The History of the Nürburgring 24 Hours

Manthey Grello Porsche 911 GT3 R (992) Leading Schnitzelalm Mercedes-AMG GT3 on the Nürburgrin...jpg
May has to be one of the best months of the year for racing fans: Not only are the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 traditionally held, the Nürburgring 24 Hour Race has made the month even more special since its inaugural event in 1970. It has since become the biggest racing event of the year in the Green Hell, drawing over 200.000 spectators every year – but it was not always like that.

Image Credit: Nürburgring on Twitter

Over 50 years ago, two different events took the spotlight on the Ring's annual schedule: It was still the host of the German Grand Prix (with the exception of 1970 to have work on safety measures carried out) in Formula 1, the other major event being the 1000km race as part of the World Sportscar Championship. Both were professional in nature and, of course, relatively expensive affairs to compete in. To give amateurs and smaller teams a more affordable alternative, the 24 Hour Race was created.

The initial running of the race was a spectacle already, with a fair-like atmosphere surrounding the old Start-Ziel-Schleife. One of the first winners would go on to become a racing legend, but was only 19 years old at the time – Hans-Joachim Stuck took the win alongside Clemens Schickentanz in a BMW 2002 TI. The tall Bavarian took to the top step of the podium two more times, winning the 1998 edition with Marc Duez, Andreas Bovensiepen and Christian Menzel, as well as the 2004 race alongside Dirk Müller, Jörg Müller, and Pedro Lamy.

1973-07-08_14.19_Uhr_Joisten_vor_Stuck_-_Foto_Spu-1024.jpg

Lauda's teammate Joisten leading Stuck's BMW in 1973. Image Credit: Lothar Spurzem on Wikimedia Commons, available for free distribution under the CC BY-SA 2.0 DE license

Another name that would turn legendary not long after was on the 1973 race-winning BMW Coupé 3.3 – Niki Lauda and his teammate Hans-Peter Joisten took the checkered flag first. It was the only race that saw a scheduled 8-hour "night rest" being implemented to improve driver safety and also keep the noise down around the Breidscheid village during the night. At the time, usually only two drivers shared a car during 24-hour events, and frequent stamina difficulties towards the end the race were a testament to its amateur nature.

Forced Break in the 70s​

The 24 Hour Race at the Nürburgring had quickly established itself as a popular event at the Eifel rollercoaster by that point, but it would not be until 1976 before the race's fifth running was held. The oil crisis of the early 1970s put a temporary stop to the event, but it was back for 1976 and has had to be on hold only once after that: In 1983, the Nürburgring was reworked considerably, with the GP course being added in place of the original Start-Ziel-Schleife, and the 24 Hour Race had to be canceled. It has run every year since 1984, though – even the COVID-19 pandemic could not prevent the race from being held, although it had to be postponed from its orignal May date to late September.

Ford_Capri_von_Fritzinger_-_Heyer_(1973-07-06_Sp).jpg

Ford Capri of Klaus Fritzinger and Hans Heyer in the Carraciola-Karussel in 1973. Image Credit: Lothar Spurzem on Wikimedia Commons, available for free distribution under the CC BY-SA 2.0 DE license

By the 1980s, professional drivers and teams had made their way onto the grid as well, trying to tackle the unique challenge a 24-hour race at the Nürburgring provided. Klaus Ludwig (1982, 1987, and again in 1999) and Klaus Niedzwiedz (1982, 1987 as Ludwig's teammate) won the race twice that decade, and in the 1990s, drivers like Joachim Winkelhock (1990, 1991), Franz Konrad (1993) or Sabine Reck, better known as Sabine Schmitz later on (1996, 1997) made their way to the top of the results sheets.

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Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

And now we can all pretend to be part of this history by choosing some of the classic content in AMS2 and firing up the 70s version of the track :). Maybe 2.4h with 10x time.
 
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Premium
Nice article :thumbsup: I always like learning more about race series before I dive in and recreate them in the sim :)

In addition to the live race streams, the ADAC 24h channel has a live stream of the pits going for the whole weekend. Fun background viewing & sounds.

 
And now we can all pretend to be part of this history by choosing some of the classic content in AMS2 and firing up the 70s version of the track :). Maybe 2.4h with 10x time.
I've participated in such an online classic 2,4hrs round-the-clock event for rF1 with great joy back in 2008 - time flies way too quick! Though I've preferred likewise event in GTR2 with better in-built time accellerated day/night and predefined change of weather (though vaguely I remember using such tools for rF1 as well).
Real life NS24 is luckily still going healthy, popularity post Cov19 is almost back to standard levels with normal huge loads of cozy spectators enjoying the race, curry wurst, Gemüse, Eifelbier & Lagerfeur, nomatter of weather conditions :inlove:
 
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Premium
I will likely die now for my Opinion,
I do not like the Nordschleife as a Racetrack. On the current track I do not get the certain feeling that makes Tracks special for me. Dont get me wrong, it is a Track with a Ton of history like the 76 F1 Season or even the Pre War Races up to the 94 Hour Race that was held on the Track. But now that magic what the Track means for Racing, it isnt there anymore for me.
I love Simracing, I race most things even the Nordschleife, but not the Current layout, I race the 1964 Track because it still has that Magic with the old Cars like 1973 F3 Cars, 50-70's F1 Cars, old Touring Cars and so on.
For me the current Circuit is like Monaco for F1. It was amazing for a good while, but for me, the times have changed and they lost their edge.
 
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I will likely die now for my Opinion,
I do not like the Nordschleife as a Racetrack. On the current track I do not get the certain feeling that makes Tracks special for me. Dont get me wrong, it is a Track with a Ton of history like the 76 F1 Season or even the Pre War Races up to the 94 Hour Race that was held on the Track. But now that magic what the Track means for Racing, it isnt there anymore for me.
I love Simracing, I race most things even the Nordschleife, but not the Current layout, I race the 1964 Track because it still has that Magic with the old Cars like 1973 F3 Cars, 50-70's F1 Cars, old Touring Cars and so on.
For me the current Circuit is like Monaco for F1. It was amazing for a good while, but for me, the times have changed and they lost their edge.
I do agree with you the old ring is the best,, luckily at am2 they have an old version a very good job from Ilka.. although the 60's version was the real bumps with the hedges. Still watching qualifying, you still have to be a ring master to go fast here. Fortunately, this job has remained and as others said on this forum it should be mentioned with the triple
 
It was Dries and not Laurens that won 2022. This year he ended with a very close second place in the ROWE BMW.
 

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