Nürburgring - Legend
T13...It seeped into my consciousness gradually. As a child, I remember Niki Lauda's famous crash there being on the news, not that I had any concept of geography at the time. I remember people saying that it was dangerous and that they weren't going to race there anymore. Having seen reports of the attempt by Mr. Lauda's Ferrari to flambé him, I don't think I would have disagreed. Little did I suspect I would find myself racing around that same piece of tarmac some thirty years later.
...Hatzenbach...Technically, it's a public toll-road. You buy a ticket form the office and insert it into the car-park style machine. The barrier lifts and off you go. Out onto the Nürburgring. The most incredible piece of road I've ever been on.
...Hocheichen...It has acquired more widespread fame in recent years. There have always the cognoscenti who knew. Adrenaline junkies you could identify by the sticker of the circuit map on the back of their cars. No label, no explanation - just a squiggly looping line that looked like a map of Ibiza. But it wasn't Ibiza. If you knew cars, you knew what it meant - Ring Veteran. Serious Driver. Been around the circuit that tried to barbeque Niki Lauda and lived to boast about it.
...Quiddelbacher-Höhe...This increase in profile is due to a number of factors. Firstly, certain German car magazines have dispensed with the minutiae and nuance of road-testing. If they wish to truly test a car, they simply hammer it round the Ring for a day or so and then print the best lap-time as a proxy for the excellence of the car. The faster the time, the more desirable the car must be, right? In retaliation, car manufacturers have taken to developing their new models by way of pounding round and round the circuit to prepare them for the inevitable magazine article. Plus, a little bit of racing DNA never hurt the breed - if it's good enough to handle the Ring, it's good enough for you guys to schlepp round to the shops in.
...Flugplatz...Latterly, technology has made it more accessible. In the past the serious car nut would own a much-watched and scratchy, but coveted video dating form the early 1980s obtained by special mail order showing Derek Bell in a Porsche 956 giving a demonstration ride around the Nürburgring to a camera the size of an ice cream machine. Or maybe Stefan Moser from the mid 1980s powersliding a RUF CTR1 around the circuit, his feet a blur of slippers and fluffy white socks. The video might be snowy and the sound shot from overuse, but the Car Nut will watch it repeatedly, scratching pace notes in a pad like an obsessive. Such great lengths are no longer required. advances in graphics capabilities mean that anybody with a PlayStation2 and the price of a copy of Gran Turismo can pick up an interactive guide.
...Schwedenkreuz...Perhaps a word or two of explanation are in order here. There are actually two circuits at the Nürburgring. The Southern loop (Südschleife) is a modern racetrack the measure of any in the world. It plays host to the Formula One circus every year. It's about 5km in length and it takes Michael Schumacher about a minute and a half to go around it. It's rightfully acknowledged as one of the main homes of German motorsport and I'm rightfully not allowed anywhere near it. But that's not the bit I'm talking about.
...Aremberg...The Northern loop (Nordschleife)is some four times longer and snakes through wooded countryside, not public the arenas and sterile run-off areas of the Formula One track. It rises and falls a couple of hundred metres throughout its length also - the highest ascent gradient is 18% and the steepest descent is 10% - considerably testing the courage of the driver. The feeling of narrowness of the track at speed, the twists and turns of the camber plotting to throw the unwary into the scenery. All these conspire to earn the Nordschleife the nickname "The Green Hell".
...Fuchsröhre...In addition there's about 80 different corners, a significant number of which are blind. If you're not familiar with the circuit layout, your first lap will probably take about 13 minutes. That's unheard of for a racetrack which can normally be comfortably strolled around in a reasonable time on foot. And that's the attraction of the Nordschleife. It's like nothing else on earth. But that's what makes it magical. Have a look and see for yourself.
...Adenauer-Forst...Here's a video of a professional racing driver, don't try this at home folk!
Are you ready for the next bit? Part II - The Rules