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The Nürburgring "Nordschleife"

Introduction and a few words of caution

The Nürburgring Nordschleife... a famous, now historical race track, situated in the beautiful Eifel region in Germany. Still rated as the most demanding race track in the world. Also known as The Green Hell, or Grüne Hölle, or 20.8 km's of sheer fun. According to Sir Jackie Stewart: "The greatest and most challenging race circuit in the world". It used to be the German Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit until Niki Lauda's crash in 1976...

Modern Formula 1 circuits are between 4.2 km (Magny-Cours, France) and 6.9 km (Spa Francorchamps, Belgium) in length and may contain some 8 to 15 corners. This track is 20.8 km in length and contains 73 (that being the official number) corners! Add to this the altitude difference of around 300 meters between lowest and highest point on the track, several blind corners behind a crest, lack of run-off area (remember, this track existed before safety entered Formula 1), many bumps and dips, often slippery conditions, and you'll realize that this is not going to be a walk in the park.

So, if you're a novice: take it easy! Take plenty of time to learn the track. Study a map of the track. Read the safety leaflet and beginners instructions e.g. at www.nurburgring.org.uk. It is also a good idea to watch how the other drivers are doing. There are several nice spectator spots alongside the track, e.g. at Hatzenbach, Hocheichen, Pflanzgarten, Brünnchen, Breidscheid, Wehrseifen and especially at the sharp, tightening bend at Adenauer Forst where you'll find that many drivers run out of track space.

While on the track: check your mirrors often. Speed differences may be huge. If you intend to let another car past, stay on the right side, use your car's direction indicator (really, all cars have these!) to blink right, so the other driver knows you've seen him. Ignore the many spectators at certain locations alongside the track: there's nothing you have to prove to them, just concentrate on the track! Do not over-estimate your driving skills and leave some margin for error correction. It is very easy to seriously damage your (expensive) car, but bringing the car around safe and smooth is really a far better experience.
Forget about lap-times! You are not competing in a race, there is no price to win... but there's a lot to lose... After all, it's called Touristenfahrten! If you carry a mobile phone, please store the Nordschleife-Zufahrt emergency phone number: +49 (2691) 302215.

There's no need to own a fast car to enjoy the track. I drove the track for several years in a Volkswagen Bora 1.9 TDI and a Volvo S40 1.6D. Because I depend on the car for day to day use, I take it rather easy but learned that it still is a great pleasure. Speed is only a small fraction of the fun: the Nordschleife has many challenges to enjoy in any car. Remember, anyone can do 200+ km/h in a straight line on the Autobahn...

Having said this, there's no need to be afraid of driving the Nordschleife, provided that you remember that the primary control to drive is your brain and not your right foot! On the contrary, I encourage you to drive the Nordschleife in your own car, because you will learn (the handling and limitations of) your car better and as a result you will become a better, safer driver.

For pictures, see the Nürburgring sections in my photo gallery.

Driving Guidelines and some extra care needed at these spots

The Nordschleife can be overwhelming at first time around. It will take quite a few laps to learn the track layout any many more after that to work towards your driving skill limits, the limits of your car and the character of the track. Computer simulation (see below) helps to learn the track layout but can never compensate for real track time in different weather conditions. Like BBC Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson wrote: "... I was barreling over others, only to find myself at a hairpin bend that I could have sworn wasn't there last time around."

In general, the safest way to work your way through the curves is: reduce your speed before the corner, turn in late and gently on the throttle towards the exit of the corner. Or: slow in, fast out. If you turn in too early, you will run out of tarmac at or before the exit of the corner, especially at the curves that tighten at the exit!

For detailed study, there's an awesome document called the "Nordschleife Ideal Line" (PDF format) presented on the BMW M specials web site. Highly recommended reading !

There are certain spots at the track that I discovered to be somewhat tricky and definitely needing some extra care. In fact, every bend probably has its own story, but I picked the ones I struggled myself. You'll pass these in order:

Stay safe! Good luck and enjoy!

Simulator mode: the Nordschleife in Gran Turismo 4 (and 5) on the Sony Playstation 2 (and 3)

To learn the track layout in a choice of cars, look at the race simulator world: my choice is the Gran Turismo series on the Sony Playstation. Since I am not compatible with M$ Windows, I can't help you with games on that platform that include the Nordschleife (but if they exist, I'm sure Google knows...)

Links to other sites

nuerburgring.deOfficial Nürburgring GmbH web site.
nurburgring.org.ukBen Lovejoy's site - highly recommended!
20832.comNürburgring Fan project site by Mike Frison et. al.
nurburgring.nlA Dutch forum site for petrolheads addicted to the Nürburgring.
jwhubbers.nlJW's pages: useful tips and countless trip reports.
ring-world.nlPaskal's site: lots of advice, many pictures and trip reports.
mw-sportfoto.deMarc Weichert's site
ringfotograf.deOliver Wegen's site
racepicture.deJochen Merkle's site