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Watching races at the Nordschleife


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#1 Phil Neville

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 20:34

Hello Everyone,
I've read countless accounts of what it's like to drive the 'Ring and of famous races etc. but I've always wondered what it would have been like to watch a Grand Prix there. For example, where was the best place to view the action, which parts of the track were closed to the public and what was the atmosphere like? Did it ever get boring waiting for your favourite driver to reappear (or were you too worried about whether he would!)

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#2 fester82

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Posted 13 December 2004 - 23:53

I attended the '75 Grand Prix and have a few vivid memories. I was 16 at the time and my father was stationed in southern Netherlands and we went with a few other GIs. It took us a few hours to get there and there was not much difficulty with traffic - an advantage of a 14 mi track. We parked on the inside crossing under the track at the bridge along the Flugplatz straight. As soon as we got there, one of my Dad's friends threw me a beer (you can drink when your old enough to belly up to the bar, but can't drive until your 18 in Europe). I took one drink of it and spit it out it was so watered down. I had been wiened on proper European beer that had some body and this guy threw me Schlitz. I've never had another one since and can't understand how that beer made Milwaukee famous.
Anyway, we shortly had to drain that which was consumed and I took a short walk into the woods as there were no proper facilities. I learned very quickly to be extremely careful where one stepped. There were little piles with white paper everywhere and it was quite ripe smell-wize. I can only imagine what living in a city in the middle ages must have been like.
We could watch the race from where we were without buying a ticket, but we elected to by a couple and pass them amongst ourselves so we could all see from a different perspective. The pre-race had Bimmers (3.0CSLs), Ford Capris, and of course a host of 911s. We could see the whole valley from Quiddelbacher Hohe up to the Flugplatz which is at least a half mile, come up the hill and make the fast right-hander. You could see the cars getting light on their suspensions, but we really couldn't make out a lot of air under the tires unless you got right at ground level and with the downforce, they didn't stay airborne long. It took around 7+ min for the cars to get around the track and they got spreadout after the first couple laps. You would see a few groups where car/driver combos had similar abilities. We were there of course to root on the Americans, Mark Donohue, Mario Andretti, and the Parnelli/Shadow entries. It was difficult to actually follow the race as cars would just disappear and you had no idea what happened. You couldn't record the race on TV or surf the internet and fill in the details after the race like one can these days. I had to read the results a week latter to find out Mario ran out gas and Donohue had tire problems. Reutemann won in a Brabham and Shadow acquited themselves well with a fourth (Pryce).
All in all, my impression was it was not nearly as good a track from a fans perspective compared to say Zandvoort that I had been to before. I was not surprised when the Ring dropped off the schedule after Lauda's accident the next year due to safety concerns, but I would have loved to have driven it. If I get back to Europe, I plan on making another visit and drive it myself a priority.

#3 Phil Neville

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 06:28

Thanks Fester, that confirms my suspicion that a track which is considered the ultimate challenge for drivers must have presented quite a challenge for spectators too.Not that I'd complain if I got a chance to watch a Grand Prix there instead of one of Tilkes 'fan friendly' efforts ;)

#4 Tweddell

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Posted 14 December 2004 - 19:34

races at the ring after wwII had its best time in the sixties, not in the seventies and not at all in the eighties.
after 1972 public interest was going down, as the starting grids became smaller and smaller, and the cars were looking nearly all the same.

so remember the 60ies 1000km races with more than 300.000 spectators, grids with around 130 cars, from 1000cc to 7000cc engine capacities. the ring showed the drivers and cars abilities more impressive than any other track (and i have seen a lot to compare it), so have a look at the ring┬┤s (lemans-style ) starting-grid pictures from sixties, the endless row of race-cars, where some of the 1000cc abarths are amongst the 3litre ferraris and jaguars .
And can you imagine the sound of some more than 100 race-cars side by side in the first laps roaring along the deep valley of section kesselchen?

sports-car ring master was without doubt john surtees.

the starting grids of formula I races were extended by the formula II elite in the sixties.
so jacky ickx was able to pick the 5th place with 1600cc, ashaming some well known formula I stars in their 3 litre cars.

touring car races were spectacular because of the tracks tricky bends and jumping hills. where else in the world you could see a mercedes 300 se or a jaguar mk 2 lifting all its wheels and diving when getting back to the ground.

#5 Lotus23

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 00:51

While I've driven lots of laps around the 'ring, I attended only one GP there -- in '61.

Compared to my current Normandy-Invasion level of preparation before venturing to a race, back then it was utter simplicity: a week before the race, I threw a pup tent and some C-rations into my MG, then set off from Orleans, France to NW Germany.

As luck would have it, I picked up a young German hitch-hiker a few miles from the track and proceeded to pick his brains on where to go/what to do. He said that he'd attended the races there any number of times, and that he and his friends had an area at Brunnchen where they camped out every year. He invited me to join them, which I did, and that was where I spent much of a very pleasant week.

One of the most memorable parts of that week was being awakened about 0600 one morning to the glorious sound of Phil Hill and Taffy von Trips shrieking past in their Ferraris. (As an aside, I recently asked Phil if he remembered doing that. He did, and said the organizers allowed them that one lap to try out a set of new high-hysteresis tires.)

IIRC, the newspapers said that well over 300K folks were in attendance. A grinning J M Fangio made a recon lap at the wheel of a Mercedes convertible during the pre-race ceremonies. The crowd went absolutely bonkers; I believe it was his first visit there since his Greatest Race win 4 years earlier, and it turned out to be the one and only time I ever saw him in person.

Stirling Moss put on a masterful display of driving, aided by a special set of Dunlop tires, to capture his last GP win. (Recall that his Goodwood crash was in early '62.) von Trips and Phil battled fang-and-claw for P2 and P3. I can't remember ever being put off by the 9-minute lap times and left there feeling that it was one of the greatest racetracks I'd ever visited in what was then 15 years of race-watching.

43 years later, I still feel that way.

#6 Martin Roessler

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 08:27

Hi there....I can't share any memories with you since the first F1 race i have seen was in 1980 at Hockenheim but i found a pic which i could not identify sofar....I always thought the person on the very right looks a bit like Fangio and the person on the left like Enzo Ferrari.....
Lotus23,
seems to be the convertible you have seen in 1961.....my dad has taken the pic and has seen many races from the early 50's till the late 90's....he said during the 50's and 60's were the best races at the ring...especially the 1000km races.
cheers marty

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#7 Martin Roessler

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 11:15

....that one looks like Fangio too.....



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cheers Marty

#8 Rob Semmeling

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 14:04

The bottom image is definitely Fangio driving at the Ring. I recall seeing a similar picture somewhere, of him driving the same Mercedes at Adenauer-Forst.

On a side note, Fangio also visited the 1967 German Grand Prix.

#9 Udo K.

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 21:32

Telling stories about the races at the Nordschleife would fill many pages. I was lucky enough to see almost all the races between 1964 and 1976, not only the Grand Prixs.

The Ring was an adventure, everytime again.
You will find something on the German GP 1965 here:
http://www.motorspor...e_gpd_1965.html

also on the GP in 1972 and some 1000K races. That might give you an idea, how it has been.

I have very special memories to 1967 (Gurney great drive and Hulmes win) and 1968 (rain and fog, Stewarts greatest drive). But, as I said, it would fill a whole book.

#10 Udo K.

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Posted 15 December 2004 - 21:34

Originally posted by Rob Semmeling

On a side note, Fangio also visited the 1967 German Grand Prix.


Right you are, Rob. I even managed to take two pictures of him in the paddock.

#11 Lotus23

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 00:08

Marty, your second picture definitely looks like what I saw at Brunnchen in '61. Thanks for sending it!

I had a small camera with me, but had no idea The Maestro was within a thousand miles of us. By the time it dawned on me who he was, the opportunity for any photography was gone!

#12 Hugo Boecker

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Posted 16 December 2004 - 00:11

Best "Live-act" at the Nordschleife
ADAC 300 KM Race "Geldrennen" DRM Div 2
Ronnie Peterson (Hohmann 320) and Hans Stuck (J├Ągermeister Faltz 320) fought lap for lap for the lead in heavy rain. No more than a few inches between them til they went nearly simultanously into the catching fence. Don't know who won - doesn't matters I watched two of the best at the Ring !