It was finally time once again for the much-anticipated legendary ADAC Zurich 24-hour race at the Nuerburgring on the weekend of 28 and 29 May 2016. Teams, drivers and motorsports enthusiasts around the globe had been looking forward to this major event for weeks. The 24-hour race at the Nuerburgring is always a big occasion for me too, even though I regularly compete in endurance races all over the world.
In this blog post, I’m going to explain exactly why this race has such a unique appeal.
Underpinned by a tradition that stretches back over 40 years, the 24-hour race has come to be a true classic of its kind and an integral part of the motorsports scene, not just in Germany but at international level. Many motorsports legends gained renown on the Nuerburgring’s race tracks.
My father Hans Heyer, himself a successful racing driver, once competed in the ‘Green Hell’. At the 24-hour race of the1992/93 season, he was part of the BMW ‘senior team’, which was made up entirely of former racing drivers aged 50 or over. It’s a funny coincidence that the team captain of this senior team was none other than Erich Zakowksi, the founder of ZAKSPEED, which is the team I’m driving for this year. In the same way, many famous names, teams, successes and failings are inextricably linked to one another and the Nuerburgring.
This is the place where all paths inevitably meet. After all, nobody would ever want to miss this unique event!
In 1927, a race track was opened in the middle of the Eifel mountains and named after the nearby town of Nuerburg, heralding the birth of the Nuerburgring. The course is characterised by poorly visible bends, considerable elevation change and ever-changing weather conditions, making it one of the most challenging race tracks of all times. What’s more, the 24-hour race at the Nuerburgring draws more participants to the starting grid than any other endurance race. While the favourites in most other races are generally very few in number, the standard at the Nuerburgring 24-hour race is so high that virtually any car entered by any manufacturer could achieve a podium finish. It takes real class to perform at the top of your game non-stop for 24 hours without making the slightest mistake. It follows that a triumph on this course – and its significance for the driver, team and car manufacturer – is an honour worth more than any amount of money.
The iconic Nordschleife track is all about fun and danger, challenges and thrills, success and frustration. These hallmarks lie in unparalleled abundance throughout the Nuerburgring race course, which is now approximately 26 km long.
Following on from the tradition of the ‘Green Hell’, the iconic status of the Nordschleife and the successes and failings of eminent motorsports figures who have mastered or been defeated by the Nuerburgring, the last few years have seen a great deal of hype about the 24-hour race. The enormous public interest in the event seems to keep growing: every year thousands flock to the Nuerburgring to savour the unique atmosphere, watch the racing cars whizzing round the track and meet every person of reputable standing in the world of motorsports. The result is a legendary atmosphere, legendary people and a legendary motorsports event.
Although I’ve now competed in the 24-hour race at the Nuerburgring more times than can be counted on the fingers of both hands and I have already achieved a number of top 10 finishes, it is still a whole new challenge for me year after year.
For the first time ever, I’ll be starting this year with the ZAKSPEED team in a new line-up comprising my teammates Sebastian Asch, Luca Ludwig, Daniel Keilwitz and myself. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is a new car that we still haven’t driven over very long distances this season. That aside, the challenges we face include competition from rivals, both old and new, and, of course, the unpredictable nature of the Nuerburgring. I am therefore all the more pleased to have found a reliable and long-standing partner in MANN-FILTER.