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F1 History 11

The Nordschleife will be saved

Understandably the various enthusiast forums around the world have been whipped into something approaching a frenzy by the news that the Nürburgring has effectively gone bust. Modern media communications and social networking has meant the place has acquired a status far greater than when the old Nordschleife was used for top flight motorsport. Even those who wouldn’t know their Fuchsröhre from their Pflanzgarten are having anxiety attacks about its plight.

history  The Nordschleife will be saved

As well they might. The situation as I understand it is that the facility has debts of nearly €500 million and is unable to service a €330 million bank loan. The circuit is owned by the state of Rhineland-Palatinate whose prime minister is currently blaming the EU for the circuit’s woes because they have refused to cough up millions of extra Euros in bail out loans.

He should look closer to home. The Nürburgring’s misfortunes started in 2004 when a decision was made to turn the place into a leisure complex complete with vast, shiny hotels despite the fact that the circuit is miles from anywhere interesting and had no brand value as an amusement park.

It turned the place into a visual monstrosity, a posh Pontins but with less charm. To be fair it has managed to host the odd car launch from the sparkling new Linder hotel that’s been built there, which is the only reason I know that on the two occasions I’ve stayed there, the place has been a ghost town. Regular ‘Ring goers used to be quite rude about the old and ugly Dorint next door, but by comparison it seems suffused with character and the stench of history. I last went to the ‘Ring at the end of last year to do a two hour race for Mercedes-Benz Classic. Did we stay at the Lindner? We did not. Mercedes instead chose a small and delightful family run guest house a couple of miles down the road and none of us would have had it any other way.

For most people, whether it’s to do a track day or as one of the hundreds of thousands who attend the 24 hour race there, a trip to the Nurburgring is a pilgrimage. It’s a chance to walk in your heroes’ footsteps, immerse yourself in all that has gone on in the lifetime it has been in use. It is broadly held to be the venue of the greatest Formula 1 race ever staged, when in 1957 Fangio won his and Maserati’s last Grande Epreuve by driving like no other human could. It’s also a place of quiet contemplation, for thinking about hundreds who were killed or fearfully injured there. Disneyland on wheels it ain’t.

In the end, however, history is not going to save it. If all it had going for it was nostalgia, the weeds would be growing under Antoniusbuche Bridge within weeks. In fact salvation lies not in the hands of spectators, track-day warriors, VLN competitors or Bernie Ecclestone.

But saved the circuit will be, or at least that part of it that matters to you or me. Truth is the Nordschleife has never been busier and the car manufacturers who’ve invested millions building workshops there and whose staff spend millions of man hours pounding are not going simply to walk away. Fact is if you’re developing the suspension and tyres of a new road car, there’s nowhere else on earth like it. And it’s great for PR too: I can’t remember the last Jaguar launch I attended where its top press honcho didn’t mention the fact that its cars are developed there.

I don’t want to predict the future but you don’t need to be Mystic Meg, either to see the creditors parceling off the Nordschleife for sale as a single asset, nor the queue of car manufacturers that might line up to buy it. As for the rest, if the jobs of those who work there are lost already as they may well be, I’d bulldoze the lot of it.

Add your comments

11 comments on The Nordschleife will be saved

  1. Ray T, 24 July 2012 14:14

    How could they possibly let it got 500M in debt?

  2. John Read, 24 July 2012 20:35

    It’s on my list of places to go before I cark it, so I would be very upset if they bulldozed the lot of it!

    regards from Down Under.

  3. Don Larsen, 25 July 2012 04:38

    When I was thirteen, visiting my lovely, kind generous and good grandparents in Nebraska, when my head was about to crack open from boredom, there, at the last second, was ‘Sports Car Graphic’ magazine, with an article on the 1000km derNurburgring, with Jimmy Clark in the prettiest small sports racer ever, the Lotus 23, flying around til he was gassed by some Ferarri with 3 times the displacement because he he kept in 10 feet behind.
    Today, never have gotten the call from Lotus to step over the sill into the 72E and settle down into the seat held by Rindt, Fittipaldi, and Peterson, I launch the SimBin GTR Evolution.
    The mighty Nordschliefe awaits. down the valleys, up the rises, yump the crests,and if you get it even slightly wrong, off you go.
    It isn’t possible that the Nordschliefe fail any more than the Sphinx be sold for condos, or Gibraltar be ground up for gravel to fill in the Grand Canyon over here.
    Some of these things simply have to be.

  4. Dave Cook, 25 July 2012 09:52

    I’m so pleased it is going to be with us for a while longer although I am now full of trepidation waiting for the time when my stepson unleashes his V8 MX-5 there! (Don’t ask!)

  5. Chris Wright, 25 July 2012 10:49

    The mountain of debt accrued by the track is astonishing and clearly would threaten the existence of any circuit, anywhere! In truth, the Nordschleife has been on a kind of downward spiral ever since Niki Lauda’s huge accident and the then traditional reaction of simply abandoning a circuit for F1, rather than trying to make it safer. The world is now awash with sanitised venues and only one Nordschleife. It is the most iconic circuit ever and one can only hope that someone will surfacewith a viable plan to save it and, dare we hope, a plan to revive it as a grand prix venue. Well, maybe the latter will never happen but one can at least dream.

  6. wayne wachtell, 25 July 2012 18:50

    wish they were still racing here with the grand prix cars! would give a lot to be able to go back in time and watch the 1957 german grand prix with fangio harthorn and collins! just to be in the pits and watch it would be better then any vacation!

  7. Matthew McFadden, 25 July 2012 22:00

    I have been going to the Nordschleife since 1996, and have seen all the changes. It’s very sad. The only answer, seriously, is to dismantle most of the new developments and recycle them somewhere else. Some town would love to have a new Arena, and some Amusement Park could probably make something out of the roller coaster. As far as the “Grünne Holle” complex, apparently it’s been closed due to sub-standard construction anyway, so bulldoze it and the Hotel there. The space would be better served as a multi-story car park, anyway. I guess they could keep the new Lindner Hotel.
    I hope that the people responsible for all this are prosecuted, fined and imprisoned.

  8. Rick 911, 26 July 2012 03:01

    I’m not sure what the powers that be we’re thinking (assuming they WERE thinking) when it was decided that the way to cover a tiny operating loss was to sink the national economy of a small nation into a totally unrelated project that wouldn’t generate any revenue and worse, amass a debt that is orders of magnitude greater than the original.

    Perhaps the greater crime is that the perpetrators of this grotesque scam will suffer little to no negative consequences. Future scammers will proliferate, undeterred!

  9. Andrew Mc Lean, 26 July 2012 13:59

    I still think it would be feasible to hold a race on the old circuit. Certainly marshalling it would not be a prob, they cud have their pick of the best, use it as an incentiviser to other marshalling organisations. for the best crew/teams of marshalls from each to compete to marshall there. Manufacturers might well be willing to stump up the cash to modify or rebuild those parts that need it.

  10. Tony Geran, 27 July 2012 07:33

    I was lucky enough to witness the ’76 Grosser Preis von Deutschland there, the place is amazing although the event was overshadowed by Lauda’s terrible accident, of course. Great memories for a 20 year old Aussie on his first European vacation.

  11. craig tuck, 29 July 2012 01:13

    how many people attend the track want to spend their time at a amusement park, rather than expericensing the demands of driving around a famous track. the big business boys need to keep their idiot ideas to themselves. rather than borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars on hair brain ideas , that have no way of repaying the debt

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