As my coverage of the 2019 Nürburgring 24 Hour comes to a close, there remains one significant aspect of the experience that I absolutely need to touch on.
This will be a quick one, at least compared to my behemoth pieces covering the race itself and a behind-the-scenes look at actually shooting it, but it’s no less important. You may find the lack of cars in this article disturbing, but hopefully you’ll forgive me after this unique look at a unique spectacle – one that could only happen in and around Nürburg on a certain weekend in June.
It’s when a quarter million people get together in a German forest to camp out for a week to watch a 24-hour race, just to pack up and head home before it’s finished. And let me just start out by saying, the fans here are insane.
I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill enthusiasts who park up in the stands on the main straight, either.
No, I’m talking about the positively endless landscape of campers strewn around what seems nearly every last corner of the race, the miniature cities that are born and die each year the Nürburgring 24 Hour comes around.
The camp sites vary in convenience, location, intensity, number of horribly unsanitary swimming pools, seriousness, and the views they offer. But regardless of where these fans end up or how they do it, two things are for sure: They love racing and they know how to have a good time.
And they certainly brought plenty of firewood.
I showed up on Thursday and headed to Brünnchen with really no idea at all what to expect. Despite not speaking the language, I made a friend immediately who treated me to some sort of apple cola kind of thing. Axel might look a bit sleepy, but don’t worry, he was just hitting his stride after a morning shower.
From Brünnchen we headed north towards Axel’s camp at Wippermann, making a few random stops along the way. What amazes me most about this track is the unmatched access fans have to the circuit. The track is right there, and spectators build massive structures to get an even better view.
It’s absolutely comical to think of the sheer number of permits that would be required in, say, California for something of this scale. It simply wouldn’t be possible. But out here it’s just natural, and it’s fantastic.
The trackside activities are simply limitless, and this was before we even made it to Axel’s camp.Wippermann
Here, at Axel and friends’ campsite outside Wippermann, I learned a thing or two about German hospitality.
Axel even wrote the polizei a prescription for three very important medications: ‘Underage Drinking,’ ‘Drinking’ (again), and ‘Being Cool.’
The people I met, the endless games of nägeln, the random guys driving by on lawnmowers towing couches, the torrential rain – there’s just nothing else like the Green Hell.
The access, the experience, the Nordschleife itself – I need to go back.
It goes on like this quite endlessly, too, with camps separated only by dense forest before the festivities pick up again.
Best of all, once it’s all said and done, all that remains are neat piles of trash and old couches, ready for pickup.
The Nürburgring and its fans are truly special, and I’m happy to say I’ve been able to check the epic N24 off the bucket list so soon in my career. But I think going every year is the new bucket list item, and I’ll definitely do my best to make this a reality.
There’s no other race weekend in the world that can match it.
Trevor Yale Ryan