Classic Excitement in the Rain:
Oldtimer GP 2017

The Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring is always a highlight in the racing calendar for classic car fans. Last weekend saw the 45th instalment of the event, which has become as historic as many of the cars that lined up on the starting grid. The organizers estimate that 46,000 spectators braved the inclement weather to visit the track and watch the classic cars take part in races, regularity tests and demonstration runs.

Oldtimer GP 2017: 500 historic vehicles put through their paces

The 20 events featured a total of 500 historic sports and racing cars, including historic Formula 1 and Formula 3 racers from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. There were also races involving historic touring cars, GTs and long distance LeMans-class vehicles.

Special mention should go to the “Automobilclub von Deutschland” and the “Allgemeine Schnauferl Club”, which joined forces once again for the 2017 event to present a high-caliber field of very original pre-war vehicles. The highlight here was undoubtedly provided by Peterheinz Kern and his Mercedes-Benz 680 S Rennsport. This was the car that Rudolf Caracciola drove to victory at the Nürburgring 90 years ago. Kern, a passionate collector of interwar compressor vehicles, is clearly an all-rounder: only a few weeks earlier he had secured victory on the manicured lawns of Schloss Dyck at Masterpieces 2017.

 

Wonderful but menacing: the legendary Nürburgring

The original, rather prosaic official name of the racetrack hints at the fact that it was not built exclusively for motor sports: “Gebirgs-, Renn- und Prüfungsstrecke” translates as “mountain, racing and test track”. Its length (just over 20 km) and its demanding route through the Eifel Mountains made it, and still make it, an extremely demanding test-bed for high-performance car developers.

But the Nürburgring legend was undoubtedly built on the many 24-hour races that took place there, and on its double-edged reputation among racing drivers as being both a wonderful and a menacing place to race. Much of the track runs through forested areas, prompting Jackie Stewart to call the Nürburgring the “Green Hell”. To commemorate the catastrophic crash suffered by Niki Lauda over forty years ago Stewart – a true “Ringmaster” – wrote about the brutal demands of the track for German daily newspaper “Der Tagesspiegel”. He described how, driving at 280 km/h through narrow forest clearings while experiencing extreme G-forces that sometimes made it impossible to control the vehicle, deviating even a meter from the ideal line could have fatal consequences.

Even though the North Loop of the Nürburgring can no longer be compared with the track used in the ‘60s and ‘70s, in the light of Stewart’s story respect must be paid to all the participants in the 2017 Oldtimer Grand Prix who pushed their top-class cars, regardless of their value, at high speed through the tortuous bends. The frequent rain didn’t make things any easier.

As at other classic car races, the Oldtimer Grand Prix gives fans an opportunity to get right up close to the drivers and the cars. The rough charms of a rainy Nürburgring drew in quite a few celebrities as well. Among the famous faces spotted were ex-Formula 1 driver Ralph Schumacher and California-based Porsche obsessive Magnus Walker. They strolled with the crowds through the paddock, where the buildings date right back to the track’s opening in 1927.

Not only can participants drive their historic cars on a historic track, they can also work on them in the historic pits. These pits thus perform a dual function: they give the drivers temporary shelter from the rain before their next race; but they also provide an attractive backdrop to onlooking fans. They love the paddock because it’s where they can get up really close to the stars of the show.

Here are some great impressions of Oldtimer GP 2017 courtesy and © Julien Mahiels:

 

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