Guest Post: 7 Reasons To Visit The Nurburgring Nordschleife
Welcome to the first guest post of October 2010. It’s amazing to think that the 7 Reasons sofa has been circumnavigating the world for nearly a year now. And it’s off abroad again today. Germany is the destination. Well, okay, it’s actually Wycombe. But Germany sounds better. Today’s guest post is written by Jonathan Pitt. A self-confessed pizza and motorsport addict, it will come as no surprise that Jon has written about motorsport. While eating pizza. Incidentally, it is Jon’s birthday today. So let’s all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him. Ready, steady, go… Why am I the only one singing? Okay, you just want to read Jon’s post. Well here it is. Make sure you follow him on twitter too. He won’t bother you.
If you’re the casual armchair sports fan then you may well have heard of the Nurburgring. After all, its that track in Germany that alternates hosting the German Grand Prix with Hockenheim, right? Well, you are right, sort of. The Grand Prix at the Nurburgring takes place on the 3.2 mile imaginatively named Grand Prix track. However, watching Messers Alonso and Button drive around in fairly small circles belies the majesty of the Ring, for the Grand Prix Circuit has only existed in its current guise since 1984.
The track that you are being provided with seven wonderful reasons to visit is the Nurburgring Nordschleife (North Loop). The original track first opened its doors in 1927 and totalled 14.2 miles as it twisted and turned its way through the Eifel Mountains. (There was also a shorter Sudschleife circuit). Nurburgring Nordschleife hosted all but three of the German Grand Prix’s held between 1931 and 1976. By the early 1970’s it was considered to be too dangerous, with the fiery crash suffered by Austrian Niki Lauda in the final event appearing to confirm this.
Nowadays, the Nordschleife is still used for some racing activities, including the annual 24 hour race. However, the major international racing series now use the Grand Prix track which has replaced the Sudschleife. Despite the slight shortening of the track and the safety improvements made throughout the years, the Nordschleife retains its fearsome character and remains a stiff test for any driver. The owners of the Ring are nice enough to let anyone turn up and drive their car or bike around the circuit in their Touristenfahrten sessions. Ok, that’s enough history. Time for the seven reasons:
1. To Get A Sticker. You may have noticed one of the growing number of cars on British roads featuring the Nurburgring name and track outline. Ok, so you could buy one on eBay, but that would be cheating. Etiquette dictates that only cars that have been driven around the Nurburgring can sport the sticker, so what are you waiting for?
2. No Safety Briefing. Have you ever been karting in Blighty? It doesn’t seem to matter that the vehicle you will be driving is barely faster than a child’s tricycle – you still have to endure a safety briefing and wear fireproof overalls which soon make you feel as though you’ve spent rather too long in a sauna. Try turning up at a UK trackday sans helmet and you won’t be venturing out on track. At the Ring you simply pay your money and drive onto the track when you’re ready. As for helmets, perhaps it is a good idea to wear one when you’re driving at three times the speed that you would on a public road and are being overtaken by a constant stream of Porsches, but this is left entirely to your discretion.
3. To Find Out Whether You’re Really As Good As You Are On The PlayStation. Yes, I know your sort only too well. You’ve wasted your youth beating your friends at Sega Rally and you’ve convinced yourself that your wall riding in Gran Turismo makes you as good as any pro driver. Such games may be fun but to equate them to driving a real car on a real circuit is perhaps the equivalent of claiming that you’ve travelled Europe because you took a day trip to Calais. One important tip – don’t try wall riding on the Nurburgring unless you want a large bill for barrier repairs.
4. It’s Like No Other Track In The World. The combination of the elevation changes, off camber corners, blind crests and lack of run off make it unique in the racing world. At 12.9 miles, the Norsdschleife is also the longest purpose built race track in the world. Even if you’ve driven or raced on other tracks, then assuming you like cars and driving, you cannot fail to be excited at the very site of the Ring, despite its nickname ‘The Green Hell’.
5. To Watch The Crashes. One of the best features of the Nordschleife is that it’s possible to get right up to the edge of the circuit for most of the 12.9 miles. When I drove my first ever lap I was shocked at seeing spectators standing literally several rows deep. Clearly they aren’t there to watch ordinary people drive around in circles for hours. Perhaps some are there simply to marvel at the supercars that frequent the track? Maybe, but there can be little doubt that a large number want to see out of control cars and crashes. They don’t usually have to wait long either. Accidents and consequential track closures are common place. Fortunately, injuries and God forbid, deaths are less common than many think.
6. To Marvel At The Supercars. Want to see a Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini? Name a fast car and you’re likely to see it at the Ring before too long. Of course, when you’re putting in 12 minute Laps in your mum’s bog standard Renault Megane (don’t even ask!) then you spend too much time getting out of the way of these beauties to appreciate their presence. However, all is well when you reach the safety of the Nordschleife car park at the end of the lap. Cars are not designed to do lap after lap on the limit and even if the car can cope then the driver can’t. The result of this is a car park crammed full of supercars. The atmosphere is laid back and friendly and if you ask nicely then you may well be able to score a ride in the car of your dreams. A further advantage of the Nurburgring – there wasn’t a Vauxhall Nova anywhere to be seen.
7. Top Gear Did It. If Jeremy Clarkson and the BBC’s Top Gear team think that the Nurburgring Nordschleife is worth a visit then the chances are that it is! After years of presenting a motoring programme and creating ever crazier car related antics then perhaps we should trust Clarkson, Hammond and Captain Slow to educate us about anything that’s even remotely connected to the automobile.
So there you go, seven reasons to visit the Nurburgring Nordschleife. On a more serious note, it’s worth remembering that the Nurburgring can be dangerous. Accidents happen regularly and there is a strong probability that your normal car insurance will not cover you while driving on the Nurburgring. If you damage the barrier then you can expect a bill. If you cause crashes then the police will investigate and if your car dumps oil on the track then you could be looking at thousands of Euros for the cleanup bill and damage caused to other cars by any resulting crashes. If you prepare your car properly and drive carefully then the chances are that you become hopelessly addicted and end up going time and time again. For further information, check out Ben Lovejoy’s Nurburgring Nordschleife website, the Official Nurburgring website and Northloop.