From the Land of Sand, Sun, and Burittos to das Land auf Wald, Schnee und Bratwurst.....

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Longest 24 Hours…

I headed up to an eastern corner of Germany over the weekend to a place known as the “Grüne Hölle” or “Green Hell” to Auto Racing fans around the world. This part of Germany is known for its beautiful landscape, erratic weather, and especially for the longest race track in the world at 25.5 km (15.9 miles), the Nürburgring.

This is where I met up with an old friend Spencer Trenery, that not only has a passion for travel like myself (he just got back from a year long solo trip around the world), he also has been racing cars as long as I can remember. He invited me to an experience that is a common event for him throughout the year, but it proved to be one of the longest and most exciting days of my life.

I am not a racing buff to the most minuscule aspect, but I am one that likes to experience the intense, in your face aspects of life. My time at the 24 hour race was as intense that I imagined it to be x 10. This proved to be more than a 24 hour event for me as I arrived at 10 in the morning on the 7th and did not leave until 5pm on the 8th. That was OK though because right when I got there I was greeted by old friends and my all access “Teilnehmer” or participants pass.

This pass allowed me to view this race from the perspective that the average fans get to see. Not only did I have available to me the facilities in place for the paying guests, but I also had full access to see the cars up front and center in the pits. I spent a lot of time here checking things out as the cars came in and out to fill up with gas, change tires, and fix repairs of everything from busted fenders, to blown up engines.

In being that Spencer was racing for a Honda team, we had full access to a 24 hour long complementary food / desert / cappuccino / beer bar hospitality tent. Having worked in the catering business for a few years in college, I would guess that this thing cost between 1.5 and 2 million dollars to operate.

Thanks Honda!

As the race went on the drivers drove in stages of 2 – 3 hours. Between the driving stints this gave them a chance to eat sleep and do whatever else that they needed to do. The length of the race gave me a chance to check out the whole of the facilities, and also wander over to the famous camping areas that are set up right on the sides of the race track. This is where the real fans come out to play. The hard core guys get out there on the Monday before the race so they get a spot as close to the track as possible. I applaud these men and women that were out there during this week for the weather was a mixture of rain, hail, snow, wind, and sun for the whole week. I went and had a few beers with these guys, and saw the motor oil running through there veins.

Well, out of the 2 cars that were raced by Spencer’s team only one made it the whole 24 hours. Both were in many accidents through the course of the race and sequentially had to be repaired with the likes of the ultimate fix all, Duct tape. The Honda Civic that Spencer drove stopped rolling in the late half of the 22nd hour after the engine exploded. The Integra that his Father was driving was actually the first one across the track after the 24 hour clock had lapsed, but unfortunately, he was 17 laps behind the leader. This is an amazing feat, because this car was actually in a bad accident in the first hour of the race!

If you are interested in seeing the fast cars, the duct tape repairs and a behind the scenes perspective from the race, check out the link to my photos.



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