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Paul Ricard

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:

Formula 1 to Return to France in 2013

Mark Webber testing the Red Bull Racing car at Paul Ricard Circuit, 2007 (GEPA pictures/ Mathias Kniepeiss)

Early this week, Bernie Ecclestone announced a deal has been made to bring Formula 1 racing back to France’s Paul Ricard next year.  The deal will also include 4 other grands prix in 2015, ’17, ’19, and ’21, but no details have yet been released regarding how France’s slot on the schedule will be filled every other year when it is not hosting.  F1 has not held a grand prix in France since the 2008 race at the Magny Cours circuit in which Ferrari’s Felipe Massa claimed the top of the podium.

“The deal is done,” Eccelstone told French L’Equipe.  “We actually agreed on financial terms with the sports minister, David Douillet, in my office last Tuesday.”  Interestingly, the announcement comes not two weeks before France begins the second and final phase of the country’s presidential election, which could raise questions about whether the deal would stand if incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy is ousted by Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.  Ecclestone seems confident however that a deal will be finalized regardless of the result of the election, possibly even before the May 6 election date.

France is the second circuit to be added to the 2013 schedule that also is not on 2012.  Last October New Jersey was announced as a brand new addition to F1, however new doubts are surfacing over when (or if) the street circuit along the banks of the Hudson River will take place.  Only days after the France announcement, Eccelstone also stated “Maybe the [Grand Prix of America in New Jersey] will be 2013.  It’s a when – 2013 or 2014.”  The October announcement of adding the New Jersey race of course came with some controversy, with many speculating that it was going to replace Circuit of the Americas as the new site for the US Grand Prix.