Column: Peter Brock on the Legacy of the Nürburgring

Story by Peter Brock • Photograph by J.G. Pasterjak

My wife, Gayle, and I recently had the opportunity to revisit the Nürburgring, the famous and historic track in the small town of Nürburg, Germany. This is the place that gave rise to such amazing images as Dan Gurney getting his Porsche racer airborne.

We had last been at “the Ring” about 12 years ago. This time the changes were strikingly visible even before we reached the track. It and a single hotel used to be about the only things in town. Now, as we rounded one of the hundreds of curves in the road leading from the Frankfurt Airport, we saw impressive, large, modern race shops and European headquarters for companies like Hyundai, GM and Aston Martin Racing.

Where once there was only the Dorint Hotel, perfectly located at the entrance to the front straight, there’s now also the huge Nürburgring Info Center flanked by the Lindner Hotel and even a second “overflow” hotel with an additional 500-plus rooms if needed. When last there, we stayed at a motel in one of the surrounding small towns, as the Dorint filled to capacity quickly on race weekends. Not only does the Lindner have a nice restaurant, but others have sprung up around the area as well.

After existing in its quaint state for decades, why is the Nürburgring seeing all of this growth and commercial interest? The answer, we were told, is that there’s been a surge in historic racing as well as nostalgia surrounding a track that fans can drive on and that has not been changed over time.

We classic car guys have talked endlessly of how today’s cars can be without soul and impossible to work on—vessels to be used and then replaced, not repaired, just like so many of today’s electronic devices.

The effect in Europe has been a measurable increase in classic car interest. The Nürburgring now hosts the Nürburgring Classic as well as a popular series called the Oldtimers that includes an Oldtimers Grand Prix, plus numerous other club, drift and factory-sponsored events. The Ring has also become the place to set speed records, experiences typically shared via videos posted on YouTube.

The track, which is a series of public roads, is open to the public when it’s not closed for race activity. There are even particular events, such as time trials, where the road is considered open and race cars must have street-legal registration to participate. When it is open to the public, Ring Taxis take visitors for thrilling rides—14 miles with 73 turns in all!

I’m not a big fan of commercialization, but it suits the Nürburgring well. Instead of being forced to stay in the outlying areas, we found a room at the Lindner, where we effortlessly walked to and from the track multiple times a day. We enjoyed bratwurst and pommes frites at sidewalk cafes. All staff spoke English, which should certainly not be expected when traveling, but was nice.

The cars were great, too. A prewar Alfa caught my eye early on, though its pit area eluded me, preventing further inspection. Seeing an original, unrestored, raced-hard Borgward was a treat. It was the car that should have won the Carrera Panamericana race against Porsche (some interesting history you can no doubt find online). There was lots of American muscle, too, with Mustangs, ’Cudas and a couple of Daytona Cobra Coupe and GT40 recreations, plus numerous and varying BMWs and Porsches. It is Germany, after all.

We posted some pics on Instagram and Facebook, which got responses indicating that the Nürburgring is a fairly popular bucket-list item. Be assured, you can now visit the Ring without needing a lot of insider information. It’s easy. I would recommend, however, dressing in layers: The elevation of the area, surrounded as it is by low-lying valleys, creates its own weather. Locals assured us that no matter what the forecast shows, the clouds and misty rain persist. When the sun appears, you’ll want to be in a short-sleeved shirt. And when the sun goes behind the clouds and the wind picks up, you’ll want a heavy jacket. You won’t mind it a bit, though.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Nurburgring and Peter Brock articles.
Comments
View comments on the CMS forums
slantsix
slantsix Reader
7/2/20 2:57 p.m.

The Ring is one of those fantasy land bucket list excursions in my mind.

 

Although I have not been to most of the great or small notable tracks in north america, I have been to the Nürburgring / Nordschlife/Grüne Hölle.

 

It was an awesome experience, got to drive 2 laps on it in my rented Nissan Qashqai. We were on our honeymoon and I would like to go back someday for an event of some sort.

 

Covid19 makes me lust for exceptional car dreaming trips like that again!

 

Greg

 

 

HolyRoller
HolyRoller New Reader
7/3/20 3:58 p.m.

Yes, yes - I was fortunate to be able to attend the "Old-Timers" weekend in 2012 & 2013. There was an open paddock so pictures were so available, and not huge crowds, so track action shots weren't difficult either. Probably my best race attendances ever - (includes Spa and Monza F1). 

Walking in from parking we spotted a pristine '54 Vette in the lot. living in Europe was a dream

Kevin

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia Dork
7/3/20 8:37 p.m.

probably 20 years or more VW had an event with the most one make car driving at the same time ....

of course it was the Golf  and one of the most boring events I ever went too.....

at least the other time when the vintage VW club got permission and all of us got to lap it in out street VW ,  I had my VW camper then,.....

its far enough away from any big cities that they will not be building housing tracks nearby like Laguna Seca.

 

Our Preferred Partners
uXZvEliVs4IZkt8Cu5LJsNvxSrNoQFidtiCazNAw8dHG4IkQRwCoeLM6htCepju4