It’s been a long time coming but finally, the light at the end of the tunnel is emerging. After months of teasing us with the promise of a light at the end of the tunnel, Hesse’s famous Autobahn racetrack has been repaved and is set to host Germany’s popular sport event, the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, which takes place on May 27 this year. While we wait for the ring to be reborn, here are some interesting facts about the German classic:
The racetrack was first built in 1913 and served as a training ground for the prestigious Mercedes-Benz racing team. It also saw regular use as a public event and occasional motorcycle races. In World War II, the track was heavily damaged and had to be closed down. After several years of neglect, in the early 1960s West Germany decided to invest in the track’s revival. Between 1963 and 1967, the track was completely rebuilt. On September 27, 1967, the newly renovated and expanded racetrack was officially opened to the public.
The track consists of 14 turns, 12 of which are banked. The first turn is a right hander, followed by two long straights. The final turn is also a right hander, but this time the drivers want to keep their cars on the right side of the track. If they can do so, they’ll complete the race. The track is 3.8 km long and just over a mile wide. With its straights, fast lane, and iconic banked curves, it’s not hard to see why the Nürburgring is considered one of the greatest sports arenas in the world.
With its grandstands, paddock, and media centre, the Nürburgring is quite a media gathering place. The track has hosted the German Grand Prix nine times and currently, it is the home of the ADAC Formula 4 championship, which happens this year on April 22-23. The track has also hosted the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice; in 1967 and in 2013. While the grandstands and paddock are available for public use, the media centre is only accessible to media members. The track has also hosted the International Motorcycle Festival three times. In 1966, 1980, and 2014.
Despite its storied history and incredible popularity, the 24 Hours of Nürburgring is quite a humble affair. The organizers and spectators don’t have too much money to spend on expensive-looking live feeds or hi-def commentary. To keep costs down, they have to be creative. Fortunately, they have two awesome sponsors – Allianz and HESS – who both happen to be car and insurance company. So, as you might imagine, they offer great prizes for the races. For example, starting in 2019, the Allianz 24 Hours of Nürburgring will award £100,000 (GBP 76,100) in cash, in addition to the regular prize pool of £400,000 (GBP 304,400). With five seats available in the Allianz garage for the entire duration of the race, this is quite the social gathering place for teams and friends. Especially since Allianz is a member of the teams’ association and provides their drivers with the best possible support throughout the entire season.
With its wide, winding roads and beautiful countryside, it’s no wonder why the Germans hold on to the Autobahn creed of “Rennen ist Leben” (racing is life). While we don’t have any specific evidence, it’s quite likely that the smell of freshly mown grass and burning rubber permeates the grandstands and trackside venues. This is because the track is in a quite rural area of Hesse and the paddock and main straight both have this wonderful aroma. When the cars are lined up for the starting grid and given the green flag, the whole place comes to life. What more could you ask for?
Hess feels that the Nürburgring is an integral part of German culture, having been a regular feature on the country’s sporting calendar for more than a century now. While a brand new asphalt surface and improved facilities will certainly help its cause, the track’s popularity will only stem from the memories of its former and current residents.