Story of the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the greatest race at the greatest circuit

  • Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit
  • Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit
  • Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit

The 24 Hours of Nürburgring, which took place for the first time at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit in 1970, is one of four greatest 24-hour races in the world, together with Le Mans 24h, Daytona 24h and Spa 24h.

When considering the number of participants and the length of the track, then Nürburgring’s race is the greatest of all. For the 24-hour race, the 25 km long combination of the Nordschleife and the Grand Prix Circuit is in use. The most recent edition of the N24 race, in 2017, hosted 160 crews with more than 600 drivers. Previously, there were events with more than 200 cars on the track.

Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit

A crowd at Nürburgring circuit

Many great events at Nürburgring Nordschleife

After the opening in 1927, the Nürburgring was hosting the German Grand Prix as the main event, becoming a part of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1951. In 1953, the first Nürburgring 1000 Km race was organized as a part of the World Sportscar Championship.

During the 1960s, Nürburgring hosted endurance races of different length, including the Marathon de la Route between 1965 and 1971. That race lasted 84 hours in most of the editions and grueling 96 hours in 1971.

Nurburgring Nordschleife 5

Nurburgring is hosting races since 1927

The inaugural Nürburgring 24 Hours was held in 1970

The first 24 Hours of Nürburgring, a predecessor of today’s 24-hour event, took place in 1970. Similar to Spa 24 Hours, Nürburgring’s race was opened to touring cars. The first ever winners were Hans-Joachim Stuck and Clemens Schickentanz in a BMW 2002 TI.

BMW crews triumphed three more times in following years with different models (BMW 2002, BMW 2800 CS, BMW 3.0 CSL). One of the winners in 1973 was Niki Lauda. In 1974 and 1975, there was no race due to an oil crisis.

From 1976 to 1978, Porsche 911 Carrera was a victorious car three times, with Fritz Müller and Herbert Hechler as winning drivers on all three occasions. Then, a period of Ford supremacy followed, with two wins of Ford Escort (1979, 1980) and two wins of Ford Capri (1981, 1982). Fritz Müller scored a victory in 1981, becoming the first four-time winner in the history of the race.

GP Circuit since 1984, the 24-hour race stayed on Nordschleife

In 1983, there was no 24-hour race due to a reconstruction of Nürburgring which resulted with the opening of the Grand Prix Circuit in 1984. However, endurance racers stayed at Nordschleife, continuing a tradition which is still alive today.

After three BMW wins from 1984 to 1986, a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth was a victorious car in 1987. The drivers were Klaus Ludwig, Steve Soper and Klaus Niedzwiedz.

BMW is the most successful manufacturer at Nurburgring 24 Hours

BMW is the most successful manufacturer at Nurburgring 24 Hours

Nine wins for BMW between 1989 and 1998

Another period of BMW supremacy followed from 1989 to 1998, with nine wins in ten races. BMW M3 was a victorious car seven times, one victory went to BMW 320i and one victory in 1998 went to BMW 320d. It was the first win for a diesel-powered car in a major 24-hour race.

The drivers in that historic event were Marc Duez, Christian Menzel, Andreas Bovensiepen and Hans-Joachim Stuck, who returned to the top podium spot 28 years after the inaugural victory. For Marc Duez, it was his third win.

The other multiple winners in that period were Sabine Reck (Schmitz), Johannes Scheid, Roberto Ravaglia and Joachim Winkelhock.

Four-time winners Marc Duez and Peter Zakowski

Marc Duez scored his fourth win in 1999, driving a Chrysler Viper GTS-R for Zakspeed. One of his co-drivers was Peter Zakowski, for whom it was the second victory.

Zakspeed’s Chrysler Viper was a victorious car two more times, in 2001 and 2002, with Peter Zakowski as one of the drivers. He also became the four-time winner. In both races, Zakowski was sharing a car with Pedro Lamy, today’s record holder with five wins.

Opel's team at 24 Hours of Nurburgring in 2003

Opel’s team at 24 Hours of Nurburgring in 2003

Historic victory for Opel in 2003

The race in 2003 was marked by the victory of DTM-spec Opel Astra V8 Coupe, driven by Manuel Reuter, Timo Scheider and Marcel Tiemann. It was the first ever win for Opel and remained the only win for Opel in Nurburgring’s 24-hour race. It was also the first win for Marcel Tiemann, who later became the record holder.

In 2004, the first-ever N24 winner Hans-Joachim Stuck triumphed again, for the third time. This time, his victorious car was a BMW M3 GTR.

Five-time winners M. Tiemann, P. Lamy, T. Bernhard

From 2006 to 2009, Manthey Racing scored four consecutive wins with Porsche 996 GT3 or 997 GT3.  Marcel Tiemann participated in all four races and became the first five-time winner.

In 2010, Schnitzer Motorsport’s BMW M3 GT2 won the race. Pedro Lamy was one of the drivers, scoring his fifth victory. Then, in 2011, Manthey Racing won again, and Timo Bernhard joined the club of five-time winners.

2017 24h Nurburgring podium

Audi has won four times between 2012 and 2017

First win for Audi in 2012, first win for Mercedes in 2013

BMW and Porsche are the most successful manufacturers at Nurburgring 24 Hours, with nineteen and eleven wins respectively. The other two German big brands scored their maiden wins recently, Audi in 2012 and Mercedes in 2013.

Audi R8 LMS was a victorious car for the first time in 2012 and then three more times in 2014, 2015 and 2017. Black Falcon brought the first win for Mercedes in 2013 with Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 and then again three years later with new Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit

Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit

Photos: vln.de, Robert Kah,

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