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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nurburgring to Close?

The results of the latest election in the Rhineland-Palatinate state where the 'Ring is located has seen the Green Party triple its vote meaning that the state is now to be governed by a coalition of the previously majority SPD party to include the Greens.

The leader of the Greens, Daniel Kobler, has targeted the subsidies which are given to the track for the purpose of holding F1 and has said publicly that "In the negotiations with the SPD, we will work to permanently remove the subsidies for the 'Ring in the foreseeable future."

Probably one of the most famous F1 tracks in the world the 'Ring was purpose built in the 1920's in the Eifel mountains.  In the 1950s the Nordschleife (Northern Loop) of the Nürburgring became the main venue for the German grand Prix, a 14 mile circuit winding through the mountains and forests.

It continued to operate the GP with intermittent absences from the calendar until 1976 and the famous Niki Lauda crash where he was severely burned after his car went off on lap 2 of the race.  His life was saved by four of the other drivers rather than by the emergency services, for whom the track was too long to cover effectively.  This marked the end of the Nordschleife as an F1 racing venue.

Ironically, earlier in the year Lauda had proposed that the drivers boycott the 'Ring precisely because of the inherent dangers associated with racing it at ever increasing speeds and the safety issues arising at the track.  The other drivers voted against his proposal and the final race was held.

Lauda is also the only person who has ever lapped the Nordschleife in under 7 minutes (in 1975).

A new, shorter, track was constructed to a much higher standard for modern racing at the 'Ring and completed in 1984.  It held the European Grand Prix during the Schumacher era, but over the last number of years both it and Hockenheim have been losing money due to high ticket prices and the costs associated with hosting a GP.

Is this the end of the Nurburgring's F1 history?  Will the European Green Parties finally begin to tear F1 apart pushing F1 further and further East and South?  Should Kobler get his way it would appear to signal the end of European F1 as we know it.  If they can shut down a track that has been synonymous with the Grand Prix Calendar since its inception in the 1920's - is anywhere safe?