||This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2012)|
|Time zone||GMT +1 (DST: +2)|
|Major events||FIA Formula One
German Grand Prix
European Grand Prix
Luxembourg Grand Prix
Superbike World Championship, DTM, 24 Hours Nürburgring, 1000km Nürburgring, VLN
|Length||4.556 km (2.831 mi)|
|Lap record||1:18.354 (minutes) ( Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams-BMW, 2001, Formula One)|
|Length||5.148 km (3.199 mi)|
|Lap record||1:29.468 (minutes) ( Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004, Formula One)|
|Length||20.81 km (12.93 mi)|
|Lap record||6:11.13 (minutes) ( Stefan Bellof, Porsche (956), 1983, WSC)|
|Combined circuit (1984–present)|
|Length||25.947 km (16.123 mi)|
|Lap record||8:18.832 (minutes) ( Uwe Alzen, BMW Z4 GT3, 2012 24 Hours Nürburgring, FIA GT3)|
|Length||22.8 km (14.2 mi)|
|Lap record||6:58.6 (minutes) ( Niki Lauda, Ferrari, 1975, Formula One)|
|Length||7.747 km (4.814 mi)|
|Lap record||2:44.0 (minutes) ( Jacky Ickx, Ferrari, 1968, Formula Two)|
|Length||28.265 km (17.563 mi)|
|Lap record||15:06.1 (minutes) ( Louis Chiron, Bugatti, 1929, Grand Prix)|
The Nürburgring is a motorsports complex around the village of Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is located about 70 km (43 mi) south of Cologne, and 120 km (75 mi) northwest of Frankfurt. It features a Grand Prix race track built in 1984, and a much longer old "North loop" track which was built in the 1920s around the village and medieval castle of Nürburg in the Eifel mountains. The north loop is 12.8 miles (20.8 km) long and has more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) of elevation change from its lowest to highest points. Jackie Stewart nicknamed the old track "The Green Hell," and it is widely considered to be the most demanding and difficult purpose-built racing circuit in the world.
Originally, the track featured four configurations: the 28.265 km (17.563 mi)-long Gesamtstrecke ("Whole Course"), which in turn consisted of the 22.810 km (14.173 mi) Nordschleife ("North Loop"), and the 7.747 km (4.814 mi) Südschleife ("South Loop"). There also was a 2.281 km (1.417 mi) warm-up loop called Zielschleife ("Finish Loop") or Betonschleife ("Concrete Loop"), around the pit area.
Between 1982 and 1983 the start/finish area was demolished to create a new GP-Strecke, and this is used for all major and international racing events. However, the shortened Nordschleife is still in use for racing, testing and public access.
1927–1939: The beginning of the "Nürburg-Ring"
In the early 1920s, ADAC Eifelrennen races were held on public roads in the Eifel mountains. This was soon recognized as impractical and dangerous. The construction of a dedicated race track was proposed, following the examples of Italy's Monza and Berlin's AVUS, yet with a different character. The layout of the circuit in the mountains was similar to the Targa Florio event, one of the most important motor races at that time. The original Nürburgring was to be a showcase for German automotive engineering and racing talent. Construction of the track, designed by the Eichler Architekturbüro from Ravensburg (led by architect Gustav Eichler), began in September 1925.
The track was completed in spring of 1927, and the ADAC Eifelrennen races were continued there. The first races to take place on 18 June 1927 showed motorcycles and sidecars. The first motorcycle race was won by Toni Ulmen on an English 350 cc Velocette. The cars followed a day later, and Rudolf Caracciola was the winner of the over 5000 cc class in a Mercedes Compressor. In addition, the track was opened to the public in the evenings and on weekends, as a one-way toll road. The whole track consisted of 174 bends (prior to 1971 changes), and averaged 8 to 9 metres (26 to 30 ft) in width. The fastest time ever around the full Gesamtstrecke was by Louis Chiron, at an average speed of 112.31 km/h (72 mph) in his Bugatti.
In 1939 the full 'Ring was used for the last time in major racing events, as future Grands Prix would be held only on the Nordschleife. Motorcycles and minor races primarily used the shorter and safer Südschleife. Memorable pre-war races at the circuit featured the talents of early Ringmeister (Ringmasters) such as Rudolf Caracciola, Tazio Nuvolari and Bernd Rosemeyer.
1947–1970: The Green Hell
After World War II, racing recommenced in 1947 and the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring again became the main venue for the German Grand Prix as part of the Formula One World Championship (with the exception of 1959, when it was held on the AVUS in Berlin). A new group of Ringmeister arose to dominate the race – Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart and Jacky Ickx.
On 5 August 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 lap of 8 minutes 55.2 seconds (153.4 km/h or 95.3 mph) in the Ferrari 156 "Sharknose" Formula One car. Over half a century later, the highest-performing road cars have difficulty breaking 8 minutes without a professional race driver or one very familiar with the track. Also, several rounds of the German motorcycle Grand Prix were held, mostly on the 7.7 km (4.8 mi) Südschleife, but the Hockenheimring and the Solitudering were the main sites for Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
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 1967, a chicane was added before the start/finish straight, called Hohenrain, in order to reduce speeds at the pit lane entry. This made the track 25 m (82 ft) longer. 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.
In accordance with the demands of the F1 drivers the Nordschleife was reconstructed by taking out some bumps, smoothing out some sudden jumps (particularly at Brünnchen), and installing Armco safety barriers. The track was made straighter, following the race line, which reduced the number of corners. The German GP could be hosted at the 'Ring again, and was for another three years from 1971 to 1973.
In 1973 the entrance into the dangerous and bumpy Kallenhard corner was made slower by adding another left-hand corner after the fast Metzgesfeld sweeping corner. Safety was improved again later on, e.g. by removing the jumps on the long main straight and widening it, and taking away the bushes right next to the track at the main straight, which made that section of the 'Ring dangerously narrow. A second series of three more F1 races was held until 1976, but even higher demands by the F1 drivers and the FIA's CSI commission were too expensive or impossible to meet, so the 1976 race was deemed the last ever, even before it was held.
Primarily due to its length of over 22 kilometres (14 mi), and the lack of space due to its situation on the sides of the mountains, the 'Ring was unable to meet the 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 22,835-metre (14.189 mi) Nordschleife in under 7 minutes (6:58.6, 1975), proposed to the other drivers that they boycott the circuit in 1976 because of the safety arrangements. The other drivers voted against the idea and the race went ahead. Lauda crashed in his Ferrari coming out of the left-hand kink before Bergwerk, for causes that were never established. He was badly burned as his car was still loaded with fuel in lap 2. Lauda was 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.
The crash also showed that the track's distances were too long for regular fire engines and ambulances, even though the "ONS-Staffel" was equipped with a Porsche 911 rescue car, marked (R). This crash marked the end of the old Nürburgring for Formula One. It never hosted another F1 race again, as the German Grand Prix was moved to the Hockenheimring for 1977.
The German motorcycle Grand Prix was held for the last time on the old 'Ring in 1980, also permanently moving to Hockenheim. A year later, in 1981, work began on a 4.5 km (2.8 mi)-long new circuit, which was built on and around the old pit area. At the same time, a bypass shortened the Nordschleife to 20,832 m (12.944 mi), and with an additional small pit lane, this version was used for races in 1983, e.g. the 1000km Nürburgring endurance race, while construction work was going on nearby. In training for that race, the late Stefan Bellof set the all-time lap record for the 20.8 km (12.9 mi) Nordschleife in his Porsche 956, which is still unbeaten at 6:11.13, or over 200 km/h (120 mph) on average (partially because no major racing has taken place there since 1984).
The Nordschleife was re-built yet again in 1982–1983, adding more run-off areas at corners like Aremberg and Brünnchen, where originally there were just embankments protected by Armco barriers. The track surface was made safer in some spots where there had been nasty bumps and jumps. Racing line markers were added to the corners all around the track as well. Also, bushes and hedges at the edges of corners were taken out and replaced with Armco and grass.
The former Südschleife had not been modified in 1970/71 and was abandoned a few years later in favour of the improved Nordschleife. It is now mostly gone (in part due to the construction of the new circuit) or converted to a normal public road, but since 2005 a vintage car event has been hosted on the old track layout, including part of the parking area.
1984: The new Grand Prix track
The new Nürburgring was completed in 1984 and called GP-Strecke (German: Großer Preis-Strecke: literally, "Grand Prix Course"). It was built to meet the highest safety standards, but was considered in character a mere shadow of its older sibling. Some fans, who had to sit much farther away from the track, called it Eifelring, Ersatzring, Green Party Ring or similar, believing it did not deserve to be called Nürburgring.
The new circuit also had a characteristic of many of the circuits at the time, in that it offered few overtaking opportunities.
To celebrate its opening, an exhibition race was held, on 12 May, featuring an array of notable drivers. Driving identical Mercedes 190E 2.3–16's, the line-up was Elio de Angelis, Jack Brabham (Formula 1 World Champion 1959, 1960, 1966), Phil Hill (1961), Denis Hulme (1967), James Hunt (1976), Alan Jones (1980), Jacques Laffite, Niki Lauda (1975, 1977)*, Stirling Moss, Alain Prost*, Carlos Reutemann, Keke Rosberg (1982), Jody Scheckter (1979), Ayrton Senna*, John Surtees (1964) and John Watson. Senna won ahead of Lauda, Reutemann, Rosberg, Watson, Hulme and Jody Scheckter, being the only one to resist Lauda's overwhelming performance who - having missed the qualifying - had to start from the last row and overtook all the others except Senna. The * in the previous paragraph indicate that titles which were not yet won at the time of the race are not mentioned here, so there were nine former and two future Formula 1 World Champions competing, quite a good rate in a field of 20 cars with 16 Formula 1 drivers; the other four were rather local drivers: Klaus Ludwig, Manfred Schurti, Udo Schütz and Hans Herrmann.
Besides other major international events, the Nürburgring has seen the brief return of Formula One racing, as the 1984 European Grand Prix was held at the track, followed by the 1985 German Grand Prix. As F1 did not stay, other events were the highlights at the new 'Ring, 1000km Nürburgring, DTM, motorcycles, and newer types of events, like Truck Racing, Vintage car racing at the AvD "Oldtimer Grand Prix", and even the "Rock am Ring" concerts.
Following the success and first world championship of Michael Schumacher, a second German F1 race was held at the 'Ring between 1995 and 2006, called the European Grand Prix, or in 1997 and 1998, the Luxembourg Grand Prix.
For 2002, the track was changed, by replacing the former "Castrol-chicane" at the end of the start/finish straight with a sharp right-hander (nicknamed "Haug-Hook"), in order to create an overtaking opportunity. Also, a slow Omega-shaped section was inserted, on the site of the former kart track. This extended the GP track from 4,500 to 5,200 m (2.80 to 3.23 mi), while at the same time, the Hockenheimring was shortened from 6,800 to 4,500 m (4.23 to 2.80 mi).
Both the 'Ring and the Hockenheimring events have been losing money due to high and rising license fees charged by Bernie Ecclestone and low attendance due to high ticket prices; starting with the 2007 Formula One season, Hockenheim and Nürburgring will alternate for hosting of the German GP.
In F1 racing, Ralf Schumacher hit his brother in 1997, which may have cost Michael the championship. In 1999, in changing conditions, Johnny Herbert managed to score the only win for the team of former Ringmeister Jackie Stewart. One of the highlights of the 2005 season was Kimi Räikkönen's spectacular exit while in the last lap of the race, when his suspension gave way after being rattled lap after lap by a flat-spotted tire that was not changed due to the short-lived "One set of tires" rule.
Prior to the 2007 European Grand Prix, the Audi S (turns 8 and 9) was renamed Michael Schumacher S after Michael Schumacher. Schumacher had retired from Formula One the year before, but returned in 2010, and in 2011 became the second Formula One driver to drive through a turn named after them (after Ayrton Senna driving his "S for Senna" at Autódromo José Carlos Pace).
Alternation with Hockenheim
In 2007, the FIA announced that Hockenheimring and Nürburgring would alternate with the German Grand Prix with Nürburgring hosting in 2007. Due to name-licensing problems, it was held as the European Grand Prix that year. However, in 2008 the European Grand Prix was held at Valencia Street Circuit, Eastern Spain.
While it is unusual for deaths to occur during sanctioned races, there are many accidents and several deaths each year during public sessions. It is common for the track to be closed several times a day for cleanup, repair, and medical intervention. While track management does not publish any official figures, several regular visitors to the track have used police reports to estimate the number of fatalities at somewhere between 3 and 12 in a full year. Jeremy Clarkson noted in Top Gear in 2004 that "over the years this track has claimed over 200 lives".
Nordschleife racing today
Several touring car series still compete on the Nordschleife, using either only the simple 20.8 km (12.9 mi) version with its separate small pit lane, or a combined 24.4 km (15.2 mi)-long track that uses a part of the original modern F1 track (without the Mercedes Arena section, which is often used for support pits) plus its huge pit facilities. Entry-level competition requires a regularity test (GLP) for street-legal cars. Two racing series (RCN/CHC and VLN) compete on 15 Saturdays each year, for several hours.
The annual highlight is the 24 Hours Nürburgring weekend, held usually in mid-May, featuring 220 cars (from small 100 hp (75 kW) cars to 700 hp (520 kW) Turbo Porsches or 500 hp (370 kW) factory race cars built by BMW, Opel, Audi, Mercedes-Benz), over 700 drivers (amateurs and professionals), and up to 290,000 spectators.
Automotive media outlets and manufacturers use the Nordschleife as a standard to publish their lap times achieved with production vehicles.
BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld made history on 28 April 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. About 45,000 spectators showed up for the main event, the third four-hour VLN race of the season, and the subsequent show by Heidfeld. 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 to limit maximum speeds accordingly. Former F1 driver Hans-Joachim Stuck was injured during the race when he crashed his BMW Z4.
Nordschleife public access
The Nordschleife has remained a public one-way 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. anyone with a road-legal car or motorcycle, as well as tour buses, motor homes, or cars with trailers. It is opened mainly on Sundays, but also many Saturdays and weekday evenings. The track may be closed for weeks during the winter months, depending on weather conditions and maintenance work.
German road law applies during Touristenfahrten sessions. There is no general speed limit, although speed limits exist in certain areas in order to reduce noise and risks. Passing on the right is prohibited, and the police prosecute poor driving with the aid of helicopters.
This Nürburgring version is a popular attraction for many driving enthusiasts and riders from all over the world, partly because of its history and the challenge it provides. The lack of oncoming traffic and intersections sets it apart from regular roads, and the absence of a blanket speed limit is a further attraction.
Normal ticket buyers on these tourist days cannot quite complete a full lap of the 20.8 km (12.9 mi) Nordschleife, which bypasses the modern GP-Strecke, as they are required to slow down and pass through a 200-metre (220 yd) "pit lane" section where the toll gates are installed. On busier days, a mobile ticket barrier is installed on the main straight in order to reduce the length of queues at the fixed barriers. This is open to all ticket holders. On rare occasions, it is possible to drive both the Nordschleife and the Grand Prix circuit combined.
Drivers interested in lap times often time themselves from the first bridge after the barriers to the last gantry (aka Bridge-to-Gantry or BTG time) before the exit. In the event of an accident, the local police are known to make note of any timing devices present (stopwatches, etc.) in the police report. The driver's insurance coverage may consequently be voided, leaving the driver fully liable for 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 insert exclusion clauses that mean drivers and riders on the Nürburgring have third-party coverage only or none at all.
Drivers who do crash have a responsibility to warn following vehicles that there has been an incident. If an accident occurs, the typical response passer-by procedure is to stop only if necessary (needs include stopping to render first aid or to warn incoming traffic). "Follow-up" accidents are frequent, but the less chaos at a scene, the less chance for another follow-up accident to occur. The 'Ring, although for all intents and purposes a race track when used for racing, still remains a public road when opened to the public and is policed as such. Anyone caught or reported as driving dangerously can be fined or banned by the authorities. The costs can also be prohibitive with vehicle recovery, track closure penalties, and Armco repairs costing up to €15,000 out of pocket.
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. Weekdays are often booked for so-called Industriefahrten for auto makers and the media. With the advent of the Internet, awareness of the Nordschleife has risen in Germany and abroad, in addition to publicity in print media. In 1999, Porsche reported that their new 996 GT3 had lapped the 'Ring in under eight 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 discussion. Few of these supercars are actually entered in racing where the claims could be backed up.
The TV Series Top Gear has also used the Nordschleife for its challenges, often involving Sabine Schmitz. In addition, during series 17 (summer 2011) of Top Gear, James May was very critical of the ride quality of cars whose development processes included testing on the Nordschleife.
Other pastimes are hosted at the 'Ring, such as the "Rock am Ring", Germany's biggest rock festival, attracting close to 100,000 rock fans each year since 1985. Since 1978 the Nordschleife is also the venue of a major running event (Nürburgring-Lauf/Run am Ring). In 2003 a major cycling event (Rad am Ring) was added and it became the multi sports event Rad & Run am Ring.
In 2009, new commercial areas opened, including a hotel and shopping mall. In the summer of 2009 ETF Ride Systems opened a new interactive dark ride application called "Motor Mania" at the racetrack, in collaboration with Lagotronics B.V. The roller coaster "ring°racer" was scheduled to open in 2011 but never started its operations due to technical failures.
In 2012, the track was preparing to file for bankruptcy as a result of nearly $500 million in debts and the inability to secure financing. On August 1, 2012, the government of Rheinland-Pfalz guaranteed $312 million to allow the track to meet its debt obligations.
As of 2013, the Nürburgring is currently up for sale for US$165 million(€127.3 million). The sale process will be by sealed-bid auction with an expected completion date of "Late Summer". This means there will be a new owner in 2013, and as they will be unencumbered by the debts of the previous operation the circuit is expected to return to profitability.
Locations of note
The Nordschleife was formerly known for its abundance of sharp crests, causing fast-moving, firmly-sprung racing cars to jump clear off the track surface at many locations. Although by no means the most fearsome, Flugplatz is perhaps the most aptly (although coincidentally) named and widely remembered. The name of this part of the track comes from a small airfield, which in the early years was located close to the track in this area. The track features a very short straight that climbs sharply uphill for a short time, then suddenly drops slightly downhill, and this is immediately followed by two very fast right-hand kinks. Chris Irwin's career was ended following a massive accident at Flugplatz, in a Ford 3L GT sports car in 1968. Manfred Winkelhock flipped his March F2 car at the same corner in 1980.
Right before Flugplatz is Quiddelbacher Höhe, where the track crosses a bridge over the Bundesstraße 257.
Bergwerk ("The Mine")
Perhaps the most notorious corner on the long circuit, Bergwerk has been responsible for some serious and sometimes fatal accidents. A tight right-hand corner, coming just after a long, fast section and a left-hand kink on a small crest, was where Carel Godin de Beaufort fatally crashed. The fast kink was also the scene of Niki Lauda's infamous fiery accident during the 1976 German Grand Prix. This left kink is often referred to as the Lauda Links (Lauda left).
Caracciola Karussell ("The Caracciola Carousel")
Although being one of the slower corners on the Nordschleife, the Karussell is perhaps one of its most iconic, one of two berm-style, banked corners. The entrance to the corner is blind, although Juan Manuel Fangio is reputed to have advised a young driver to "aim for the tallest tree," a feature that was also built into the rendering of the circuit in the Gran Turismo 4 and Grand Prix Legends video games. The combination of a recognisable corner, slow-moving cars, and the variation in viewing angle as cars rotate around the banking, means that this is one of the circuit's most popular locations for photographers. It is named for Rudolf Caracciola, who reportedly made the corner his own by hooking the inside tires into a drainage ditch to help his car "hug" the curve. As more concrete was uncovered and more competitors copied him, the trend took hold. At a later reconstruction, the corner was remade with real concrete banking, as it remains to this day.
Brünnchen ("Small Fountain")
A favorite spectator vantage point, the Brünnchen section is composed of two right-hand corners and a very short straight. The first corner goes sharply downhill and the next, after the very short downhill straight, goes uphill slightly. This is a section of the track where on public days, accidents happen particularly at the blind uphill right-hand corner. Like almost every corner at the Nürburgring, both right-handers are blind. The short straight used to have a steep and sudden drop-off that caused cars to take off; this was taken out and smoothed over when the circuit was rebuilt in 1970 and 1971.
Lap times recorded on the Nürburgring Nordschleife are published by several manufacturers. They are published and discussed in print media, and online.
- For lap times from various sources, see Nürburgring lap times
- For lap times in official racing events, on several track variants from 20,8 km up to 26 km, see List of Nordschleife lap times (racing)
- For lap times of the Sport Auto Supertest, on an incomplete 20,6 km lap, see List of Nordschleife lap times (sport auto)
- List of races at the Nürburgring
- 1000 km Nürburgring
- 24 Hours Nürburgring
- List of Formula One circuits
- "Button and Hamilton confident ahead of German Grand Prix". 2011-07-22.
- Maps of Nürburgring configurations
- Vintage Nürburgring vintage-nuerburgring.de. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
- "Result list of the Nürburgring Mercedes 190 exhibition race of May 12, 1984". PistonHeads.com. Retrieved 2011-12-11.
- Rallye Racing June 1984. Rallye Racing.
- "Nürburgring Warning". Ben Lovejoy. Retrieved July 9, 2008.
- Top Gear Series 5, Episode 5
- Bridge-to-Gantry. Retrieved 2013-04-15
- Nürburgring insurance legal information
- Admiral insurance policy, page 20: "We will not cover you or be liable for [...] Any accident, injury, loss, theft, or damage which takes place while your car is: [...] used on the Nurburgring Nordschleife [...]"
- "Nürburgring – Formula I racetrack". ETF Group. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
- Kable, Greg (August 6, 2012). "'Ring Wreck". Autoweek 62 (16): 6.
- Associated Press (August 1, 2012). "German state guarantees loan for Nürburgring". Autoweek. Retrieved August 8, 2012.
- "Race track up for sale". autoblog.com. 2013-02-18. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
- "Nürburgring for Sale". ShareTheNurburgring.com. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Nürburgring|
- Official website: German | English
- Ben Lovejoy's Nürburgring website
- Nurburgring Webcam 24 hours
- Nürburgring Explorer website
- One full Nordschleife lap with an on-board camera on Kinomap
- One lap GP track with on-board camera