Car enthusiasts are familiar with the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit in Germany. Without a doubt, it has become the epicenter of motorsport. It is, however, more widely known as the fastest toll road in the world, allowing anyone with a permit to go around the ring completely.
For some, the word Nordschleife conjures up images of famous racing drivers from the 60s and 70s, struggling around the infamous track, risking their lives and limbs. Many will remember the “fascination” video on YouTube featuring the RUF CTR “Yellowbird” dancing around the corners of the ring with precision and driving control. Or even Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson trying to pull off a quick lap in a diesel Jaguar. Indeed, the inclusion of the Nürburgring in the PS game Gran Turismo has made the track a household name.
Carved through the dense forest of West Germany’s Eifel Mountains, the legendary Nürburgring has hosted some of the most iconic races since its inception nearly 100 years ago. There are two tracks on the Nurburgring complex, the famous Nordschleife (North Loop) and a 5.1km Grand Prix track. At 20.8 km, the Nordschleife is not only the longest running track in the world, but also considered one of the most dangerous. Indeed, its fearsome reputation attracts millions of people from all over the world to the Nürburgring.
For car manufacturers, the Nordschleife is the reference test circuit. A lab for top-secret testing, pushing their high-performance machines to the absolute limit. Undoubtedly, the variable track conditions at the Nürburgring allow automakers to fine-tune their new performance cars before they go into production.
A Brief History of Green Hell
Construction of the track began in 1925 and at the time involved around 3000 workers. The Nurburgring was originally divided into two sections, the longer 20.8 km northern loop (Nordschleife) and the 7.7 km southern loop (Sudschleife). The combination of the two tracks formed a gigantic 28.5 km racing circuit made up of 170 bends. After World War II, the Nordschleife became the main Formula 1 circuit in Germany. Motorsport royalty such as Juan Manual Fangio, Stirling Moss, Alberto Ascari and Jackie Stewart have claimed victories at the infamous track. Additionally, Austrian driver Niki Lauda became the first person to complete the original circuit in under seven minutes in 1975.
Although large parts of the track had undergone extensive repairs over the years, following F1 driver boycotts, the track was still considered too dangerous. In 1976, Niki Lauda’s near-fatal crash finally prompted organizers to end Formula 1 racing in the ring. As a result, a new modern Grand Prix track was immediately slated for construction covering the old South Loop (Sudschleife), measuring 5.1 km, and officially opened in 1984. To mark its opening, an exhibition race featuring featured nine Formula 1 champions driving identical Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Touring Cars marked the occasion. Among the driver selection was racing legend Ayrton Senna who won the race.
Modern day racing at the Nürburgring
Today, the Nordschleife remains popular among racing drivers and is still widely used for regular races every year, including the DTM championship, VLN endurance race, FIM Super bike and ADAC GT. However, in most cases the Grand Prix track and the North Loop are both combined for these popular events, forming a unique and challenging circuit.
The Nurburgring Nordschleife is an unforgiving race track
No other circuit in the world is as demanding as the Nürburgring. British racing driver, Jackie Stewart, dubbed the circuit “The Green Hell”, which seems rather fitting since the Nürburgring claimed the lives of almost seventy professional racing drivers.
The Nordschleife has 154 turns (33 left turns and 40 right turns), most of which are blind turns. Then there are the hairpin bends with huge crests and dips. The varying surface quality of the track features long smooth straights, as well as some incredibly bumpy parts. You also have to deal with the famous karussell, a 180 degree banked turn with a rough concrete surface known to break the suspension elements if it is not respected. Altitude changes can also occur suddenly. In addition, nearly 300 meters of elevation separate the highest and lowest point of the track. In addition, the Nürburgring somewhat lacks safety clearance zones and therefore requires precise control of vehicles. More often than not, this makes it incredibly difficult for novice track riders who can quickly get to grips with the barriers, destroying their expensive toys and egos.
Additionally, the weather in the area has a reputation for being unpredictable. This may vary from one part of the course to another and may result in hazardous road conditions.
The current Nürburgring lap record
The mighty Porsche 911 GT2 RS currently holds the title of fastest production car around the Nurburgring with a lap record of 6:43.30, completed by Porsche development driver Lars Kern in 2021. Fitted with the Manthey performance kit, the 700-hp Porsche broke its previous production vehicle record, set in 2017, by 4,747 in the GT2 RS. Additionally, Porsche now sits at the top of the table, followed by the Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series in second place, with an equally impressive time of 6:43.62.
Porsche also holds the current record for fastest race car around the Nürburgring with a scorching time of just 5:19:55, topped off by its thunderous 919 Hybrid Evo Le Mans Car at an average speed of 145 mph. Timo Bernhard broke all previous racing records, including racing driver Steffan Bellof’s record time of 6:11.13, in 1983, set in the Porsche 956 race car.