Nurburgring knowledge: Facts, figures, fastest laps and the best 2017 fail videos

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Author: | Updated: 22 Nov 2017 12:06

It goes by many names. Nurburgring, Nordschleife, the Ring… or as Formula One’s Sir Jackie Stewart soberly put it – the Green Hell.

Whatever you call it, if you’re into cars you’ll certainly know what it is – 12.9 miles of twisting tarmac in the middle of Germany’s Eifel forest. There’s no other racetrack quite like it in the world.

Nurburgring: what you need to know

Like the autobahns, the Nurburgring has come to symbolise German dominance and superiority in the automotive field. The ultimate test of man and machine, the circuit tops the bucket lists of many a would-be racing driver. It’s also become the proving ground of choice for manufacturers looking to perfect their performance cars.

But how did it become what it is today? Why was it built? Which car holds the current lap record? We take a closer look at this legendary Nurburgring…

Five things you might not know about the Nurburgring…


1. It is actually made up of two circuits – the 20.8km Nordschleife (Northern loop) and the 4.5km GP circuit. The latter came into use in the 80s and replaced the little-used Sudschliefe (Southern Loop) after the original Nordschleife was deemed too dangerous for Formula One.

2. It’s not just the technicality of the circuit that make it a challenge; the length and surrounding landscape mean it can quite literally be gloriously sunny on one side of the circuit, and pouring with rain on the other.

3. When not hosting a race event or test day, the Nurburgring is a toll road open to members of the public. A Touristfahrten lap will cost you €25 or €30 depending when you visit.

4. As a public toll, German rules of the road still apply – you can’t overtake on the right, and some sections of the track are subject to speed limits.

5. If you crash it could cost more than just your pride – damaged armco barriers are chargeable at 10 euros a metre, while the attendance of a recovery vehicle costs from €600!

Where did it all start?

Built between 1925 and 1927 to generate jobs during Germany’s bleak interwar years, more than 25,000 workers were involved in its construction. It wasn’t just built to alleviate unemployment though. The aim was to create a circuit that would push cars and drivers to their absolute limits – something it has been successful in doing ever since.

Porsche Cup 1970s

It’s one of the most technically challenging circuits in the world, playing host to the German Grand Prix more than 40 times. Niki Lauda’s infamous fiery crash in 1976 marked an end of F1 on the gruelling Nordschleife, and since 1981 it has been held on the new GP circuit.

The track today

While F1 is off the cards, the Nordschleife has become the place to be if you want to develop a seriously quick car. It’s one of the best places that engineers can test the reliability and drivability of new vehicles too.

For high-performance models, a record-smashing lap time isn’t a bad bit of PR, either. In fact as lap records go, it’s the only one that really matters for car makers. The sheer number of OEMs with permanent bases in the track’s vicinity speaks volumes. Aston. BMW. Ford. They’re all here.

Hyundai developed its i30n at the Ring, and it took part in its 24H race too.

In recent years even Hyundai has got in on the act, developing its all-new and highly praised i30N hot hatch here. In fact the Korean brand actually has one of the most modern facilities at the track.

So, just which cars are the fastest around the ring? We’ve checked out what’s hot in their respective market segments*…

Front-wheel drive scoreboard…

Since the battle of the hot hatches kicked off in the 1980s, they’ve been trying to outdo each other at the Ring. Obviously they’ll never put in the same kind of times as supercars, but they do stand a chance of taking another accolade – the fastest front-wheel drive lap.

Honda Civic Type-R Nurburgring FWD record

It’s no surprise then, that the FWD scoreboard is made up almost entirely of hot hatchbacks. Until last year, it was the Golf GTI in Clusbsport S guise that held the record, but the all-new Civic Type R smashed it yet again earlier this year, putting in a time of 7:43.8s.

Position Car Lap time
1. Honda Civic Type R (2017) 7:43.80s
2. Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport S 7:49.21s
3. Honda Civic Type R (2014) 7:50.63s
4. Renault Megane Renaultsport 275 Trophy-R (2014) 7:54.35s
5. Seat Leon Cupra R (2014) 7:58.40s

SUVs getting in on the action…

It seems not even the Nurburgring is immune from the ever-growing popularity of SUVs and, while they’re designed with the school run in mind rather than the Schwalbenschwanz, car makers have started putting these beasts of burden round the ‘ring.

Porsche was first up with its Cayenne, but the Bavarian brand’s SUV was blown out the water by Alfa Romeo’s Stelvio Quadrifoglio, that managed to blast round in 7:51.7s.

Position Car Lap time
1. Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio 7:32.00s
2. Porsche Cayenne Turbo S 7:59.74s
3. Range Rover Sport SVR 8:14.00s

The fastest road cars…

And now for the big one. What is the fastest road car to ever take on the Nurburgring? Well you may think the blisteringly quick lap time of 6:47.3s recently put in by Porsche’s 911 GT2 RS wasn’t going to be beaten anytime soon. However…

Porsche 911 GT2 RS

A little-heard of electric car called the NIO EP9 smashed the record once again, completing the Nordshliefe in 6:45.9s. Admittedly, it was using special track tyres, so it’s questionable whether it belongs in the number one spot.

It’s worth bearing in mind that none of these results are official, and various sources have different rules on what constitutes a ‘road legal’ production car.

We think the NIO is worth a mention though; as more and more car makers turn their attention to electric power, the presence of EVs in the top ten will be more than an anomaly in a few years…

Position Car Lap time
1. NIO EP9 6:45.90s
2. Porsche 911 GT2 RS 6:47.30s
3. Lamborghini Huracan Performante 6:52.01s
4. Porsche 918 Spyder (Weissach) 6:57.00s
5. Lamborghini Aventador SV 6:59.73s
6. Nissan GT-R Nismo 7:08.69s
7. Mercedes-Benz AMG GT R 7:10.92s
8. Gumpert Apollo Sport 7:11.57s
9. Dodge Viper SRT10 7:12.13s
10. Porsche 911 GT3 7:12.70s

Nurburgring + general public = crash carnage

This is a track that’s open to the general public. It’s also one of the most challenging in the world. That’s not always a great combo, as endless YouTube clips can attest. Take a look at the recent video below – the drama starts after a driver spots a crash up ahead and then the cars just keep piling up …

Despite his efforts to flag down other drivers, the ensuring carnage is a perfect example of just how unforgiving the Nurburgring remains, however many safety measures are put in place. Thankfully, there were only minor injuries in this one…

Here’s a compilation of the best fails of 2017.

Fancy a go yourself?

There’s nothing to stop you taking on the ring yourself (check your insurance and lease agreements though). We think a better bet would be one of the many Ring Taxis that are available.

You can get a ride in a BMW M3 as a passenger with a professional racing driver. This allows you to experience the ring in a much faster – and safer manner – than you would if you were driving yourself.

If you really want a slice of the Nurburgring action, how about leasing one of the record-smashing cars? We’ve put together a list of the top five fastest cars round the ring… that you can actually lease.

* All figures correct at time of writing.

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