What’s on this week
For most, simply lapping the infamous Nurburgring is enough of a challenge.
With a staggering 170 corners when the Nordschleife and Grand Prix circuits are combined, it takes countless hours just to memorise which way the 16-mile lap snakes next, let alone to master it.
Then throw into the mix another 160 cars across 30 classes fighting for the same asphalt, and repeat it for nine endurance races over a season. For its oddball brilliance, theVLN–Ve ran st alter ge me ins cha ft Lang st rec ken pokalN ur bur g ring–is a delightfully compelling experience.
“I think the races are so special because the circuit is unique, it’s huge and dangerous,” says Bradley Philpot, who shares a Peugeot 308 Cup car in the VLN. “It’s got extreme elevation change and every type of corner you can imagine, as well as decades and decades of history, mystique and beauty.”
Such is the challenge and prestige of just finishing a race, running out of fuel wasn’t going to stop Michael Schrey from crossing the line in the opening VLN race of 2018. Within sight of the chequered flag, he pushed his BMW 235i across the line before collapsing onto the grass.
It’s also why the VLN is exploited by Nurburgring 24 Hours entrants as a testing ground, bringing to the series such names as Le Mans winners Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber, Romain Dumas and Marcel Fassler, and Macau GT Cup winners Maro Engel and Laurens Vanthoor.
But while the names are a healthy addition to the VLN, it doesn’t rely on them to attract fans. The top class, which is made up primarily of GT3 cars, offers Ferraris, Mercedes, Porsches, Audis and BMWS. It’s a tight field that is impossible to predict, even in the dying stages of a race.
At the most recent event, VLN 3, the racewinning Porsche 911 GT3-R, driven by Felipe Fernandez Laser and Lance David Arnold, provided a win for the local Frikadelli
Racing Team. It rose from 11th on the grid, having only just been put back together moments before the race began after Fernandez Laser had crashed in qualifying.
“IF YOU CAN MASTER IT, YOU GAIN PRESTIGE”
Further down in the order, the sheer number of classes paves the way for diversity. The front-wheel-drive SEAT
Cupra and Audi RS3 TCR cars are able to match the pace of the mid-engine Porsche Cayman GT4S. Premium models such as Aston Martin’s Vantage share track space with Lamborghini Huracans and Ferrari
488s. It filters right down to Renault Clios, Volkswagen Golfs and the countless 235s. All different models, all crammed together, more diverse than any other endurance series.
And to enjoy the experience, the entry price is just €15 for full paddock and pitlane access, a grandstand seat and a grid walk. That amazing value for money draws in a crowd. But it can be cheaper still. Because viewing spots sit right by perimeter car parks and main roads, there are places to watch for no cost at all.
The landscape at Breidscheid, Adenauer Forst, Hohe Acht, Brunnchen and
Galgenkopf are, in particular, easy to get around and offer spectacular viewing.
All the while, the circuit remains the star of the show. That in itself is enough of an attraction to watch a new series even before you add in the wealth of cars and the spectacle of watching the GT3 pack carve through lapped traffic.
“It’s not another race track, it’s the Nurburgring,” Philpot says. “If you can master it, you gain a prestige that not everybody can or does have in motorsport. It’s the only place in the world that I drive where you feel a 3D sensation from the cockpit.
“All these things add together to create a bigger air of importance than other series that are comparable with the VLN.”