Welcome to the Green Hell.
Welcome to the Nürburgring. The fabled track where cars become legends, the brave become heroes and the stupid become a crash statistic.
Lovingly dubbed 'The Green Hell' by grand prix driver Jackie Stewart, the Nürburgring is arguably the world’s most notorious track – it has 20.7 kilometres (12.9 miles) of undulating tarmac and contains over 120 corners, each with its own complex signature.
What are the things you need to know about driving at the Nürburgring?
Learn the track
Originally opened in 1927, it is certainly a product of its time. Put simply, there isn’t much space between you and the barrier. Doing some homework before going will help you no end.
YouTube is your friend. Study a few videos and get learning. A good simulator game is a helpful way to memorize the bends, but don’t take its reference as gospel. No simulation can truly show the steep changes in elevation that exist in the real world.
Take it easy
Your virgin lap of the Nürburgring should be tackled in the same way as a challenging country road. Enjoy it, drive at a pace you are comfortable with, but be sensible. You aren’t going to set a lap record on day one. Nor should you try.
If you forget what corner comes next, you'll crash. If you find yourself steaming into a bend too quickly, you'll crash. If you think that you know everything about the 'Ring because you have played Gran Turismo, guess what... You win a starring role in a crash video montage. Play it safe.
You could be the world’s most competent driver, but you don’t know what is lurking around the next bend. Keep that in mind.
Have eyes in the back of your head
While managing the car and navigating the track, a host of faster machines driven by 'Ring addicts will be looking to get past.
Use your mirrors to keep track of that eager Porsche 911 and afford it space when it is safe to do so. Move over to the right (you should only overtake on the left) and let it through.
Lapping the Nürburgring is a physical and mental battle. The sheer amount of concentration required is more than any other track and its intense changes of direction may exhaust newcomers. Do your lap, then come in to absorb the experience.
Don’t try to keep up with the locals
No matter how potent your car, a local in a tatty Volkswagen Golf will make mincemeat of you. This is because it takes years to properly learn this unique track and they have spent the time needed to soak up its complexities.
It’s your first time at the Nürburgring. Don’t let your defining memory be one of ploughing into the back of another car or understeering into a barrier.
Bring your credit card
It would be wise to bring a healthy credit card with you. Not just because it will cost you over £22 (about $36 CAD) a lap, but in case you have a little accident.
If you have the misfortune of meeting a barrier you will need to pay £28 ($46) per metre to replace it. Doesn’t sound too bad? That doesn’t include removal of the old barrier, replacement posts, safety car or a recovery truck. Oh, and you will be charged £1,200 ($1,967) for every hour the track is shut while repairs take place.
While much of the above serves as a warning to the uninitiated, don’t forget to enjoy yourself.
The Nürburgring is a very special place. This automotive Mecca draws enthusiasts from all over the world. History is woven into the fabric of this place and its iconic landmarks will send a tingle down the spine of any enthusiast.
Its atmosphere is also something to be celebrated. All of the world’s car nuts congregate in the car park for friendly chats and stories of their latest adventures. There is a sense of community with everyone willing to lend a hand if your car begins to misbehave.
In a world where you will soon have to wear a luminescent safety jacket every time you step outside, the Nürburgring is a very rare thing. Savour it.