Why is the Nürburgring known as the “Green Hell”?

In the small town of Nürburg, Germany, hidden deep in the forests of the Eifel Mountains, lies the legendary circuit named Nurburgringaka the “Green Hell”. It is an iconic track, with blind curves everywhere and cambers that, to say the least, must be given great respect. In fact, it is possible that we are facing the most dangerous route on the current panorama; a speedway whose infamous reputation precedes its name.

Nurburgring is a kind of sacred destination for drivers, both professionals and amateurs, many of those who make a pilgrimage to the small German city are aware – or at least should – of the risks that are assumed once they are on the track. Since its construction in 1927, the “Ring” has tragically claimed the lives of just under 70 people. It is a place that many have heard of and seen, and if you like cars, a visit in your life is essential.

The green hell

Or as the Germans call it, “Grüne Hölle”, is a relentless track that carries with it an incredible automotive history that continues to expand each year. A closer look at the track reveals three things that make it a challenge for even the most skilled drivers: steep elevation changes, blind curves, and lack of safe pullout areas. Here’s why the Nürburgring deserves its nickname and its rating as “the most dangerous circuit in the world.”

Initially, the circuit was designed around the city’s old castle from which the track is named. This was, in fact, two sections joined together. The biggest was Nordschleifewith 22.8 kilometers, and connected to its southernmost point was Südschleife, 7.5 km long. This meant that the circuit could accommodate the full range of motorsports, but also both tracks could be used together, creating one huge racing track. 28.3 km as a wholewith a width of between 6.7 and 9 meters.

The track was designed to show what the best German engineering in the motor world was capable of and the talent of its drivers. At the time, Germany did not have a dedicated motorsports facility. All the “Gesamtstrecke” or full track, It consisted of 174 curves (before the 1971 changes). From the first moment, the layout required good hands. Because it was – and continues to be – narrow and without granting any condescension, with up to 300 m elevation changes in one turn.

A circuit for all uses

But it was not only a racetrack, but at night and on weekends it served as a public toll road. As such, Nürburgring linked four small towns around the Eifel region and was therefore used as a way home for some people. However, 1929 was the last year in which the full layout was used in major events; the future German Grand Prix would take place on the Nordschleife, while motorcycles and minor competitions used the Südschleife.

After World War II, the Nordschleife once again became the home of Formula 1 in the country. The races continued until late 1960s, when the track was becoming extremely dangerous for the latest generation of single-seaters. With the development of cars and their increasing racing capabilities, the track was becoming increasingly dangerous. Imagine driving in a coffin with more than 500 HP passing at almost 300 km/h, grazing the trees.

The legendary Jackie Stewartdriver in the top category between 1965 and 1973, renamed the track as “Green Hell”, a nickname he maintains to this day. After a death and the unfortunate accident of Niki Lauda in 1976, many of the drivers wanted to boycott the Nürburgring unless major changes were made. These changes were impossible in such a short time, so the German GP was moved to Hockenheimring until 2008 on a discontinued basis (except in 1985 and 2007).

The Nürburgring built a new grand prix circuit in 1984, which replaced the abandoned Sudschleife. And it works to this day. From March to November of each year, for example, the season “touristenfahrten” or “tourist walks”. Fans from all over the world flock to the various hotels and inns in the Nürburg area to make lap after lap, where normal traffic rules apply (such as overtaking on the left and turning to the right to let others pass). others).

It must also be said that some still don’t know it and the track is slippery when wet. Another thing to keep in mind is that a few times a year, the track turns into the craziest festival you can attend as a car enthusiast. The 24 Hours of Nurburgring It’s a touring car drag race around the track like no other. It is a special place and the only one of its kind. No matter how much you search, you will not find anything like it across the globe, with its advantages and disadvantages.

On the other hand, many manufacturers use the Nürburgring to test and improve their models, and they have been doing it for many years. That is why it is not unusual to see prototypes and test cars being pushed to the limit on the asphalt of the track and the area. Consider that a Nordschleife lap time is almost a new section of any production sports car’s spec sheet now, and is actually widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive test tracks for new vehicles.

Nurburgring best times

The Nürburgring time records always generate extensive conversations and are almost an achievement that brands achieve to praise the highest performance models on the market, such as Hyundai’s N, for example. Over the past two decades, they have become a recurring theme among manufacturers, each eager to prove they have the fastest vehicle on the track and grab headlines for days. In this aspect, the Nürburgring has evolved to become a crucial marketing tool for brands where an acceleration figure or a maximum speed is just as efficient as a prime time spot.

Beyond the absolute record of production cars, the world’s manufacturers often highlight records within their categories, such as electric, SUV and front-wheel drive. So, using newspaper archives and searches, but above all to satisfy our curiosity: here are the kings of green hell by categories. Needless to say, historically there have been several ways of measuring times on the circuit (which is why you sometimes see two times on the markings) so we are going to focus on the reference of 20,832 kilometers of the oldest circuit, with 147 curves. in total, in standard since 2019.

Production cars

When the Porsche 918 Spyder broke the 7-minute barrier in 2013, it seemed unbeatable. However, in just nine years, the 918 doesn’t even feature in the Top 10, being overtaken by machines like the Porsche 911 GT3 and GT3 RS. For now, the Mercedes-AMG One stands out as the fastest on the German track and on the streets, with a time of 6 minutes and 35.18 seconds at the end of October 2022, beating the next car on the list by more. 12 seconds.

  1. Mercedes-AMG One (2022) > 6:30.71 // 6:35.18
  2. Porsche 911 GT2 RS Manthey-Racing (2019) > 6:38.84 // 6:43.30
  3. Mercedes-AMG GT Black Series (2020) > 6:43.62 // 6:48.05

Overall lap record

The lap record of 6:11.13 set by the late Stefan Bellof in an endurance Porsche 956 during qualifying for the 1983 Nürburgring 1,000 Kilometers stood unbroken for 35 years. However, in 2018, Porsche used its spiritual successor, the 919 hybrid, to surpass the mark by almost a minute. The Volkswagen ID.R comes in at just over 6 minutes, while the Mercedes-AMG One, leader in the production category, surprisingly occupies fifth position.

  1. Porsche 919 Evo Le Mans > ND // 5:19.55
  2. Volkswagen ID.R > ND // 6:05.34
  3. Porsche 956 > ND // 6:11.13

Saloons

Although the Jaguar Project 8, based on the XE, was launched almost four years ago, it is still the sedan to beat. However, in 2023, Tesla is back on the circuit with its Model S Plaid, this time with a $15,000 option package that includes 20-inch Zero-G wheels, Goodyear Supercar 3R tires, ceramic brakes, and several software changes. With this, it reduced the Plaid’s original time by 10 seconds, moving the Model S to second place on the list.

  1. Jaguar XE SV Project 8 (2019) > 7:18.36 // 7:23.16
  2. Tesla Model S Plaid Track Pack (2023) > ND // 7:25.23
  3. Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S 4Matic+ (2021) > 7:23.01 // 7:27.80

SUV

While measuring an SUV’s lap time on a race track may sound absurd, these tall, heavy vehicles are almost as fast as the fastest sedans, even outpacing some sports cars. Curiously, Lamborghini has not attempted to determine the speed of its Urus on a lap, but its siblings, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT and the Audi RS Q8, lead the standings.

  1. Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT (2021) > 7:33.95 // 7:38.93
  2. Audi RS Q8 (2020) > ND // 7:42.25
  3. Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4Matic+ (2019) > 7:49.37 // 7:54.40

Front-wheel drive

The Renault Mégane RS and Honda Civic Type R have traded places at the top of the front-wheel drive record table for almost a decade, with the Honda being the current champion. The 2023 Civic Type R used for the record was a lightened European version called S-Grade, missing some electrical components, but still a genuine production model. In second place is the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport R, which briefly held the record in 2016.

  1. Honda Civic Type R (2023) > ND // 7:44.88
  2. Renault Mégane RS Trophy-R (2019) > 7:40.10 // 7:45.39
  3. Honda Civic Type R (2018) > 7:43.80 // ND

Compact

When the Nürburgring 1927 GmbH & Co. KG established the lap record concept in 2019, it also created a category for compact cars. Most of the fastest compacts sold in Europe, where Nürburgring records are most relevant, are front-wheel drive hot hatches, which is why they also appear on our list. On this side, the all-wheel drive Audi RS 3 Sedan with its turbocharged five-cylinder engine stands out as the fastest.

  1. Audi RS 3 (2022) > ND // 7:40.75
  2. Honda Civic Type R (2023) > ND // 7:44.88
  3. Renault Mégane RS Trophy-R (2019) > 7:40.10 // 7:45.39

Electrical

Although track-only creations like the Volkswagen ID.R and NIO EP9 currently lead the electric car chart, production models are also improving. The Rimac Nevera has positioned itself at the front of this group, while several versions of the Tesla Model S and the Porsche Taycan have traded places in recent years. With the promise of continued improvements, we can’t wait to see what the Stuttgart team has in store for the Taycan.

Volkswagen ID.R (2019) > ND // 6:05.34
NIO EP9 (2017) > ND // 6:45.90
Rimac Refrigerator (2022) > 7:00.93 // 7:05.30

In short, the Nürburgring is a crazy place. But context is key, Germany has highways without speed restrictions – only in some sections – so the madness is only relative. If you have any interest in cars and driving, this place should be on your bucket list. Because although it is nicknamed the “Green Hell”, the Nürburgring is a safer space, and those who travel through it are becoming increasingly familiar with its structure. Not a great place to go, but certainly you can have fun with some confidence.

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