The cars were simply not as good back then, but today the cars have become much better. This was how it was like back in the day: Families drove to the Ring, complete with wife and children. You don’t see this anymore. Nowadays it’s one or two men per vehicle, and they race instead of just drive. That’s what it is. My father helped build the Nürburgring. He was a linesman there, so therefore the son, me, had the opportunity to work at the Nürburgring. I spent nine years in the column/convoy, in the paddock, cutting hedges, mowing the lawn, doing everything that needed to be done. And then this thing here was built from scratch. This was when I came here, and I am still sitting here to this very day. The Nürburgring opened in 1927. And the exhibition that we built here…I am actually still building it after starting it six years ago. We have the first gas pump from BV Aral here from 1927, which was the first gas pump produced at the Nürburgring. This was when the cars had to be refueled by a hand operated pump. It wasn’t a time when you simply stuck in the hose and in three seconds the tank is filled with 70 liters. Back then five liters had to be pumped up by hand and drained at the track. And all brands were represented there. Look the pits here in the historic paddock, where they squeezed two cars inside these small pits. You actually had to climb over the wall to get into the pit, and you couldn’t even drive inside the pit at the track. A lot has changed since then. Nowadays teams arrive with five vehicles and build palaces that are more extravagant than any house the average person can build, all for one race. That’s pretty incredible, yes.
The space that’s needed here has increased a hundredfold. Technology continues to evolve in all motorsports events. We cannot compare Formula 1 today with Formula 1 five, 10 or 40 years ago Just as we cannot compare the 24-hour race. These days we have cars that are highly engineered,and tires that are on a whole different level than they were years ago. Everything from the timekeeping and live streaming, are simply things that we didn’t have in the past. Nowadays technology is principally transparent. We’re able to see where the car is on the track at all times, and see how fast it is going. The viewers know who is in the car via built-in timekeeping transmitters. The story has changed significantly today, and it’s not possible to reverse this. Although sometimes people say they’d like to return back to the old, simpler times. In the last few years, enormous changes have been made, even at the track, which has become so safe. At least for me, I can’t think of a single thing to criticize about the track. Even as the guardrails are closer, as I prefer them right beside the asphalt so that I am not flying around powerlessly. What has really changed is the pit area. As I think of the old pits… they drove past the front and past the back, and we even drove with flame pipes, but this is something I couldn’t imagine happening anymore. We admittedly complained when the flame pipe was gone, but today I would complain even more if it came back. When you look at photos from 30 to 40 years ago, there weren’t even guardrails on parts of the Nordschleife. There was a 50cm or 80cm narrow strip of grass, followed by a ditch where the drainage could run, and behind the ditch there were hedges. When when you flew into the hedges, they opened, and then closed, and nobody could find you. We now have guardrails all around that are five- to six-stories high. We have FIA safety fences all around to secure the spectators if something major happens. I think a race track, if you want to sustain it over the long term, if you want to witness its 100-year celebration, then it has to be maintained. It has to be kept up to date and adjusted to the newest circumstances. Luckily this has always been done here throughout the decades. We’ve made adjustments time and again. When I was a child, I experienced the race track a little bit differently from how I see it now. But on the other hand I frankly have to say that each change benefitted the Nürburgring and helped the Nordschleife to receive the TÜV seal of the FIA, the highest sport authority in Paris; allowing the possibility to have professional motor races here. If this wasn’t the case, and the seal wasn’t awarded, then there would be no racing on the Nordschleife, and that would be a shame. At the moment, I have to say it’s time to cut back a little because the cars are incredibly fast. For examle the flag signals…we often drive past them and don’t notice them. You can’t even see if there were a lot of people at Brünnchen or if there were any at all. You drive with tunnel vision and actually only race through the Eifel, which is a little sad. Well, the safety here, of course, has improved substantially because the cars have become substantially faster. But here there is a certain closeness between the racers and the fans like nowhere else in motorsports. There is a broad spectrum of cars that drive here and everyone is basically a part of it. And there is also no rivalry here, like you would find in soccer. Here we have full solidarity. You see hooligans hitting each other in sports like soccer, but that doesn’t exist here. There is a sense of togetherness, which is the beauty of the 24-hour race. – Well, nothing to add. There is more safety in the pits, but the original, pristine character of the of the 24-hour race still exists. The fans continue to barbecue outdoors like they did 30 years ago. The originality has survived and yet the teams have evolved with the times. For me this isn’t a shortcoming, it’s an inherent quality where we want to keep and celebrate the racing spirit for the 24-hour race. Some years ago, it was the first time I saw someone who had his simulator with him, with a big seat and everything inside his car. He would sleep in his tent, and then drive his simulator inside his car. That was so awesome! And this year, we have ample space, we have got the trailer with us and the Bulli, so I am doing the same. I like the game, I think it’s perfectly made. The tracks are designed fantastically with every graffiti on the ground. The details of the cars are very, very well done. I also found that it can teach children who are not allowed to drive cars quite a lot. I think a highlight for us was definitely when I went to Tokyo last year. There, I felt a little proud when my own car was driving on the screen. But once you see what the technicians have done there, when you finally drive the car and virtually experience every bump and every jump on the racing track, then you realize that it’s really close to what you experience as race driver in the car on the track. So I must give my compliments. But then you see what’s behind all of it, how many people are programming, making and doing things, the data that’s been collected… Everyone who played racing games in the 90s longed for the Nordschleife. And there were attempts to recreate the track, but they weren’t that great. When in 2002 and 2003 Gran Turismo came on the market with the laser-scanned Nordschleife, it was a complete breakthrough. At that moment the whole world was really able to experience what we as race drivers do on the track here. And the biggest proof for the potential of Gran Turismo for me was in the 2004 when Andy Priaulx had no experience on the Nordschleife, but had only experienced the track on Gran Turismo. He then came here and showed the entire BMW factory team how to be fast up here. I believe this was the first moment where I saw how a simulation, especiallly Gran Turismo, was on such a high standard that it allows you to enjoy race tracks from everywhere in the world, learn it, come to the Nürburgring and be competitive. There’s no better evidence. I’ve been a jury member at the Nissan GT Academy for several years, and what I experienced there, the jump from video game into the racecar was incredible. They drove single-seaters, they drove touring cars, and Nissan GT-Rs, which can really pack a punch. They basically got out of an office chair and into a real racecar, flooring the gas pedal right from the beginning. Chapeau! I am here thanks to Gran Turismo because after I won the GT Academy, I have raced for real for seven years now, and it’s a really nice step to change from video game to real racing. And yes, it is very enjoyable, especially driving here. The M6 at the Nordschleife is a unique experience. I just experienced for myself how someone who prepared on Gran Turismo knew every section of the track, even every meter on the track. Thus it has been relatively easy to train him on the Nordschleife. And that makes it a fantastic tool to prepare the younger generation and maybe even old geezers like me. There’s no race track in the world with the character of this one. Length-wise, it goes up and down, You’re close by, you see how the cars are battling and also how many of them get avenged really fast right? Off to the guardrails! When you drive 50 rounds on the Nordschleife, then you know where cars fly off. The weather conditions haven’t always been stable. We have had diluvial rainfalls, and we had hail last year where the race had to be interrupted. There were hot days where it was 30 degrees in the shade, and also bitter cold days during this race. There are many who grumbled about it, but if the Nürburgring wasn’t here, this area would be a completely dead. This track is a voluntary laboratory for motorsports. And as some people view kite flying or soccer as an idiotic hobby, so too is motorsports. I am saying as long as somebody wants to do it, it’s alright, And people will always spend money to partake in it. The laboratory lights will always stay on. Because of the Nürburgring, it’s really busy here. It’s running really smooth here now. Really! This isn’t about the race at all. It’s about friendship. This is history, this is solidarity and this is very important! Once your arrive at the 24-hour race, I believe, someone who drives a Clio or a GT3 rejoices in the same way because your performance in a smaller car or a bigger car is judged similarly. It’s simply all about your driving skills. You need to have a little luck, preferably make no mistakes and then the rest will take care of itself. So it’s definitely a cult racing track if I may say so. It has become increasingly harder to be successfull here because the competition has become more and more intense over the years, more and more manufacturers are participating. There are completely different challenges year after year. There are a lot of great race series in Europe and also worldwide, but this constellation of classes of vehicles that are on the track together is simply unique. The cars came in, I took the customer’s payment, and they drove onto the track. Then the next car came, and the entire process was repeated, over and over. One could almost say my whole life, until the day I retired, I let people and their cars onto the track. It was beautiful. I really liked it.