A Tour of the Nürburgring, Germany

Visiting the Green Hell, Part II


Whilst visiting the Nürburgring, I discovered that you can do a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the Formula 1 circuit. By now I was totally hooked on the place, so leapt at the chance. Perhaps because the weather was shithouse, no-one else turned up for the 11am tour, so I had my own private guide.

Sebastian was a young bloke who clearly had a passion for motorsport, and a lot of knowledge about the legendary Nürburgring. He told me we would be checking out a little history from the original circuit, then moving on to the F1 track which was built in 1984. Out into the 7 degrees and drizzle we went (I’m still getting to grips with the fact that autumn weather in Germany is definitely winter weather in Australia), with our first stop outside the Dorint Hotel which lines the track’s main straight.

There lies a memorial stone to Otto Creutz, whose vision and drive (same pun twice in consecutive posts? You betcha) lead to the creation of the circuit way back in the 1920’s, and also the original foundation stone of the Nürburgring.

Thankfully when the foundation stone was relocated, the entire track didn’t fall down

From this spot, Sebastian also pointed out the original commentary box, which was once located on the main straight. He explained that since the Nürburgring circuit was over 20km long, and the commentator could see bugger all of it, he spent much of his time entertaining the crowd rather than actually calling the action.

‘Good morning Damen und Herren, a funny thing happened on the way to the Nürburgring…’

Old commentary box

Moving on, my guide took me to the old pit area, where each garage had been named in honour of a famous driver from the Nürburgring’s long history.

Old pits Nurburgring
old pits Nurburgring

Yep, things sure have changed in F1 since the old days….

Passing through the tunnel to the modern F1 track’s paddock, several plaques commemorate the past winners of the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring.

On the list is Australia’s own Sir Jack Brabham, who wore the garland in 1966, and was World Champion in ’59, ’60 and ’66.

F1 commemorative plaques
Nurburgring pits

We walked around the back of the paddock, through one of the pit garages and onto pit lane. I have to say, being right there next to the main straight, in the midst of the pits, was very, very cool.

The place was quiet…maybe too quiet…

BMW had a corporate event on, and although a little pedestrian compared to racing machines, it was great to see cars coming down the straight.

Next stop was race control, which looked a little like the NASA launch centre. With banks of monitors and work stations, this is where race officials monitor what’s happening around the circuit. Even on industry test days or when the track is hired for private drives, the entire track is under the watchful eye of staff in race control, and emergency assistance is always on standby.

Race control
’10, 9, ignition sequence start, 6,5…’

We then walked through what Sebastian explained is the waiting room for the race placegetters, where security is always present in case the drivers decide to bring on the biff to settle an earlier on-track altercation.

Nurburgring podium

Then onto the podium platform, where I was met with a roar from the adoring crowd. Sebastian told me that the podium, which is a little shabby it must be said, gets a cosmetic makeover before every race.

‘I’d like to thank my sponsors, and most of all you, the fans, as without you, there would be no Formula 1 etc etc…’

Media room

Our final stop was the media centre, where drivers front the press before and after a race. The room was massive, and provides workstations for hundreds of journos over a race weekend. It also hosts the drivers’ briefings before an event.

Felt a bit like I was back at school and had Friday afternoon detention

The private tour I had of the Nürburgring was a fantastic experience, and Sebastian’s enthusiasm for the place and its history was infectious. As we made our way back to the ticket desk, he casually brought up that the Nordschliefer, the original, legendary and lethal northern loop of the original Nürburgring circuit, was open for the public to drive that afternoon. I told him I though the track was only open on the coming weekend, when ‘Tourist Drives’ were scheduled. He assured me that I could drive the circuit that very afternoon. I told him I only had a Fiat 500 rental car, and he said that if I stick to the right of the circuit (road rules still apply on the Nordschleifer, at least with respect to only overtaking on the left), and indicate when I see a car in the mirror so they know I have spotted them, I would be fine. I told him to sign me up.

I was going to drive the Nürburgring.

Visit the Nürburgring official site here

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy The Nürburgring, Technology Museum Sinsheim

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