"You never stop learning the Nürburgring,” says Peter Dumbreck, who heads to the Nordschleife this week for his 16th 24-hour endurance race around the 12.9-mile monster. “The circuit changes. It’s like a living thing, because it’s so long. Every time you think: ‘Was that bump there before?’ They update bits of the Tarmac over the winter and it just gets quicker.”
The 47-year-old Scot heads to the Nürburgring directly from television commentary duties at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for a double-header that’s usually a central pillar of his life each June. This year, the pandemic delayed both endurance classics by three months, but Dumbreck has raced three times on the Nordschleife since July and is nicely warmed for his Falken Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R after three years racing a BMW M6. “It’s daunting going to the ’Ring, even in my advancing years,” he admits. “You still have to treat the place with respect.”
LEAVES ON THE LINE
The weather in the Eifel mountains is notoriously unpredictable, even at the height of summer, but Dumbreck says the later running this year could make for quite a spectacle.
“It is potentially going to be the fastest Nürburgring 24 Hours on record,” he says. “For a start, the cars only seem to be getting quicker, plus cooler temperatures mean stronger engines, so they’ll be pulling much better up the hills. Depending on dry weather, we should have a high-grip circuit, which increases as the race goes on. When you’re on rotation, you really notice the difference between your first and second stints.”
What specifically will Dumbreck be looking out for this time that might be different to racing in June – beyond racing for more hours in darkness around the most fearsome race track in the world? “Leaves,” he answers. “That will be a factor. I remember reading a tweet from [another British Nordschleife specialist] Adam Christodoulou last year about how he lost a race from pole position because, as the first driver around the track, he collected all these fallen leaves, which overheated his car. Also, if you’ve got a damp track and wet leaves as well, it’s one more thing to think about.”
A reduced entry list and, most notably, no fans will make this a Nürburgring 24 Hours with a twist. “It will be strange not to have the usual fanfare,” he says of an event that has grown in stature over the past few decades. “When you go from 250,000 people to almost none (I’m sure a few will sneak in), it’s going to be odd, not having the smell of barbecues. And maybe there will be less track graffiti, too, which can make it awfully slippery, especially if it rains.”