Germany’s Nurburgring, is a 14 mile twisty devil of a race track; opened on June 18th, 1927. It had 172 corners then, too many for a driver to remember the exact racing line through all of them. Meaning, of course, that the best racing driver could pull off amazing feats of showmanship; if he was brave enough.
The Nürburgring is a motorsport complex around the village of Nürburg, Germany. It features a modern 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. It is located northwest of Frankfurt. The old track was nicknamed The Green Hell by Jackie Stewart and is widely considered the toughest, most dangerous, and most demanding purpose-built racing circuit in the world.
In total, the Nürburgring incorporated 172 corners – 84 right-handers and 88 left. For its entire length, the circuit was 6.7 metres wide apart from the start-finish apron which was 20 metres wide and thus created a natural funnel with which to start every race.Almost every twist in the track was designed to test and challenge the best of the best and the true impact of the circuit can only be felt by riding it.
The first race took place on 19th June 1927 and Caracciola set his ‘Ring record rolling with a win. A month later the circuit hosted the
German Grand Prix which was won by Otto Merz when Caracciola’s car broke down.
Perhaps inevitably, the circuit spent the war in military hands but when peace finally returned in 1945 it was handed back to local control. In 1948, after some reconstruction work, the track was once more pressed into service for national races. Initially the occupying forces prevented Germany from competing in international events and so it was not until 1950 that the circuit was used for a Grand Prix race.
When the circus finally came back to town the Ferrari pilot Alberto Ascari took over the mantle of Ringmeister with three straight wins (two of them during the Formula 2 years). Giuseppe Farina – the first world champion – made it four in a row for Ferrari in 1953. With the arrival of the 2.5 litre formula Mercedes returned to the world stage. To drive their impressive machinery Mercedes called upon pre-war star Hermann Lang, fellow Germans Karl Kling and Hans Hermann. Alongside them was Juan Manuel Fangio who emerged as the victor in the 1954 Grand Prix.
Tragically it was during this race that the ‘Ring claimed its first victim of the World Championship era. Onofre Marimon, Fangio’s compatriot and protégé, was killed during practise while on the downhill run to Wehrseifen.
Juan Manual Fangio: Loosing the lead after a horrendous pit stop near the end of the 1957 German Grand Prix, he managed to break the lap record by 12 seconds on three consecutive laps to take over the lead and win the race. He quit racing a year later, as if he had reached the pinnacle and there was nowhere else to go, “I believe that on that day in 1957 I finally managed to master the Nürburgring, making those leaps in the dark on those curves where I had never before had the courage to push things so far.”
As Nuvolari is often remembered for his 1935 win so Fangio is forever associated with his 1957 visit to the ‘Ring.
Stirling Moss, had never won a Grand Epreuve event at the ‘Ring but he had proved his credentials with the 1958 Vanwall and with four wins in the 1000km sportscar races for Maserati and Aston Martin. Brabham made the better start but within a mile he had skidded off handing the lead to Stirling.
Despite being some 30bhp down on the Ferrari competition, Moss set off into the distance and by lap five he was 15 seconds ahead of his closest rival. Spurred on by his home crowd von Trips set a new sub-9 minute record as the road began to dry and brought the gap down to just 7 seconds. Moss stabilised the gap and in the final third of the race managed to pull away once more. Aided by rain in the final laps he finished a full 21 seconds ahead of the competition and once again Enzo Ferrari was denied his victory at the ‘Ring. The win was the last of Stirling’s career although, like his mentor Fangio, he had marked his passage in style.
1969 saw Jacky Ickx became the first man to lap the circuit in under 8 minutes, at an average speed of 110.1mph
The early 1970s had seen more and more drivers calling for greater safety at the circuit. Lauda’s accident proved their worst fears were well-founded and the ‘Ring was consigned to the history of Grand Prix racing.
1984: The new Grand Prix track
The new Nürburgring was completed in 1984 and called GP-Strecke. It was built to meet the highest safety standards, but was considered in character a mere shadow of its older sibling. 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, the line-up was Jack Brabham, Phil Hill, Denis Hulme, James Hunt, Jacques Laffite, Niki Lauda, Carlos Reutemann, Keke Rosberg, Jody Scheckter, Manfred Schurti, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and John Watson. Senna won ahead of Lauda, Reutemann, Rosberg, Watson, Hulme and Jody Scheckter.
Besides other major international events, it has seen the brief return of Formula One to the ‘Ring, 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 new the Ring, 1000km Nürburgring, DTM, motorcycles, and rather new type 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.
Today the lap record is held by Marc Basseng on the Pagani Zonda R with a laptime of 6:47,5 min for the 20,832 km Nordschleife.
Here is the onboard camera video of the lap:
Nowadays The holy grail of all race tracks is in financial crisis and is facing closure unless hundreds of millions of Euros of debt are repaid. To save the ring it was planned to develop an amusement park, a shopping center , a casino and to renew the buildings. Would this be successful plan in an already economically depressed region of Germany, or The “Death of Nürburgring”?