Motorsports in close-up.
Mercedes-Benz Classic in the
Eifel Race at Nürburgring.
When the pre-war cars start rolling in loudly between the bales of straw, there is an immediate motorsports atmosphere in the authentically restored paddock. This is what it must have looked, sounded and smelled like 80, 90 years ago... After several laps of the North Loop, the beautiful cars deserve a well-earned rest. Immediately on arrival, Franz Maag replaces the twelve spark-plugs of his grey Mercedes-Benz SS Racer (built in 1929). The classic car enthusiast with start number 24 has completed five laps in the supercharged sports car which develops 250 hp. How does it feel to take part in a race with it? "Well, that's what the car was built for," Maag answers matter-of-factly.
The demonstration run with pre-war cars is part of the accompanying programme for the ADAC Eifel Race at Nürburgring.
This most traditional of all German motor sports events has been held there since the legendary racetrack was opened in 1927. At the same time the Eifel Race forms part of the motor racing history of Mercedes-Benz: in 1934 it saw the debut of the famed Silver Arrows, when the W 25 racing cars with their unpainted aluminium bodywork made their first appearance.
Thunder, chugging and growling.
Since 2008 the Eifel Race has been an event dedicated to historic cars. It is therefore only natural for Mercedes-Benz Classic to be represented with legendary vehicles from various motor racing eras driven by famous racing drivers. One of these icons is Jochen Mass, the Le Mans winner in 1989. His motivation: "The important thing is to be part of this event, have fun and let people see the cars." And so they can – for example in the display organised by Mercedes-Benz Classic, where the Mercedes-Benz clubs present exhibits ranging from supercharged sports cars to the 300 SL. The paddock, where mechanics make their adjustments, enthusiasts enthuse and spectators are able to sit in the cars, is the centrepiece of the event. Where the guitars of the band "Metallica" rang out one week earlier during the "Rock am Ring" festival, the scene is now dominated by all manner of engine noises: thunder, chugging, growling or burbling.
Classics from different eras at Nürburgring.
"Meet the Legends".
The Eifel Race provides motor sports in close-up, for example during the "Meet the Legends" autograph session when fans can meet Dieter Glemser (born 1938), Jochen Mass (born 1946) and Marcel Tiemann (born 1974) – three generations of Mercedes-Benz racing drivers. Or at the starting lineup of the three-hour Eifel Race for the Jan-Wellem Trophy on the Saturday afternoon.
This is when the starting and finishing straight of the Grand Prix track provides automobile enthusiasts with an opportunity to experience historic cars at very close quarters and take commemorative photos.
Calm and collected
in the pit-lane.
Later on, in the pits, things liven up even more. The fans are almost face to face with Jochen Mass as he hands over the wheel to his colleague Robert Tomitzi while their 220 SE is refuelled and the oil topped up. It all happens quite quickly, but things are by no means as hectic as in a Formula One race.
The Eifel Classic is a really sedate affair. As the sun begins to prevail over the dark clouds up above, the drivers taking part in the orientation and reliability runs around the Nürburgring start to return. Among them are celebrity motor racing fans such as actor Jürgen Vogel. "There is no comparison with today's cars, in terms of suspension characteristics alone," he comments after the final stage.
After arriving at the finish line, the film star stays for a relaxed chat with other participants and spectators.
The “Eifelrennen” on the Nürburgring
"A large family gathering".
"Like a large family gathering," is how Gerard den Hertog describes the atmosphere. The 57 year-old Dutchman has been a Mercedes-Benz owner since 1987, and for almost as long, he has been a passionate collector of historic cars bearing the Mercedes star. Together with his son Marinus (24) he is taking part in the consistency trial in a 450 SLC 5.0. "I drive with my heart, but also use my head," he grins, as he describes his driving style. And: "When I win it has more to do with the car than with its driver..." As often as they can, the two of them take part in historic events all over Europe, and have many friends among the German Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts. These activities are not a hobby for father and son, but a way of life. Like so many others they are particular fans of the pre-war cars, the unspoken heroes of the Eifel Race.
Klaus Ludwig is at the wheel of one of these pre-war cars, a 310 hp Mercedes-Benz SSK built in 1928, for the "Elephant Race Revival". This run commemorates the opening race at Nürburgring in 1927, when Rudolf Carraciola and Adolf Rosenberger achieved a double victory for Mercedes-Benz in the Type S ("White elephants").
It was in this race that Carraciola laid the foundations for his honorary title of "Master of the Nürburgring". Klaus Ludwig, a multiple Le Mans winner and "King of the North Loop", is therefore the perfect choice as driver. Sadly for his fans, this is Ludwig's last home appearance at Nürburgring, as he is ending his career as an active professional racing driver when the season comes to a close.
close at hand.
"Auf Wiedersehen" until next year.
Whether a hunting excursion in the area around the Nürburgring, taxi rides in historic Mercedes-Benz cars, the Youngtimer Trophy or the "Battle of Dwarves ": 90 years on – the roots of the event go back to 1922 – the programme for the Eifel Race offers many highlights for lovers of historic cars. Anybody who has not previously been a motor sports enthusiast can quickly become one in the "Green Hell" – and will undoubtedly be happy to return to the Eifel next year.
The next race organised by the Driver's Association for Historic Motor Racing (FHR) is the Spa Race Festival in Belgium from 20 to 22 July.