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Nürburgring: 7 facts about the legendary race track
F1 is returning to one of the oldest and most famous race circuits in the world in the Red Bull Formula Nürburgring. Before we jet to Germany, here are seven thrilling facts about the ’Ring.
Some race tracks have legendary status among fans of international motorsport. Take Le Mans in Northern France, Spa in Belgium, Suzuka in Japan and then there's the famous Nürburgring in Germany with its legendary Nordschleife, which snakes through the Eifel mountains.
F1 hasn’t raced around the Nordschleife since 1976 but a collection of historic cars from F1's past are coming to entertain fans at Red Bull Formula Nürburgring as part of the 12h Nürburgring. Behind the wheel are some of the biggest names from F1’s glorious history and some famous faces from the wider world of motorsports.
Four-time F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel returns to F1 behind the wheel of the RB7 that took him to the first of his titles in 2011. He’s no stranger to the Nürburgring podium: Vettel took his first home Grand Prix win here in 2013 and also won here in F3, F3.5 and Formula BMW.
He’ll be joined by 13-time F1 race winner David Coulthard, who stood on the podium here when the Nürburgring Grand Prix track hosted the 1997 Luxembourg Grand Prix. Gerhard Berger and Ralf Schumacher will be showing off the Ferrari F1-412 T2 and Williams FW25-07 that they raced in F1. Mathias Lauda will be driving the Ferrari 312 B3-74 that his father Niki Lauda used on the Nordschleife in 1975 (see below) as he took his first world championship.
Coulthard and Forsberg hit Leipzig in F1 2-seater
David Coulthard takes RB Leipzig soccer player, Emil Forsberg, on a (very) fast-paced trip through the city.
There’ll be performances of FMX by Luc Ackermann and drift racing by the Red Bull Driftbrothers while another F1 favourite, Yuki Tsunoda, will be at the wheel of a fire-breathing Honda NSX GT3 Evo. “I’ve never driven at the Nürburgring before, so I’m really looking forward to it,” said the F1 star. “My Honda NSX GT3 Evo is an incredible car and a race-winning machine at the highest level of GT3 competition. The Nordschleife is a legendary circuit, I just tried it on the Gran Turismo video game and enjoyed it a lot.”
With 73 corners (officially at least), towering crests and deep descents, a constantly changing surface and the iconic Caracciola Carousel, the Green Hell is one of the classic challenges in motorsport. Here are seven need-to-know facts about the ’Ring…
The original Nordschleife circuit was bonkers
The original circuit was the longest in F1 measuring a fearsome 22.8km long and featured a mind-boggling 154 corners, with a difference of 300m between the highest and lowest points on the course. It was undeniably the most dangerous track in F1 with its twisting, undulating and unforgiving corners, and the countless gearshifts that they demanded.
Following an incredible 1968 drive to victory through heavy rain and dense fog while nursing a broken wrist, Jackie Stewart christened the track the Green Hell – and the name stuck. But that win – by a massive 4 minutes 3.2 seconds – established the Scot as one of the greats of the sport, the natural successor to his friend Jim Clark and he went on to win here twice more.
It’s not just a race track, it’s a toll road
If you want to test your wheels and your mettle, you can turn up and drive around Nordschleife – it costs €25 a lap, €30 at weekends. This is because in 1925, when the ADAC set about developing a purpose-built race circuit, it pragmatically decided it should have the same characteristics as German roads so that it could double as a test track.
The mayor of Adenau, Dr Otto Creutz, who had been a prominent civil servant in Berlin, became the driving force in bringing motor racing to the picturesque but impoverished region. He proposed the “first mountain, race and test track” be built near the Nürburg castle. Around two years later, on 18 June 1927, the course was inaugurated with the Eifel Race for motorbikes.
One day later, the first car race took place on the ’Ring, won by Germany’s Rudolf Caracciola – the track's most iconic curve is named after him while Dr Creutz is commemorated with a plaque at the circuit.
The Nordschleife is a legendary circuit, I just tried it on Gran Turismo and enjoyed it a lot
F1 keeps coming back to the Nürburgring
F1 made its first appearance here in 1951 when Alberto Ascari drove his Ferrari to victory in the first F1 race on the 22.810 km Nordschleife. From then until 1976, the track became a cult favourite, hosting either the German or European Grands Prix. But while popular, it had a fearsome reputation. Returning in 1984, F1 drivers took on the shorter Grand Prix circuit, which has been redesigned and modified over the years.
From 1986 and 1994, as well as between 2014 and 2019, F1 stayed away from the Nürburgring. The last time the premier class made a guest appearance on the Ring was in 2020 for the Eifel Grand Prix. F1 hasn’t returned to Germany since. “I think we won't see a Grand Prix in Germany for a while,” said Vettel. “I think it’s a pity, but I understand why. An F1 race is very expensive for the country and Germany just seems too pragmatic to me.
“Also maybe the decisive pressure from the German car industry is missing. It's a pity for fans, but there are races in neighbouring countries like Holland, Belgium and Austria.”
On September 9, 2023 we will bring the Formula 1 cars back to the legendary Nordschleife:
A top-class motorsport event awaits you at Red Bull Formula Nürburgring. Look forward to legends of the sport on two and four wheels, unique show runs and star performers.
There are a LOT of fastest lap records
As both a race and test circuit, there’s a dizzying number of fastest lap records to match the different categories, but here are the crucial ones:
Fastest lap of the Nordschleife during a race weekend
- Time: 6:11.13
- Driver: Stefan Bellof
- Car: Porsche 956
- When: 1983 Nurburgring 1000km
The record for the fastest lap on the 12.9-mile track belongs to the brilliant Stefan Bellof, who drove a Porsche 956 around it in 6:11.13, averaging 125.6 mph in qualifying for the 1983 Nurburgring 1000km. You have to feel for his team-mate Jochen Mass who earlier in the day set a new lap record at 6:16.85.
Fastest lap of the Nordschleife not during a race weekend
- Time: 5:19.546
- Driver: Timo Bernhard
- Car: Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo
- When: 2018
In 2018, Porsche felt like celebrating. Having won Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship with the 919 Hybrid, they set about claiming a few more records as a 70th anniversary present. Timo Bernhard, who had triumphed at the 24Hr with Mark Webber and Brendon Hartley, drove a 919 Evo into the record books by blowing away Bellof’s 35-year-old record by lapping in just 5:19.546.
Fastest lap of the Nordschleife in F1
- Time: 7:06.4
- Driver: Clay Regazzoni
- Car: Ferrari 312T
- When: 1975 German Grand Prix
The last time F1 raced on the 22.835 km version of the Nordschleife, which stood from 1971–82, it was in 1976 when Niki Lauda had his near-fatal crash. The previous year, the Austrian became the first and only F1 driver to lap the circuit in less than seven minutes as he claimed pole with a time of 6 minutes and 58.6 seconds. But the lap record belongs to his team-mate, Swiss racer Clay Regazzoni who set his time the following day during the race.
Fastest lap of the current GP-Strecke (since 2002)
- Time: 1:28.139
- Driver: Max Verstappen
- Car: Red Bull Racing RB16,
- When: 2020 Eifel Grand Prix
For the record, the two-time F1 World Champion set the fastest lap on Lap 60 of the first and only Eifel Grand Prix in those feverish days of 2020. Verstappen is the third Red Bull Racing driver to win there after Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.
Four Grands Prix – One ’Ring to rule them all
In 2020, the Nürburgring was back in Formula 1 hosting the first-ever Eifel Grand Prix. It was the fourth F1 race designation overall in Nürburgring's history. It's also the only track to have hosted so many F1 Grands Prix by so many different names.
- German Grand Prix x 26 (1951-1954, 1956-1958, 1961-1976, 1985, 2009 and 2013)
- European Grand Prix x 12 (1984, 1995-1996, 1999-2007)
- Luxembourg Grand Prix x 2 (1997 and 1998)
- Eifel Grand Prix x 1 (2020)
The long road to the top: In our film 'Unfiltered: Horner and Newey', the two masterminds talk about how they brought Red Bull to the top of Formula 1.
Unfiltered: Horner and Newey
Oracle Red Bull Racing's team principal and chief technical officer reflect on their success.
It has a roller coaster
Not many tracks have a roller coaster within the circuit. Suzuka has one next door at Mobilityland, the Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi has one at nearby Ferrari World and the Hungaroring occasionally has a Soviet-era one near the circuit – but it’s terrifying.
No circuit has one running alongside the pit straight – not even the Nürburgring! But it did once. Back in the early 2000s, the circuit’s owners decided to create a vast €215 million motorsport-theme tourist attraction with the ’Ring as the centrepiece and surrounded by hotels, apartments, a shopping mall, a 15,000-square metre theme park and the world’s quickest roller coaster. The so-called ’Ring Racer coaster would accelerate from 0-217 kph (135 mph) in just 2.5 seconds, making it quicker than an F1 car.
But it hit a couple of snags: firstly, they went so far over budget that some people were sent to jail and, secondly, the ’Ring Racer didn’t really work. In 2009 a series of explosions caused several injuries which delayed the coaster’s opening for several years. It did get up and running in 2013 but was swiftly shut again as the season was ending. In 2014, the circuit announced it would not run again. It’s still there, though.
Where did the Nürburgring get its name?
The Ring owes its name to Nürburg Castle, which stands at the top of the second-highest hill in the Eifel mountains (at an altitude of about 676m) and on a clear day you can see the spires of Cologne Cathedral 85km away. The castle dates back to the 12th Century (it was first mentioned in 1166) and was built by Count Ulrich von Are.
In the following three centuries, the castle was constantly expanded but almost fell into disrepair in the early 16th Century after it was looted variously by armies from southern Europe, the Netherlands, Sweden and France during the 30 Years War. The Nürburg stands within the North Loop of the Nürburgring and can be seen from many places while driving around.
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