Endurance RacingSportscars

2010 Nurburgring 24 Hours Preview

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There may be more famous, more watched or more glamorous races in the world, but the Nurburgring 24 Hours is unique, almost to the point of novelty.

The scale of the event is enough to send you simple.

The entry list for the 38th running of race is more than 200 strong, with 28 eligible classes for cars ranging from Renault Clios to the latest GT3 and even GT2-spec machinery.

Entries come from spirited amateurs, simply wanting to take on the formidable 'Green Hell' of the  25km Nurburgring Nordschleife, recognised privateer teams and works entries from the biggest marques in GT racing, and all will be racing from the same pitlane where teams often have to share their pitbox with six other teams.

The most visible class to the casual observer will be the SP9 class, for GT3 cars. At the very top of the list, and rightfully so, are Manthey Racing, the winners of the last four Nurburging 24 Hours and two of the first three VLN series races held this year on the track. Olaf Manthey's team return with a Porsche and the same driving quartet of Marc Lieb, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Marcel Tiemann that have won the past three 24 Hours.

This year the team have their name on no fewer than five entries, including the tantalising prospect of a hybrid Porsche GT3 R with a truly terrifying driving staff as Porsche works drivers Jorg Bergmeister, Richard Lietz, Marco Holzer and Martin Ragginger take turns behind the wheel.

However, despite this presence they will, perhaps, face the sternest opposition in years with a pair of works entered BMW M3 E92 machines and a massive presence from Audi that brings seven at least part works assisted GT3 R8 LMS to the track with drivers that match Porsches in every way. Frank Biela, Marcel Fassler, Mike Rockenfeller and Stucks – Hans-Joachim and Johannes – will be part of the three car line-up for Phoenix Racing. Lucas Luhr and Emmanuel Collard will be among those driving for Abt Sportsline – a team name that should be familiar to DTM fans – who also bring Briton Oliver Jarvis into a team.

It will be 26-year-old Jarvis's first time in the 24 hour race, though he's already had a chance to race around the Nordshleife in the VLN, still he's clear about the challenge he'll face this weekend.

“I'm very aware how difficult the track is and how much 'traffic' we'll come across during the race,” he says. “The Nordschleife is one of the most challenging race circuits in the world and one that is steeped in history so to be part of this race is something very special.”

Jarvis, who joins Mattias Ekstrom, Timo Scheider and Marco Werner in a second Abt R8 is unlikely to be the only Brit at the top of the leaderboard.

Andy Priaulx is amongst three Dirks – Werner, Muller and Adorf – in one for the two factory entered BMW M3, with WTCC teammate Augusto Farfus in the sister car with Jorg Muller, Uwe Alzen and Pedro Lamy, already a four time winner of the race – twice with BMW.

British interest will also be turned to Team Parker Racing, the Porsche Carrera Cup team fielding a single car for Chris Cooper and Guy Spurr in the SP7 class, where they will have to contend with the Hankook Team Farnbacher Ferrari effort, drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Allan Simonsen once more under the banner.

Which class, let alone which individual team will emerge at the top of the overall standings on Sunday is the sort of unknown that makes proper endurance racing such a spectacle, the fact that it's 24 Hours around the Nordschleife only makes it harder to second guess the result.

A full rundown of the entry list will take in dozens of familiar names from the past and present of Touring Cars, Sportscars and even Rallying, as well as the normal smattering of racing journalists and businessmen, none more prominent and note worthy than Aston Martin CEO Ulrich Bez who will be part of the team driving the four-door Aston Martin Rapide in its racing debut. The Rapide, with its six-litre engine part of SP8 class, home to some of the biggest powerplants in the race (though the largest belongs to a GT3 Dodge Viper, listed on the event’s website as having an 8.2-litre V10)   

As if to emphasize the range and depth of the field the very last car on the entry list, a Ford Focus RS that will carry the number 250, will include WRC driver Jari-Matti Latvala.

You can follow the race and build-up throughout the week on www.radiolemans.com, starting with the opening qualifying session at 6.20pm on Thursday.

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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