Ringside seat: tourist laps under threat
Our man at the Nurburgring on why the 'ring needs weekday tourist sessions
Well, try this one on for size: what if the track's last cash cow got caught in the crossfire between cost-cutting and money-making? Last month the public opening times for the Nurburgring Nordschleife, the 'touristenfahrten' sessions were released. Or to be more accurate, they were only half-released.
This isn't just awful news for drivers of the slightly less-crowded midweek openings, it's bad news for anybody who is right now making plans to drive the Nordschleife. A whole year's worth of visitors will be cramming their trip into the few days that are advertised.
Personally, as an employee of an independent rental firm that is nearly 100 per cent reliant on the Nurburgring's public sessions, it could be an utter disaster. With no mid-week rentals my employers would see turnover cut by up to 60 per cent, and profits even more so. Staff would have to go, possibly myself included.
But why on earth would the Nurburgring cut back on the now-€26 per lap, and up to €10,000 per hour public sessions? The rumour is, and I stress it's just a vicious rumour, that the industry testing might one day stretch from 8am until 7pm. These industry pool sessions, as they're called, have been nibbling into the public times for several years. Visitors last year often only had time for a couple of laps as posted opening times of 1730h were often delayed by up to and over one hour. Industry test schedules and 'lap times' taking precedence over a carpark full of frustrated petrolheads.
Ann-Katherin Schürmann of the Nurburgring's press department told me, "The opening times will now be published step by step in the internet on our homepage www.nuerburgring.de and there are no plans [to replace the evening touristenfahrten sessions with industry sessions]."
I truly hope so, because not only do the public hours keep this place alive, but a lap of the 'ring is the only thing guaranteed to break anybody's bad mood.
I remember going there last year for an evening session, only to wait and wait until they told us the TF wasn't going ahead.
Poor show for TFs.
It also seems to be happening for private track days.
I booked myself in for an October track day. The company I used had less dates than last year, and even Audi haven't go the track to themselves this year, after I enquired about their training days at the 'Ring.
What on earth is going on with this company?!
If so it could get to the stage where Porsche (for instance) state that their latest car can go around the 'Ring in 7 mins and it will stop being relevant as no-one will know what it's like to go around the ring apart from if they own a Playstation - and that is not what it feels like.
Makes no sense.
It used to have a really special feeling as you left the autobahns and wound your way up through the hills to the ring for the weekend. It felt so special as it really felt out of the way. Now with all the development you feel like you could be at any old race circuit. To use a phrase I hate, it does feel totally commercialised in a bad way. I truly hope they keep the number of TF days up, as that is what sets the place apart from all the others. They should be at the centre of their promotions for the place and not looking at reducing them. Fingers crossed.
I had already booked 2 weekends off to go there this year, neither of which are when it's open. Not that i'd want to go anyway, from the sounds of this it will be too busy anyway.
Looks like i'll be going to the DTM race in Spielberg instead.