This weekend couldn’t be more perfect. I think I will need a while to comprehend that this everything was real, that I didn’t dream it.
WEC is an amazing race to go to, after two years in a row in Spa, I knew that much for sure. Tickets are very affordable, the access is amazing, organisation is mostly impeccable. WEC is an amazing kind of racing to watch live.
Nürburgring has proven to be a great venue, too. The area is unbelievably beautiful. High up the Eifel mountains with the tiny villages around and that mideavel castle on top of the hill, it is a great destination to get away from the hassle of the real life.
The most important thing about any adventure are people you share it with, and I will never be able to thank Liza enough. She made it all amazing, and I cannot imagine anyone else with whom it would have been so amazing. We share the favourite team, but most importantly we share attitude. What comes in handy, too, is that she is more of a “could we make a photo, please” kind of girl, while I collect autographs. So it is perfect symbiosis.
We lived in a lovely hotel at the very north of Nürburg itself, which meant we had about 30 minute walk to the racetrack through the lovely village or along the bits of the Nordschleife. Seeing the bits of the old track with the castle on top of the hill on Thursday evening when we arrived was just mind blowing. The history of the place, the beauty of it, it strikes you.
We made it to the GP circuit to find all the new facilities and predictably comparing it with Spa, we found it a bit disappointing. Something is missing around all the perfect facilities which look more like a shopping malls than anything else.
At the boulevard Porsche were building up their stands. They brought The Porsche. The 919. The 19. The Le Mans winning car. It looks beautiful, with all the dirt with all the dead insects, with all the scratches here and there in the bodywork. She looks stunning. They had half of RSR car built out of Lego, too. You were supposed to estimate how many Lego parts there were. We thought of calculating it, but didn’t come to that.
It was raining like crazy by the time we headed to the hotel.
As they say early bird gets the worm and the next morning after an amazing breakfast we headed to the track. Parked close to the back of the Porsche garages and waited. Timo was on the first floor of the pit building and we sort of thought of Rapunzel, especially when Brendon joined him. Rich waited for Mark, which gave Webber away. He was very kind to sign the autographs, but I have a feeling slightly annoyed with the pushy impolite men who behaved as if he owed them something. With “Good morning Mr. Webber” you got a smile on top of the autograph.
Brendon is a lot more approachable, a lot more relaxed about it all. When Liza gave him their photo from Spa made a year ago, he asked where it was from, signed it. Brendon is such a sunshine with all the smiles and tiny wrinkles in the corners of his eyes, and his lovely habit of putting his arm around the person’s shoulders when taking the photo.
Timo makes an impression of being very dependable. He was kind and very friendly and all smiles and the usual fan photo thumbs up was also there.
Neel Jani, Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas they are all very kind and very lovely, they took the time signing the autographs, making the photos with the fans.
I love the work of Vladimir Rys, his photos have the atmosphere, they don’t just capture the moment, they capture the emotions, and I asked him for permission to use his photos for my collection, which he kindly granted. So all of the 6 autographs are on his amazing photos from Le Mans 24h.
Friday morning was perfect for asking for the autographs, since there were not too many people waiting. And it was the usual free practice day rain.
We took advantage of another lovely feature of the WEC, namely free seat choice, but only after we had to tackle one mishap with the tickets. The lovely colleagues at the Nürburgring sent me the wrong tickets so we had to go and get the right ones. On the bright side was that we got that Pit-Walk tickets which theoretically were limited.
The free practice was mostly uneventful with an exception of the #7 Audi, which apparently likes the gravel trap in turn 1 a lot more than it does the racing line. I love the sound of the cars in WEC: rough and loud almost painfully so Rebellions, rocket sciency Hybrids and the assortment of the GTEs. And from the Mercedes grandstand you can see most of the twisty bits of the circuit which is very nice.
After the second practice we went to check out the Nürburg castle on top of the hill. The view is spectacular from there, but we were a bit too late and the castle itself was closed and we decided we might come back, which we did the next day.
For the qualifying day we chose to come early too, Liza got her picture with the lovely Mr. Dempsey and Nico Hülkenberg, I got another autograph from Mark for a friend of mine (along with some smiley points you get from him for being polite) and we headed to the grandstands to hang the flags we brought the New Zealand, Australia and Germany for our beloved #17 Porsche. The stewards at the grandstands were lovely to keep an eye on them and to roll them back out the next day, too (Thank you!).
The qualifying was good for the Porsche overall, the gap to the Audis was handsome, but often enough Porsche were quick in qualy and not so much in the race. We headed back to the castle. The castle is nice, except we never found out how the view from the highest tower was, since the tower is guarded by the flies. A lot of flies. Clouds of flies. Normal places are haunted by something decent. Nürburg castle has flies.
On the race day we thought we should do that pit walk and the autograph session, simply because we could. Since we knew of the notoriously non – existent organisational talent of the Porsche team, we at some point sound something like the end of the queue. It was all very messy, as it always were with them. But for the first time we have actually made it. The funny bit was how perfect the drivers looked. All clean shaven, in perfectly ironed team shirts, with perfectly groomed hair. You pay attention to such things when you are in the middle of a very messy crowd. Mark was so funny from time to time raising his hand to ruffle his hair into a usual mess, but then realized what he was doing and smoothed it our again. The 18 drivers were their usual lovely selves, and me and Liza even ended up in a picture posted on Jani’s instagram. I took a picture of Liza with Mark, and asked him to sign my arm. I am crazy fangirl, I know, but it is lovely. Brendon sitting next to him laughed and asked whether I will make a tattoo, I just said I loved them a lot but not that much. Then when I wished more or less Brendon luck in the race, since he was the one I was talking to Mark turned around and thanked me, too. We wanted to thank Timo for the retweet of the photo we posted with our flags, but didn’t manage it anymore.
We headed to the grandstands, took the places and prepared to wait. The feeling before the race is electric, I am very bad at it, I am terrified and my heart rate approaches 140, Liza was trying to calm me down, not too successful though. Another smile creapped on my face when when Timo was told in the interview he was doing that the flags were for the 17 car. It was lovely!
What surprised us a lot was that the Germans don’t stand up for their national anthem. The crowd in Belgium always did, the crowd in Hungary, let alone Russians. 90% of the people in Germany remained seated.
I won’t describe the race, I will just say that I will never forget that pass: Webber on an Audi in the third corner. There were some mixed feelings too. No way you wish misfortunes for the sister car, but the penalties meant that that enormous gap Jani pulled was gone very soon. When the 18 pulled into the pits for their second stop and go we watched from the top of the pit building, it was excruciatingly painful, and I don’t want to know how awful Dumas felt in the car. Watching the actual full service pit stop of the #17 from the top of the pit building was indescribable.
The gap from the Audis gradually grew. With three hours to go, you more or less start trying to calm down, to know that anything can happen. With so many unfortunate situations the 17 has been in, you know only too well that nothing is over until the chequered flag falls.
What impressed us as well, is how perfectly the Full Cource Yellow rule works. Nothing like the mess they make of the VSC in F1. And since we could see quite a bit of the track from the Mercedes grandstand, we learned to appreciate how amazing the marshals are.
Another suboptimal thing about the Nürburgring is the podium: you cannot see it from any of the grandstands because it hides behind the bridge. And generally the WEC podium ceremony is a bit of a disappointment, it doesn’t have the buzz and the energy that F1 does, but it’s mostly due to the lack of people on track, I guess. There were some, but not too many. We sang along the German anthem for the Porsche #17 with happy tears in our eyes. We couldn’t believe it, I guess the realization that our favourite Timo, Brendon and Mark have actually won. That we have witnessed it. It still isn’t there. The emotions the buzz – yes. But I guess it will take a while to really comprehend it.
This weekend was an endorphins overdose, it was perfect, every single bit of it was perfect. Huge thanks to WEC, to the amazing Porsche team, to the sister car, which considering all the penalties did a stunning job, to Timo, Mark and Brendon and most of all to Liza. Thank you!