Formula 1 stopped coming here in the 70’s because it was too dangerous, which seems oddly juxtaposed against the thing that today makes the Nordschleiffe, or North Loop, so famous today. Anyone, and I mean actually anyone, can simply turn up and drive it as fast as they like.
…validate it in the boom gate and you’re away. Here’s the worlds most challenging racetrack – go nuts! No scruitineering, no helmets, no license checks, no speed limits. And, uh, try not to kill yourself.
The track slices 22.5km through the Eiffel Mountains region of Eastern Germany and really serves up a taste of everything to the hardened driver. Fast straights, slow hairpins, tightening radius bends; all delivered with a delicious mix of secretly placed bumps and dips. Combining that with the almost complete lack of runoff areas makes for one hell of an exciting track.
The Nordschleiffe covers a large geographical area and in some parts, such as the village of Adenau, literally slices right through the town. You can be sitting at a café, having a coffee, and see flashes of car go racing past.
The location of the track in the valleys and peaks of the mountain range also creates several microclimates, and it is quite common for it to be sunny and raining in one place and stormy in another. I met one racer who told me that during the 2007 24hr race it was warm and dry on the start line, and snowing at Addenau. How do you even go about setting a car up for those conditions?
This unique combination of track length, surface and climatic weather conditions make the Nurburgring the ideal place for manufacturers to test their new prototypes and development mules in supposedly ‘real world’ conditions, the theory being that if you can make a car handle on the Nurburgring it will handle anywhere, and as such the Nurburgring is literally crawling in the cutting edge of automotive development.
During the week the track is used each day until 5pm by the manufacturers, and opens to the public from 515-730pm each evening, and all day on weekends. During the week it’s fascinating to just sit on the side of the road and watch the development teams at work.
This pair of Alfa 4C development mules pulled into the only service station in the area while I was refueling. The typically Italian test drivers looked like they were having a great time, and certainly gave both of the 4C’s a decent boot full as they accelerated back toward the track.
Most of the test mules were fitted with full roll cages and racing seats, and the test drivers all wore race suits and helmets. Interestingly, the roll cages were mostly constructed in a way that doesn’t touch the interior plastics and dashboard, no doubt to replicate the production car as closely as possible.
Manthey Racing won the Nurburgring 24hr every year from 2006-2011, and won their class at Le Mans this year with the 911 RSR.
Back to the circuit and there’s some time to kill before my evening Touristenfahrten session, so I went for a look at ‘Ring Werk’, the just completed theme park/restaurant/hotel/casino complex located on the Start/finish straight of the GP circuit. This is highly controversial because the cost of constructing this monolith has bankrupted the owners of the Nurburgring, who have the twin circuit complex up for sale.
The indoor theme park mixes display cars with simulators, rides and experiences. It’s a really enjoyable way to spend an afternoon and is very professionally done, and at 25 euro including a ten minute Go-Kart session I think it’s okay value, but I don’t think it really adds anything to the Nurburgring experience and it’s certainly not worth coming here for this alone.
It also represents what’s wrong with the Nurburgring in that they’ve tried to commercialize something that by its very nature shouldn’t be. You may have heard about the ‘Save the Nurburgring’ campaign which is in direct response to this whole complex. The idea behind the complex was to pull all of the visitors out of the surrounding villages and get them to sleep, eat and spend their money in the complex, effectively shutting out the surrounding villages in an attempt to close the family run restaurants and hotels.
…or service stations that sell racing boots and driving gloves alongside chocolate bars and lollies. If you come to the Nurburgring, make sure you spend your money in the villages, not at the big complex because this is where the true Nurburgring atmosphere is found.
Despite the fact that Any Given Reason rode a Vespa to the Nurburgring, it is impossible to come here without driving the Nordschleiffe in a decent sports car. That experience is deserving of a dedicated post, and you can expect it soon.