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Nurburgring Nordshcleife: The World's Most Difficult Race Course

Nurburgring Nordshcleife: The World's Most Difficult Race Course

Source: | Published: August 14, 2008

By Jesse Sears
RSportsCars Contributor

The Nurburgring Nordschleife in Western Germany is quite possibly the most famous race course in the world, and many call it the most difficult as well. With a storied, and sometimes tragic, car racing history, the Nurburgring dates all the way back to 1927, when it was completed for use in both cycling races and the German Gran Prix.

Nurburgring lap times are often published in sports car and auto racing car specs from both official and unofficial channels. In today's supercar market, Nurburgring lap times for sports cars such as the Nissan GT-R and Corvette ZR-1 are as coveted by the car manufacturers as any other automotive prize on earth.

The Nordschleife translates to "Northern Loop," as opposed to the Nurburgring Sudschleife "Southern Loop" section, which is now used mainly for classic car racing. The Nurburgring Nordschleife has been nicknamed the Green Hell, or simply just "The Ring." Today it is used year-round for many auto racing-related purposes. Nearly every automaker worldwide uses the Nurburgring, or more specifically the Nurburgring Nordschleife portion, as a test track for their new performance models.

The 24 Hours Nurburgring is one of the auto racing world's most fiercely competitive, and eagerly anticipated, amateur races each year. It draws hundreds of private and sponsored teams driving everything from Hondas to Porsches and up.

Earn a Nurburgring Decal: Drive the 'Ring yourself for 15 Euros!

Even more exciting for your average car nut, nearly the entire span the of the Nurburgring Nordschleife is actually classified as a German public road, available as a one-way toll road to anyone with a road-legal car when it is not being used for racing or test track purposes. According to the official Nurburgring Nordschleife website, drivers can pay a low fee of around 15 euros for each lap driven around the Nurburgring Nordschliffe.

Ever see those black-and-white Nurburgring decals proudly displaying a map of the Nordschleife on the rear bumpers of tuner cars around town? This is the mark loose-knit club of drivers who have successfully completed a lap of the Green Hell, or potentially the mark of the PlayStation/Box-of-bees-exhaust tuner set who bought one of the Nurburgring decals for $6 from eBay.

Crashes, Deaths, Fire and Flames: Do Not Underestimate the Nurburgring

Crashes during these amateur test runs are frequent, as many would-be race car drivers are not aware of the incredible challenge the famous German road racing course presents, having only driven the 'Ring in Gran Turismo video games. Auto enthusiasts who plan to travel to Germany can easily make lapping the Nurburgring Nordschleife a highlight of their trip. Caution and a certain amount of "Don't try this at home!" applies, and since it is classified as a German public road, the Nordschleife is policed as such, with local law enforcement even circling in helicopters looking for reckless drivers.

Taking a Daihatsu K-Car out on the Nordschleife on an open-road day might not be the wisest idea. The 'Ring draws true hardcore auto enthusiasts the world over who travel to Western Germany just to drive the Nordschleife. Safety equipment, roll cage and fire extinguisher are of course recommended.

The Modern Ring Wars: Chevrolet, Nissan, Acura Oh My!

The new R35 Nissan (Skyline) GT-R made a serious footprint on the auto enthusiast world when it turned in a verified Nurburgring lap time of 7:29.03 in factory trim. Just two months later, the Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 turned in a verified Nurburgring lap time of 7:26.4, giving it the fastest production car lap time for the Nurburgring Nordschleife in its history, since the modern version of the race course was adopted.

The 'Ring is a favored place for spy photographers to look for prototypes and other sports car test vehicles, which are often caught in camouflaged trim while conducting performance testing on the Nordschleife. Honda's CEO, Takeo Fukui, has promised that the 2010 Honda/Acura NSX will turn in faster Nurburgring lap times than the GT-R, unofficially marking the second coming of the Japanese horsepower wars. Look for Subaru and Toyota to follow suit soon, as the Japanese and worldwide car buying communities demand faster and more powerful sports cars.

A jewel of automotive racing history, the Nurburgring has piqued the curiosity and admiration of car lovers worldwide. As automakers raise the bar for what their halo sports car models are capable of, look for the Nurburgring Nordschleife lap times to be the chief metric by which they are measured.
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