Driving the Nurburgring, Germany
Road trip

Driving the Nurburgring, Germany

6 October 2012 | 8:30 am

One of my most exciting experiences occurred in a diesel Golf hatch.

Now I’m not talking about a fumbling romance or any such thing, but an actual exciting driving experience. I know this sounds odd because the car was as inspiring as a bowl of cold porridge, but I should point out that I was driving it around the Nurburgring.

The celebrated track has become possibly the most famous race track in the world. Except, I should point out, that technically the Nurburgring is not a track but a road… that you can drive on.

Oh yes, it is possible.

You have to pay per lap, and the current rate is $32.50. That sounds like an absurd amount for one lap, but don’t forget that every lap of the Nurburgring contains no less than 73 corners spread over 20.8km.

Around 60 per cent of the bends are knuckle-whitening thanks to the speeds involved and the scarcity of run-off areas. Jackie Stewart, a man not easily scared, suitably called the Nurburgring “The Green Hell”, which is rather appropriate.

I spent most of my time swinging between terror and exhilaration. Although my mates know every single kink after endless virtual laps on Gran Turismo, I had no idea where the track went. Add to that, it was raining.

I’m happy to report that I did survive the experience and have a new respect for the backmarkers that wobble around at the back of races trying not to get in anyone’s way.

When you drive the Nurburgring in a diesel Golf, you end up with one eye on the road and another on the rear-view mirror. The constant wave of exotic cars surging past is like being in the middle of a car-nut’s dream.

Cars that tore past me at warp speed included everything from a race-ready Focus RS to a Lotus Exige, Dodge Viper and a BMW M5 that was positively sideways for the few moments it was in my sight.

After a few laps, I was happy to leave the track and drive around to a couple of different viewing areas to mingle with other car fans and watch the fast cars from a different perspective. It was then that I spotted a full-sized tourist coach puttering around a bend on the track. To this day, I wonder whether the bus driver told all the senior citizens on board that he just had to do a lap of the Nurburgring.

The track is about a 120km-drive from Frankfurt and 70km from Cologne, which means you can grab a car, drive out, do some laps and head back in one day. There is no speed limit at the track, but police reportedly punish bad driving.

Oh, and I should mention that several drivers (and bike riders) die here every year, although no official toll is made available. If you plan to rent a car, make sure you check the fine print as it just might forbid you to drive around the Nurburgring.

Then again, you can always just drive out and set up on one of the corners and watch other people roaring around in some of the most wonderful cars on the planet. There are options to pay to ride with a pro and you can also rent a proper race car at the track. The race car rental is not cheap by any means, but I can guarantee you won’t forget it in a hurry.

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Comments (1)

  1. 1
    Robbo

    A few years back, I grabbed a rental BMW from Cologne – had no idea that Avis and Hertz spotters line the track and report back to HQ if they spot you – and grabbed a couple of journo friends for an end-of-day lap before dinner. “Have you been here before?” they asked. “No, never,” I replied, before dropping into the first tight left/opening right into opening left combo at speed. There was silence for a while, before one squeaked, “are you SURE you’ve never been here before?”

    “Never,” I said, looking over at him while at the top of fourth gear approaching a medium right, “but I’ve driven it lots on PlayStation.” Amazingly, the track on the game and the real track were just like peas in a pod. A must-do thing to do before you die.

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