Cars out, hikers in? It's one possible future...
A bitter war of words has broken out over the right to operate the Nurburgring. In a pre-emptive strike against a government press conference scheduled for this afternoon, the current and much-maligned operators of the Nurburgring, the Nurburgring Automotive GmbH (or NAG) have written to their employees assuring them of their jobs. Even though 92 of those jobs are under threat because NAG says the Nurburgring is not profitable enough to support them. The letter stresses the current contract to operate the 'ring is in place until 2040 and promises legal battles against any attempt to oust them.
Meanwhile, the local government has scheduled a press conference for this afternoon and, if leaked reports to the local press are to be believed, will announce the severing of the aforementioned contract and a 'medium-term' plan to re-tender the operating lease. This time it's expected the lease to operate the publically-owned racetrack will be discussed in the open, instead of behind closed doors as with the NAG contract.
The NAG was formed by investors and entrepreneurs Kai Richter and Jorg Lindner to operate the 'new' Nurburgring resort. Over €330 million of public money was poured into the complex in an unpopular move to create what has been widely described as the 'Nurodisney'. Now some of the same people who created this unwelcome addition to the world's most celebrated racetrack are reporting it as unprofitable, and are asking for 'relief' from lease payments they are contracted to make back to the public coffers who unwittingly ended up funding the additions in the first place. And if the NAG can't have 'relief', they will be forced to lay-off up to 92 workers.
The newly-elected regional government, under massive pressure from the local population, described this as a 'threat' and a 'ransom situation'. Non-payment of the lease amounts to breach of contract, at least that's what we're expecting to hear this afternoon.
What does this mean to the fans and drivers of the 'ring? Possibly nothing, but maybe everything. NAG might fight for the right to stay in the 'ring, but with no money coming in, how will they operate it on a day to day basis? Watch this space.
The government has spoken. It wants NAG out and it wants a temporary 'operator' brought in to manage the day-to-day running of the circuit while new operators are found.
Interior minister Roger Lewentz is reported as saying, "You would be amazed how many inquiries [we have received] from interested parties..." Lewentz has talked about a new tender period, a public process, of up to a year.
This is of course in direct conflict with the NAG statement this morning, stating it has a contract until 2040 and will fight tooth-and-nail in the courts to stay.
"If it's acceptable for the region, the door remains open [for a settlement out of court]." said Lewentz.