Nürburgring laps aren't for everyone. Every lap is a singular test of endurance and skill. It's exhilarating even if it's largely irrelevant to what we do on the road. I'm not really interested in Nürburgring records, but I am interested to see just how far a person and a machine can go on this most fearsome of racetracks. Hans-Joachim Stuck’s 2004 record lap in the legendary BMW M3 GTR is a display of that absolute mastery.
Stuck is a German racing driver with serious credentials. This is the sort of driver that can mob the Nürburgring with his eyes closed and has had his name on cars like Porsche 962s, Brabham F1 cars, Audi DTM cars, and the aforementioned BMW M3 GTR. It starts with a classically mid-2000s garbled video feed. A crescendo of flat-plane V8 and that legendary gear whine, thrash, and lash make for a spiritual viewing experience.
The video itself is hard to believe. The mastery, the skill, and the way Stuck wrestles the M3 GTR around the legendary circuit beggars belief. It’s a reminder of why the Nürburgring is so great, so feared. This video has done the rounds on Youtube for nearly two decades and remains a mainstay of driving fans the world over. This video was my first awareness of the Nürburgring as a seven-year-old kid.
And the story of the M3 GTR is fascinating too. It was a controversial race car, banned after just one season because it used a racing engine not found in the M3 road car called the P60b40. It was a ground-up 4.0-liter racing V8 where the road car used the S54 inline-six. The car raced with the inline-six for the 2000 American Le Mans Series but was uncompetitive. Old ALMS homologation rules needed a road-going version of the race car to be sold on two continents, so BMW developed the prototype V8 for the 2001 season, and sold 10 of the ultra-exclusive M3 GTR Strassenversion with the V8. It's debatable whether BMW actually sold the cars, but they retained one for their collection in Munich. In 2002, the ALMS rules were changed, requiring 100 cars to be built to be eligible, thus disqualifying the powerful and dominating M3 GTR.
Imagine it: You’re playing Need for Speed: Most Wanted, driving the hero M3 GTR, then you see a video of the same mythical machine getting driven to the absolute edge, straight-cut gears howling, the flat-plane V8 screaming. It gives me chills every single time I watch it. I hope you readers enjoy it as much as I do, all these years later. Check out the enhanced version, with turn-by-turn guidance by Hans Stuck himself. Seriously, this video is what driving is all about.
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