Race track at the Nürburgring

50 YEARS OF THE NÜRBURGRING 24 HOURS.

Half a century of motorsport history.

50 Years of the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Half a century of motorsport history.

Since 1970, the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring has been making its own history and has earned its reputation as the toughest endurance race in the world. Unpredictable conditions, the spectacular layout of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, and the duration of 24 hours mean the race in the Eifel mountains is not only an absolute highlight on the GT calendar, but also represents the ultimate test for drivers, teams and cars. Take a look back through the history of the Eifel marathon and you will find unforgettable races, drama, surprise winners, and freak weather. You will come across races that simply refused to comply to any narrative rules. You will also uncover the history of BMW – the first overall winners of this iconic race and, to this day, still the most successful manufacturer at the Nürburgring 24 Hours.

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Clemens Schickentanz and Hans-Joachim Stuck.

“I think it is fantastic that I have been able to experience several different eras of the 24-hour race together with BMW over the course of my career – from my first win in the BMW 2002 TI to a car like the BMW M3 GTR, which was state-of-the-art at the time,” said Stuck. “We were pioneers with the BMW 2002 TI. That was pure driving, without any form of driver aid. For me personally, this was my first big win and an important milestone in my career, which I rank very highly.”

28 years after the inaugural win on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, Stuck was back making history with BMW Motorsport – but this time in completely different circumstances. Times had changed, and with them the demands on modern race and street cars.

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THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MANUFACTURER: BMW AT THE NÜRBURGRING 24 HOURS.

For half a century, BMW has been taking on the biggest challenge that motorsport has to offer with great success. The Munich-based brand has claimed more overall victories than any other manufacturer over the past 50 years.

 

BMW occupied the top step of the podium after the inaugural race in 1970. Clemens Schickentanz and Hans-Joachim Stuck alternated at the wheel of the iconic BMW 2002 TI and are the first names on the illustrious list of winners. The latter went on to leave a lasting mark on the Eifel marathon over the following years and decades. ‘Strietzel’ won the 24-hour race on three occasions in his career – each time in a BMW.

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BMW 2002 TI
We were pioneers with the BMW 2002 TI. That was pure driving, without any form of driver aid.
Hans Joachim Stuck
BMW 320d

Six years later, he claimed the third overall victory with BMW, alongside Dirk Müller, Jörg Müller and Pedro Lamy. “The most fun I had was in 2004 with the BMW M3 GTR. Driving that car on the Nordschleife – with its speed, all the technical driver aids and its reliability – was sensational. In my opinion, that was the best car I have ever driven at this circuit,” Stuck recalled.

 

However, it is not only the drivers who have left their mark on the Eifel Mountains’ endurance race over the past 50 years, but also the cars, and one in particular: the BMW M3 E30. For four years in a row it dominated the race, heralding the most successful era any manufacturer has ever enjoyed in the ‘Green Hell’. Between 1989 and 1998, nine of a possible ten overall victories went the way of the Munich-based manufacturer. In 1996, Sabine Reck became the first woman to win the Eifel endurance race. 

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BMW M3 GT2

As great as the challenge of the 24-hour race is, the marathon race also offers carmakers the perfect opportunity to demonstrate their technical progress and superiority. In 1998, BMW Motorsport used that stage for a courageous venture and emerged triumphant. BMW was the first manufacturer to set its sights on overall victory in the Eifel region with a diesel car. Marc Duez, Andreas Bovensiepen, Christian Menzel and Stuck were the men charged with achieving the previously unimaginable in a BMW 320d.

“When BMW told me in 1998 that they wanted to win the 24-hour race with a diesel, I said: ‘Are you joking?’ However, the fuel consumption actually meant we were able to defeat the opposition. We were not the fastest, but we had to make far fewer pit stops,” said Stuck.

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BMW M3 E30

She shared driving duties in the BMW M3 E36 with Hans Widmann and Nordschleife legend Johannes Scheid. Just one year later, Reck and Scheid repeated their feat, taking overall victory together with Hans-Jürgen Tiemann and Peter Zakowski – again in the BMW M3 E36.

 

In 2010, Jörg Müller, Uwe Alzen, Pedro Lamy and Augusto Farfus took BMW’s 19th overall win, taking victory in BMW Team Schnitzer’s BMW M3 GT2. Then, fans had to wait ten years for the 20th overall win. BMW teams narrowly missed out on getting the win four times in the decade, before the time finally came at the anniversary edition of the race in 2020. Nick Catsburg, Nick Yelloly and Alexander Sims topped the podium in the ROWE Racing #99 BMW M6 GT3 after a turbulent race. Third place went to the #42 BMW M6 GT3 of BMW Team Schnitzer with Sheldon van der Linde, Martin Tomczyk, Jens Klingmann and Augusto Farfus at the wheel. That brought things full circle on the most difficult racetrack in the world, on a rainy 27th September 2020, 50 years after the first, and ten years after the last victory to this one.

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THE LEGEND OF THE NÜRBURGRING-NORDSCHLEIFE: THE TOUGHEST RACETRACK IN THE WORLD.

The Nordschleife is loved and hated, but above all feared. Any driver who wins at this circuit has earned his place in the history books. Many well-known drivers still owe much of their fame to victories on the Nordschleife. One of them, Sir Jackie Stewart, once christened the track the ‘Green Hell’ – a truly fitting name. The circuit throws every conceivable challenge at the drivers: up to 18 percent inclines, up to 11 percent declines, jumps, banked corners, long straights, fast sections and winding passages. The Nürburgring-Nordschleife takes you from one extreme to another. Drivers believe a flawless lap of the longest permanent racetrack in the world is simply impossible.

 

The track configuration used at the most recent edition of the 24-hour race on 26th and 27th September is 25.378 kilometres in length. Located in the heart of the Eifel region, the landscape around the track makes it a roller coaster of a ride through dense forests. It demands skill, courage and a cool head at all times. One additional challenge is the weather in this part of Germany, which can change from one minute to the next. The 24-hour race has witnessed rain, hail, and even snow. However, even in dry conditions, the Nordschleife puts a driver’s talent to the test throughout the entire lap. The Nordschleife would not have its legendary reputation if it were not also dangerous.

 

To improve the safety of the drivers, the circuit has been modified on several occasions. The first major alterations began after Formula 1 drivers boycotted the race in 1970. The numerous changes made the Ring safer – and faster.

 

Despite best efforts, the era of Formula 1 on the Nordschleife came to an end in 1976, after Niki Lauda only escaped alive from a crash in his Ferrari thanks to a lot of luck and the frantic help of some of his fellow drivers. In 1984, Nürburgring GmbH opened a totally new Grand Prix Circuit, which after further modifications today measures 5.148 kilometres. However, the Nordschleife lives on. Year after year, the 24-hour race and the Nürburgring Endurance Series add to the history of the demanding racetrack in the world, and cement its fearsome reputation. The Nordschleife remains the toughest circuit in the world. That is why BMW puts every new production vehicle to the ultimate test there. As a partner of Nürburgring GmbH, the brand has a modern test centre at the foot of the Nürburg hill.. Since the 1960s, BMW vehicles have been put to the test under extreme conditions in the small town of Nürburg and on the legendary Nordschleife itself. However, BMW production vehicles are not the only ones put through their paces on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife – the same goes for future race cars.

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Nordschleife
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