Somewhere in the Midwestern part of Germany lays a fearsome race track called the Nurburgring, a place where almost every car manufacturer from around the world tests its new cars, mostly prototypes, to the limit. It’s safe to say that the Nordschleife part of the track is the benchmark in car performance. Reputations are made and broken around this incredible track. But why the Nurburgring? It’s probably the name, the long history and it’s challenging lay-out; let’s find out what the fuss is all about.
We have to go back all the way to the 1920s. In the hills of the German Eifel in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate the unemployment-rate is booming. In order to create jobs for the local people and boost the local economy, the government decided that the best way to achieve that is to build a race track. The track was set to be created around the tiny village and the medieval castle of Nurburg, about 43 miles south of Cologne. The castle was also part of the original logo of the Nurburgring. The track also enclosed two other villages, namely Breidscheid and Quiddelbach. After a few years of hard work with several casualties the track was established in the spring of 1927. In the summer of that same year, the German Grand Prix took place at the Nurburgring.
When the track was opened it covered a total length of 17.5 miles and counted 174 bends. It was called the "Gesamtstrecke", which means combined track. It included two parts, the Sudschleife (South-course) and the Nordschleife (North-course). The Gesamtstrecke was last used in major race events in 1939.
After the Second World War, racing returned to the Eifel. From 1950 onwards, the German F1 Grand Prix’s were held on the Nordschleife (except for 1959 when it was driven on the Berlin AVUS-track) all the way to 1976. Due to safety changes the length of the track increased and decreased several times. Also the number of bends where brought down to 147. In the 1970s Scottish driver and multiple World Champion Jacky Stewart gave the track it’s famous name "The Green Hell". The woods that surround the track provided the green and the hell was proven by Austrian driver and reigning champion at that time, Niki Lauda. In the 1974 Grand Prix Lauda had a horrific crash in the second lap of the race. He crashed his Ferrari into the Armco at high speed due to a mechanical failure and almost burned alive. He managed to survive thanks to the help from other drivers who risked their owned lives to save Lauda. He was badly burned on his face but he was back behind wheel at the last race of the season and won the championship again the following season. In that season the German Grand Prix moved to the Hockenheimring because the Nurburgring was considered too dangerous.
Formula 1 returned to the Nurburgring in 1984 but now on the new Grand Prix Strecke. This part of the Nurburgring is situated where the old Sudschleife used to be. The Nordschleife is used nowadays mostly for endurance racing like the 24h of the Nurburgring and the so-called "Touristenfahrten" or Tourist-drives. The track is than opened for motorsport-enthusiasts as a one way toll-road without speed limitations.
In the 83 years of racing, the Nurburgring claimed a total of 76 lives during official tests and races.