Homage to the Nordschleife
As long as you’ve got wheels and a license, it’s open to you. Yes, you. But careful. You still have to play by the rules. For me, the car park at the Nordschliefe is as mad as the track. All petrolhead life is here, from the Vauxhall Corsas of boys who’ve just passed their tests to the Porsche 911GT3s of the bankers and brokers whose means eclipse their abilities. Get talking to the blokes with the ratty—looking old hot hatches and 3-series BMWs with the stripped-out cabins, bigger brakes and sticky tyres; these are the real ‘Ring-weapons, and some advice from their drivers on lines and entry speeds might keep you out of the Armco at €500 per metre. Best car park sight ever? Belgian guy strapping his toddler children into their child seats in the back of his Audi RS4 and putting their cycling helmets on, before donning full Nomex himself and taking them for their first lap of the Green Hell. Mad.
Germany’s first international-standard, permanent racing circuit opened on June 18th 1927 and had required a grant of 14.1 million Reichsmarks to build and a construction team of 2500 to squeeze in the course’s 174 punishing corners (84 right-handers and 88 left).
Since its opening, the Nordscheife has been open to anyone with a road-legal car or motorbike (with a noise limit of 95 dB) for “touristehnfahrten”. This takes place over a shortened 13-mile track. There are no general speed limits, though certain sections have restrictions to reduce noise and hazard. The track is heavily monitored by police helicopters to ensure that everyone has fun in moderation. In addition, any crashed vehicle is checked for stopwatches or other time keeping devices, which, if found, can render a drivers insurance void.
The beginning of the ‘ring’s history was full of the success stories of German car companies; of the 11 Grand Prix held, Mercedes had taken 6, Auto Union 4 and a single victory to Bugatti in 1929 (though, it would seem that this anomaly has been corrected in more recent times with the handing over of Bugatti to Volkswagon). The ultimate non-German win came in 1935 to Tazio Nuvolari and his three-year-old, 3.2 litre Alfa Romeo P3 infront of a crowd of 300 000 dismayed Germans, including Adolf Hitler. Mercedes and Auto Union had ploughed time and money into taking weight off of the bodywork off their vehicles in order to put in bigger engines. After a mixed race of biased pit stops and ballsy driving from Nuvolari, he found himself overtaking Manfred von Brauchitsch due to a burst tyre to take first position. Fortunately, Nuvolari was able to give the organisers a copy of the Italian anthem to play as he took his laurels; in their over confidence they had not thought to have any anthem other than Germany’s ready to play.
Though the ring has been the scene of many an epic clash, the balls-out, hair racing character of a typical day at the Nordschleife can be summed up in this epic clash between a 911 GT3 and a Dodge Viper. Note the plethora of 3 series and hot hatches (as well a one pesky Lambo) that conspires against the Viper pilot to exploit the advantage of his straight line speed.
This is the essence of thrashing fun. Long live the Nurburgring!
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