Nurburgring is, without a doubt, the finest racetrack
in the world. Like an exotic drug, once you've tried it
you'll be hooked, and only expensive and painful therapy
will get it out of your system.
Many of you will already,
no doubt, have been on track days. Some of you have raced
for real, and the sight of red and white kerbs flashing
past your knees won't be unusual. I know what you're thinking
- I made the same mistake. You're thinking "Been there,
done that." Well, I promise you, the 'Ring is like nowhere
and nothing else on earth. Imagine, if you like, the Isle
of Man with all the dull, irritating bits removed. You're
left with 14 miles of track with 72 bends and about 300m
between the highest and lowest points. No speed limits.
No towns. No lamp-posts or phone boxes. Which is a good
There are lots of places
on the Net where you can find out more about the history
and so on. Suffice it to say that the circuit was built
in 1927, entirely without using heavy machinery, as a means
of easing unemployment in the area, and was home to both
car and bike Grand Prix until 1986 when the new circuit
was opened in response to concerns over safety. Since then,
the 'Ring has been used for testing, training, development
and terrifying normal drivers in public sessions. Oh, and
providing a roaring trade for local bodyshops and recovery
companies, of course.
mentioned safety, we may as well get that bit over and done
with. The Nurburgring is a dangerous place. Actually, that's
not strictly fair. It's certainly no more dangerous than
riding fast on a public road - probably far less so. But
compared to regular racetracks it's very dangerous indeed.
There are several reasons for this, but the main ones are
the sheer size of the track, the location and the variety
of traffic there. What you have to remember is that 1 lap
of the 'Ring is equal to about 13 laps of the Indy circuit
at Brands Hatch. So instead of doing the same bends 13 times,
which should give you a fair idea of where the track goes
and allow you to get faster, you do each bend once. And
then have a 10 minute wait before you come up to do it again.
See that little bit hanging off the bottom on the map? That's
the GP Circuit, which may give you a better idea of the
Add that to a circuit which, because of its location and
design has just three gravel traps and often has triple
layer Armco separated from the track by just a few feet
of grass and the potential for sunshine at one end and rain
at the other and you'll start to see my point. Then chuck
in the possibility of mixing it with anything from 200mph
Ruf Porsches to ancient VW campers, all of whom want to
use the same line on bends and the potential to get hurt
gets all too clear. But, there are still remarkably few
serious accidents at the 'Ring, and with a little common
sense you can avoid adding to the statistics.
Riding the 'Ring
- a guided tour
You can now only start
a lap from the new public entrance complex, half way along
Döttinger Höhe. Buy your ticket from the helpful chap in
the kiosk and hang around for a few minutes. Partly to soak
up some atmosphere, partly to check out what else is out
there. If you see a large slow vehicle (bus, camper van,
Montego estate) getting ready to go, try to either get out
very close or wait for five minutes or so. OK. Ready? Let's
When you go through the
barrier you come out onto Döttinger Höhe, the 4km straight
at the back of the circuit. You have several hundered metres
of straight track before curving down and left through Tiergarten,
going back up the hill into the right-left-right of the
Schikane, coming out by the old public entrance at T13.
The surface is pretty crappy along the short straight here
before improving just before a long downhill left-hander.
This bend deserves some respect as it is longer and sharper
than at first appears. On down the gentle slope through
a fast right and fast left to Hatzenbach and "The Snake."
A sharp right where you don't want to cross the centre line
leads into a left-right-left chicane, the last left leading
you all the way across the track in a big arc to be ready
for the right-left of Hocheichen. Watch for the kerb on
the left hander and don't touch the slippery black band
at the edge of the track.
From Hocheichen, accelerate
up the hill, over the bridge where Manfred Winckelhock flipped
an F3 car towards the fast double apex right hander at Flugplatz.
Treat the two bends as one and come out smoothly into a
gentle left and one of the fastest parts of the circuit
- the straight leading towards the left hander at Schwedenkreuz.
Straighten up and brake for the long downhill right hander
at Aremberg and then straightline down Fuchsröhre. If you
have the bottle you could hit 150mph easily down here before
your chin on the tank and loading the suspension up as you
reach the bottom of the hill and climb the other side. The
next right hander leads into Adenauer Forst - probably the
most common place to fall off. The following long left hander
leads straight into a hard right. The track is often dirty
and slippery, and the sight lines are all wrong for the
direction the track goes. Turn in very late for the left
hander or you'll run out of track. Advice: If you
do screw up the entrance by pitching in too early, simply
pick the bike up and go straight across the grass. Stay
off the power and don't brake - you should be OK. Rejoin
the track after the bend.
After Adenauer Forst,
accelerate onto the straight and carry on down to the double
left of Metzgesfeld. The first part is a long past sweeper,
followed by a bit of braking into a hard left with a bit
of a broken up surface. Then a gentle right leading to the
long, hard, off camber right hander of Kallenhard. Turn
in really late and get across to hit the apex or
you'll run out of track. The into a left-right-right combination
of fast downhill bends where you want to miss-hit-miss the
apexes. Then further downhill into Wipperman. Get most of
your braking out of the way for the first right hander then
scrub off the rest of the speed for the left hand hairpin.
Again turn in late and get on the power gently because the
exit is a little off camber and can be slippery. Carry on
down a long gentle left into a short straight before the
long left at Breidscheid, the lowest part of the circuit.
This is a popular viewing point, there is an exit and a
coffee house here, and it is an extremely bad place to fall
off. Carry on sharply uphill into a hard right at Ex-Muhle.
If you're on a small bike you're really going to have to
work it here. Along a short straight, through a left hand
king locally known as Grillkurve ("Here vos Nicky Lauda's
big crash") and turn very late into the long fast right
hander at Bergwerk.
Bergwerk accelerate into the long uphill drag of Kesselchen.
3km of virtually flat out uphill sweeping bends from the
gentle left-right-left at the bottom through the daunting
and blind left hander of Angstkurve into the right hander
over a crest which leads to Klostertal. Be careful in the
wet, as there are often puddles where you wouldn't expect
them. Klostertal is a wide hairpin, again needing a really
late turn in to avoid running out of track. Straightline
up the hill through the kinks before the unique banked left
hander of the Karussell. Stay about halfway up the banking,
keep a constant throttle and look as far ahead as you can.
Be gentle with the power on exit, as the bike is off balance
and the surface is slippery. Carry on uphill into a fast
left hander which in turn leads to a right curve followed
by a long right bend at Höhe Acht, the highest point of
the circuit. There is a ridge across the track which can
throw you off line, and this point also often marks a change
in the weather as you move into the next valley.
Acht leads into the left-right-left-right downhill Wipperman
complex, ending on a short straight which curves up and
right into the downhill left hander of Eschbach. The surface
is a little broken up here and the front of the bike will
be a little light as the track drops away. Eschbach leads
straight into the double right hander of Brunnchen. There
is a carpark and viewing area to the left of the track,
and it's a popular place to watch from. Brunnchen consists
of two sharp right handers linked by a short straight. The
second goes steeply uphill, leading into the blind left
of Eiskurve. The track kinks slightly right over a crest,
although it looks as though it should carry on left, before
heading slightly dowhill into the beginning of Pflantzgarten
1. Straightline the bends and get all your braking over
before the jump. There is an advisory speed limit of
50km/h through here. It is a dangerous place to get wrong,
although recent changes to the trackside layout have at
least improved the run-off area. Turn in very, very late
and apex equally late to be ready for the immediately following
left hander. Take that in a wide sweep but be ready for
the bike to go light or even wheelie at the drop for Pflantzgarten
This is a very fast
section of the circuit and although it looks straightforward
enough it can be a killer.Then into the long right and
straightline the next kinks before the fast uphill right
hander leading into Schwalbenschwantz This is an uphill
right which is far longer and sharper than it appears, followed
by a very short straight and another, smaller, karussell.
Be careful on the exit, which is sharp and can throw the
bike off balance. Uphill to the long, double apex left hander
of Galgenkopf before exiting onto Döttinger Höhe and a blast
back to the barriers.
Things to avoid
exhausts. The locals get pretty tired of antisocial
pipes, and the police regularly have clamp downs. If your
bike is unreasonably loud and the exhaust doesn't have a
TUV or BSI stamp, they can, and often will, confiscate it
on the spot. Makes it a laugh to get home. Oh, and they'll
fine you loads as well. Plus, the 'Ring management may not
allow you on the track. Bit of a wasted journey...
Riding at 100% for 15 miles is hard work. Doing it
several times is knackering. And knackered brains don't
work properly. Your reactions will slow, your concentration
will wander. Take frequent rest breaks. Drink plenty of
water or energy drink. Give your tyres a chance to cool
down as well. Take the opportunity to look over your bike
for loose bits and to check out the other stuff in the car
park. You'll see conclusive proof that the Germans certainly
do have a sense of humour...
It hurts, it's embarrassing and it's inconvenient. It can
also be expensive. As well as the damage to your bike, you
are also liable for any damage you do to another vehicle,
another person or the track and trackside facilities. Even
indirectly. Say you crash and drop oil from your smashed
crankcases. Then say a car crashes on the oil and trashes
the barriers. You, my friend, are liable for all of it.
Including your medical costs. Your insurance should be OK,
because it's still a public road and you aren't racing,
but do you really want to chance it? Oh, and remember that
if you've crashed after ignoring an advisory speed limit
there's a fair chance of getting prosecuted as well. So
be careful out there.
How to get there
the ferry or tunnel to Calais. You've got two choices from
there. Either take the direct, quick but very boring trip
along the Autoroute through Belgium or take a Michelin guide
and have a laugh. Either way, if you can get there from
Calais in less than five hours you're going some. In case
you need a clue as to where you should be going, it's worth
remembering that the D258 from Monschau to Nurburg is one
of the best biking roads in the world.
Expect to pay around £9
for a single bike lap. It will cost you a whole heap more,
of course, because you'll want to do it again and again
A note from the
'Ring management (rather liberally translated)
This was left on
all the bikes in the car park one Saturday.
For the good of your health: The Nordschleife is not a safe
place for motorcyclists. Changeable weather conditions,
hills and dips, varying road surfaces and rubber deposits
can easily create surprises. Ride with a safety margin.
Always expect the unexpected. Ride with the same consideration
for yourself as you would for others. Devote your full concentration
to riding. Doing too many laps can be both physically and
mentally tiring. Take a break, make sure that the Nordschleife
doesn't get the last laugh. Over exuberence=Danger!
The last word I think
that says it all at least as well as I can. The Nurburgring
is one of the best biking places on the planet. But if you
get it wrong or take too many liberties it will turn round
and bite you. And I promise. It will hurt.