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What is The Nürburgring?

Jesse McGraw

The Nürburgring hosts a lot of different automotive events for everyone to enjoy, from Formula 1 races to car testing. So, what is the Nürburgring?

A Motorsports and Vehicle Testing Hotbed

Part of the Nurburgring track - Vehicle Valhalla on YouTube.com
Part of the Nurburgring track - Vehicle Valhalla on YouTube.com

The Nürburgring is approaching 100 years of service and in that time has become an automotive mecca. Tons of Formula 1 and Grand Touring races have taken place here, countless drivers have made their mark and learned from its turns, and car manufacturers use it as a time trial battleground in the chase for the fastest production car crown. But why? What makes the Nürburgring such a special place for motorsports and car manufacturers? We’re taking a look at the Nürburgring and the many unique components that make it the ultimate automotive playground.

What is the Nürburgring?

Nürburgring Nordschleife map - nuerburgring.de
Nürburgring Nordschleife map - nuerburgring.de

The Nürburgring is based in Nürburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany and was opened in 1927. It is a massive motorsports complex that can host 150,000 fans in attendance and currently features 2 different tracks that combine for 14 different racing circuits. The original track still in service is called the Nürburgring Nordschleife (North Loop) and has been dubbed “The Green Hell” by drivers.

Currently, the Nürburgring Nordschleife spans 20.8 kilometers (12.93 miles), is composed of 73 turns throughout the track, and there is a 307.7 meters (1009.51 feet) difference in elevation from the track’s lowest point to its highest point. The full Nürburgring track used to be much larger, but the Südschleife (south loop) and the starting area was redone in the 1980s to include a new track known as the GP-Strecke or Grand Prix Track.

Grand Prix Track map - nuerburgring.de
Grand Prix Track map - nuerburgring.de

The GP-Strecke was introduced as a safer alternative for Formula 1 races. The high speeds of the cars and the long distances for emergency vehicles to travel to accidents made the full Nürburgring track too dangerous for the volatile race cars. The GP-Strecke’s maximum size measures out to be 5.15 kilometers (3.2 miles) with 17 turns and a marginal elevation difference of 20 meters (65.62 feet). It’s not as daunting as the Nordschleife track, but spectators can see the cars speed by more frequently at least.

Both the Nordschleife and GP-Strecke are used for training purposes and track days when major racing events aren’t being held. The Nürburgring also offers an off-road course for ATV and 4×4 vehicle training. If learning how to handle a Porsche through the Nordschleife or mudding in a Suzuki Jimny is too much for you, there’s an indoor go-kart track that is pretty fun too.

Why Are New Cars Tested at the Nürburgring?

911 GT2 RS MR - newsroom.porsche.com
911 GT2 RS MR - newsroom.porsche.com

There’s been a lot of car manufacturers using the Nürburgring Nordschleife as a proving ground. Setting the fastest lap on this historic track is a true testament to a car’s performance. European brands like Lamborghini, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, and Porsche are at constant odds with each other as they try and have one of their models set the fastest production car track time. Non-European brands like Chevrolet, Dodge, and Nissan have made appearances on the top 100 list, but they’re just happy to beat their past model’s time it seems.

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The Porsche 911 GT2 RS MR is the reigning fastest road-legal sports car at Nürburgring with a lap time of 6:40.33 minutes set back in 2018, but that model was modified by Monthey-Racing. When it comes to straight up production vehicles, the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series has recently stolen the crown with a lap time of 6:48.04 minutes back in November of 2020. The Porsche 911 GT3 had that title for only two months before Mercedes came in, so I’m sure Porsche is already drafting up their next competitive sports car.

Mercedes AMG GT Black Series - GTBOARD.com on YouTube.com
Mercedes AMG GT Black Series - GTBOARD.com on YouTube.com

The Nürburgring Nordschleife is valuable to manufacturers with all the comparable data collected by recorded lap times and the available videos from those lap times. Engineers review the footage and take notes from the drivers to further tune and correct any shortcomings in the cars design. The Nürburgring is creating a competitive atmosphere, pitting car manufacturers against each other in an effort to create the greatest production cars we’ve ever seen.

Go Drive Your Own Car on the Nürburgring

Drivers in their own vehicles at Nurburgring - Vehicle Valhalla on YouTube.com
Drivers in their own vehicles at Nurburgring - Vehicle Valhalla on YouTube.com

Lucky for you, the Nürburgring isn’t closed off for just racing, manufacturer testing, and training courses. You can drive your very own vehicle on the Nürburgring Nordschleife or the GP-Strecke for a handful of euros. The only stipulations for driving on the tracks are that your car is well maintained and in working order, it isn’t a semi-truck or UTV, and that you follow the German road regulations. So, no record breaking speeds and you can only pass on the left, but you can still enjoy the curves of a famous race track.

If you do happen to hit a barrier or generate significant damage to the track during your visit, you’ll be forced to pay a hefty repair price and any event delays comes out of your pocket. Don’t let that scare you from trying it out though, it’s just a word of caution to keep it a controlled and fun experience. After the drive you can head over to the Nürburgring Ringwerk and enjoy some of the museum’s attractions or get something to eat. Nürburgring is kind of an odd place when you think about it, but I can’t wait to go someday and I’m sure you feel the same.

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Jesse McGraw
Jesse McGraw

Jesse's life-long car obsession began when he started collecting Hot Wheels as a child. He’s constantly keeping up with the latest car news and diving deep into automotive history. His automotive journey began with a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, only recently replaced by an impeccable 2014 Kia Soul. You can find him modifying and racing cars in video games when he’s not playing paintball or writing about cars.

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