Why would you go on a UK to Nürburgring road trip? It’s considered the most dangerous and challenging racing circuit in the world. Formula 1 races were held here until 1976 when Niki Lauda’s Ferrari crashed badly. After this the Hockenheim and Nürburgring Strecke 1 (The modern Nürburgring) were used for Formula 1 races.
The old Nürburgring circuit is very demanding with 13 miles and 73 turns to negotiate, even experienced drivers find it difficult to memorise. The circuit has varying levels of grip which also need to be considered, plus the weather can change from being dry and bright to wet.
Nicknamed “The Green Hell” by Jackie Stewart, the Nürburgring is a notoriously difficult circuit to memorise. It’s also open to the public for a large part of the year, with thousands attending one of the Touristenfahrten days (tourist days). While intimidating, the Nürburgring has a lot to offer a petrol head!
Road Trip Plan
I’ve always wanted to arrange a road trip to the Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit. I finally got round to an epic UK To Nürburgring road trip in October 2014. The circuits appetite for trashing cars (and drivers) is legendary, and it was this fear that made me put a road trip on the backburner several times…
The circuit became legendary on Gran Turismo on the Playstation. I’d religiously negotiate the Nürburgring in my XJR9 trying to break lap records. Gran Turismo was just a computer game, yet still the circuit felt difficult and unforgiving. It’s a very old fashioned circuit with tons of character. What better than an adventurous road trip to the Nürburgring?
Setting Off For Germany
We took my car, a 2004 Honda S2000 GT from the UK to the Dover ferry port, crossed the channel and drove on to Amiens in Northern France to stay for a few days. I’d definitely recommend a ferry trip over the expensive channel tunnel option. It might take a lot longer but it’s good to break up the drive and stretch the legs. Also the view out isn’t bad at all either!
We got up early on Sunday. Once we checked the weather looked good we set off from France. Crossing into Belgium on the E42 and into Germany towards Cologne before heading south towards the Rhineland-Palatinate.
Driving through dense, dark forests of western Germany towards the town of Nurburg was spectacular. Waving to the first of many Porsche GT3s, we made good time and emerged from the autumn colours of the German forests to the grey sprawling Nürburgring complex. The smell of burning tyres greeted us as we wearily got out of the car, a drift competition was taking place on one of the smaller circuits.
Nerves On The Nordschleife
We stretched our legs with a walk to the main complex and bought a few laps on the swipe card. The rich history of cars and drivers pervades the buildings nearby. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of sports cars are scattered everywhere. In particular, Porsches and BMWs reign supreme. BMWs own driving course is based by the Nürburgring and features loads of BMW M4s in the car park. It was quite a sight:
Legs stretched, we got back into the Honda and started the drive to the circuit entrance. A recovery truck passed-by with a ruined BMW M3 on the back. Even more anxious now, I pulled into the toll area, alongside various exotica in the Honda. The friendly ticket guy scanned my card, and the toll barrier went up and he waved us through…
The First Lap
I’d like to say I accelerated hard, but I was fairly cautious up the main straight. I probably managed one corner until the first car was bearing down on me in my mirrors. A black Subaru STI went around the outside of my car before I could even move over.
Crossing the start finish line, more cars went past. Locals in old BMWs sped past, then the Porsches came… All GT3 spec, some RSs too, filling my rear view, moving over meant they could get past, but put me off the racing line. A Lamborghini and Ferrari sped past, no point even trying to stay ahead of them. The scale of the circuit was starting to bewilder me!
As a Nürburgring newbie, I found I was looking behind at incoming traffic as much as I was looking ahead. This made for a slow lap, and resulted in more cars going past. A Porsche 911 that had been behind me since the lap started started to get close. I pushed harder and harder and threw the Honda into the famous Karussell to stay ahead. This was one of the few corners I negotiated well, and with some commitment.
Down into one corner I was surprised to see a huge crowd watching the cars. Out of the technical section and the second banked corner, I pushed the car more, but my lap was beginning to come to an end. I was relieved, excited and tense all at the same time.
Off The Circuit
After the first lap we decided to have a walk around and leave the car to cool down. We visited the castle in the middle of the circuit and watched the variety of cars speed up Tiergarten. From Nissan Micras to brutally loud 997 Turbos. It’s a thrilling place to be, even without driving on the circuit itself.
Walking back to the car past the the closed shops and abandoned rollercoaster, I realised what a strange place of contradictions the Nürburgring is. Though packed with history and tradition, it’s full of tacky mementos too.
We set off back to Amiens via Germany and Belgium. Driving at speed on the German Autobahns was strange and boring after the drama and danger of the Nürburgring. Sadly it is the kind of place that won’t be accessible forever. While brief, my trip to the Nürburgring was brilliant fun and I’m keen to go again. I’m so glad I visited and explored. This part of Germany is full of beautiful countryside and friendly petrolheads. I’d probably prefer a trackday in future over a touristenfahrten (tourist) day as it seemed risky in my own car.
Apparently passenger laps are a good way to learn the lines around the circuit. There seems to be loads of companies hiring out cars on the circuit, so I’d probably end up doing that in future. I’ll always remember my first lap at the Nürburgring; it was by no means a quick lap, but it was still unforgettable!
Plan Your Road Trip To The Nurburgring
The Nürburgring is an incredible racing circuit mixing danger, speed and history. While driving the actual Nürburgring is a trip most Petrolheads want to make, actually getting there is a big enough trip in itself. Especially if you live in England, like me. Driving from the UK is a long way. But it can be turned into a great road trip.
The entire journey is about about 5 hours from Calais to Nürburgring and around 470km depending on your actual route once into France. We stayed over in France to break up the journey and make the final stint into Germany easier and more enjoyable. I’d highly recommend a UK to Nürburgring road trip to any petrol head – it’s an amazing place!
How do you get to Nürburgring from UK?
We use the M40/M1 to get south and use the M25 to get to the M20. After this it depends whether you are taking a Ferry from Dover or the Channel Tunnel from Folkestone.
In France, take the A16 which turns into the E40 in Belgium. Follow this until you see signs for Cologne and Bonn. Then follow signs for Koblenz. After this I’d use a sat nav to get to the circuit itself.
Road trip, car show or track day Ed is sure to be there taking photos and notes to blog about. Ed has a particular fascination with the volatile history of the British sports car industry which is where the idea for the site came from!