Gallery: The Off-Track Joys of the Nürburgring 24

Alex Sobran

Germany’s Eifel Mountain region is perfect for early-summer camping and hiking. The forested peaks rise and fall through the fog and are populated by charming hamlets and farms, the edges of which are often lined with shocks of wildflowers. Rain clouds and bluebird skies trade places throughout the day before the sun sets about 10 p.m.


That is, unless you arrive at any part of the Nürburgring Nordschleife during the Nürburgring 24 Hours (N24) race weekend, where a quarter-million fans show up, dedicated to a schedule that’s dominated by three things: drinking beer, grilling sausages, and watching cars hurtling up, down—and occasionally off—one of the greatest circuits in the world. The chirp of songbirds is replaced by the thrum of generators, a half-dozen Eurobeat tracks thumping out of temporary discotheques, and the constant doppler effect of racing engines near redline.

Unlike this year’s shortest-ever N24—red-flagged for nearly 17 hours due to dense fog that wouldn’t let up—the party rages at all hours, impervious to foul weather. The peace is thoroughly disturbed. 

In the weeks leading up to the ‘Ring’s premier endurance race, dedicated fans descend on the countryside to stake out their plots along the nearly 13 miles of asphalt. There they erect temples to Bitburger, Jägermeister, Paulaner, and Warsteiner.

Their plywood scaffold creations sometimes include mud-stained living room couches draped in Christmas lights. One setup even had an assisted-mobility chair on an electric track to ferry guests up and down. Plastic banners span these double- and triple-decker structures, broadcasting motorsport allegiances and beverage brands of choice.

On the trampled ground below, empty alcohol bottles and cans are stacked into pyramids, or unceremoniously piled up, or just flattened into the earth. Cigarette smoke wafts through the leafy canopies, joining the plumes of bonfires and barbecues that still linger in your clothes Monday morning. 

2024 Nürburgring 24 Hours bottle sculpture fun art
Alex Sobran

It is a wonderful place to be, and not just as a racing fan. The camaraderie is infectious, regardless of what team you’re rooting for. And believe it or not, it can be very family-friendly: Toddlers are perched on their parents’ shoulders, heads lolling, all top-heavy thanks to the comically oversized earmuffs that mom and dad insist upon. Little hands furiously wave cheap plastic flags adorned with car brand logos with the same enthusiasm of older diehards who’ve made this race an annual tradition. The kids are alright. 

And so are the adults. I lost count of the number of beers I had to politely turn down as I tromped around the perimeter of the circuit, pulling at my photographer’s credential to show that I was, despite my senses telling me otherwise, at work. In addition to watching one of the official Nürburgring-owned jumbotrons, I popped my head into a few tents to check out the race feeds to see what was happening on the rest of the course. Without fail I was offered some form of hot food, a shot of liquor or another bottle of beer.

After miles of trudging and eight hours of holding stiff photographer stances, my feet ached and my stomach pleaded, so I broke down and accepted an offered plate of currywurst. I was grateful for the kindness that endurance racing seems to foster.

On Sunday morning, the bonfires were fed with the wooden frames that provided the prior night’s grandstands. Some people were still drinking, some slowly packing their cars and campers, hot coffee in hand. It was quieter this year as the red flags for weather left the track empty since before midnight. People grumbled about that, but you know they’ll be back next year, just like they were the year before. The traffic jam to leave the ‘Ring is thick but quickly disperses once you get clear of the main parking and camping zones. They come from every direction and leave the same way. 

With the race over, the countryside quickly returns to its idyllic natural state. Sounds from the forests and farmland take up where the cars and crowds left off. Cleanup crews stab bits of trash with their pokers and a few service trucks prowl the circuit to make minor repairs to the guardrails.

We’ll all be back next year, weather permitting or not. See you there.


Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Read next Up next: 1976 Buick Electra Limited Coupe: Sun-Kissed Yacht


    There’s this stuff called “soap and water” – it combats mud fairly well. Unless you are thinking of the traction problems it can present? There’s this thing called a tow strap… 😁

    I’m getting too old for that stuff. Went to a big car show several years ago. Bunch of live music stages and plenty of adult beverages to be had. Camped in a tent. Quiet campsite was full. Had to stay in the bigger campground. Group across from us about a dozen or so stayed up till daylight. We stayed up till midnight or so and probably got 2-3 hours sleep security came around a few times and the group finally turned the music off with threats of eviction. But in our tent you could still hear every word spoken like they were sitting next to you. We threw our stuff in the back of our suv about 6:00 am and left while beeping the horn to say goodbye to the now sleeping partiers That’s a young man’s game coming from someone who’s getting Medicare this year

    I hear ya – but I think I might still have a few of those “trackside adventures” in me (and I’ve been on Medicare for well over a decade). A few less adult beverages and a few more stolen naps during practice laps, maybe, but I think I could do it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *