The Nürburgring, simply known as "The Ring" by enthusiasts, is a motorsport race track in Nürburg, Germany. It was built around the village and medieval castle of Nürburg in the Eifel. Nicknamed The Green Hell by Jackie Stewart, it is widely considered the toughest, most dangerous, and most demanding purpose-built race track in the world.
In the early 1920s, races called ADAC Eifelrennen were held on public roads in the Eifel mountains. This soon was considered impractical and dangerous. In order to provide work and lure tourists into the area, the construction of a dedicated race track was proposed. The layout of the circuit in the mountains was similar to the Targa Florio, one of the most important motor races at that time. The original Nürburgring was meant to be a showcase for German automotive engineering and racing talent, and was built with both purposes in mind. The track was completed in 1927, and the ADAC Eifelrennen races were continued there with the first German Grand Prix in the same year. The track was opened to the public in the evenings and at weekends, as a one-way toll road.
After World War II, racing recommenced in the 1950s and the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring again became the main venue for the German Grand Prix as part of the Formula One World Championship. A new group of Ringmeisters arose to dominate the race - Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart and Jacky Ickx.
On August 5, 1961, during practice for the 1961 German Grand Prix, Phil Hill became the first person to complete a lap of the Nordschleife in under 9 minutes, with a stunning lap of 8 minutes 55.2 seconds (95.3 mph) in the Ferrari 156 "Sharknose" Formula One car.
In 1953, the ADAC 1000 km Nürburgring race was introduced, an Endurance race and Sports car racing event that counted towards the World Sportscar Championship for decades. The 24 Hours Nürburgring for touring car racing was added in 1970.
By the late 1960s, the Nordschleife and many other tracks were becoming increasingly dangerous for the latest generation of F1 cars. In 1970, after the fatal crash of Piers Courage at Zandvoort, the F1 drivers decided at the French Grand Prix to boycott the Ring unless major changes were made, as they did at Spa the year before. The changes were not possible on short notice, and the German GP was moved to the Hockenheimring which already had been modified.
Primarily due to its extraordinary length of over 14 miles, and the lack of space due to its situation on the sides of the mountains, the Ring was unable to meet the ever-increasing safety requirements, and was also unsuitable for the burgeoning television market. Niki Lauda, the reigning world champion and only person ever to lap the full Nordschleife circuit in under 7 minutes (6:58.6, 1975), proposed to the other drivers that the circuit should be boycotted in 1976 because of the safety arrangements. The other drivers voted against the idea and the race went ahead. Ironically, it was Lauda who crashed in his Ferrari, probably due to failure of the rear suspension. As his car was still loaded with fuel in lap 2, he was badly burned, being saved by the combined actions of fellow drivers Arturo Merzario, Guy Edwards, Brett Lunger and Harald Ertl rather than by the ill equipped track marshals. Also, the crash proved that the distances were rather long for regular fire engines and ambulances. For Formula One, this crash marked the end of the old Nürburgring. It never hosted another F1 race again as the German Grand Prix was moved to the Hockenheimring for 1977.
During practice for the 1000km Nürburgring endurance race in 1983, the late Stefan Bellof set the all-time lap record for the newer 12.9 mile Nordschleife in his Porsche 956, which is still unbeaten at 6:11.13, or over 120 mph average - partially because no major top-line racing has taken place since 1984.
The highlight each year is the 24 Hours Nürburgring weekend, held usually in mid-June, featuring around 220 cars (from small 100 bhp cars to 700 bhp Turbo Porsches, or 500 bhp factory race cars built by BMW, Opel, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, with over 700 drivers (amateurs and professionals) and up to 290,000 spectators in attendance.
BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld made history in 2007 as the first driver in over 30 years to tackle the Nürburgring Nordschleife track in a contemporary Formula One car. Heidfeld’s 3 demonstration laps round the German circuit in an F1.06 were the highlight of festivities celebrating BMW’s contribution to motorsport. Conceived largely as a photo opportunity, the lap times were not as low as the car was capable of, BMW instead choosing to run the chassis at a particularly high ride height to allow for the Nordschleife's abrupt gradient changes and limit maximum speeds accordingly.
The Nordschleife has remained a one-way, public toll-road for nearly 80 years except when it is closed off for testing purposes, training lessons or racing events. Since its opening in 1927, the track has been used by the public for the so-called "Touristenfahrten," i.e. to anyone with a road legal car or motorcycle, as well as tour buses, motor homes or cars with trailers. However during the winter months, depending on weather conditions and maintenance work, the track may be closed for weeks. During Touristenfahrten sessions, German road law applies. There is no general speed limit, however speed limits exist in certain areas in order to reduce noise and risks. As on public roads, passing on the right is prohibited, and the police take an extremely dim view of poor driving as they prosecute offenders with the aid of helicopters. The cost to drive a single lap of the circuit is around €22.
This Nürburgring version is a popular attraction for many driving and riding enthusiasts from all over the world, partly because of its history and the considerable challenge it still provides. The lack of oncoming traffic and intersections sets it apart from regular roads, and the absence of a blanket speed limit makes it an additional attraction.
Drivers interested in lap times (a dangerous thing to worry about, as running stop watches are frequently found in crashed vehicles) often time themselves from the first bridge after the barriers to the last gantry before the exit. In the event of an accident, the local police are known to make note of any timing devices present in the police report. Consequently, the driver's insurance coverage may be voided leaving the driver fully liable for any and all damage. Normal, non-racing, non-timed driving accidents should be covered by driver's insurance, but it is increasingly common for UK insurers especially to put in exclusion clauses that mean drivers and riders have third-party cover only. Accidents are common, and those considering driving around the Nordschleife should read the rules that apply. The 'Ring has caught many people out. There is very little run-off and the close Armco barriers will be hit at almost any speed, should a vehicle leave the tarmac.
One of the original purposes of the Nordschleife was as a test track for auto manufacturers, and its demanding layout had been traditionally used as a proving ground. With the advent of the internet, awareness of the Nordschleife has risen in Germany and abroad, and also in print media. In 1999, Porsche reported that their new GT3 had lapped the Ring in under 8 minutes, and in subsequent years, manufacturers from overseas also showed up to test cars. Some high performance models are promoted with videotaped laps published on the web, and the claimed lap times are generating discussions. Few of these supercars are actually entered in racing where the claims could be backed up.
tpix says... (old circuit: Nordschleife)
This circuit is awesome. From an era when racing was rediculously dangerous and tracks were rediculously challenging, the Nordschleife simply has to be visited to be believed.
OK, you can play those computer games to get a feel for the lefts and the rights, but nothing will prepare a driver for its true character. Massive undulation, strange cambers, narrow super-fast sections, zero run-off, corners that all look the same, evil bends that tighten, locals blasting past you like you are going backwards - its 13-miles of super concentration that is guaranteed to really catch your attention!
I cannot recommend this place highly enough to fellow petrol-heads. The road, twisting amongst the bleak forest countryside, has a spiritual feel to it - you can just imagine some of the races (and crashes) that have happened here throughout its history.
It is worth taking a reasonably good motor along to get the most rewarding experience, but one really needs to give this place the respect it deserves.