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UPDATED: Hypocrisy, Hysteria and Omelettes.


Today at the Nordschleife. Yes, that's the BMW Ring Taxi in the barrier, with 7 other cars too (car 8 is a VXR220 behind the Unimog).

Something has got to change here at the 'Ring, if it doesn't change for the better, in my opinion, the writing is on the wall*. I am, of course, talking about safety. Namely about fatalities and serious life-changing accidents. 'Hypocrite!' I hear some people say. They are right.

This little blog is called 'Bridge To Gantry' - it's about everything that happens between the Antoniusbuche bridge and the Audi-branded gantry on the Nürburgring Nordschleife. One of the most visited pages is our collection of BTG laptimes. Over half of these times are probably made in touristenfahrten sessions. So for me to call TF dangerous, please understand that I already know it's not a cakewalk.

When I first started to collect BTG times & videos in 2004 and store them online, the track was a different place. This was before Top Gear and really before the internet and social media made everything so easy. Ben Lovejoy's website and his 'Ringers email list was the *only* source of reliable Nürburgring information. Thanks to the guys who did it, thousands of visitors to the 'Ring arrived here with the right attitude;

That the Nordschleife is dangerous, but challenging. That it's serious, but fun.

Now I worry that too many people are arriving here with the wrong attitude. A thousand different experts on a hundred different forums dish out 'advice' like;

  • "Oh yeah, lap tickets are only $10 each"
  • "The track is open every day"
  • "You HAVE to go under 10 minutes to beat Jeremy Clarkson"

When Clarkson first aired on Top Gear, with shots of his Jaguar bouncing through the grass of Hocheichen, consequence-free, it was a watershed moment. Here was the Nordschleife, easy, fun and attainable for all. They didn't show really dwell on the crashes, they made it sound like a fun challenge instead of a dangerous undertaking.

Now, with the Top Gear Nürburgring coverage repeated every week in a dozen countries, the track is busier than ever. Top Gear was only one of the major tipping points. There are dozens of other websites, channels and magazines promoting the 'Ring both intentionally and unintentionally. This very site that you read here still reaches over 200,000 unique readers and social media as a whole enables committed ringers to share their joy with millions more petrolheads around the world.

But while the numbers and types of drivers have changed massively, the same basic premise of the Nürburgring Nordschleife Touristenfahrten sessions has not changed at all.

Don't even mention the car park 'modifications' in 2008, or the gravel over-flow car park. They are not improvements, they are bandages. Sticky plaster solutions to problems that still exist. While over €300m was spent on a museum and holiday complex visited by what feels like a dozen people per hour, the management spent not a penny more than it had to on its only real cash cow - the €150,000 per day TF sessions.

So I'm asking some questions of the Nürburgring upper management, I don't expect any answers, but what the hell...

1) WHY is the parking so inadequate? Don't give me blah-blah about not owning the land or having permission. You've spread gravel on a grass field and installed gates on each end of a bumpy dirt track. The only reason not to tarmac it is €€€, in my opinion. With a better parking and traffic-management infrastructure you could control the flow of traffic onto the circuit, limit the number of cars on track to 150 simultaneously WITHOUT causing 1km traffic jams in each direction.

2) WHY have you replaced vital safety announcements on a lethal track with adverts for your other businesses? Why do you not publicise vital safety announcements on tickets instead of boring reminders of the 'Ring's other events? Why do you even continue to sell tickets to arriving day-visitors long after the track has been announced closed for the rest of the day (because there's a dead body on it)?

3) WHY do you keep bare minimum staff on a day where thousands of people are driving? Why not install corner workers and flag marshals at dangerous locations? If you sell a compulsory €5000 safety package of marshals to every private track rental, why not spend €5000 on your own public days?

Hey, you know what? I'll stop asking all these questions - because you, me and the people I'm asking all know the answer;

It costs too much.

Prove me wrong, please! Make some serious changes for the better. Don't chase down the pennies and save money, but INVEST in better safety and infrastructure to make profit for a longer and more secure future.

But if the cost of a human life is not as important as the profit you can make in this short time. The time before this ill-awarded lease comes to an end and the track returns to public hands, then that's just a shame.

Sometimes it seems as if the management don't care if they kill the golden goose, just so long as they can get as many golden eggs out of its backside as possible before it dies.

And the unacceptable increase of deaths in TF this year? That's just what you get for making golden omelettes.

* maybe the writing should be on the track instead of on the wall, but let's not mix too many metaphors.

€100k of damage, track shut from 1400, Ring Taxi involved: Official Polizei report here

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