N24 Hour Party People: PH Footnote

Everything I took to Germany is muddy, damp or reeks of smoke. Mostly it's all three. The tent was great fun the first night, rather less so with a puddle in it. And my knee hurts from where I tripped up somewhere near Wipperman on Saturday night. To be honest with you, N24 has got the better of me, and yet I love it more than ever. What the heck must it be like for drivers?

PH attended the Nurburgring 24-Hour with Hyundai - more on that in a sec - but quite frankly we were anybody's for a chance to spend three days in Nurburg. A few of us were looking into attending as regular race goers and, y'know, paying money, which is frankly unheard of in the world of automotive journalism.

Why? Because N24 is unlike anything else, even Le Mans or the Spa 24-Hour. And better. That's not just because of the racing, even though that's a large part of the charm. It's also due to the people, the atmosphere, the journey, the history, the adventure and the sheer lunacy of it all.

To walk through the forest on the Saturday night of N24, to see an R8 GT3 scream past an old 3 Series with millimetres to spare, with fire and disco lights and stars and techno all around you, is an experience like no other. It's a total sensory overload, no doubt heightened by the missing sleep and all too abundant beer. You're so close to the action, be that the flames from the Lamborghini Huracans or forest ravers you have to scoot past for a better view. As racing arguably becomes more sanitised and less accessible, to witness something as dangerous as N24 so close up feels like even more of a privilege.

You can read a proper race report elsewhere, but a few highlights are worth mentioning. The final 80 minutes after the restart were just sensational, particularly the battle between the (eventually victorious) Manthey Racing 911 and Black Falcon AMG GT3. To see the fastest stuff pick its way through the slower traffic, in the dark, through Eschbach and into Brunnchen, is terrifying yet completely absorbing. And Hatzenbach as the sun goes down is pretty special, too.

It all is, to be frank, because there are some fantastic racing cars on the world's most demanding track, supported by thousands of passionate fans just like you. One day the vast majority of motorsport will be electrified, I suspect, so to see a race last an entire day - while including straight sixes, flat sixes, flat fours, V8s, V10s and V12s - feels like an even more special experience with each passing year.

Not only does it foster a renewed respect for the drivers, it also makes you realise how hard the cars are working. Which is how we get back to Hyundai. An interview with Hyundai N boss Albert Biermann was part of the weekend's itinerary, and his apparent commitment to motorsport is encouraging.

He spoke of the passion and emotion involved with making fast road cars - they're not rational purchases, after all - and that he still sees racing fast cars as the best way to create that. Last year it meant putting a couple of close-to-production i30 Ns into the race, while in 2018 the i30 N TCR cars took two wins, a second and a third in the touring car races. In the main 24-hour event, i30s finished second and fourth in the TCR class, and took the fastest lap by nearly five seconds.

So when Hyundai talks of the Nurburgring directly influencing its road car programme, there's credence to that statement. I'm not saying the i30 N is the best hot hatch around, but I happen to think that a tangible link to motorsport is pretty cool and - despite the opinion espoused by James May - the Nurburgring makes for better road cars. Look at the Golf Clubsport S, Megane Trophy-R and Civic Type R for proof of that.

The question if of course whether those spending c. £30k on a hot hatch also think it's worthwhile, because ultimately that's the most important marker of success for Hyundai. Or rather "I respect what the media says, but I don't care about their opinion - the customer is most important" as Biermann would have it...

Honestly, it's hard not to look on all of the cars that finished the Nurburgring 24-hour and not want one of the roadgoing equivalents a bit more, be that an i30 N, or a GT86, or a Mustang. Or one of those ratty old Calibras... Perhaps it's the lack of sleep, the sunburn followed by the drenching, or the currywurst, but that would suggest the N24 - and more broadly motorsport as a whole - still has relevance. I hope it remains so for many more years yet, because it's completely and utterly brilliant.









P.H. O'meter

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Comments (13) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Kawasicki 14 May 2018

    What an event...speed, danger, competition...all the Motorsport fundamentals

  • sparta6 14 May 2018

    While F1 is being sanitized by stealth into Disneyland, events like N24 are to be applauded.

  • ArnageWRC 14 May 2018

    I'd agree. It's my favourite event of the year - and I haven't yet been. Awesome event, on an awesome track, with fabulous GT3 cars - plus some more 'ordinary' machines, driven by drivers just as committed as the superstars.

    It's everything motorsport is meant to be about......

  • 4340BB 14 May 2018

    I am still there.
    Best Motorsport event ever.

  • olliethehut 15 May 2018

    Am I right in thinking that the GT3 machines were faster than the old 962 group C monsters? Massive respect to any of the drivers for competing, even in the dry it'll be a challenge. In the rain (and fog!) I think I'll stick to Gran Turismo.

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