I’ve been planning to write this story for some years now, but I kept putting it off. I always tried to make an excuse that I didn’t have the images I needed, or I needed more research, or that I didn’t know the track well enough. Truth be told, you can never accurately portray just what its like to stand at the top of Karussell or be scared witless as the cars leave the ground at Flugplatz. No story, photos, videos or games will ever be able to convey the Nordschleife to someone who has never been. The English language does not have the words to describe this place.
This post will be categorized as a ‘Temple of Speed’ by the drop down menus at the top of the site. I can’t help but feel that this is a sort of injustice.
This isn’t just a ‘temple’, this is motoring’s Mecca.
This is the most important place on the planet for petrol heads.
Even the numbers don’t really do the place justice – 20,810 meters and 154 turns (in its current form) just seem like arbitrary numbers.
The story of how the place came about is a pretty straightforward one – During the 1920s, the Eifelrennen (Eifel Races) were gaining in popularity but considered too dangerous as they ran on public roads. The authorities decided that a dedicated track should be built to host the races along with serving as a place for manufacturers to develop their cars.
Inspired by Monza and the Targa Florio, work commenced on the Nürburgring in September 1925. By the time spring 1927 rolled around, work was complete.
They built the ‘ring in 18 months.
For those of you who have been fortunate enough to visit the Nürburgring, I’m sure you’re currently sitting there with a big ‘WTF’ expression on your face. To create something on this scale in such a short time frame, in the Eifel mountains, is nothing short of miraculous. Sean Klingelhoefer put it best last weekend when we were hiking towards Karussell “Where do you even start? I mean, do you just arrive into the forest and think ‘Sure, here is as good a place as any’.”
There are just not enough superlatives in existence.
When the course was originally in opened in 1927, it featured both a north and south loop (the Sudschleife). The Sudschleife was mostly used for short distance motorcycle races although it did feature as part of the complete Nürburgring, extending the circuit to 28,265 meters. This ‘whole course’ was known as the Gesamtstrecke.
The Sudschleife was never as popular as the Nordschleife and was destroyed in the 1980s to make way for the modern Grand Prix circuit. Although, some of the Sudschleife still exists today as modern roads and lanes, it has pretty much been forgotten about by both people and time.
The Nordschleife itself has undergone some changes over the course of history itself, the most dramatic of those coming during the 1970s as the circuit was forced to become safer to meet the increasing concerns of F1 drivers during this period.
The installation of armco around the circuit, the smoothing of the surface in certain areas and the overhaul of some corners were all that could reasonably be done.
The circuit’s location and size meant that they were limited in what they could do. 1976 saw the last ever GP run on the Nordschleife, this was the infamous race which saw Niki Lauda’s horrific crash at the Bergwerk corner.
The crash just drove home the fact that the Nordschleife wasn’t equipped to deal with major incidents. Another downside, the length of the circuit proved an obstacle for emergency services attending the scenes of accidents. It simply took to long for them to reach where they were needed.
Even today, the track is often lethal. Despite the many precautions in place, there’s only so much the owners can do without destroying the spirit of the place.
Maybe it’s the danger that attracts so many people here from around the world, that quest for a bigger and bigger adrenaline rush.
It’s certainly a track that needs to be respected.
Many people have paid the ultimate price here, some of which through no fault of their own.
I don’t want to be constantly negative, but these things need to be pointed out. Although when you arrive at the Nordschleife for the first time, you quickly realize just how serious the entire place is.
One of the aspects of the track that hits most people is the sheer variety in elevation.
What may appear as a gentle incline in videos and games, is usually like driving into a wall.
Even the ‘flat’ sections of the course rise and dip, and in some instances there is no proper racing line or apex – as Sean said ‘You just need to make it to the other side of the corner in one piece’.
The next thing you’ll notice is how narrow the track is …
… and how little run off there is.
In fact, the run off is often grass which will generally increase the speed you meet the barriers with.
I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve got to experience many race tracks around Europe, but nothing comes close to the Nordschleife.
Every last corner is like God himself created it.
There is a maze of dirt roads which run through the forests around and inside the perimeter of the circuit. This is just one of many tunnels which passes directly underneath the track.
I’m actually a little bit frustrated that I can’t accurately convey how impressive / terrifying / dangerous / amazing / beautiful the ‘ring is. This is partly down to how incomprehensible the place is
Throughout the course of the N24, I spoke with as many people I could about the impact the ‘ring has on you.
Nine times out of ten, people could do nothing but exhale and shake their head. We can only try to convey the Nordschleife to you, but if you want to know what its really like, you need to come here and pay homage to the automotive Gods.
You should probably do this sooner rather than later too. Although Rod doesn’t agree with me, I honestly believe that the days of the public being allowed access to the Nordschleife are coming to an end. Don’t get me wrong, if this happens it will be one of the greatest injustices to ever be carried out on the automotive world. It’s just that in this health and safety world gone mad, it’s only a matter of time before some Prius driving do-gooder tries to get the place shut down. It’s too dangerous they’ll say. It’s hurting the environment they’ll cry. You just know it’ll be the same people who move next to a race circuit which has been in place for many years before and then complain about the noise.
I’ve been to the Nürburgring three times now (nothing compared to some) and I’ve just started arranging my first proper visit where I’m going to attend a Tourist Day in my own car. I’m scared, nervous, excited and anxious all at the same time.
We should never take anything for granted. If you’ve always promised yourself that you would visit here someday, make that day now. Of course, heed the warnings and respect her but don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
Nürburgring Related Websites
I've chosen to stay here living in Europe instead of moving back to the US in order to give myself the chance to drive this.
Great read and your images are amazing, been going to the Nurburgring for the last 10 years and still couldn't put into words what a place it is, if you love cars or motorbikes its a must do place, you only live once, but show respect or it will bite you
Amazingly well put in all respects Paddy!
(Further words would be surplus...)
/Mike, frequent vistor at the Eiffel mountains since -98
I was there about two months ago for the first time, and even now when someone asks me what it was like , i just kinda exhale and say "where do you start"
There is no short way to sum up the magical mystery of the ring , its just too immense for words. Still though they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so when anyone asks in future ill show them these photos , hopefully they will be able to convey the message better than i can.
I really hope I am able to visit the Nordschleife before anything happens to it. I like it the way it is - and I want it to be like this forever.
One of your best pieces to date Paddy, awesome pics and you're fully right, they still don't do it any justice. I hope to make a few touristfahrten this summer if I can, can't get enough of the place!
Amazing story. I'm lucky enough to live somewhat close to this place. Pictures and stories truly don't do this course justice. It's an unbelievable piece of tarmac
What a great read this is. Thank god i live close and i'm going back on sunday for some Touristfahrten fun.I can also recommend asking some-one for a pax lap. Look for someone with experience (IE: Not to expensive car with buckets, cage, semi's etc.) If you ask how many laps they've done, and they respond with "I've lost count.", be prepared. The Ring is like a rollercoaster when driven at speed, it's mental.
AMAMZING WRITEUP. I just went and did 5 laps there last month. This article brought back all the memories and describes how hard it really is to convey what the Ring is to people that have not been there. It is like fight club. Can't explain what it is, you just have to show up!
If you’ve always promised yourself that you would visit here someday, make that day now. Of course, heed the warnings and respect her but don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
couldnt have put it better! nice post paddy!
Once again you did masterpiece Paddy! I think your coverage from nurburgring is the best thing at speedhunters, thank you for showing us something more. If you could, then make desktops from photos 5 and 11
Agree, it's only a matter of time till the green-loonies shut all the racetracks down, the same loonies trying to ban drifting in Virginia is only the start of the slow beginning of the end.
I consider myself very fortunate to have visited the 'ring twice so far, once driving 8 laps in a rental race prepped swift. You hit it right on the head about being "scared, nervous, excited and anxious all at the same time". It was the most beautiful and frightening thing I have ever done. You have summed it up perfectly.
A quarter of the way through this article I started researching places where I could rent a race car, where to stay, and how to save the money for it... It'll happen one day
Sorry for my noobish question, but what's up with the graffiti around the track? Do people just go there and spray random graffiti around the track? Or is there some meaning behind it?
Indeed great article and fab coverage during the past week of the N24. I was there as well for the first time in my life. I cannot stop thinking about it. I am looking forward to next year.
The appeal is so huge, one cannot describe without being there at least once in a lifetime.
Great article Paddy! I was there last weekend for the first time in my life and I was just amazed. I had driven the track on numerous video games but there are no video games that could match the beauty and the horror and excitement and so on. It is just so different from anything else and the shear size of it.....wow! Hopefully the Ring will be there for many years to come. I will defineately try to take the opportunity and do a lap on the Ring with my own car as soon as possible.
@Dan3 This is Germany in general. Graffiti is everywhere. If there is a flat spot to tag, someone will tag it. No special meaning or anything "behind" it. Just tagged by people throughout the years.