It’s probably out there in your imagination—the Holy Grail of racetracks, the ultimate challenge for both man and machine. Maybe you’re read about the manufacturer lap time battles, the lurid crashes, the nearly two hundred corners. You might be one of the people who has devoted countless hours to mastering it in the Gran Turismo or Forza videogames. Unless you’re already in that very select group of Americans who have driven the Nürburgring Nordschleife, however, it’s never been anything more than a dream.
That could change this August. As he has done for the past three years, well-respected racing and track-day instructor Ross Bentley, author of the Speed Secrets driving instruction books, is leading a posse of stateside drivers to the ’Ring in a month or so. He’s taken successful pro racers and people without a single timed lap to their name. It’s a true “arrive-and-drive” situation, with cars, lodging, and meals all arranged by local experts RSRNurburg; some participants don’t even bring a helmet. There’s a stunning choice of cars, everything from the forbidden-fruit Renault Megane RS all the way up to 500-plus-horsepower burners from Porsche and McLaren.
That’s the good news. The bad news? It’s a bit more expensive than taking your Civic to an open Wednesday night at Nelson Ledges. That used to cost fifty bucks cash at the gate. This opportunity can cost anywhere from six thousand bucks (sharing a Megane with another driver) to thirty grand and up (caged GT3RS, unlimited laps).
For some drivers, it’s absolutely worth it. Two years ago, your humble author crashed the party with a Lotus Evora 410 Sport. I had a heck of a good time. My wife attended the event with me, renting a Megane RS from RSRNurburg and engaging the services of an RSR instructor at a total cost of about nine thousand bucks. Not only did she also have a good time, she promptly went home and took an SCCA podium at Mid-Ohio, something that had escaped her up to that point. Was there a connection? I can’t say—but I can say that driving the ’Ring truly focuses your mind and helps you iron out the kinks in your trackday skillset.
Ross Bentley is eloquent as to the trip’s appeal: "In a way, driving the Nürburgring is like this secret underground cult thing, and yet thousands of drivers each year either cross it off their bucket list or make the annual pilgrimage to the most challenging and holy of circuits in the world. I will admit, though, it’s intimidating! And hard to do on your own—it's challenging! Preparing and guiding drivers to tackle the Nordschleife is what we’re all about.”
Hagerty won’t be attending this year’s event, largely because I scheduled a couple of NASA races on both sides of the week in question—but we will be heading to Germany with Ross next year to see what’s changed and what’s remained the same at the track Jackie Stewart once called “The Green Hell.” If you don’t want to wait until 2020, there are a few spots left. Check out https://speedsecrets.com/ring/ for more details.