Friday, March 21, 2014

The "Green Hell"

About an hours drive west of Frankfurt, in the midst of forest and woods....lies the Nurburgring.  It's a quiet area except for races (when held).

Historically speaking, Nurburgring was nothing, until roughly 1927.  Motor sports in Germany was developing and Germans felt they needed a through test area for motorcycle and car enthusiasts.  It needed to have mountains and curves.....lots of curves.  So it was built.  The original track was 34 miles was huge by today's standards.  Built next to an ages old castle, and far from any urban was both a nightmare and a fantasy.

The design was so technical.....that they had it divided into four different regions.  The longer of the four was roughly fourteen miles.  The shortest?  Four miles.

Over the years....between weather and was tested over and over....with various accidents always part of the rich formula of success.

For the region, it was a money-maker.  The problem was....there weren't that many four-star races held on a yearly basis.

Somewhere around 1980....racers began to leave.  The motorcycle Grand Prix was last held 1980.  Car racers began to leave shortly after that.  The race course had to be redesigned in various order to survive.  This meant capital investment and risk.

Today's race course is a fifteen mile test....with the remaining paved track used for vehicle testing.

The owners of the track?  Well.....they convinced the German government (the state, not the Fed) put a fair amount of money into fixing issues over the past decade or so.  No one much wants to discuss the amount, but it was reported by several news sources at around three hundred million Euro ($375 million dollars).  As much as was poured could not pump up the ring to its former glory, and so bankruptcy started up around two years ago, and a forced sale occurred in the last week.

What the government could get out of the sale?  One hundred million Euro ($125 million dollars).  It's a fairly big loss for the former owners, and the local state government.  Naturally, some CDU guys would point was the SPD leadership in the state government....that pushed investment money into a losing enterprise.  It's best not to bring up this issue when in a public forum.

The new owners?'s the Capricorn Group.  What turned the tide in this negotiation....was that Capricorn was willing to put twenty-five million Euro ($30 million dollars)....into expanding or renovating the track area.  I should point out....the deal involves not only the track (ring) but also a local amusement park (of a three-star variety).

Capricorn's background?  It's a curious thing.  They are known for making better crankshafts, cylinders, pistons, and 'toys' of the racing community.  Their ambition for the most part....using the track as a technology center and a race track.

The odd thing about the track?  It's one of the few in the world....totally open for any guy to come out and run his car or motorcycle (Sundays).  You pay some cash....and get a few minutes on the track to race your car at the extreme.  Yeah, there's a waiver document somewhere in this mess and the track isn't responsible for any stupidity on your part.

The projected success?'s hard to say.  Some racing historians would like to see the track recover and began a magnet for the big racing style of the 1930s.  Some would like to just see one big race a year with 200,000 people showing up.  The locals would like to see dozens and perhaps...hundreds....of jobs created by anything they do.

So, when you hear about the "Green Hell" can imagine this tranquil forest area, with hills and valleys.....with a race track built into the curves of the landscape.  Death is always an inch away, and failed brakes mean utter disaster within seconds.  For a German, this is a better fantasy than lusty women dressed in leopard tights, wearing five-inch heels, and holding a chilled Bavarian beer.....sadly.

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