There is nothing more mournful to the devoted petrolhead than a once glorious racing venue that has fallen silent. The world’s first purpose-built motorsport arena at Brooklands was bombed into submission barely 30 years after it ushered in the modern format of circuit racing. Its abandoned banking is a ghostly reminder that no circuit is immune to the hand of time or, it seems, the hand of Herman Tilke. On the eve of the German Grand Prix it is worth remembering that although the Nurburgring has admirably survived a brush with Tilke, now this most fearsome of tracks is under threat from its own custodians.
In a bye-gone age when true road racing over mammoth stretches of tarmac still existed the confines of the Nordschleife still managed to conjure up fear in even the most daring drivers. Nobody conquered the 14 miles as convincingly as Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957 or Jackie Stewart in 1968, both of whom later confessed to the fear that taming the Green Hell struck into them. That a circuit as daunting and idiosyncratic as this still hosts racing, let alone members of the public hurtling round in their own cars and bikes, is a rare triumph for the thrill-seeking spirit in an ever more homogenised world. That this Mecca for motorists is struggling under the weight of its debt is a more than a shame, it is a threat to a great symbol of the freedom of motoring.
The organisers of the Nurburgring 24 Hours have spoken of ditching the venue at the end of its current contract while Formula One is now an irregular and expensive visitor to the reasonable Tilke-drome that was tacked onto the old track in 1984. It seems that the pilgrims in their track-ready and not so track-ready machines along with the manufacturers that pride themselves on their intensive ‘Ring testing are the ones keeping races happening here at all. It certainly isn’t the track-side roller coaster that is paying the bills, nor is it the costly honour of holding the German Grand Prix. The Save The Ring campaign outlines the massive mis-managements behind the Nurburgring’s current woes. As the Grand Prix circus roll through the Eifel mountains there is no better time to connect with Save The Ring and show your support for the last bastion of a heroic era.
There is a demonstration planned for Sunday which the campaigners hope will show the world what is going on beyond the weekend’s big race. The world’s automotive playground is sinking in debt after questionable investments based on over-optimistic targets. Now those running the show want us to ‘Love the Ring’; they clearly don’t realise that millions of motor-mad individuals already do adore this place. They also don’t appreciate the art of the double entendre…
Save the Ring wants to see new management and the separation of the circuit from the exhibition halls and roller coasters springing up around the hallowed roads. I’m not nearly well informed enough to know if they stand a chance of success, but I wish them well. Plenty of tracks have fallen victim to mis-management over time, indeed Donington Park was so nearly lost recently, but surely a national treasure that has survived so much with its spirit intact can’t be left to flounder in a sea of debt?