18 Jul 2012

Nürburgring goes bust - Receivers called in

You would be forgiven for thinking that the Nürburgring represents a perfect model of automotive money making.  After all if you've visited recently and winced as you've bought your 'Ring card, paid €26 for per lap of the 13 mile circuit (and avoided the barriers) then bought an overpriced burger and frites in the trackside cafe you'll certainly think you've contributed to the track and local economy.

The track itself hasn't needed too many modifications over the years.  It was built in 1927 and, aside from the modern F1 track in 1984, the layout remains largely unchanged.  It is open almost every day of the year either for closed corporate events, auto-industry testing (industriefahrten), racing or one of the aforementioned public access days.

So the construction cost of the Nürburgring has long been paid for, it earns money every day and the barriers are replaced and paid for by those luckless souls whose ambition outweighs their talent whilst trying to tame what Jackie Stewart referred to as the Green Hell.

What could go wrong?

Well recently the owners of the 'Ring have spent millions of euros on the development of hotels, nightclubs and shops whilst also hiking ticket prices.  In doing this they have ignoring the simple needs of the petrol head with a few pounds and a desire to test their mettle around the best and most challenging track in the world.  A petrolhead's desires and needs during a trip to the Nürburgring usually involve lots of laps of the circuit followed by a decent hotel or B&B and a few beers and a plate of schnitzel in the company of the very accommodating locals.

So the owners have given us, the fans of the Nürburgring, what we don't want and have managed to embroil themselves in a terrible financial state.  Whilst the rest of Germany outperforms Europe the Nürburgring is doing it's best impression of Greece.  And it is just as broke.

The state has pumped €330 million into the circuit over the past few years.  They've spent all of that on nightclubs and swanky hotels and now need another €13 million just to stay afloat.

And here we run into a problem.  The European Commission has outlawed any such payments - branding them state payments.

The track is now in the hands of the receivers.  The activities already planned for the 2012 season are safe but beyond that the future of the track is uncertain.

The outcome is anybody's guess.  Will the German motor industry, currently riding the crest of a wave, buy the Nürburgring?  Will somebody who understands what is needed to make the track a viable financial proposition step-in and buy it?

Hopefully the track will be saved.  For the sake of anyone with a sniff of petrol running through their veins the Nürburgring must be saved.  We sincerely hope the Nürburgring does not turn into another lost and deserted race track - lost for the sake of faceless bureaucrats and shortsighted and greedy developers.

That would be a tragedy.