Part two of this story starts Saturday morning back at the GP circuit. The day started as the others had, dark, overcast and damp. Not exactly ideal racing conditions, but we'd settle for that over the snow that was forecast earlier in the week. With over 200 cars on the grid, the atmosphere in the pits and paddock was manic. Everybody was busy running around on last minute errands.
Our morning was a slightly quieter one with a trip to the new Ring Werk motorsport museum. I'll have a full report on this shortly but it was the sort of museum I'd rather of visiting as a school kid over any natural history museum.
Unlike pretty much every other motorsport event on the planet, the organisers of the 24HR actively involved the spectators to be a part of the event. For a couple of hours before the green light, the grid and pitlane are open to everybody. This allows the fans to really get up and close with their favourite teams and drivers. It makes other events feel a bit sterile and maybe it's other organisers should consider in the future.
The factory Audi's took the top four places on the grid, something that was no surprise to anyone who was watching.
The Team NFS guys were to start eighteenth and on the tenth row of the grid. Starting in the top 20 gave our guys a special blue LED light to place in the windscreen to urge backmarkers to move over and leave us past.
It would be the responsibility of Edward Sandstrom to get the car off the grid safely and through the first stint.
The #50 LFA was late to the grid, however the presence of the car parted the sea of spectators akin to that of Moses parting the Red Sea.
I fully approved of Team Hankooks grid girls who accompanied the #43 car to it's place on the grid.
One of the Aston Martin factory backed cars was 'Kermit' the V8 Vantage.
The car was to be driven by Peter Cate who I had been introduced to through Andy Blackmore. Peter and the rest of the team were very happy with the car and would be a team I wanted to keep a close eye on for the rest of the event.
One of the more talked about entries was the four door Aston Martin Rapide. Some people are complaining that the Rapide dilutes Aston's image of two seater sports cars, so the Aston Martin guys were determined to prove these people wrong.
Driving the first stint in the Rapide would be Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez. You don't hear too often of a CEO getting closely involved with a motorsports program, let alone being tasked with starting the race.
Walking back through the heavily populated and hilariously long grid, you started to get a sense of the comraderie between teams.
The crew behind this Mini were inviting spectators and rivals alike to autograph their car on the startline.
As the clock ticked closer to the 3:00p.m. start, I gathered my things and headed for the countryside. Joined by Super Street staffer Sean Klingelhoefer and MotoIQ photographer / writer / videographer / crazy son of a *** Jeff Naeyaert, we made the procession to Flugplatz, which translates as 'airport'. We would soon realise the name was more than apt.
We were told beforehand by staff that the pro level cars don't jump as they have too much aero and they don't want to ruin their posh carbon under body diffusers and floorpans.
I think someone forgot to tell the drivers that.
The #1 Team Manthey Porsche jumped from P7 to P1 before the cars even left the GP section of the course. The Manthey team have won the race every year since 2006 …
I don't usually post images from the same spot if I can avoid it but these GT cars launching over the crest brought out the giddy school boy in me.
Even the trackside marshalls were in awe of the speed these guys were carrying.
It was also a great point to observe how balanced the cars were. Check out how flat this R8 is in mid air.
The Falken Evo X was clearly trying to replicate it's heritage as a WRC champion.
It also gives you a great view of how bloody wide the rear tires are on the Porsches.
We managed to eventually drag ourselves away from the top of Flugplatz and moved towards Hocheichen.
Everywhere on the outside of the circuit, people were sitting back, relaxing in front of a fire with a beer. The estimated number of spectators was in excess of 230,000 people. This makes the 24HR race more popular than the F1 race for attendance !
Some zoom burst at the top of Hocheichen. The size of the grid and length of the event allow you as a photographer to get lots of safe shots and then leaves you more time to get some experimental shots.
The #102 R8 at one/fifteenth of a second. It ain't no John Brooks one/fifth but I'm getting there !
For such a long race, it's insane how close these cars can stay together over the course of an event.
I'm also preparing a gallery looking at the Nordschleife both from the ground and air. It's a spectacular area of the world regardless of the racetrack.
The #43 Ferrari was still setting a good pace. It was the only Ferrari on the grid, as the Italian supercar is seen as being too fragile by some of the 24HR community. Another team with something to prove.
Hocheichen is the section of course before the downhill and subsequent hillclimb to Flugplatz. It features a number of fast chicanes before a fast downhill run.
The #69 BMW Z4 using all the track available to overtake a backmarker.
'Kermit' was still going strong.
As was the Rapide. It's a big car but it still looked comfortable on the tight Nordschleife track.
Remember the RS Focus from yesterdays post with the green quarter panel ? Here it is less than 24 hours later, looking like new.
Going by the black helmet, this was our own Patrick Soderlund lifting two wheels on his way to challenge for a podium. Finishing a 24HR race, especially at the Nordschleife is an accomplishment. I don't think in our wildest dreams could we of imagined how well we would eventually finish.
The Opel Astra OPC was an unexpected sight on track. I haven't seen a new Opel car on track yet but this FWD touring car was mixing it up with the faster cars.
The wide aero is in place to match the widened track the cars have compared to the standard road cars.
Still the R8s were fast but they seemed to be faltering somewhat. Some were suffering mechanical problems and this car would retire early the following day.
I really wished I had videoed the LFA, the sound is incredible !
Look at how little the wheels hang on this Porsche, the cars are setup so well. The teams are obsessed with getting the most out of the cars here, as every change has an impact.
Not many races in the world where factory backed R8's will be mixing it up with Integra Type R's.
The Manthey Porsche was still leading, however this was the last time I'd see the car on track.
The factory backed Scirocco's looked menacing. I'm lead to believe the car is not available in the US market ?
The Clio 197's were angry little cars. They always sounded on W.O.T. and kept throwing out flames from the 2.0 NA engines.
As the sun set, I suffered a considerable setback. What appeared as a blackline on the images turned out to be a failing shutter. Fortunately I had a spare body but the full frame 5D MKII wouldn't allow the same reach as the crop sensored 1D MKII N. However, it turned out ot be a blessing in disguise as the 5D MKII has a secret weapon which I had forgotten about. You'll see what it is in Pt.3.
With light falling off rapidly we headed back to the media centre to upload images, clean equipment grab some food and get ready to headback out for the night session …