History of the Nürburgring, the World’s Most Famous Racetrack (2023)

Aaron GoldGetty ImagesPhotographer

The Nürburgring, located in western Germany, is one of the most famous, historical racetracks in the world—not least of all because anyone with a license and a road-legal car can try it out for themselves. The Nordschleife (North Loop) section is notoriously long and treacherous: 12.9 miles, 73 turns (40 right and 33 left), a maximum grade of 17 percent—and nearly 1,000 feet of elevation changes, with the track's lowest point sitting 1,040 feet above sea level and its highest point at 2,021 feet. It's been reproduced in several racing simulations, and driving it is considered one of the ultimate road trips for car fanatics.

So how did the track three-time Formula 1 champion Jackie Stewart famously nicknamed the "Green Hell" come to be? Let's take a quick dive into Nürburgring history.

(Video) Why This German Race Track Is The Most Dangerous In The World | Turn By Turn

Nürburgring History: Early Racing in Germany

In 1899, James Gordon Bennett Jr., publisher of the New York Herald, established an automobile race in Europe, with the proviso that the race be held in the home country of the previous year's winning team. Camille Jenatzy, a Belgian driving for Mercedes, took the checkered flag in 1903, bringing the 1904 Gordon Bennett Cup to Germany. Kaiser Wilhelm II suggested a course in the Taunus Forest. Here on his home turf, Jenatzy lost to Frenchman Léon Théry, but the race established an important point: Germany was full of budding race fans, and there was a thriving and profitable industry just waiting to be built.

As in much of the world, early German motor races ran on public roads, and it soon became clear a dedicated circuit was desirable for both racing and automotive development. In 1907—reportedly after Italian driver Felice Nazzaro embarrassed Germany by winning the Kaiserpreis (Emperor's Prize)—the kaiser suggested a track in the hilly Eifel region, which had little industry and rocky soil that made for difficult farming. The idea simmered until 1922, when the German automobile club ADAC began running the Eifelrennen series in the area. The popularity of those races, as well as their dismal safety record, underlined the need for a new track.

Nürburgring History: The Track Is Born

The town of Nürburg became the focal point of the new raceway, with Gustav Eichler as architect, and Italy's Targa Florio as the inspiration. Construction began in 1925, with as many as 2,500 laborers working on the track at any one time. The Nürburgring hosted its first race on June 18, 1927 (motorcycles, though car racing followed a day later).

The original historic track consisted of the 14.2-mile North Loop (Nordschleife) and the 4.8-mile South Loop (Südschleife). Most races ran on a 17.6-mile circuit called the Gesamtstrecke, or Whole Course. Right from its opening, the Nürburgring was treated as a public-use toll road, with road-legal vehicles allowed to drive the circuit on days it was not otherwise booked.

(Video) The Complete History Of The NÜRBURGRING

Before long, major car races began to concentrate on the North Loop, with motorcycles and minor races using the less-challenging South Loop. Talented drivers soon became known as Ringmeisters. Racing halted with the onset of World War II, and the track's surface was badly damaged by tank traffic. Repairs were made at the cessation of hostilities, and racing resumed in 1947.

Nürburgring History: Faster Speeds Mean Danger

Racing rapidly gained popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, but as Formula 1 speeds increased, so did fatalities. It was in this period—1968 to be specific—that Stewart gave the track its famous nickname. The Nürburgring's narrow path and lack of run-off areas made it particularly dangerous, to the point that F1 drivers boycotted the track in 1970. The 1970 German Grand Prix had to be hastily moved to the Hockenheimring, which had been fortified with safety barriers after F1 star Jim Clark's fatal crash in 1968, in which his Lotus hit a tree.

The Nordschleife was subject to a round of improvements, which included removing some corners and eliminating some of the more serious bumps. Even so, there were still locations on the track where a high-speed car could become airborne, and the rural layout limited the opportunities for emergency vehicle access. The German Grand Prix returned to the Nürburgring for 1971, but the track's location made TV coverage difficult, and plans were made to move the race back to the Hockenheimring for the 1977 season. Nicky Lauda, who set a track record of 6 minutes, 58.6 seconds in 1975, proposed boycotting the 1976 GP, citing the track's ongoing safety shortcomings. His fellow drivers overruled him, and Lauda was badly injured in a fiery crash in the race.

Nürburgring History: Moving to Hockenheim

Since options to reconfigure the Nordschleife were limited, the decision was made to construct a new track in place of the Südschleife. The 2.8 mile GP Strecke was completed in 1984, and while it lacked the excitement of the original South Loop, let alone the North Loop, it was a significantly safer circuit. A new bypass shortened the Nordschleife to 12.9 miles, and the two tracks could be combined for a 15.2-mile loop.

(Video) THE NÜRBURGRING - Everything You Need to Know | Up to Speed

The 1985 German Grand Prix was held at the new track, but in 1986 the Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) moved the race back to the Hockenheimring, where it remained for the next 20 years. However, the 'Ring returned to the F1 calendar in 1995 as host of the European Grand Prix. From 2007, the German GP alternated between the two tracks, with the Nürburgring as host for odd-numbered years, though the race did not run in 2015 and 2017.

Nürburgring History: The 'Ring Today

Today the Nürburgring hosts several important races, including the World Touring Car Championship's Race of Germany and the ADAC 24 Hour Race Nürburgring, as well as the Rad am Ring bicycle race and the Rock am Ring music festival. The venue houses a hotel and an indoor theme park. The Nürburgring, as originally intended, is a major center of automotive development, with automakers renting the track for a total of three to four months per year. The ongoing war of production-car lap times has become a staple of the automotive industry, with enthusiasts often following the latest 'Ring times as prime fodder for bench-racing arguments about the merits, or lack thereof, of their favorite and not-so-favorite vehicles.

However, the most famous aspect of the Nürburgring, stretching all the way back to the beginning of its history, may well be that the track remains (mostly) accessible to the public. Anyone with €30 (€25 Monday through Thursday), a valid license, and a road-legal motor vehicle can drive a lap on the Nordschleife, provided it isn't reserved. Be warned, though, that crashing can get expensive: Drivers can be charged for emergency services, barrier repair, and track closure. Even though the track is, technically, a public road, insurance coverage is iffy. (There are services that rent cars for Nürburgring use, insurance included.)

Regardless, whether you drive it in a race car or an old Fiat, the Nürburgring remains a unique experience, a time portal back to the earliest days of motor-racing history—and one accessible to all. No surprise, then, it's considered one of the greatest tracks in the world, and stakes a strong claim to being the greatest of them all.

(Video) Fastest Lap Record At Nurburgring By Porsche 919 Hybrid Evo Explained

Nürburgring History Quick Facts

  • Location: Nürburg, Germany
  • Year of construction: 1925
  • First race: 1927
  • Total circuit length: 17.6 miles (1927)

Nürburgring Nordschleife Stats, 2020

  • Length: 12.94 miles (20.8 km)
  • Number of right turns: 33
  • Number of left turns: 40
  • Elevation change: 981 feet
  • Direction of travel: Clockwise
  • Fee: €25 Monday-Thursday, €30 Thursday-Sunday
(Video) Inside the Ring - A Documentary about the Evolution of the legendary Nürburgring Nordschleife


Why is the Nürburgring so famous? ›

It is, however, more widely known as the fastest toll road in the world, allowing anyone with a license to experience a full lap of the ring. For some, the word Nordschleife conjures images of famous racing drivers of the 60s and 70s, battling around the infamous track, risking life and limb.

Is The Nürburgring the biggest race track in the world? ›

As the world's longest racetrack, the Nordschleife remains the ultimate test of skill amongst professional drivers competing in extreme races like the 24 Hours of Nurburgring endurance race.

Why is Nürburgring called the Graveyard? ›

The racetrack was nicknamed “The Green Hell” by former Formula One driver, Jackie Stewart, with some even calling it “The Graveyard”. Over the years, the Nordschleife has claimed the lives of nearly 70 professional drivers, as well as the egos of hundreds, if not thousands of others.

Why did they stop racing at the Nürburgring? ›

The old Nurburgring could never be called safe, but in the summer of 1976 the question of safety was high on the list of priorities in the Formula 1 world. Grand Prix racing had become a very dangerous game, with cars that were too powerful for the circuits on which they raced.

How many cars crashed at Nürburgring? ›

In 2018, the Polizei were made aware of 90 accidents, with one fatality, 15 serious injuries, and 18 minor injuries; in 2019, 84 accidents were reported, with 18 serious injuries, 15 minor injuries, and no fatalities; 2020 had 67 reported accidents, with one fatality, 10 serious injuries, and 11 minor injuries; in 2021 ...

Is the Nürburgring the hardest track? ›

Considered the greatest and most challenging circuit ever devised, the original Nurburgring (permanent road course: 22.835 km (1967-76 version)) – infamously nicknamed the “Green Hell” by Jackie Stewart – was a 160-turn behemoth that wound its way through the Eiffel Mountains of western Germany.

What does Nürburgring mean in English? ›

Its real name has always been Nürburgring, and it actually has a very simple meaning. The track itself encircles the castle of Nürburg in the Eifel mountains of Germany. The name is literally a ring of the famous castle.

What car holds the Nürburgring record? ›

Overall Nurburgring lap record

Porsche smashed the overall lap record at the Ring with a time of 5:19.55 minutes in a 919 Hybrid Evo. The car is a development of the Le Mans prototype the German marque has raced competitively, and it hit a top speed of 229mph on its mind-blowing lap.

How many people has the Nürburgring killed? ›

The number of fatalities in its 83-year history is a source of contention. One source puts the toll at 73; others say that between two and 12 persons die every year.

What happens to cars that crash on the Nürburgring? ›

If there are damages to the track, the Nürburgring officials will assess them and have you pay the bill on the spot. Damages to the car will be appraised at the Apex Nürburg workshop if the car can make it there. If not our technician will drive up to where the car is and inspect the damages there.

How much does it cost to rent a car at the Nürburgring? ›

Vehicle rentals start at around €200 for half a day, €300 for a full day, and go up to €2,000 per day or more. Prices may or may not include fuel, insurance coverage (including damage to the car and Ring) and excess, Ring lap tickets, mileage etc.

Why do so many people crash at Nurburgring? ›

There is no driver's briefing, no safety presentation, and no requirement to have looked at the rules. Whilst the Nurburgring is classed as a public road during these sessions, it is predominantly a race track. This means it has a unique set of rules that you really should familiarise yourself with before heading out.

Which F1 driver died at Nurburgring? ›

DriverDate of accidentCircuit
Carel Godin de Beaufort ( NED )August 1, 1964Nürburgring
John Taylor ( UK )August 7, 1966Nürburgring
Lorenzo Bandini ( ITA )May 7, 1967Circuit de Monaco
Bob Anderson ( UK )August 14, 1967Silverstone Circuit
48 more rows

Why is there so much graffiti on the Nurburgring? ›

In the earlier days of tourist driving, tributes were painted on the circuit at the scene of accidents which cost people their lives. Today these servce as reminders to us all of how dangerous the Ring can be.

What car is the king of the Nürburgring? ›

The Mercedes-AMG ONE 1 is now officially the king of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife with an officially measured and notarised time of 6:35.183 minutes.

How much is the Nürburgring worth? ›

Nurburgring Racetrack on Sale for $165 Million.

Who owns the Nürburgring? ›

Düsseldorf-based Capricorn Development was the buyer. The company was to take full ownership of the Nürburgring on 1 January 2015. But in October 2014, Russian billionaire, the chairman of Moscow-based Pharmstandard, Viktor Kharitonin, bought a majority stake in the Nürburgring.

Can you overtake Nurburgring? ›

Overtaking on the LEFT SIDE ONLY – (Unless on a Ringmeisters event). No overtaking into corners or around corners. No overtaking without clear consent AND signal AND invitation from the car in front. 150 car track limit.

What is the deadliest race track? ›

10 Most Dangerous Race Tracks On The Planet
  1. 1 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
  2. 2 Jeddah Corniche Circuit: Saudi Arabia. ...
  3. 3 Autodromo Nazionale Monza: Italy. ...
  4. 4 Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari: Imola, Italy. ...
  5. 5 Circuit de Monaco: Monaco. ...
  6. 6 Snaefell Mountain Course: Isle Of Man. ...
Jun 22, 2022

Why was Nurburgring removed from F1? ›

The Nordschleife is NOT the Grand Prix circuit, and hasn't been for decades. Why was Formula One (F1) stopped at the Nürburgring Nordschleife? Not enough access for emergency vehicles. This was painfully obvious after Lauda's '76 crash there.

What is the oldest race track in the world? ›

Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit, built it 1907, is the first purpose-built motor racing circuit in the world. It predates other equally well-known international circuits, such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Monza. By the 1930s Brooklands had attained universal recognition as the home of British motor sport.

What is the most famous car track in the world? ›

Circuit de la Sarthe

The Le Mans 24 hours is arguably the most famous motorsport event in the world! The first race took place in 1923 and it has been an annual feature on the motorsport calendar since 1949.

What is the most famous car race? ›

1. Indianapolis 500 (IndyCar) With apologies to my NASCAR friends, there's just no race in the United States quite like the Indy 500. It has more than 100 years of prestige, the winner's face is immortalized on the trophy and it has international recognition as one of auto racing's crown jewels.

Why is drifting illegal on the Nurburgring? ›

why is drifting not allowed in Nurburgring? As we've stated before, for tourist driving sessions the Nordschleife is classed as a public road. Obviously German road driving regulations do not allow drifting.

What are some fun facts about the Nurburgring? ›

The Nurburgring was constructed to ease unemployment in the Eifel region of North West Germany. Over 25,000 people were utilised in the construction between 1925 and 1927. The man who initiated this masterpiece was politician Dr Otto Cruez. Later suspected of fraud by the Nazis he eventually committed suicide.

What is the longest straight on the Nurburgring? ›

The Dottinger Hohe is the longest straight on the Nurburgring, and can be seen from the main Nurburgring Webcam. It is usually the point where racers, track day drivers or manufacturer test drivers will reach their fastest speed over the course of a lap.

How fast can an f1 car go around the Nürburgring? ›

I'll answer for the Nordschleife. The outright official fastest lap of the Nordschleife is 6:11.13, set by Steffan Bellof in a Porsche 956 back in 1983. The fastest lap for a road-legal production car is 6:44.97 set by Marco Mapelli in a Lamborghini Aventador LP770–4 SVJ.

What if someone hits you on the Nürburgring? ›

In case someone hits you, you still have to cover the excess amount, then you can claim it back from the insurance and in case the other person is in fault, you will get the money back.

What are the speed limits on the Nürburgring? ›

A 250kmh (155mph) limit from the Gantry to just after the Bridge, along the Döttinger Höhe. The only place in Germany with a “250kmh limit ends” sign!

Who pays for damage at Nürburgring? ›

In short: you pay for any damage that you have done to the car – but this is capped to a maximum amount (or excess). Our cars are insured for the track and the road. But just like any normal insurance, you have to pay for a certain amount before the insurance takes over. This is known as the excess or deductible.

What is the rarest car in crash of cars? ›

The Extravagant is a Rare vehicle in Crash of Cars.

Can anyone drive around the Nürburgring? ›

You're of course welcome to bring your own car to drive the Nürburgring! Any road registered, motorway capable vehicle or motorcycle is allowed to go on the track.

How many cars fit in Nürburgring 24 hours? ›

Held since 1970, over 25.378 km (15.8 mi) lap length allows more than 200 cars and over 700 drivers to participate. Although affectionately known as "The 24 Hours of Nürburgring", the race is commonly named after the official naming partner.

Is it free to drive on the Nürburgring? ›

Per the Nürburgring website, an amateur driver can get on the track for a lap for only €30 ($32) Monday through Thursday. From Friday until Sunday and on public holidays, the lap will cost €35 ($37.25). A 15-minute blast on the GP Track will cost the same.

How long is Nürburgring full track? ›

There are two tracks at the complex: the Grand Prix track is 5.1km in length, and hosts F1 and WEC races; the Nordschleife (“North Loop”) is 20.8km in length, and is combined with the Grand Prix track to form a 25km-long course on which the 24 Hours of Nürburgring is held.

Which F1 driver went to jail? ›

After winning the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans, Gachot was sentenced to 18 months in prison for an aggravated assault that had occurred the previous December.
Bertrand Gachot.
Formula One World Championship career
Active years1989–1992, 1994–1995
TeamsOnyx, Rial, Coloni, Jordan, Lola, Larrousse, Pacific
Entries84 (47 starts)
11 more rows

What was the worst F1 crash in history? ›

Accounts put the death toll at 80 to 84 (spectators plus Levegh), either by flying debris or from the fire, with a further 120 to 178 injured. Other observers estimated the toll to be much higher. It has remained the most catastrophic crash in motorsport history.

What was the worst F1 accident? ›

1955 Monaco Grand Prix – Alberto Ascari

If you're wondering what were the worst crashes in F1 history, let's go back to 1955 to get things started. Perhaps the weirdest crash in F1 history took place during the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix. Two-time World Champion Alberto Ascari started the race in the second row.

Can the public race at Nurburgring? ›

The Nurburgring is only a public road for tourist driving sessions, however. When there is an official Nurburgring track day or race event, the Ring is classed as a racing circuit.

Why is there so much graffiti on the Nürburgring? ›

In the earlier days of tourist driving, tributes were painted on the circuit at the scene of accidents which cost people their lives. Today these servce as reminders to us all of how dangerous the Ring can be.

Why is drifting illegal on the Nürburgring? ›

why is drifting not allowed in Nurburgring? As we've stated before, for tourist driving sessions the Nordschleife is classed as a public road. Obviously German road driving regulations do not allow drifting.

Why was Nürburgring removed from F1? ›

Due to name-licensing problems, it was held as the European Grand Prix that year. In 2014, the new owners of the Nürburgring were unable to secure a deal to continue hosting the German Grand Prix in the odd-numbered years, so the 2015 and 2017 German Grands Prix were cancelled.

Who is the king of Nürburgring? ›

The hypercar lapped the 'ring' in 6 minutes and 53 seconds

The Mercedes-AMG ONE 1 is now officially the king of the Nürburgring-Nordschleife with an officially measured and notarised time of 6:35.183 minutes.

Does Nurburgring have a speed limit? ›

Most of the Nordschleife has no speed limit. There is one section of the track that has a speed limit – Breidscheid Bridge. Read why this speed limit exists and why it is important to observe it. This also means you must observe the 50km/h speed limit in construction, incident and yellow-flag zones.

What is the minimum speed on the Nurburgring? ›

1) Driving on the Nürburgring is only permitted using vehicles which comply with the law and which have a minimum speed of 40 km/h.

How much does it cost to drive Nurburgring? ›

Cars and bikes pay the same for laps. The ticket office is next to the Touristfahrten main entrance in Nürburg. There's no briefing or need for your car to be checked etc. A single lap is €25 Monday to Thursday, and €30 Friday to Sunday.

What is the most beautiful race track in the world? ›

World's most beautiful race courses: From beaches to frozen lakes
  • Happy Valley, Hong Kong — ...
  • Ascot, England — ...
  • Chantilly, France — ...
  • Laytown Races, Ireland — ...
  • Goodwood Racecourse, England — ...
  • Cheltenham Racecourse, England — ...
  • Meydan Racecourse, Dubai — ...
  • St. Moritz, Switzerland —
Jan 8, 2019

What is the fastest ever Nurburgring? ›

Overall Nurburgring lap record

Porsche smashed the overall lap record at the Ring with a time of 5:19.55 minutes in a 919 Hybrid Evo. The car is a development of the Le Mans prototype the German marque has raced competitively, and it hit a top speed of 229mph on its mind-blowing lap.

Why did Niki Lauda crash at Nurburgring? ›

Lauda was seriously injured in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix while racing at the Nürburgring; during the crash his Ferrari 312T2 burst into flames, nearly killing him after he inhaled hot toxic fumes and suffered severe burns.
Niki Lauda.
Formula One World Championship career
Last entry1985 Australian Grand Prix
16 more rows


1. Why Sabine Schmitz was The Queen of the Nurburgring
(Josh Revell)
2. The Green Hell: The Story of the Nurburgring (documentary on Amazon Prime).
(Naren Harwani)
3. Here's why F1 doesn't race at the Nürburgring Nordschleife
(Vehicle Valhalla)
4. In memory of Sabine Schmitz, Queen of the Nurburgring | Motorvision
(Motorvision International)
5. 10 Most Memorable Moments From The Nurburgring
6. Top 10 of Hardest Crashes on Nürburgring Nordschleife
(rallyeoberehe The Nürburgring & Rallye Channel)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Allyn Kozey

Last Updated: 04/30/2023

Views: 6515

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (43 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Allyn Kozey

Birthday: 1993-12-21

Address: Suite 454 40343 Larson Union, Port Melia, TX 16164

Phone: +2456904400762

Job: Investor Administrator

Hobby: Sketching, Puzzles, Pet, Mountaineering, Skydiving, Dowsing, Sports

Introduction: My name is Allyn Kozey, I am a outstanding, colorful, adventurous, encouraging, zealous, tender, helpful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.