The ever-growing GT4 category now includes the Porsche Cayman, the McLaren 570S, the Camaro, the Mustang, and the Audi R8 GT4, as well as the BMW M4. These cars are fundamentally road cars; generally using the same drivetrain as their road-going brethren, though the suspension, safety systems, tires, and aerodynamics are upgraded so these cars can race long-distance. After all, road cars aren’t made to race hard, but the point is clear: this category is designed to bridge the gap between the showroom and the racing circuit.
Showroom Stock-style categories are nothing new, but the GT4 category offers the driver the chance to appreciate the difference between a circuit-tuned road car and a dedicated GT racer—which is pretty significant, even though the two categories of cars might appear indistinct. Think of it as a step before the full-bore GT3 cars.
Letting the quicker GT3 cars through unimpeded is just as big a challenge as getting around the slower traffic, of which there’s plenty at the Nurburgring 24 Hours. Touring cars with half the power aren’t merely moving chicanes; they’re driven by people with differing personalities, differing levels of experience, differently-sized egos, and a similar urge to win. Therefore, getting by requires a sort of forcefulness tempered by caution.
As DRIVETRIBE contributor and journalist superstar Jethro Bovingdon instructs: “Be assertive, and the slower cars will make room; hang back, and they won’t know what to do.” Though mechanical sympathy and sheer speed count for the most here, a race can be lost with clumsy traffic navigation. As the lights dim and the drivers set off onto the darker parts of the 15.8-mile circuit, getting by takes more than just pushiness; it takes some genuine bravery. “Everything is intensified,” Bovingdon notes, and distinguishing between pesky touring cars and GT3 machines is not simple.
It’s an enjoyable challenge, though. Getting near the GT3 cars driven by some of the world’s best offers a front-seat view of superlative car control, and the M4 GT4’s turbocharged six, sending power through a reflashed version of the stock seven-speed, offers enough to hang with the fastest cars on the quicker, straighter sections of the circuit.
Plus there’s the lively atmosphere all around; techno music trumpeting over the loudspeakers, the smell of grilled sausages hanging in the air, the laser lights, and the whole party going on around you. If the sounds of the engines aren’t stirring enough, you’ve got the Aqua soundtrack blaring in the background.
I’m not happy with pilfering this entire quote, but perhaps Bovingdon says it better than I could: “It is, maybe, the most absorbing experience you can have in a car. There’s just so much to think about, and all the time you’re pushing beyond your comfort zone; trying to pick your way through traffic, and managing when the GT3s come past, so you don’t lose lots of time.”
“This race chews you up, but the feeling of making it to the end in one piece, with a great result, is very hard to describe,” he says. The awe he experienced comes across in his carefully-chosen words, and—at times—Bovingdon provides a vicarious experience, which makes you want to get your vision tested and start endurance racing.