can’t even begin to imagine what the Nürburgring night stint must be like.

Here’s hoping the drivers in this weekend’s 1000km Nürburgring know what they’re getting themselves into. Especially if they’re afraid on the dark.

– Shots courtesy of Tom Loomes and Nick Dungan

Categories: Opinion


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