As a long time crap can racer, but thankfully still young enough to dream stupid, I'd eventually like to race something not crappy at a European track. Sure, I'd love to race in the 24 Hours of LeMans, but I was thinking maybe something a little more amateur friendly, like the 24 Hours of Nurburgring. Anyone have any experience getting to that point? Beyond money (and lots of it); what does it take?
While I can't claim to know what will happen once you follow my advice, I would recommend starting at the available drives page on racecarsdirect.com to see what drives are currently available.
Most of the drives seem to be Europe-based anyways, so that could be a good starting point. It seems like there's a decent variance of skill levels as well, everything from arrive-and-drive in an MX5 cup car to seats in a prototype for longer endurance races like the one you're looking for.
Best of luck!
Let me recommend "the book" for North Americans who want to race at the Ring. It will answer all of your questions. It's not *terribly* expensive but has become more pricey in recent years because you have to earn a permit through preliminary races:
PS - I put that together and it's been downloaded more than 18,000 times!
If you want specifically to drive the 24h Ring race, my pal Ron Simons has a specific roadmap where he will take you from casual racer to VLN series licensed competitor in something like six months, then he will rent you a GT3 Cup car for the race itself, pairing you with like-minded competitors. You'd want to budget something north of $175,000 for this, plus any damage or mistakes along the way.
The other way to do it:
* Run a year of a fast-ish NASA or SCCA class, ST4/STU or above, with some success;
* Contact a rookie-friendly SRO TC America or IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge team and run with them a few times. You'll want to budget between $250k and $1.3M depending on the car and class.
* With that season completed, apply to the FIA for an International "C" license (for GT4 and below) or International "B" (for GT3). This is a straightforward process, and not that tough to do. I've done for in two separate seasons. You'll need a recent medical exam and a documented record of competition.
* With your FIA license in hand, you're free to contact pretty much any team and inquire about seat rates. My advice, FWIW, is that you don't start at the Ring. Take a seat at a British track first, then maybe Spa-Francorchamps, then the Ring.
* Prepare for disappointment. The 24h Ring is kind of a spanky race compared to SRO or IMSA events. A lot of rich people running off pace. And much of it will be beyond your control. You could get paired with... well, I'm not gonna mention names, but you could get a British journalist/trustfunder or some Gstaad kid who breaks the car before you ever sit in it. This will not get you a refund, by the way.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
Source for this: I've run (very occasionally) in Grand-Am, PWC, CTCC while having many discussions with team principals, and I know some of the players at the Ring.