It seems the future of the famous Nurburgring, site of the German grand prix (alternating every year with Hockenheimring), continues to roller coaster up and down. First it appeared that all hope was lost when the European Commission failed to approve a €13M state aid package to make a July 31 payment deadline for the track’s loan. Then, state-owner Rhine-Palatinate, which asked the track’s operating company to declare bankruptcy shortly the missed deadline, came to the rescue in the 11th hour with a new loan that would cover the bulk of the original €330M loan. The €254M pledged by the state would service the loan and keep the interest from running out of control, which costs the state €47,000 each day the original loan isn’t paid down.
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?
NUERBURG, GERMANY - JULY 23: Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing drives during practice to the German Formula One Grand Prix at the Nurburgring on July 23, 2011 in Nuerburg, Germany. (Photo by Vladimir Rys Photography via Getty Images)
// Dividends of Downforce
Located in the Rhine Valley, near Karlsruhe, the 2012 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim is this season’s alternative to the equally infamous ‘Green Hell’ of the Nürburgring but, prior to its 2002 modernisation programme, it claimed the lives of two of Formula One’s most famous sons.