MAY 18th 2015

Henry Hope‑Frost ‑ The Nurburgring Is Back

Hatzenbach. Flugplatz. Fuchsröhre. Bergwerk. Karussell. Wippermann. Pflanzgarten. Makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention just typing those seven words. And, if you’ve got even the tiniest drop of petrol in your veins, you’ll know why.

WTCC Nurburgring Loeb_Nurburgring_Promo_13052015

They’re the names of seven corners – among a lethal collection numbering more than 100 – that characterise the otherworldly Nürburgring Nordschleife, a place that has struck fear into racing drivers and have-a-go track-day heroes since the late-1920s.

Yes, for nearly 90-years this torturous, 14-mile ribbon of asphalt that snakes its way unforgivingly around, through and over Germany’s Eifel mountains has captivated everyone who’s dared to try to tame its wild and unpredictable personality.

WTCC Nurburgring 02 TARQUINI Gabriele (ita) Honda Civic team Honda racing Jas action during the 2015 FIA WTCC World Touring Car Race of Nurburgring, Germany from May 15th to 17th 2015. Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI.

And this mesmerising racetrack, that has somehow managed to virtually evade detection by the health and safety police, has been very much in the news recently; thanks to last weekend’s visit by the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

Not since 29 May 1983, when Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass took their factory Porsche 956 to victory in the 1000km sportscar event, has a world-championship motor race been held on what three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart described after his first visit as ‘the green hell’.

WTCC Nurburgring  37 LOPEZ Jose Maria (arg) 09 LOEB Sebastien (fra) Citroen C Elysee team Citroen racing action during the 2015 FIA WTCC World Touring Car Race of Nurburgring, Germany from May 15th to 17th 2015. Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI.

Of course, the super-competitive Nürburgring 24 Hours, fought out by factory-blessed GT3 teams and their roster of pro drivers, still takes place on the Nordschleife, but that final Group C enduro in ’83, in which reigning world champion Keke Rosberg finished third in a privately entered 956, was the last with world-championship status.

I’ll admit: when news broke that the WTCC wanted to race on the Nordschleife I thought it would never happen. Yet, in a snub to the political, logistical and financial barriers that you’d expect to have been put up the minute the deal was first mooted, series boss Francois Ribeiro, pulled it off, achieving his dream in the process.

WTCC Nurburgring  68 MULLER Yvan (fra) Citroen C Elysee team Citroen racing action during the 2015 FIA WTCC World Touring Car Race of Nurburgring, Germany from May 15th to 17th 2015. Photo Clément Marin / DPPI.

Fair play to him and his team – and to Citroen’s reigning WTCC title holder Jose Maria Lopez and his former-champion team-mate Yvan Muller for winning the two races – because the historic Nordschleife, a place that would never be built in this day and age, is back on the radar. Which is good news for the old-fashioned racing purists among us.

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