‘Petrol head’ is a common description for die-hard car and motor racing fans. It could easily be applied to Jörg Engels, head of brand communication for the automotive aftermarket. Here is a report for the MANN+HUMMEL blog of his experiences at the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring, which took place between 17 and 20 May 2013. A Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS GT3 in MANN-FILTER colours took part in the race.
‘The 24-hour race at the Nürburgring has meant a lot to me ever since I was a boy. I grew up in the Eifel mountains near the Nürburgring and when I was younger I often camped right by the track so I could get close to the action; first at the legendary 1,000 km race and later at the 24-hour race. The heroes of the Nürburgring Nordschleife, drivers like Hans Heyer, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Klaus Ludwig and Bernd Schneider, were my heroes. This information is vital for understanding what it means to me for a racing car in the green and yellow of MANN-FILTER to be thundering through the ‘Green Hell’.
GT racing cars with MANN-FILTER branding
This was exactly what happened between 17 and 20 May: One of the ROWE Racing team’s four Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3s went into probably the world’s biggest motor race bearing the green and yellow MANN-FILTER branding: Nowhere else in the world will you find more than 180 vehicles and around 650 participating drivers. Superlatives also apply to the 25 km Nordschleife, the over 200,000 spectators and the 2,000-strong team of organisers.
‘Our’ car seemed to be in with a chance, considering that two other cars from the ROWE team were ranked third and fourth in the overall standings. Sadly though, Lady Luck was not smiling on our green and yellow racer: severe aquaplaning spelled the end for our car just one lap before the race had to be stopped for nine hours due to torrential rain. It was so badly damaged in the accident that it could no longer be repaired.
An event marred by the weather
The notorious Eifel weather was the main factor in this year’s 24-hour race. There were dry spells and showers during the final practice sessions and the sun even came out at the track on Sunday morning. Following light rain in the warm-up lap, the race started at 5.00 pm in dry conditions.
Just before nine in the evening, heavy rain set in and the teams were forced to change to wet tyres. At this point, things got uncomfortable to say the least as the rain transformed the enormous encampments around the 25 km race track into one big swamp. In previous years there have frequently been temperatures barely above zero, rain, fog and thunderstorms. The race was also stopped overnight several years ago to the fans’ great displeasure. But there have never been such poor conditions as those seen this year. Torrential rainfall and thick fog made it impossible to continue the race in the dark.
24-hour race at the Nürburgring stopped
Consequently, the race organisers decided to stop the race until the following morning. Sadly this came a few minutes too late for the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 number 21. Driver Kenneth Heyer, son of touring car legend Hans Heyer, and his team of drivers had worked their way into the top ten by the evening. The top three were even within striking range when the accident occurred. So an eventful and exciting Whitsun weekend ended with the realisation that broken cars are just as much part of a 24-hour race as podium positions and victories. Now it’s time to cross our fingers for our next outing at the tradition-steeped 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium at the end of July.