Ringside seat: tourist laps under threat

Dark clouds (literal and figurative) are gathering over Nurburg, and the mood here is understandably grim. The ongoing saga of the Nurburgring's crisis just gets worse by the day. Threats of mass unemployment amongst Nurburgring employees, possible cancellation of the F1 rounds, and even an alleged additional €160m of debt (yes, that's nearly half a billion total now). How can things get any worse?

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.

Only dates up until July 1 were put online at the Nurburgring's official site. And they didn't include any mid-week evening openings. In June there are currently only two days with public sessions on the track.

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.

The official response of the Nurburgring to my pestering was to publish the first eight evening opening times in March.

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.


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  • varsas 20 Jan 2012

    Oh dear. More bad news then. While I realise it's a business, it also (in a way) belongs to the people (of Germany) so it's shame when restrictions on it's enjoyment, by the public, are put in place. I'd get very upset indeed if my local council started closing the local woods so they could rent it out to a horse riding club.

  • Pingman 20 Jan 2012

    Do they make more money from manufacturers hiring the whole circuit to privately test their vehicles than they get from public sessions?

  • Mermaid 20 Jan 2012

    Pingman said:
    Do they make more money from manufacturers hiring the whole circuit to privately test their vehicles than they get from public sessions?
    Or they don't want the "retail" public for the hassle may outweigh the benefit of renting out to clubs, manufacturers & such.

  • Matt UK 20 Jan 2012

    Glad that I've already ticked this box as the current clowns are making it increasing hard to spend my time and money here again frown

  • mrmr96 20 Jan 2012

    Will the "prestige" of a "good ring time" for a sports car become less valued by car buyers if they can't actually take such cars to said track?!

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