Nürburgring - Nordschleife
Location Nürburg, Germany
Active from N/A - present
Major events FIA Formula One
German Grand Prix
European Grand Prix
DTM, 24 Hours Nürburgring, 1000km Nürburgring, VLN
Surface Asphalt
Length 3.199 mi (5.148 km)
Turns 16
Lap record 1:29.468 (25px Germany Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004, Formula One)

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 about 70 km (43 mi) south of Cologne, and 120 km (75 mi) 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.

Originally, the track featured four track 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 ("Northern Loop"), and the 7.747 km (4.814 mi) Südschleife ("Southern Loop"). There also was a 2.281 km (1.417 mi) warm-up loop called Zielschleife ("Finish Loop") or better known as Betonschleife, around the pit area.[1] Between 1982 and 1983 the start-finish area was demolished to create a new GP-Strecke, and this is currently 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 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, following the examples of Italy's Monza and Berlin's AVUS, yet with a completely different character. 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. 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 World Cycling Championship race took place on 1927-06-19, and the first German Grand Prix a month later. In addition, the track was opened to the public in the evenings and at weekends, as a one-way toll road. The whole track consisted of 174 bends (prior to 1971 changes), and was 8 to 9 metres (26 to 30 ft) in width on average. The fastest ever time 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 mainly used the shorter and safer Südschleife. Many memorable pre-war races took place at the circuit, featuring 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 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 (with the exception of 1959 when it was held on the AVUS in Berlin). 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 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 stunning lap of 8 minutes 55.2 seconds (153.4 km/h or 95.3 mph) in the Ferrari 156 "Sharknose" Formula One car. Even 40 years later, the highest performing road cars have difficulty breaking 8 minutes without a professional racing 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 "Südschleife", but the Hockenheimring and Solituderennen 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 meters (about 80 feet) 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.

1971–1983: Changes[]

In accordance with the demands of the F1 drivers, the Nordschleife was reconstructed by taking out some bumps and installing Armco safety barriers. The track was also made straighter, following the race line, which reduced the official number of corners. The German GP could be hosted at the Ring again, 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 were 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 extraordinary 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 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 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, ironically, crashed in his Ferrari, probably due to failure of the rear suspension. 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 distances were rather 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, moving also permanently to Hockenheim. A year later, in 1981, work began on a 4.5 km (2.8 miles) long new circuit which was built on and around the old pits area. At the same time a bypass shortened the Nordschleife to 20,832 m (12.947 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) in 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. The track surface was made safer in some spots where there were nasty bumps and jumps before. Racing line markers were added to the corners all around the track as well.

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 is hosted on the old track layout, including part of the parking area.[2]

1984: The new Grand Prix track[]

Nürburgring - Grand-Prix Stecke

Detailed Nürburgring map showing the GP-Strecke.

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. Some fans, who had to sit much further 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, the line-up was Jack Brabham, Phil Hill, Denny 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.[3][4]

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.

For 2002, the track was changed, by replacing the former "Castrol-chicane" at the end of the start/finish straight by 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).

In recent years, 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, 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 (bends 8 and 9) was renamed Schumacher S after Michael Schumacher.

Alternation with Hockenheim[]

Main article: Hockenheimring

In 2007 the FIA announced that Hockenheimring and Nurburgring would alternate with the German Grand Prix with Nurburgring 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.

Panorama Nürburgring Haupteingang 2010

Panorama main entrance of Nürburgring

Fatal accidents[]

Main article: List of Nürburgring fatal accidents

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.[5]

Nordschleife racing today[]

Several touring car series are still competing 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 modern F1 track plus its huge pit facilities. Entry level of competition is a regularity test (GLP) for road 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.

Several 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 3rd 4 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 limit maximum speeds accordingly. Former F1 driver Hans-Joachim Stuck was injured during the VLN race when he crashed his BMW Z4.

Nordschleife public access[]

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. 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.

The cost for driving a single lap of the Nordschleife is €22 for each car or motorcycle. Multi-lap tickets can be purchased for a lower per-lap price, such as 4 laps at a cost of €75 (€18.75 per lap). Additional multi-lap prices are 8 laps for €145, 15 laps for €250, or 25 laps for €390. An annual ticket (called a Jahreskarte) with unlimited laps, valid from January to December, can be purchased for €1075. This option would take more than 69 laps to "break even". All prices are current for the 2010 calendar year and include VAT. All laps apart from Jahreskarte are added to the new local payment system "ring card" which works on the same principle as an Oyster travel card. This ring card stores your laps and will also be used instead of cash in a lot of the local Nürburgring GMBH-owned shops, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

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 challenge it 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.

Normal ticket buyers on these tourist days cannot quite complete a full lap of the 20.8 km (13 mile) Nordschleife, which is bypassing 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. There is also on busier days a mobile ticket barrier installed on the main straight in order to reduce the length of queues at the fixed barriers. This is open to all ticket holders.

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 (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,[6] but it is increasingly common for UK insurers especially to put in exclusion clauses that mean drivers and riders have third-party cover only.[7]

The 'Ring has caught many people out as there is very little run-off and the Armco barrier will be hit at almost any speed should a vehicle leave the tarmac. The Teffers straight between Adenauer Forst and Metzgesfeld is known for its high number of expensive accidents.

Drivers who do crash have a responsibility of warning following vehicles that there has been an incident. If an accident occurs typical passerby procedure is to stop only if needed.(Needs include stopping to render first aid or to warn incoming traffic.) Follow up accidents are frequent and, 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.

Commercial aspects[]

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 socalled Industriefahrten for auto makers and the media. With the advent of the internet, awareness of the Nordschleife has risen in Germany and abroad, also in print media. In 1999, Porsche reported that their new 996 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.

The TV Series Top Gear have also used the Nordschleife for their challenges, often involving Sabine Schmitz.

Also, other pastimes are hosted at the Ring, like since 1985 the "Rock am Ring", Germany's biggest Rock Festival, attracting close to 100,000 rock fans each year. In 2009, new commercial areas including a hotel and shopping mall opened. The rollercoaster "ring°racer" will be opened in 2010.

Nordschleife map[]

Nordschleife image of Nurburgring track

The current 20.8 km (12.9 mi) Nordschleife course with 33 left and 40 right turns (actually about 100 corners, as counted by enthusiasts). The lower left yellow area indicates the location of a part of the Grand Prix course

Locations of note[]

Flugplatz ("Airport")[]

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 was located in the early years close to the track in this area. 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.

Bergwerk ("The Mine")[]

Perhaps the most notorious corner on the long circuit, Bergwerk has been responsible for more than its fair share of serious and fatal accidents. A tight righthand corner, coming just after a long, fast section and a lefthand kink on a small crest, 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.

Caracciola Karussell ("The Carousel")[]

Although being one of the slower corners on the Nordschleife, 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 video game as well as Grand Prix Legends. The combination of a recognisable corner, slow moving cars, and the variation in viewing angle as cars rotate around the banking mean that this is one of the circuit's most popular locations for photographers. Named for Rudolf Caracciola who reportedly made the corner his own by hooking the inside tyres into a drainage ditch. 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.

Lap times[]

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 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)
  • For lap times from various sources, see Nürburgring lap times

See also[]

  • List of races at the Nürburgring
  • 1000 km Nürburgring
  • 24 Hours Nürburgring
  • List of Formula One circuits
Formula One circuits

Current circuits
(2012 season)

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External links[]

  1. Maps of Nürburgring configurations
  2. Vintage Nürburgring Retrieved 2007-10-18.
  3. "Senna - Porsche 956K - Nurburgring". The Nostalgia Forum. Retrieved January 14, 2007. 
  4. Rallye Racing June 1984. Rallye Racing. 
  5. "Nurburgring Warning". Ben Lovejoy. Retrieved July 9, 2008. 
  6. Nurburgring insurance legal information"
  7. 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 Nurburgrung Nordschleife"