For petrolheads, life isn’t worth until they have driven at the Nurburgring.
August 1, 1976, a blistering fast Ferrari 312T2 with Racing Number 1 swerved off the track, crashed at a high speed into an embankment only to bounce back right in front of oncoming traffic. What followed after that not only created the legend of Niki Lauda but also gave Formula 1 its best edge-of-the-seat thrilling racing season. That crash and the subsequent return of Lauda fighting for the championship, only to lose it to James Hunt by a single point, is something that we will forever be talking about. As much as the effect of the events of the ’76 German GP were on its protagonists, no one can deny that it was just another epic story, a tip of the iceberg, for the legend of the Nurburgring, the green hell which will always be the epitome of car driving heaven.
Located in the town of Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, Nurburgring originally was designed to be a 28.265km long racing circuit. It was divided into four configurations, Gesamtstrecke (German for “Whole Course”), Nordschleife (“North Loop”), Südschleife (“South Loop”) and Zielschleife (“Finish Loop”). The Longest among these is the Nordschleife that runs around the village and medieval castle of Nürburg through its 22.810km length. The Nordschleife also features an elevation change of 300m between its highest and lowest sections. The old track is so breathtaking in visuals and so dangerous in execution that Jackie Stewart called it “The Green Hell”.
In its original layout constructed in 1927, the track had 174 bends and was to be a showcase for German automotive engineering and racing talent. However, racing events were reduced just to the Nordschleife section from 1930. Soon famous names from pre- World War II era racing world such as Rudolf Caracciola, Tazio Nuvolari and Bernd Rosemeyer established themselves as the first of the ‘Ringmeisters’. After the war, Nurburgring became the centre of German Formula 1 Gran Prix from 1951 onwards (with an exclusion of 1959). This was the time when the new masters of the ring rose up in the form of Alberto Ascari, Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart and Jacky Ickx. In 1961 Phil Hill lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife under 9 minute mark for the first time ever in his Ferrari 156 ‘Sharknose’ F1 car. His time of 8 minute 55.2 seconds is still a tough mark to break for modern sportscars.
In 1967 the Hohenrain section was added to decrease the speeds of F1 cars that were making the track increasingly dangerous because of their speeds. However, it still could not save the track being called the ‘Green Hell’ by Stewart after his victory under rainstorm and thick fog in ‘68. The name stuck with one and all, and has been ever since. However, it was the unfortunate fatal crash of Piers Courage in 1970 followed by the boycotting of the German Gran Prix by its participant drivers; the track was listed for a revamp. This meant the German GP was moved to the already modified Hockenheimring temporarily. F1 returned to Nurburgring Nordschleife in 1971 and safety parameters kept improving every passing year. However, the second lap crash of Lauda during the ’76 German GP was the last time when F1 raced at Nurburgring Nordschleife.
Must Watch: Mini doing a Nurburgring Lap on Two-Wheels
The efforts to bring F1 back to Nurburgring started in 1981 with all new 4.5 km circuit to be built around the old Nordschleife pit stop. During these times, the updated Nurburgring Nordschleife with a bypass and a shortened 20.83km length continued to see racing. Races like the 1000km Nurburgring Endurance race were held at the old circuit as the new F1 circuit was being built. In 1984, late racer, Stefan Bellof set the yet unbeaten lap record for the modified Nordschleife with a time of 6:11.13 in his Porsche 956.
The New Circuit, Nurburgring GP-Strecke was completed in 1984 but was a shadow of the old circuit’s character at best. While other racing events continued at Nurburgring, F1 remained an on-off event. F1 raced in 1984 and 1985 before returning back to Nurburgring after Michael Schumacher’s first F1 Championship. Nurburgring became the second German GP in F1 calendar from 1995 to 2006. However, from 2007 F1 season onwards, rising costs of having a race and dwindling spectator numbers meant the German GP was alternately held at Hockenheim and Nurburgring.
But racing is the soul of the Green Hell and it still goes on at the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Two racing events RCN/CHC and VLN are held in 15 Saturdays each year season. Then there is the famous annual 24 Hours Nurburgring weekend as well. If that is not all, over the years, lap times around the ‘Ring have become major bragging and marketing exercise for carmakers. With extra special variants of sports cars and even SUV’s proudly showing off their world beating Nurburgring Nordschleife numbers, they make sure that the legend of the Green Hell will never become a faded memory.
The most intriguing part of the Nurburgring has not only been its history drenched in racing glory, but also its high accessibility for common public. Ever since its inception, the Nurburgring has been made accessible for the public, letting them to drive on the same roads biggest names of racing world has raced. Popularly known as “Touristenfahrten”, one can actually take their road legal vehicle to the Nurburgring Nordschleife and enjoy every bit of its splendor and thrill. Nurburgring Nordschleife is generally open for public on Sundays and is a famous place for driving enthusiasts from all over the world. Who would not like to drive through a race track without the fear of oncoming traffic and no speed limit!
Worth a Read: HOW MG BROKE THE WORLD SPEED RECORD
These are the exact reasons why Nurburgring offers a plethora of services for those who want to experience it up close. The best part being that these services have been designed for all budget constraint as well. Some of the services being offered at Nurburgring for Touristenfahrten are:
Driving and Training:
- Tourist Rides.
- Co-Pilot Rides.
- Group Rides.
- Driver, Drifting, Formula and Off-Road training’s.
A number of luxury hotels and resorts are located at the track and many more around it. You can also choose to go camping at the Nurburgring as well. Nurburgring converts its car park into camping sites to let you live under the stars and soak into the epic scenery of the ‘Ring’.
The highlight among hotels located at the Nurburgring has to be the Linder Congress and Motorsports Hotel. This imposing hotel is located by the starting/finish line of Nurburgring and offers plethora of services for adventure seekers and business travellers alike. What more you can also test your luck at the in house casino or just fly into the hotel using the hotels own helipad. The prices though are on a higher side, but the view and scenic location of the hotel more than makes up for it.
As far as Hotels close to the ‘Ring are concerned, we would simply pick another Lindner property in the form of gorgeous Lindner Ferienpark Nurburgring Holiday Homes. About 100 in total this holiday homes are just a stone’s throw away from the track amidst the glorious landscape of the Hocheifel region. However, all these cosy comforts aside, it is the opportunity to camp under the stars of Nurburgring that will always get our vote as far as accommodation at the track is concerned.
The track announces the parking lots that it will be converting in to camping sites shortly before hand very major event at the circuit. It’s cheap, it lets you meet and party will like minded souls and it is what racing is all about. We particularly like the Camping site “Camping at the Nürburgring” – Müllenbach for its romantic campfire atmosphere and gigantic 300,000 sq mtrs of camping space with live music and 24 hour service, basically a never ending party.
German Engineering Japanese Creativity, read more: The Porsche Art at RWB
Car rentals and Cab Services:
The Nurburgring can seat 1,50,000 spectators and offers a wide parking spaces designed to make every part of the circuit to be in easy reach.
Directions to reach Nurburgring:
Based in the heart of Germany, Nurburgring is in easy reach from almost all of Germany’s major cities. The circuit is just 84km from Cologne main station while being just 172km from Frankfurt. Though clearly the most famous way to arrive at Nurburgring is in a car, but still one can take other services as well. There is a great train, bus connectivity to the track as well. While international visitors can land at any of the six airports close to the circuit with the Cologne Airport being the closest at 82kms only.
Best Time to Visit the Nurburgring:
The Nurburgring Season starts from March and ends on November, however the circuit is open for rest of the year as well. In summers the traffic might be more meaning the start and the end of the season being the best for thoroughbred driving across the ‘Ring, provided that rain does not deter your will, that is.
For more information: Nurburgring Official Website