The N24, emotion recollected in tranquillity
Itâ€™s over, the N24, the greatest 24-hour race in the world. Better than Le Mans or Spa? We think so, although right now weâ€™re still in recovery mode. The racing was mental/ monumental, but so was the whole event â€“ history, people, atmosphere, adventure.
Many racetracks are becoming more sanitised, keeping you away from the action, but the Nurburgring lets you get up close and personal. At night you can stand close to watch an R8 GT3 howl past an old 3 Series BMW with nothing to spare. Around you, youâ€™re up close and personal with huge fires, drunks, madmen, ravers and strange night dwellers.
Watching the really quick cars picking their way past slower traffic at night was mesmerising. After the restart, the final 80 minutes was something else. The Manthey Racing 911, on its way to victory, dicing with the Black Falcon AMG GT3 was the sort of thing that made you stand there with your mouth open.
We occasionally paused this to pour some beer in, but this was a spectacle like no other. It felt exhausting as a spectator, and gives you a faint inkling of what it must be like to be a racing driver here. Itâ€™s certainly a place that tests man and machine to the very limits and beyond.
Which made it an interesting environment for Hyundai. Committed to going faster with the N cars, Hyundai came away from the event with a second and fourth in the TCR class with its i30 N. It seems viable when Hyundai says that its racing programme is having an influence on its road cars.
Thatâ€™s the thing about the N24, you can see not only top line motors with a budget of that of a small state, youâ€™re also watching, in the same race, a Toyota GT86, a Ford Mustang and a tired old Calibra. And a road-going Hyundai.
After 24 hours of racing, beer, no sleep, currywurst, rain and sunburn, we just wanted one of the race cars, any of them would have done. It was a crazy weekend and it will be some days before we start planning to return to it next year.