Classic circuits: Nurburgring Nordschleife
Hatzenbach, Flugplatz, Adenau, Bergwerk, Karussell, Wippermann, Pflanzgarten. Names that for over 80 years have put the fear of God into the very bravest of single-seater, sportscar and touring car aces.
Yet these famous corners form just seven links in a terrifying, 14-mile chain of torturous asphalt in West Germany’s Eifel mountains better known as the Nurburgring ‘Nordschleife’.
The construction of this mecca of motorsporting madness began in September 1925. Designed initially as the ultimate proving ground for the German automotive industry, it soon became the place where the country’s formidable racing talent practised its art. Grand Prix heroes Rudolf Caracciola, Manfred von Brauchitsch, Bernd Rosemeyer and Hermann Lang would all uphold the ’Ring’s fearsome reputation as a ‘real-man’s’ circuit during the 1930s.
Completed in the spring of 1927, the new circuit – with over 150 corners it was comfortably the longest purpose-built race track in the world – began to host big events, as well as being made available to the toll-paying public in the evenings!
Pre-war Grands Prix and sportscar races were the international mainstay of the Nordschleife. Indeed the world sportscar championship included a race there as late as 1983 – the circuit’s final year as an international venue. If you’ve already watched the fabulous onboard footage of Derek Bell in the Rothmans Porsche 956, you’ll know that the film was made during practice for the ’83 1000km Group C event.
Formula 1 didn’t enjoy quite as long a stay of execution at the Nordschleife. Following Niki Lauda’s fiery shunt from which he was lucky to emerge alive in the 1976 German GP – the Austrian’s Ferrari 312 crashed at Bergwerk – the authorities called time on the circuit’s suitability to host world championship GPs. The race moved to a new, shorter and sanitised three-mile circuit using parts of the original Nordschleife’s start/finish straight.
Fortunately for purists, the Nordschleife remained open for national events and its one remaining big international: the 24 Hours. It also harks back to its origins as the world’s hairiest trackday venue. Yup, you can still drive your road car on the hallowed asphalt for a dozen Euros or so per lap. Before Germany’s Health & Safety Executive decides that this is wholly irresponsible, I’d urge you to get over there and try it before it becomes a housing estate-cum-shopping complex. Just make sure you keep an eye in the mirror – they’ll be full of 600bhp Porsche 911s and leather-clad lunatics on superbikes…
Nurburgring Nordschleife key events
World Championship Grands Prix: 22
1951-54; 1956-58; 1961-69; 1971-1976
World Championship Sportscar races: 28
World Championship motorcycle Grands Prix: 30
50cc: 70; 72; 74; 76; 78; 80
125cc: 1955, 58; 70; 72; 74; 76; 78; 80
250cc: 1955, 58; 70; 72; 74; 76; 78; 80
500cc: 1955, 58; 70; 72; 74; 76; 78; 80
1. Following a 1967 F1 car around the track. Can anyone name the driver and car? Shot from on-board what looks like a SuperVee.
2. Complete lap from the 1975 German F1 GP, featuring Niki Lauda in the lead car. A lot of the film was shot from the air and gives a different insight into the layout of the track
3. 1962 film and featuring the 1937 Mercedes-Benz W125. Including great on-board footage from the mighty Merc driven by Hermann Lang, with commentary from Graham Hill.
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