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Route of the modern Nürburgring GP-Strecke for Formula One races
Location: 22px-Flag of Germany.png Nürburg, Germany
Events: Formula One; GP2
Length km: 5.148
Length mi: 3.2
Turns: 15
Record time: 1'29.468
Record driver: Michael Schumacher
Record team: Ferrari
Record year: 2004
Detailed Nürburgring map showing both the Nordschleife and the new GP section.

The Nürburgring (alternative spelling without umlaut: Nuerburgring, but never "Nurburgring"), known as simply "the Ring" by enthusiasts, is the name of a famous motorsport race track in Germany.

It features several track configurations. Only the shorter, modern 1980s version called GP-Strecke is currently used by major and international racing events. However, the older, much longer version of the Ring called the Nordschleife ("Northern Loop"), built in the 1920s around the village and medieval castle of Nürburg in the Eifel mountains, is still in use; nicknamed The Green Hell by Jackie Stewart, it is widely considered the toughest and most demanding purpose-built race track in the world.

1927–1939: "Nürburg-Ring"

In the early 1920s, races called ADAC Eifelrennen 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 motorraces 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.

There was then a single 28.265 km (17.5 mile) circuit of, on average, 8 to 9 metres in width and a total of 174 bends (back then, for full Ring, prior to 1971 changes), which could be split into two sections: the Südschleife ("Southern loop") of 7.747 km (4.8 miles) and the Nordschleife ("Northern loop") of 22.810 km (14 miles), with both sections sharing two straights (one of which was the start-finish straight). Also, a short 2.292-km (1.4-mile) track around the pits could be used in practice and for minor events.

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 on weekends, as a one-way toll road.

In 1929 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 August 5, 1961, during practise 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 8m 55.2s (95.3mph) in the Ferrari 156 "Sharknose" Formula 1 car. Even 40 years later, the highest performing road cars have difficulty breaking 8 minutes without a professional racing driver or one very familiarised with the track.

Nurburgring circuit map, taken at German Grand Prix 1964

Also, several rounds of the German motorcycle Grand Prix were held, mostly on the 7.7km "Südschleife", but the Hockenheimring and Solituderennen were the main sites for Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

In 1953, the ADAC 1000km 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 pitlane entry. 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, like 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

According to the demands of the F1, 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 3 years from 1971 to 1973. Safety was improved again later on, e.g. by removing the jumps on the long main straight and widening it. A second series of 3 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, 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 22835m Nordschleife in under 7 minutes (6:58.6, 1975), proposed to the other drivers that the circuit should be boycotted in 1976 because of the safety arrangements. The other drivers voted against the idea and the race went ahead. Ironically, it was Lauda who crashed in his Ferrari, probably due to failure of the rear suspension. As his car was still loaded with fuel in lap 2, he was badly burned, being 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. Also, the crash proved 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). For Formula One, this crash marked the end of the old Nürburgring. It never hosted another F1 race again as the German Grand Prix was moved to the Hockenheimring for 1977.

In 1980, the German motorcycle Grand Prix was held for the last time on the old Ring, 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 Nordscheife in his Porsche 956, which is still unbeaten at 6:11.13, or over 200 km/h in average - partially due to the fact that no major racing took place there since 1984.

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 not yet forgotten by all, as a fan website exists and a vintage car event was held in 2005.

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. Some fans, which had to sit much further away from the track, called it Eifelring, Ersatzring, Green Party Ring or similar, believing it didn't deserve to be called Nürburgring.

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; the only time thus far that the "new" Nürburgring has hosted its country's race. 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 is held at the Ring since 1995, called European Grand Prix or 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 righthander (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 4500m to 5200m, while at the same time, the Hockenheimring was shortened from 6800m to 4500m.

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; both tracks have been considering sharing a single race between them in future years.

The Ring has, however, kept its association with the tragic. Despite the high standards, a few single-seater drivers were paralysed or killed in freak accidents. 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 tyre that was not changed due to the short lived one set of tired rule.

Nordschleife racing today

Several touring car series are still competing on the Nordschleife, using either only the simple 20.8 km version with its separate small pit lane, or a combined 24.4km 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 (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-June, featuring 220 cars (from small 100hp cars to 700hp Turbo Porsche or 500hp factory race cars of BMW, Opel, Audi, Mercedes-Benz), over 700 drivers (amateurs and professionals) and up to 220 000 spectators.

There is an official lap timing of production cars in the Nordschleife.

Nordschleife public access

The Nordschleife has remained a one-way, public toll-road for nearly 80 years when it is not closed off for testing purposes, training lessons or racing events. Since its opening in 1927, the track can be 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, motorhomes or cars with trailers. It is opened mainly on sundays, but also on many saturdays and weekday evenings. During the winter months, depending on weather conditions and maintenance work, the track may be closed for weeks.

During Touristenfahrten sessions StVO (German road law) applies despite a common misconception that it is derestricted like a race track. There is no general speed limit, however speed limits exist in certain areas in order to reduce noise and risks. As on public roads, passing on the right is prohibited, and the police take an extremely dim view of poor driving as they prosecute offenders even with the aid of helicopters.

The cost of a single lap in 2006 was 16 Euros. Multi-lap tickets are also available, and a season ticket can be purchased for unlimited use whenever the public sessions are being run. 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 considerable challenge it still 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 mainly for foreigners.

Drivers on these tourist days cannot quite complete a full lap of the 20.8 km (13 miles) Nordschleife which is bypassing the modern GP-Strecke, as the public entrance and exit from the track has a 200 metre section between them that cannot be used as vehicles are required to pass through a "pit lane" where the toll gates are installed. Since 2006, mobile toll gates on the track itself can be used by season ticket holders only, in order to reduce the lenght of queues at the fixed barriers.

Drivers interested in lap times (which can be a dangerous thing to worry about, as running stop watches are frequently found in crashed vehicles) can time themselves between the first bridge on leaving the car park style barrier to the last gantry before they return. Accidents are common, though, and those considering driving around the Nordschleife should familiarize [1] themselves beforehand with rules that apply, as well as the "do's" and "don'ts". Do not underestimate the nature of the 'ring - it has caught many, many people out. There is very little run-off and the armco barrier WILL be hit at almost any speed, should you leave the tarmac.

Drivers who do crash have a responsibility of warning following vehicles that there has been an incident. They should not try to continue driving as spilled fuilds are a hazard to others, and it might be regarded as an attempt to escape the hefty bill for an armco repair. The 'Ring, although being to all intents and purposes a race track when used for racing, still remains a public road when opened to the public, and it 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 putting some unfortunates upto 15,000 Euros out of pocket. If you are considering a visit to the Nordschleife..... treat it with the respect it deserves.

Commercial aspects

Because of its demanding layout, the Nordschleife is used by many auto manufacturers as a proving ground for car prototypes. Some of the most notable corporate "Ring Rats" are BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Nissan, Lexus and starting in 2002, General Motors. GM's first wave of Nürburgring-honed vehicles includes the Cadillac CTS-V and the sixth-generation Chevrolet Corvette. Nissan's Japanese domestic market supercar, the Skyline GT-R, was tuned at Nürburgring (Skyline GT-R V-spec II Nür) and held the unofficial lap record for road legal cars for some time. The race version entered by Falken Tyres did well in 24 Hours Nürburgring, without a chance to win though, but they were among the Top-10 finishers repeatedly.

In recent years, the Nürburgring's allure has spread through its appearance in video games. It all started in 1998 with Sierra's PC-based racing simulation Grand Prix Legends featuring the Green Hell and the 1967 Formula One season.

Games for consoles followed:

Since 1985 the Nürburgring has hosted the "Rock am Ring", Germany's biggest Rock Festival, attracting close to 100,000 rock fans each year.

Nordschleife Map

The current 20.8 km 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 the Sketch Grand Prix course

See also

External links

Formula One Circuits

A1-Ring | Adelaide Street Circuit | Ain-Diab | Aintree race course | AVUS | Bahrain International Circuit | Circuit de la Sarthe | Circuito da Boavista | Brands Hatch | Catalunya | Charade Circuit | Donington Park | Enzo e Dino Ferrari | Fuji Speedway | Gilles Villeneuve | Hockenheimring | Hungaroring | Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Internacional Nelson Piquet | Istanbul Racing Circuit | Jarama | José Carlos Pace | Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit | Monaco | Mont-Tremblant | Mosport Park | Mugello | Mugello Circuit | Nazionale Monza | Nevers Magny-Cours | Nivelles-Baulers | Nurburgring | Pedralbes Circuit | Permanente de Jerez | Riverside International Raceway | Scandinavian Raceway | Sebring Raceway | Sepang International Circuit | Shanghai International Circuit | Silverstone Circuit | Spa-Francorchamps | Suzuka Circuit | TI Circuit | Park Zandvoort | Zolder

LMS Circuits - Circuits of the Le Mans Series

Current Circuits (2008)
Barcelona • Monza • Spa-Francorchamps • Nürburgring • Silverstone
Former Circuits:
Donington • Interlagos • Istanbul • Jarama • Le Mans • Valencia

Official Test Track:
Paul Ricard HTTT

SBK circuits

LosailPhillip IslandValenciaAssenMonzaSalt Lake CityNürburgringMisanoBrnoBrands HatchDonington ParkVallelungaMagny-CoursPortimao

Past Circuits
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