The Nürburgring. There's no way I can as eloquently depict this motorsport Mecca, than what has already been written over the years. What I can tell you however, is that you MUST go. Nothing I could say will come close to touching upon just how utterly mind bending this place is.
The ADAC Nürburgring 24 Hour was my first 24 hour race. Something I thought I was prepared for after numerous conversations with N24 veterans. Boy, was I wrong. This race is unlike any I have ever been to. In the 2.5 days I was there leading up to the race, scouting locations, learning the track, and just trying to find the quickest way to get from one side to the other, I learned, rather quickly, that there was no way that I could have covered the whole race accurately. Hell, there was no way I was even going to be able to cover every location that I wanted to capture.
I had a bit of a wrench thrown into my time at the ‘Ring when my laptop “disappeared” from my locker in the Media Center on Thursday… I lost hours of exploration to this minor set back, only further set back as I struggled through the task of filing a police report as an international traveler. Fortunately, my laptop was recovered on Saturday morning and I was able to get back to full operation just in time for the race.
Not to be fooled, this race is as much as an endurance event for the media as it is for the teams. Each day is an early start, especially for those of us who were staying nearly over an hour away in Cologne. Much planning goes into each day to determine where you want to be, where the sun will be and how to capture a unique perspective that sets you apart from the other photographers around the perimeter.
As media we have unprecedented access to the track, but getting to so many locations is nothing short of an expedition. Hiking for several miles through the woods, in the mud, up and down the hills with all the gear you can manage is truly a workout. To my surprise, I found that much of the track is fan accessible as well. I’d say nearly 60% of my images from the 4 days we spent at the Ring were from fan areas. They have done a remarkable job of making the ‘Ring viewable for all.
With so much of the track being winding in darkness, it’s nearly impossible to get around the outskirts of the track without injury at night, so many of the photographers made the journey back to the media center to charge up and hit the pits as night took over.
The pits during the wee hours of the morning are a buzz. Cars consistently stream in and out of pit row. With so many competitors, every garage is jumping with activity. In some cases there are up to 5 teams sharing the same space, coming together in the most organized chaos I've witnessed. Even the small privateer teams seemed to exercise their stops with precision. The late night exhaustion wasn't enough to throw them off their hard practiced efforts.
With such an expansive track and a seemingly endless number of vantage points, one could shoot races here for eternity without exhausting the various perspectives and opportunities. The ring photography veterans still tell of new location discoveries after decades of covering the course. It's unlike anything else.
I realized that covering the N24 is more so about capturing the essence of the race, the beauty and brutality of everything that it is. For it is one of the most incredible races in the world, there is absolutely an intangible “thing” about it, that could never be described. It must simply be experienced.