31st ADAC Nurburgring 24 Hours – Wednesday / Thursday Report
Let The Gathering Commence

First, a bit of trivia. What, I hear you ask, does "nür" as in "Nürburg", or "Nissan Skyline GT-R 34 V.spec II Nür" actually mean?

The Spanish "negro", Italian "nero", and French "noir" all have their roots in the Germanic word "nür" which therefore indicates that something is black. The Nissan is blue but let's not cling to such petty detail. Built from dark volcanic rock, the Nürburg is actually a black castle. Deserted since the 16th century, it still towers over the surrounding countryside. Today, though, it is dwarfed by the concrete and glass structures built at the behest of Bernard the Conqueror.

Back in the Middle Ages, visitors usually meant trouble; today, they mean revenue. Now as then, the idea is to make sure that when they leave, their money stays. The point has already been made that this is a big old racetrack, but just to reiterate: the infield of the Nordschleife has over 3700 permanent residents. For most of them, the Ring is a source of income. The handful of big motor racing events here help the local businesses make it through the all too quiet rest of the year.

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And this concludes the educational part of today's installment.

What's that noise ringing through the otherwise tranquil Eifel forest? An ancient pagan ritual, or similarly, a NATO manoeuvre? - it's civilisation. Subwoofers and minibikes and diesel generators, and the bustle of inebriated humanity. This was the scene at the Karussell on.......Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, things are happening in the paddock. That is, the main paddock. There is also a historic paddock, and a paddock for the Historics. Confused? So was I. Anyway, that's an awful lot of headlights on the Moore International Motorsport M3. "Well we just passed scrutineering so we must be all right."

Unlike at Le Mans, the scrutineering, or Technische Abnahme (chew on this for a while) takes place at the track itself, in the paddock. And what a paddock it is. For those of you who know Le Mans, this is bigger. This is Formula 1 specification - one of the few perennial superlatives in the ever changing world of modern motor racing. The pit garages look roomy enough to accomodate three average GT teams; indeed, most of them will house three and more teams during the 24 Hours. Ugly as it may be, it is this facility that makes a race with a 210 car field possible. The old "Fahrerlager" still exists, and is used for some support series. By today's standards, it frankly looks, well rather pathetic. Back in F1 Land, everything is top-notch: the five-storey hotel right next to the main straight has more stars than General Schwartzkopf. Complaining about the noise won't get you a discount here.

So they all come out of their garages and trailers, and patiently wait their turn to be sized up, weighed in, and measured out by the officials. Inconspicuously lined up among them are #42 and #43, the BMW Motorsport M3s - in their new livery. Compared to some of the other machines in this queue, they almost look tame.

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Toward the end of the line, Japanese camera crews are swarming around the Falken Nissan and the I-DEA Toyota Altezzas (below), part of a formidable Japanese continget this year. Where do NISMO and TRD engineers spend their vacations these days?

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The Viper is already done, and the mechanics are busy putting sponsor logos in place. Ironically, one of these seems to be the reason the much-publicised comeback of Klaus Ludwig has been called off. Word is that there was a conflict of interest between one of Klaus' personal sponsors, and one of Zakspeed's sponsors. One sponsor too many at a time when most teams don't have enough sponsorship. To the companies involved, nice work. You know who you are.

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Another story involving Zakspeed is that of an interesting rule change: a race car's fuel tank must be in the car at the time of refuelling. Sounds pretty obvious, right? You will recall that the Viper is only allowed to carry 90l of fuel this year, compared to 120l for most of its direct rivals. It will therefore be a frequent visitor to the pits. To save time during these many fuel stops, the Zakspeed engineers came up with the quick-change fuel tank. All the regulations said about refuelling was that fuel must be procured from the pumps on pit lane. they did not say where it then had to go. Zakspeed's plan was to lift the empty fuel tank clean out of the car at each stop, and replace it with another, already full tank. Alerted by an anonymous tipster (possibly with a Bavarian accent), the ADAC quickly outlawed such schemes. Good story though, eh?

Two other high-profile entries that might have happened were those of Freisinger (with Ortelli / Dumas / Lieb in a 996), and a Konrad Saleen. Maybe next year. As much becomes clearer, the only thing that did not clear up on Wednesday was the sky over the Eifel. Hovering above the Ring were the ingredients of a downpour. Luckily, the bad weather seem to have blown by; there is hope it will stay this way till 3 p.m. on Sunday.

dailysportscar.comToday was day 2 of scrutineering (and they're still not done), and day 1 of on-track racing action. The racecars did venture out to the far corners of the Nordschleife on Wednesday for their traditional "meet the fans" affair; and later today there will be the Adenau Racing Day. Always keen to adopt, adapt, and perhaps improve a good idea, the Ring people have come up with the Racing Day, which is basically a ‚corso’ of racecars from all the different categories, and a fun fair around it; the scrutineering itself must for obvious reasons be held at the track. Just as Le Mans, the town of Adenau is the administrative center of its region; however, it is physically a much smaller community than Le Mans. Not even Le Mans would be able to cope with a field of 210 cars, not counting the many support races. For instance, the Top 10 series with its production saloon and one-make races, and the V8STAR silhouette racers are also here for the weekend, although not all of these will take to the Nordschleife. And then there is the ADAC 500k race on Friday, with another 150 vehicles in it. Yes, that's a support race, for historic touring cars and GTs, and Youngtimers.

And what the blue blazes is a Youngtimer?

The lingo of the movie industry knows the term "Outro". That's the piece of music that plays over the end credits. In other words, the opposite of the "Intro". The term "youngtimer" is another such example of utilitarian English. It refers to racecars that are too old for contemporary racing, yet too young to be "oldtimers", i.e. eligible for Historic racing. We are talking about cars from early 70s to mid-80s vintage, such as the Mk.2 Escorts and Capris, Porsche 934, or BMW 635, and other splendid machines of that era, in danger of being overlooked and gradually forgotten because they can't be raced anywhere. For them, there is the "Youngtimer Trophy". Combine this field with the "FHR Langstrecken Cup" for "proper" Historic GTs and tourers, the "Porsche Classic Car Cup" for, well, old Porsches; then forget about all this complex nomenclature and just enjoy a colourful assortment of fine racecars of all vintages, shapes, and sizes in action on a great circuit. Quite a few of them would not look out of place in the main event, either; the best time for one of them in Thursday practice was a 10.04, for a 1976 Porsche 911. Now then, dear ACO, how about a Friday 500k race for Groups 5, 6, and C? Just a friendly suggestion.
Cy Bersdorf

(Images from the excellent http://adac.24h-rennen.de/ )

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