I'm sitting here still trying to comprehend what just happened over the last seven days. I thought I had been prepared for it but evidently, nothing can prepare you for it. I'd read countless articles and I had been told a thousand times but you just cannot comprehend how spectacular and diverse the 'Green Hell' actually is. It all started a couple of weeks back when Formula D at Long Beach was taking place. I received a brief e-mail from Rod telling me to get my accreditation for the 24 Hour Nurburgring in before the deadline for applications closed. I got it in twenty minutes before they closed the window but now I was confused. I had no plans to cover this event even though it's probably been the event I've most wanted to cover since I first read about it, I started trying to figure out how I was going to get to Germany ! But Rod had something special lined up …
I was to travel with suspension experts KW, who were going to give me a week not to forget. The flights were arranged, accommodation booked, camera equipment packed and before I knew it, I was standing in Frankfurt airport being greeted by the KW Suspension PR team and I was en-route to the Nurburgring.
We arrived at the track pretty late on Thursday evening, the weather cold and misty but nothing I wasn't use to at home. We walked the paddock and found a place at the media centre before Melanie, one of our KW guides, announced they were going to bring us to see the real Nordschleife.
We were lead blindly into the forrest before the trees cleared and an opening appeared in front of us. We were at Brünnchen, a place I vaguely recognised from photographs and video. The area is a fan favourite and for one week a year becomes home to literally thousands of spectators who set up camp on the hallowed ground.
The fans don't as much camp and build a mini-metropolis trackside. Viewing towers are constructed, the aroma of BBQ fills the air. It's been said by many drivers that driving through the course at night, that even they can smell the food being cooked trackside.
The party continues all through the night and the following days. I eventually lost count of the amount of beers I was offered and party invitations. Unfortunately we couldn't stay as if we did, we'd probably still be lost in the forest somewhere. We headed back to our hotel before heading back to the track again Friday morning.
Practice was starting by the time we got trackside and I was genuinely flabbergasted by the scale of the event. It's so hard to visualise a 200 car grid trying to squeeze out on track for a session.
This one of two LF-As received huge attention from fans and media alike. The sound was like nothing I had ever heard before.
#25 BMW M3 heads out for another practice stint.
For this session I picked a spot on the GP circuit just after turn two to cover the action.
The #250 Focus RS suffered some quarter panel damage in practice, but the team cut what they need from a road car to repair it for Friday practice and qualifying. For the race on Saturday it was repainted with new graphics and looked like new !
The Falken Evo X looked to be on a good pace but it's so hard to judge a cars performance on such a long circuit when you only see it for two or three corners at a time.
Team Schrick were back again for 2010, I'm still in the midst of watching the TV show which follows Tim and the rest of the crew preparing for the 2009 race. I guess I'm a bit behind the time just a small bit …
I came back into the pits to get some more shots of the cars and teams preparing for qualifying.
Some cars were back in from a stint, making some changes or doing a driver swap.
The wet practice notice may seem out of place in a dry pitlane but at 25KMs+ for each lap, the weather can change several times during the course of the lap.
The look of concentration and intent on some of the drivers was inspiring. They literally were 100% focused on what lay before them.
Rarely, you might catch a casual glance as they wait to leave the pits.
The R8s were in dominating form during practice and qualifying. They were visually faster through certain sections than the other competitors. It was looking like a promising weekend for Audi.
The #100 Audi sits waiting in the pits as the mechanics carry out some changes. From the pits, I grabbed a shuttle to Karussell to catch the 4 Hour Classic race.
Watching the cars ascend towards Karussell, I was amazed at how steep the climb is. No video I've ever watched has portrayed how steep the course actually is.
The M1 could be heard for miles before it arrived. The noise it admits is somewhere just above heavenly.
It was fascinating to watch the different lines people took through Karussell, from late entries to early exits.
I'm a bit of a Ford Escort fan and the examples on display were sublime.
The constant radius at Karussell also allowed for some reliable low shutter pans.
The Manta was bred on the rally stages but looked even more at home on the tarmac of the Nordschleife.
I particularly enjoy the cars which retain the original colours of the famous factory race cars. It makes me think of what it'd be like to shoot a classic event with the camera gear of the time.
A brake fire put an end to this Cobra's race.
From Karussell, we hiked towards Höhe Acht or High Eight, the highest point of the Nordschleife.
I had to agree with Sean Klingelhoefer, a US based photographer who was also a part of the KW trip, that there were literally no bad spots to photograph on the Nordschleife. you can literally walk thirty seconds in any direction and get a different photograph.
The variety of cars competing in the Classic race was comparable to that of the 24 hour race. Here an Opel Kadett leads from a Fiat 500 Abarth.
The E30 BMWs were the most popular choice for competitors for the simple fact that they are easy to work on, get parts for etc.
The 911 Porsches were another popular choice.
Once the Classic race was over, it was time for the party to start again.
The track was opened to the public, who were free to touch up their favourite manufacturers emblems …
… repainting their own personal messages or leaving their own name for the first time.
It was a strange feeling walking back to the shuttle on the track, this sort of thing would never be allowed in the health & safety nanny states.
So this brings an end to the first two days we were there for, the next action would be from the start of the 24 Hour race. I hope I'm conveying just how incredible this event is, even in my current semi-conscious state. Part 2 is coming soon …