Nurburgring’s road to nowhere?
Since it’s inauguration in 1927, the Nurburgring has hosted some of the greatest races in motor racing history. The North Loop (Nordshcleife) was built in the 1920s around the village of Nürburg in the Eifel Mountains. The track eventually featured four configurations including the 17.5-mile Gesamtstrecke (Whole Course), the 12.9-mile Nordschleife, the Südschleife (South Loop) and the Zielschleife (Finish Loop). A new grand prix circuit was added in 1982; it is now used for all major events at the track.
Regrettably, for the past several years, the circuit has wallowed in debt due to imprudency from investors, ‘Nurburgring Automotive GmbH’ (NAG), turned part of the Nordschleife into a leisure park, hotel, shopping mall, event arena, kart track and even a roller coaster. Most of the additions have remained vacant and the roller coaster never opened out of occupational health and safety considerations.
In addition to this, claims of monopolization from traders in the surrounding area have done little to endear the NAG group to the wider commercial community.
Leaving Nurburgring around €350 million in debt, a further plea to the EU Brussels for a regional bailout grant of €13 million was declined. Investors additional plea for a suspension of interest payments on the debt was also refused. Allleged fraud and money laundering have also been levelled at NAG, with a presumed €524 million of unauthorised funds reputed to have passed trough the NAG exchequer.
With the land now in the hands of the state of Rheinland-Pfalz;, administration proceedings will inevitably decide the fate of the Nurburgring. According localised German news site, Die Rhein-Zeitung, the latest proposal to save the world famous Nordschleife has all but collapsed.
According to the Rhein-Zeitung’s information, the EU again classifies the financial aid that has been applied for as inadmissible subsidy.Brusselsis also looking into allegations that unauthorised (impermissible, improper) subsidies to the tune of altogether 524 million Euros have gone into the racing circuit and the leisure complex. The result of this investigation is still pending.
The German Grand Prix runs at the Nurburgring bi-annually, with the next Formula 1 race during in 2013; whether the recent fallout will affect next year’s F1 calendar will be clearer in the coming weeks. Regardless, the world famous ‘Green Hell’ will therefore be sold, partly or as a whole.
A Twitter campaign to ‘Save The Ring’ has garnered enormous support since 2010. Mike Frison has been running his Save the ’Ring movement since 2010. “We started to fight before any digger moved in,” he says. “But nobody wanted to listen.” Within a year of starting his campaign, his petition had 20,832 signatures – that’s one for every metre of the Nordschleife.
In the early Eighties, Frison pushed for a new grand prix circuit to be built adjacent to the Nordschleife, which stopped hosting grand prix after Niki Lauda’s accident in 1976. He’s now he’s petitioning the government to sell it to the right people. Certainly having big names like Michael Schumacher promote the track (as recently as May) by driving a modern grand prix (a two year old W02) car around the old circuit – as part of a Mercedes display – won’t do any harm.
What will happen to the Nurburgring now is still in the hands of the administrators; who will have to satisfy [the demands of] the [Ring GmbH's] creditors…. That being the State.
Images courtesy of Nurburgring.com and Sport1
Trent Price is an amateur race driver, former V8 race coach and FIA Accredited journalist from Melbourne, Australia. A former Race Editor for GP Week and contributor for ESPN, Trent is now the Editor of the WEC/Formula E magazine E-Racing; www.e-racingmag.com