Nürburgring Nordschleife: the Notorious Automotive Green Hell
As one of the oldest, longest, most complex purpose built race tracks in the world, Nürburgring has been a proving ground for many generations of drivers for more than ninety years. The roots of the track can be traced to September 1925 when the construction of Gustav Eichler’s design began around the village of Nürburg.
First race was held in the summer of 1927
The track was opened on June 18, 1927, with motorcycle race won by Toni Ulmen. A day later, the automobile race was held and the winner was the legendary pre-war German driver Rudolf Caracciola. Since its beginnings, the full Gesamtstrecke has been divided into Nordschleife and Südschleife.
Tazio Nuvolari and Bernd Rosemeyer were among many drivers who participated in the pre-war Grand Prix events. At 15:06.1, the official Gesamtstrecke record is held by Louis Chiron who drove his Bugatti Type 35C in 1929 German Grand Prix.
Nürburgring Nordschleife is the most beautiful and the most demanding Grand Prix track ever
Gesamtstrecke gave way for Nordschleife as the official Grand Prix layout, driven from 1947 to 1970. The first car to break a 10-minute mark was the highly aerodynamic 1959 Abarth-Alfa Romeo 1300 Berlinetta, designed by Luigi Colani. The fifties also saw the introduction of an endurance event called the 1000km Nürburgring, and in 1961, a sub 9 minutes record was broken by Phil Hill, who completed a lap in 8:55.2 in the Ferrari 156 F1 car.
Safety always was the problem at Nordschleife
In the late sixties, the development of Formula One cars made the track even less safe than it was, resulting in the Hohenrain chicane before the start/finish straight in 1967. After the 1968 Grand Prix victory, Jackie Stewart nicknamed Nordschleife as “The Green Hell”, which is a name that will always stick to the track.
In 1970, a new event called 24 hours of Nürburgring has been introduced, and in the same year, Formula One drivers boycotted the track, which led to the moving of German Grand Prix to Hockenheimring.
Formula One left Nürburgring Nordschleife after 1976
A series of changes occurred from 1971 to 1976, when the track was discounted again. In 1975, Niki Lauda was also the first person to lap Nordschleife in less than seven minutes (6:58.2), a record which hasn’t been broken until 1983 when Stefan Bellof did 6:11.13 in a Group C Porsche 956 while qualifying for the 1983 1000km Nürburgring event.
However, after Lauda’s near fatal 1976 crash, the Nordschleife was boycotted again and Formula One never returned to the circuit, which earned its place among the deadliest race tracks in the world. All that led to the construction of a new circuit in 1981. The Nurburgring Grand Prix Circuit was opened in 1984. Since no major racing events have been held at Nordschelife from 1984 onwards, Bellof’s time stands as Nordschleife’s official all-time record, and at 6:25.91, the late driver also holds the in-race record.
24 Hours of Nürburgring is the highlight of the season at Nordschleife
Nowadays, Nürburgring is hosting many contemporary and classic events including RCN/CHC Series, VLN Series, 24 Hours of Nürburgring, and since 2015, the round of the World Touring Car Championship. As expected, the highlight of the season is the 24-hour long race which attracts as many as 300.000 spectators, more than 200 cars and over 700 drivers, ranging from amateurs, gentleman racers and enthusiasts to former F1 drivers and factory team drivers. Such a race deserves a place among the greatest motorsport events in the world.
Nürburgring is still the best automotive proving ground in the world
The Nordschleife is also a proving ground for production and non-production cars. It is a place where every second matter and where battles are as fierce and exciting as in the days when Formula One drivers were cheating death on its curves and straights. The current production street-legal record holder is the Lamborghini Huracan LP 640-4 Performante, driven by Marco Mapelli in October 2016. His lap time was 6:52.01.
Matter of heated debates
Until 2017, the fastest non-street-legal car was the Pagani Zonda R driven by Marc Basseng in 2010. The Zonda did 6:47.50. In May 2017, Peter Dumbreck broke a record in a NextEV NIO EP9, the 1,360-hp all-electric car. His lap time was 6:45.90.
Of course, the Nordschleife records are always a matter of heated debates and speculations, as they prove to be just another battlefield for leading car manufacturers.
Youtube video – Pagani Zonda R lapping the Nürburgring
Try it yourself to become a part of the history
To sum it all up, the best way to experience Nürburgring Nordschleife is to drive it yourself, as the public access to the track has always been granted to the visitors seeking for more than just a drive around beautiful German countryside.
Since 1985, Nürburgring also hosts a music festival called Rock am Ring, which attracts the most popular rock bands in the world. Despite numerous changes, controversies and recent financial problems, Nordschleife still is and will always be the sacred place for every car lover in the world!