There have seldom been races which have been held under such atrocious conditions that they remained in the imagination of many. Such one was the 1968 Grand Prix of Germany on the 14.2-mile long Nürburgring. With its 1000 feet of elevation change and 160 bends, Jackie Stewart, who would have his first world championship the following year nicknamed it, “The Green Hell”
Driving rains and thick fog caused havoc with the cars and timing recording equipment, the track’s undulations and high trees exacerbated the conditions, preventing the track from drying out.
It was no wonder that the organizers began to panic and moved various practice sessions, causing headaches for all the teams who had enough work on their hands trying to get their cars to work and to nurse the soaked electrics.
Under conditions which would have delayed or canceled modern day races, the starting flag dropped ten seconds early when only half the waiting field was fully prepared. Many stretches of the track were so treacherous and veiled in thick fog, that there had been an overtaking maneuver between two cars which had gone unnoticed by both drivers. Despite the atrocious conditions, there were no accidents.
While the many drivers grumbled afterwards that the race should never have started, one of them who remained stoically quiet was the 23-year old Ferrari driver, Jacky Ickx. With his car down on power and his bubble visor fogging up, he finished the race in 4th place – in just under 2 1/2 hours – and about 5 minutes behind the winner Jackie Stewart. It was there that Ickx would earn his title, “Rain master”.
The Nürburgring was completed in 1927, using much of the hilly and densely wooded landscape. As a result, there were at least three places where the cars became airborne – not something the fragile three-liter cars were designed to do – not even in 1968.
I decided to show the 312 Ferrari in mid-jump making it seem as if both the car and driver are in their natural environment. With the car’s wheels fully dropped, the maximum suspension load would be endured as the cars fell back on the merciless track half a second later. Over the years, the 14 rounds took their toll on many cars.