Darkness fell on the Eifel region of Germany at around 20:30. The course was replaced with an abyss of darkness, allowing the drivers to only see a fraction of what they could earlier in the day see ahead of them. Speaking to some of the competitors, they rely more on muscle memory than what they can actually see whilst driving the Nordschleife at night. A scary thought indeed at 280+KM/H. Not the first and most certainly not the last victim of the Nordschliefe 24HR race, but perhaps the most significant was the retirement of the #1 Manthey Racing Porsche. From what I heard, he clipped a VW somewhere in the darkness and whilst the damage may look cosmetic enough, the damage to the rear suspension was too much for the experienced Manthey crew to repair. The champion's of the previous four years were out.
Elsewhere in the pits, teams were struggling to make the necessary repairs to their cars. It's only when darkness sets in that the teams will begin to feel the fatigue and strain of the event.
Sometimes you have to wonder how the crews work. Each pit must hold four cars and all it's team. It can get very crowded very quickly especially when something dramatic is unfolding before an audience.
Waiting for the car to come in for a driver change over is a tense occasion.
Driver and crew wait patiently for the pit siren to announce the car's arrival.
Directed by the pit officials, the car is guided into it's stopbox.
While the world watches on, the crew must refuel, change tires, change drivers, clean the windscreen and make small repairs or adjustments.
As soon as they're in, they've disappeared into the night once again.
Some cars show their scars of battles fought in the darkness.
The hybrid 997 was quickly making it's way through the grid.
Back on track, the first corner was a great spot to watch how late the cars were braking.
The #76 NFS car was still on flying on form. Here you can make out the blue LED on the windscreen that I mentioned in part II of our story.
The works BMW's were still pushing hard. Both cars were in the experimental class, as they were using extra batteries to power the car.
This was a very lucky shot of one of the LFA's. The off camera lighting was provided by a Japanese photographer who was shooting on the inside of turn one. Guess I was lucky we shot at precisely the same time.
I'm always fascinated (I'm sure your sick of hearing me say this) by how the cars sway, dip and squat during a corner. It's just so interesting trying to figure out how a car is handling under pressure.
I mentioned briefly in the last part about the 5D MKII's secret weapon. The answer was it's high ISO / low noise levels. These were all shot at 6400 ISO and allowed the camera / lense combination to see more than the naked eye could in the darkness.
As any of you who have watched the F1 night race at Singapore will know, there are so many details you see at night that you can't see during the day. Glowing exhausts, brake discs, sparks are just some of the things the night allows you to enjoy.
The #6 Aston Martin thunders down the start / finish straight in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Back in the pits it was time for #76 to take a breather.
I do wonder what goes through a drivers mind as he waits to be released into the darkness.
Before no time at all had passed, the team could breath easy whilst the driver completes another stint.
The Ferrari was still going and very well at that …
This sums up what the night stint was like for me. People are asleep, trying to stay awake, relaxing, tensed, waiting. Before long, the sun started to re appear and the final part of this epic race was underway.
Part IV coming soon …