Save the ‘Ring

12/27/2010 @ 2:29 pm, by Jensen Beeler3 COMMENTS

No, we’re not encouraging you to step away from any planned New Years Eve wedding proposals, but the Nürburgring Nordschleife does apparently need your help. Known throughout the motorsports community simply as the ‘Ring, the Nürburgring Nordschleife track plays host not only to car and motorcycle enthusiasts, but also serves as a formidable test track used by many OEMs when developing new vehicles (recently the track has also been a place for manufacturers to lay bragging rights for quickest lap times in sports cars).

It seems however that the ‘Ring, despite its popularity with track enthusiasts, is not the profitable endeavour that the German government thought it would be. Four years ago plans began to be implemented that would see other attractions added to the Nürburgring venue, which have reportedly done nothing to help boost the profitability of the track, and now in May of this year the ‘Ring was turned over to the same pair of businessmen responsible for that transformation, with the goal of boosting the track’s revenue, and that’s where the controversy starts.

With prices to drive on the Nürburgring Nordschleife getting a substantially increase, Save the Ring proponents have been quick to point out that the ‘Ring’s new owners, Kai Richter & Jörg Lindner, have no racing background and have put non-racing elements, like a roller-coaster and hotel, in the property instead of building things like a new parking lot and completing track maintenance.

While we’re not sure what the lack of a racing background has to do with anything (racing licenses are rarely substituted for a business degree in the real world), other than it’s a similar argument made by Harley-Davidson fanatics who are still angry that Keith Wandell doesn’t ride a motorcycle, despite the CEO’s business acumen and ability to trim the fat from the Milwaukee company, the ‘Ring does seem to be in roughly €350 million of debt, and could face having its doors closed if revenues aren’t increased.

While the ‘Ring’s history as a motorsports park has brought the 12.93 mile German track to a special place in the hearts of car and motorcycle enthusiasts, the fact seems to remain that the Nürburgring isn’t a sustainable business adventure in its current form. At issue seems to be a tug-of-war between old school ‘Ring fanatics, who wish to see the Nordschleife remain a pure and cheap motorsports venue, and new-school profit seekers who see the ‘Ring’s massive property footprint as being useful for more than one purpose, and that the admission fee to the race course needs to adjusted to a more reasonable/profitable level.

At roughly €22 per lap (cheaper if you buy more laps at a time), we could see why skyrocketing ticket prices to ride on the ‘Ring would be an issue with both fans and professionals, who will see that change translate into less euros in their pockets (auto industry groups that rent the track out, are reportedly seeing a 5x increase in rental costs, according to the Save the Ring advocacy group). But still consider how expensive a traditional track day is for most enthusiasts, and the price to ride the Nürburgring Nordschleife is an absolute bargain.

With the amount of grandstanding that’s going on around this issue, it’s difficult to tell who really is fighting the good fight in this situation, and we imagine the truth is something closer to the middle. At less than one euro per kilometer, the Nürburgring Nordschleife is an extremely cheap track day option, that promises less hassle and technical know-how for riders and drivers to get on the track. From this perspective, a hike in track admission fees seems more than reasonable, but with unconfirmed news of over-reporting admission figures (to the tune of six-fold the actual numbers) does seem to suggest some mismanagement is going on at the ‘Ring. Regardless of your stance, the Nürburgring Nordschleife is in a financial predicament, and something in the track’s management directive needs to change in order for it to continue to operate and be profitable.

Source: Save the Ring, Jalopnik, & Autoblog

  • Thank you for this weigthed article! Please consider you are NOT at a track day, when driving the Nordschleife on Tourist Days. Normal road traffic legislation applies. Even for that famous road that puts the price tag into a little different perspecitve.

    Please keep stay informed. We reckon it’s just the beginning of the end.

  • Other Sean

    Sad story. This venue has gained a mythic quality about it, at least for me over here stateside. I’m going to Germany in June, but with no access to a proper bike or car, and not wanting to pay to rent one, a trip to see Sabine seems unlikely. :(
    It is a bit pricey, despite Jensen’s parallel to trackdays. I’m guessing it’s around $35 a lap. And that makes learning the track expensive. Sure, you can do one lap, but that’s no fun. You don’t know the course, and you’ll be getting run over by all the hot cars that frequent it.

  • CeeDub

    As someone who has actually lapped the Ring, I can tell you it’s certainly nothing like a track day (disclosure: my track day experience is limited to NESBA). First and foremost, what Mike says above is correct, the Ring is not a track but a public toll road. An “off” on this track will come at hefty costs to the driver should you bump into anyone or anything (i.e. a barrier). There’s also no real regulation of drivers once they enter the “track”. So while traffic legislations techinically apply, it’s a free-for-all and you’re hoping those driving/riding around you have a clue what they’re doing since anyone that can buy a ticket can operate whatever vehicle they wish (i.e. a coach bus, I’ve seen it).

    I do have to argue a point that “Other Sean” brings up. A single lap of the Ring is more than worth the price of admission, which I guess is why the new owners are raising rates. It truly is an unbelievable experience unlike any other “track” oriented moments I’ve ever had. It’s the mix of danger, unknown, history, speed, etc that really gets the adrenaline going. And I WAS one of those who were getting passed by significantly faster cars. In fact, this is probably one of the few places you could operate a “slow” vehicle and still have a monumental time.

    Ultimately, I do hope there is a future at the Ring. It’s “mythic” reputation is an actual understatement. Don’t believe me, go experience it for yourself.