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The 'Ring is For Sale (and it's scaring me)

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 nurburgring for sale

If you haven't heard already, the Nürburgring is for sale. The whole thing, lock, stock and karussell. Depending on your viewpoint, it's either an amazing opportunity or a woeful state of affairs that illustrates everything wrong with the government and politicians of today.

  
For me, and most other residents, it's definitely the latter viewpoint that is strongest. But what's scaring me is imagining who is looking at this big for sale sign and thinking that it's an opportunity.

Jens Lieser, the state-appointed liquidator, has gone on record to say that the whole thing is for sale, not just the concrete jungle of arena, museum and impotent rollercoaster. A potential buyer could walk away from the table with the F1-spec Grand Prix circuit and the humongous money-maker that is the 20.8km Nordschleife. Maybe it will be sold in pieces, maybe it will be sold in one chunk. Not only is this some prime real estate, but it's practically the centre of the automotive universe.

And how many parties are interested? It began with 50, and at the last count we're down to "between 5 and 10" serious buyers. "And not a single Oligarch or Sheik amongst them,' we're assured. Wonderful(!).

Next Tuesday the 19th of March there will be a demonstration, a 'corso' or parade of cars driving from Nürburg to the seat of state government in Mainz.

Most of you will have heard of Save The Ring, and Mike Frison is the rather vociferous man behind the movement. I asked him some questions...

Q: What is the worst-case scenario for you, me and the fans of the Nürburgring?

The highest bidder buys the Ring and maximizes his profits to justify the investment. Grass root motorsport will disappear (it's not earning real money) as well as local companies. Their services will be routed through the new Ring owner's monopoly. We have seen clear tendency of that in the Richter/Lindner era over the last 2 years.
Accessibility and track time will only be a question of money, all events we know today are at risk. Especially the tourist drives, which are an old dinosaur from the past. From day one to be precise and it would be such a loss. You couldn't blame a private host to turn away from that, but for the atmosphere and the region it would be a disaster. Things which aren't top priority for investors.

That bit does send a shiver down my back. I had a taste of that greediness when Lindner & Richter first took over. They wanted everything in-house, and were quite happy to play dirty in combining track-bookings with hotel rooms, for example. They moved instruction under their own roof, forbid everybody else from doing it and had a damn good look at my bread-and-butter - the car rental business.

Q: Would any new owner really cancel public driving, considering that a Sunday of TF makes more money than any other event?

Touristenfahrten are public traffic under normal German traffic rules, you see the blue "Kraftfahrstraße" sign, when you enter the road (road, not track). This is the reason, why there is no speed limit (Kraftfahrstraße has no speed restriction, like German Autobahn, when there is more than one lane and wide Nordschleife road qualifies for double lane.)

This is all fine, when operated by the Government, because this is what they do: operate roads. Once turned into private property, things become tricky. Richter/Lindner have been able to keep status-quo for the two years of their operation, but there is no guarantee.
Money is just one factor, but risk / liability and the possibility to operate a public road are others. Right now you are able to involve traffic police, like on every other public road. But what happens, when owned and operated by a private company? For nothing else than profit reasons? Nobody can tell.
A successful investor needs to take all these factors into consideration and will favour the easier route. On top they don't have the social responsibility Governments have, which is to attract tourists, secure jobs and operate sports venues.

Q. How can the man on the street, the average petrolhead, possibly stop the politicians doing whatever they want to do?

It's always tough, when governments turn against you in today's world, which they still call democracy - we see so many examples nowadays. There is no easy way, but the more we are, the bigger the impact we can make.

"Save The Ring" has become the international slogan for the protest, the logos are free for everybody and there are more people in the known than 2 years ago, when I started this off as just an idea.
And I wasn't wrong when I put my trust on the creativity of the great motorsport folk, who love Nordschleife. Remember the Save The Ring Z4 Schubert brought to the Ring just recently?
What a beauty that is and a great way to bring the message across.
The Sim-Racing community has been very creative to
Another great opportunity is coming up on March 19 - which is a Tuesday - in front of the government in Mainz, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate. A protest march together with Otto Flimm directly at the politicians doorstep.
We all have our reach - some more, some less - but if we all use what we have, we might turn things around.
It's not too late, but I'm afraid it might be soon.

Now because this is a blog, I'm going to voice my own opinion. I'm pessimistic. There's no way the government can hang on to something like the 'Ring. The EU are all over it. From the EU's point of view, the German government has been caught red-handed spending taxpayers' money on a private project to the benefit of only a handful of 'businessmen'. Domestically the Nürburgring is competing with other circuits like Oschersleben, Hockenheim and Lausitzring. Within the EU it's butting heads with greats like Le Mans, Silverstone and Monza. When Government-owned businesses are competing against the private industry, it all has to be above board and 100% transparent. The only thing clear about the Nürburgring in the last few years is that it's swallowed over 400 million euros of taxpayers' money. That's not fair, is it? It doesn't matter that it was wasted on a bunch of crap like the rollercoaster and the boulevard.

They are going to sell it. They're going to wipe their hands of the whole sorry mess, take a paltry cash sum (offers are in the region of only €125 million for the whole thing) and by doing that they're going to throw the whole region to the wolves of independent capitalism. All I can hope for is a fair and equal battlefield, where the local hotels and businesses like Rent4Ring get to offer their products on an equal footing to the new track owners... wish us luck!

Comments   

 
#1 Jim1556 2013-03-12 21:15
Any idea about this year's planned events? We had planned on coming for the 24hr race weekend and another tourist trip around August...
 
 
#2 admin 2013-03-12 21:24
All events etc.. will run as normal. Don't worry about that! I'm talking about business strategy and the direction of the track over the next few years.
 
 
#3 Halifaxfurby 2013-03-12 21:44
Im very glad I booked early for this may,there are a lot of very full hotels,this is either a sign of its increasing popularity,or a ring version of panic buying.hopefull y the north loop will stay a tourist track for a long time to come,or us ,the tourist lappers,and you,running a good buisness,will all end up lost!!
 
 
#4 jtuds 2013-03-12 22:07
125 million euros? we can get that together, can't we?
 
 
#5 jtuds 2013-03-12 22:08
Quoting Halifaxfurby:
Im very glad I booked early for this may,there are a lot of very full hotels,this is either a sign of its increasing popularity,or a ring version of panic buying.hopefully the north loop will stay a tourist track for a long time to come,or us ,the tourist lappers,and you,running a good buisness,will all end up lost!!


What days in May? I'm going May 9, a thursday, and was hoping that it'd be less busy because of the mid-week timing...
 
 
#6 Halifaxfurby 2013-03-13 07:43
Im going the last week in may,booked a hotel/cottage near adenau in september,and there wasnt many places left in the area then!
 
 
#7 poolhaas 2013-03-13 18:22
Didn't like reading all of that...
Let's hope for the best for the future of the Ring and all of the local businesses.
 
 
#8 Jim1556 2013-03-13 21:08
£80m on Friday in the Euromillions, I'll be in touch if I win - I'm sure an potential buyer would love a £40m partner, thus ensuring it's run at small profit ensuring it's survival as the grass roots, motor sports mecca, legendary atmospheric place that it is! I'd also insist on a drop in prices, to restore previous value!
 
 
#9 AGT 2013-03-13 22:07
Interesting "investment". When did it last / ever make a profit?

Apart from the capital assets, it's worthless other than as a write-down against operating profit elsewhere.

VW? Telefónica - the O2 Nurburgring?
 
 
#10 m3andygard 2013-03-14 11:55
Any buyer would look at the income the tourist days generate. The current format of operation generates a volume of customers with an amount of contribution.
They may tune the business model but fundamentaly I would keep it running if I owned it. (however I can't afford to buy it !)
I have had may a good weekend there over the years, last year I had a weekend on the ring with Monday on track at Spa, petrol head heaven ! check out my M3 incar vid chasing my mates 911 GT3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cGMrJ9Mw3A
 
   

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