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London Grand Prix

Save The Ring!

Former "Ring Taxi" and BMW Motorsport driver Sabine Schmitz shows her love for the Ring. "Save The Ring" on Facebook.

// Save the Ring

Recently it was announced that Germany’s world-renowned Nurburgring, which has been in financial dire straits for some time now, is (going) broke.  A regular on the F1 calendar alternating with Hockenheim, the ‘Ring has been a worldwide motorsport playground since 1927.  Even though the circuit and the park around it have been publicly owned its entire existence, it was recently rented out to a couple of overzealous privateers, Kai Richter and Jörg Lindner, who unfortunately don’t know much about auto racing or more importantly, its fan base.  

Together they invested heavily in building a giant shopping mall, an oversized hotel, a 3,000 seat venue, and finally a theme park with a roller coaster that doesn’t operate properly.  Sadly, it came as no surprise to motoring fans in the know from the beginning to learn that their investment hasn’t paid off, as the new spaces largely remain vacant.  Even sadder is that a scrappy venture such as this that did not even directly involve auto racing is putting the ‘Ring on the chopping block.

If this longtime fan favorite is to remain on F1 schedule in the future, the track and grounds will have to be at least partially purchased to get out of the €350M hole it’s in.  The EU wouldn’t bail out the track even if it could, which begs the question - who can?  And more importantly – who will?  Some believe one of the giant automakers would be the perfect candidate.  Porsche and GM have been tossed around popular auto hangouts online…but why hasn’t anyone yet mentioned another obvious candidate?

Lately, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has been aggressively pursuing future additions to the F1 calendar, and paying the Nurburgring debt would secure its future in F1, at least for now.  Near the end of 2011, a 10-year deal was struck to add a race along the Hudson River in New Jersey starting in 2013, and Formula 1 has also very recently put in a bid to rent London’s Olympic stadium for a race in and around the venue in the future.  Plus Ecclestone already owns France’s Paul Ricard circuit - where F1 has raced in years past - so this would not be too big a stretch for him despite Nurburgring’s massive size. 

Although we believe the London bid to be a bit of a PR stunt considering the opening ceremony of the 2012 games is a mere 8 days away, it falls right in line with Bernie’s style given he’s often unpredictable in such matters.  Whoever the savior may be though, keep your fingers crossed that someone will pony up with a bailout so racing fans can continue to enjoy the famed Nurburgring.  After all, aren’t bailouts “in” these days?

Finally, here's why we need to save the ring:

Santander Shows Plans For London Grand Prix

Yesterday the concept for a grand prix in London was announced with support from the city of London, British drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, along with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. The project, while still in its infancy, is surprisingly well on its way to being a reality and soon London could host a GP on its city streets.

Santander UK, the British wing of the Spanish banking group, has lead the recent efforts and contracted Populous Archtitects to produce a conceptual design of the circuit and supporting facilities. Two videos were also produced with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers Button and Hamilton, showing a virtual lap around the track and an in studio introduction piece.  So far these videos have made it around the world, producing a positive sentiment by both fans of the sport and the local media in England. 

London Grand Prix Concept by Santander from The Austin Grand Prix on Vimeo.

London's Mayor has expressed support for the event citing only small obstacles such as noise managment, as potential hurdles to overcome for the race to be held.  Bernie Ecclestone, according to Adam Cooper at Speed, would front the cost to stage the event in order to make it a reality; a major contrast to the recent sanctioning fees imposed on Austin and other recent circuits.

With additional circuits such as New Jersey and Russia joining in the next few years, there's little room in the race calendar to allow for the exitsting circuits, so the question remains if the British GP at Silvertsone will be replaced by the London GP.  

Until we learn more about the project and it makes it on the calendar officially for next season or 2014, take a virtual lap around the track in the video below.