25 kilometres, 170 corners and almost 100 years of history - the Nürburgring is the longest racing circuit in the world and the unofficial arena where the fastest cars are tested. Due to the huge number of bends and the pitfalls is considered to be one of the toughest and most challenging race tracks in the world. One of the most famous drivers of Formula One, Jackie Stewart, called this tour Green Hell. One of the most important Nordschleife's events ADAC Totalenergies 24h Nürburgring weekend held annually in late May and June. 220 cars with different engine power take part in the race (from 100 to even 700 horsepower), and over 700 drivers (amateurs and professionals). This year, the jubilee, 50th edition was held, according to official statistics 230,000 viewers watched live. 
The understanding of Paradise in all fields of art is close to a certain scheme: carefree heroes dressed only in a fig leaf, harmony prevailing between all beings and an all-pervasive idyll. Everything was going well until…

Hell places itself on the other side of the spectrum: tormented sinners, often consumed by hellfire or by monstrous creatures. Everything in the heat, everything in the crush and anguish. All in fiery reds, browns and charred blacks. And what if We were to replace it with vital greenery known rather from the left - paradise part – of the Bosch triptych? Is there a Green Hell somewhere?

The first race after the pandemic, fully available to viewers, was watched live by almost a quarter of a million people.

I learned about the existence of the Nürburgring from a British motoring program I followed obsessively in the mid-2000s. Top Gear, even though it had its loop to measure the times of the tested cars, often referred to the German track and made not entirely serious films on it. The program gained fame and became the main opinion-forming and satirical automotive channel, and the loop located in south-western Germany, from the secret prototype testing centre - a mecca for all car enthusiasts.
The history of the track dates back to 1918 when the idea of building the track was announced by Emperor Wilhelm II Hohenzollern. The concept began to crystallize seven years later, and the official opening took place on June 18, 1927. It is located in the Eifel mountains in the Rhineland-Palatinate region. It is the longest racing loop in the world. It has a length of 25.37 km (depending on the race) and consists of up to 170 corners. Inside the northern loop (nordschleife) of the track, there are four towns and villages: Nürburg, Quiddelbach, Breidscheid and Herschbroich.
What makes it unique?

In endurance races, one team usually field two cars, and one car drives four drivers in turns.

The contact patch of the car with the track is roughly equivalent to the area of two A4 sheets. There is as much competition among tire manufacturers as among drivers.

From the point of view of sports car manufacturers, "The Ring" is an arena of unofficial championships - practically everyone is trying to beat the time record of their direct competitor and boast the title of "Fastest on the Nordschleife" and base their marketing on it.
Championships are also official – the GP loop has hosted Formula 1 drivers for years. The WEC (World Endurance Championship) - long-distance races - is regularly held.
But the most interesting seems to be the daily drivers' aspect. As no one is surprised by the presence of large players or the world of sports (after all, everything can be rented - a matter of budget), the presence of civilian cars with normal registration plates can be surprising. Well, the most difficult and dangerous track on Earth has the status of a public road, anyone can buy a ticket for the ride, punch it at the gate and drive through the "Green Hell".
Exactly… Where does this unofficial name come from? Jackie Stewart was the first to define the track in those words, and not without reason. It is a technically very difficult track, narrow, bent and dangerous. Built when safety was not a priority and geology strongly limited the possibility of modernization. Paradoxically, the track contributed to the revolution in the protection of racing drivers. In 1976, on the second lap of the German F1 GP, Niki Lauda, who, paradoxically, called for a boycott of the race, precisely for safety reasons, had a serious accident, from which he miraculously escaped living. The accident marked Lauda for the rest of his life, and the motorsport industry introduced, among other things, flame-retardant racing suits.

Despite its bad reputation, the Nordschleife attracts petrol–heads. Both on "tourist" days (when it is open to civilian cars) and during races. It's like flypaper for car enthusiasts, they flock to it from all over the world, including me. For years it also interested me photography–wise, for the last few years seriously. But the last three were not fortunate enough to carry out the plans. In 2019 I was preparing to launch a coffee–shop, 2020 turned everything upside down (sports events were cancelled), 2021 similarly. 2022 came and the idea came back to me like a boomerang. I began to wonder if this was the right time, but the answer came by itself. The previously favoured race and at the same time the biggest event of the season - the 24-hour ADAC Totalenergies 24h Nürburgring - celebrated its 50th birthday. There was no question of postponing it to the next (and the next, and the next…) season.
The first unknown was the date, as soon as it was announced, the official website of the race was launched.
I was able to move on to the next stage - obtaining accreditation. For this purpose, it was necessary to go through the official process of the organizer - ADAC (German Automobile Club). The most stressful was the verification. Freelancers have the hardest time, on the other hand, journalists from large editorial offices have it the easiest. I work with Nikon and regularly publish on its websites, which was received with scepticism by the organizer (but finally accepted). My photographic pedigree also worked to my disadvantage, I am not a sports photographer, I rather manoeuvre around humanistic documentary photography. And translating my premise, photographing the phenomenon of the track mainly through the prism of the fans, was the most difficult. Dozens of e-mails and phone calls with the press office and here it is! I have full accreditation! Now it's time to organize your stay.

The winner of the ADAC Totalenergies 24h Nurburgring covered 159 laps (4035km) in 24 hours and equalled the record from 2014.

Hotels? Not only that at exorbitant prices but also booked up to several years in advance! What's more, these are usually not objects with direct access to the track. Such access is mainly offered by campsites. So then what? Tent? The most budget-friendly option, but the riskiest. In 2021, the race was interrupted by heavy rains which eventually led to flooding across the region. Also, equipment and moisture? Bad idea. I'm still looking for something in between... a campervan! Not only is it safer than a tent (and easier to manage in terms of moisture), it's even more mobile. Budget–wise - exactly halfway between a tent and a hotel. Okay, now the critical thing: the hardware. The choice fell on the Nikon Z9. I thought it was a great opportunity to test a design that seems to be made for such purposes. I also packed the 14-24, 24-70 and 100-400 and the teleconverter into the Manfrotto Pro Light backpack.
The last two positions are not my daily work companions, but the telephoto range, extended by the teleconverter to 800mm at the long end, proved invaluable when photographing the track from both ground level and eye–level. One of them is the Mercedes-Arena tribune, located behind the first corner, on the axis of the starting straight. From the top, you can see the cars far past the finish line, provided you have the right focal length. Before leaving I was wondering if a bright, prime 400 would not be a better choice. In terms of quality, for sure, but other factors prevailed: first of all, size and weight - the new tele–zoom for the Z system is not much larger than 70-200 f / 2.8. Secondly, it is a zoom lens, so it is more universal. And thirdly - the diameter of the filter mount - 77mm (when taking pictures I often use polarizing filters).

A portrait of Markus, who has a Nordschleife tattoo behind his ear. I asked him to face the only mirror we had at hand - the car window.

Sim Racing, i.e. racing in the virtual world, has become very popular during the pandemic. One of the racing series gathered 30 million viewers.

All pre-departure items ticked, time to depart. The only unknown was the parking space - the campsites do not accept reservations…
The road from Warsaw took sixteen hours (1200 km) + an hour of standing in line to the campsite. Well… Since I couldn't leave earlier, now I have to reckon with the fact that I will be looking for the remnants of parking spaces. Fortunately, I found one next to fans of Polish origin (living and working in Germany) who took care of me and kept an eye on the car while I was absent.
The next day I directed my first steps to the press office and after receiving the accreditation I could start working. For several weeks before the trip, I was wondering what issues to illustrate and how. I had a whole list of them, but instead of starting from point one, I started with a leisurely walk, hoping that the opportunities would find me. I thought, for example, that since the track has loyal fans, among the quarter of a million people who came to this event, there will definitely be someone who has the Nordschleife tattooed on their body. And I was not wrong! I have found several such people. The search was based on asking random people if they knew someone who knew someone… The surprising finale was that the photo that entered the final selection was taken fifty meters from my motorhome! 
Speaking of walking…

5:28 a.m. Campsite at the most famous turn of the track - Brünnchen. Spectators stay up all night watching the race on makeshift television sets. In the background, you can hear the roar of power generators and techno music.

The most coveted race souvenir is a racing tire. These are consumed in a dizzying amount - in 2019, Michelin alone supplied about 9,600 tyres!

I am a supporter of the idea that you have to walk a good photo out. And indeed, I overlapped, as rarely! Each day is about thirty kilometres on foot, with a huge backpack, jacket and heavy (heavier with each step) equipment. The officials provided journalists with transport around the ring, which was helpful in terms of accessibility to the extreme points of the Nordschleife. Fortunately, the atmosphere around the track was very friendly, and tiredness was compensated by nice conversations and good shots. 

The end of May in the Rhineland-Palatinate region is characterized by very warm days and very cool nights. During the night part of the competition, the stands are mostly empty, and a few fans are dressed in down jackets and wrapped in blankets (or sleeping bags).

135 cars took part in the jubilee edition of the race. 42 crews did not reach the finish line.

4:30 am. A napping mechanic in the Audi Sport Team Phoenix garage. Drivers have time to rest, the technical service is on standby all the time.

The work with the Nikon Z9 is extremely satisfying, especially the autofocus that deserves recognition, which found anchor points almost in the dark, recognized the fronts of cars and effectively tracked them, and perfectly located the eyes when taking portraits. Some of them were made with the use of the strobe light (Profoto A10 & Click Softbox), which I gave to my heroes' companions to hold. I haven't noticed any delays either. I guess that's the reason why you buy this camera, for speed and efficiency. And for not diverting attention from the most important part – the topic. And the subject was complex, I wanted to photograph the track, enthusiasts watching the race and staff working in the paddock, take forty thousand feet perspective and details, show speed and crashed cars, euphoria and exhaustion. To challenge myself even more, I decided to work as long as the race lasted and ended up shooting for thirty hours, without a break for sleep. The result is three and a half thousand photos brought from Germany, which had to be sorted and selected to illustrate this complex and challenging issue, that the Nürburgring is.

The goal of each team is, above all, to reach the finish line of the most difficult track race in the world. In the photo, the mechanics of the Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed team.

I want to thank my mentors and friends:
Nikon Poland, Manfrotto Poland, Profoto Poland
for administration help and for gearing me up.

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